HOW TO USE OUTDOOR FURNITURE IN WINTER

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Presented by the National Association of Landscape Professionals in partnership with Houzz 

Lauren Dunec Hoang

Even in mild climates, most of us get far more use from our outdoor furniture in the spring and summer than in chillier times of year. You can extend the use of your patio furniture and outdoor rooms into the colder months with a few practical tips, including what materials to look for if you’re investing in new outdoor furniture and ways to make your existing outdoor living room more comfortable and inviting in cooler weather.

While using your outdoor spaces year-round really only applies to areas with mild winters — we don’t expect you to be shoveling snow to sit on your outdoor lounge — these purchasing and design tips can be useful for patios in every climate.

 

Photo by Paul Davis Architects

 

1. Choose the materials of your outdoor furniture wisely. Investing in outdoor furniture made from weather-hardy materials can make a big difference in how a set holds up over time, what maintenance is required to keep it looking good and whether or not you need to bring it under a covered area or tarp it over the winter.

“Outdoor furniture should generally be natural teak wood or stainless steel, or other metals with very durable industrially applied paint finishes,” says architect Paul Davis, founder of Los Angeles-based Paul Davis Architects. While there are also many waterproof outdoor products made from fiberglass or plastic-based materials, Davis notes that they aren’t quite as durable as those made of natural teak, stainless steel or coated metal.

For this patio in Newport Beach, California, Davis selected a Richard Schultz set, part of the 1966 line by Knoll, for its classic midcentury modern lines and durability. The sofa and chairs’ frames are made of weather-resistant powder-coated aluminum, while the seats and backs are made of a vinyl-polyester mesh, so they’re soft while still being entirely waterproof.

Natural teak also makes an excellent choice for long-lasting outdoor furniture sets that can feel and look warmer than those made of metal. The hardwood doesn’t warp when exposed to repeated moisture, and naturally occurring oils in the wood also help protect it against rot and insects. When buying teak, look for a certification from the Forest Stewardship Council to ensure that the wood comes from a plantation with sustainable harvesting practices.

2. Select fabrics designed for the outdoors. As with our outdoor furniture, we ask a lot of outdoor pillows and upholstery that are constantly exposed to sunlight and some moisture. In order to prolong the life of outdoor cushions, always select those that are designed for outdoor use. “Such fabrics are treated for UV resistance, mold resistance, water and stain resistance and are very durable,” Davis says. Look for brands like Sunbrella or others that specifically make outdoor fabrics for cushions that look good year after year.

 

Photo by Alderwood Landscape Architecture and Construction

 

3. Invest in a fire pit. There’s nothing quite as alluring as a fire feature to anchor an outdoor seating area — particularly in the darker, cooler months. Fire features provide both light and warmth, adding life to outdoor rooms and creating a reason to get outside.

For this backyard patio setup outside Seattle, teak chairs pulled up around a gas-powered bonfire create a warm, welcoming spot to enjoy an evening with friends.

If you’re thinking about adding a fire feature to your landscape, go for a smoke-free design. Many contemporary built-in fire pits burn natural gas rather than logs as fuel, saving the air from polluting wood smoke.

 

Photo by Native Son Design Studio

 

4. Add light. Especially in the darker times of year, bringing outdoor lights to your patio can make a big impact in upping the ambiance of an outdoor room. Cafe lights, like those strung over this Santa Barbara, California, patio, are easy to set up, and they create a lovely glow. To use them year-round, invest in string lights that are industrial-grade quality and have watertight seals around the bulbs.

5. Bring in sources of warmth. Along with light, adding heat also makes a patio more inviting year-round. Freestanding patio heaters run from $125 to $250 but can warm up a patio area of 115 square feet — enough to cover an outdoor table for four people. Wall-mounted heaters come in a similar price range and can be positioned to direct heat just where you need it, like over an outdoor sofa or dining table.

 

Photo by Galanter & Jones

 

6. Try a heated seat. These are like the built-in seat heaters for your car but for your patio furniture instead.

Galanter and Jones’ heated benches, shown here, are made from a cast stone seat and powder-coated stainless steel base. They can be plugged in to heat up to a toasty 120 degrees Fahrenheit. They work in snow and freezing temperatures, allowing one to conceivably enjoy a patio year-round, even in a cold climate.

While heated benches don’t come cheap, the investment can be worth it for climates with year-round chilly evenings or cold-winter regions if it means you’re getting far more use out of your outdoor room.

7. Cozy up with blankets. The simplest way to add warmth to your outdoor setup — without buying anything new — is to bring out cozy throws and blankets from the house on occasion. Metal seats can feel cold and uninviting in fall and winter, but blankets covering the seat or draped across your legs can make a big difference in how long you’d like to stay outside.

8. Move furniture close to the house. As they say, location, location, location. If your furniture is across the yard from the home, try moving it closer to the home for the season, if you have room, and see if you end up using it more often.

If you’re in the process of a home remodel, think about year-round uses of outdoor furniture while you’re in the planning stage. Extending the eaves to cover a patio, for example, can give you the flexibility later on for an outdoor table right next to the house.

 

Photo by Mike Connell

 

9. Position your furniture set in a covered breezeway. Embracing indoor-outdoor spaces like covered porches and breezeways is another great way to make use of your outdoor furniture throughout the year. Plus, covered breezeways and porches have the benefit of proximity to the home — making it easy to bring out trays of food from the kitchen or anything else from the house.

This covered breezeway connecting two areas of a farmhouse home in Sonoma is roomy enough for a large outdoor dining table, offering the homeowners a place to enjoy dinner outside year-round.

 

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