As the weather warms, it’s time to uncover the patio furniture, take the cushions out from storage, and ready the grill for burgers. Sometimes, though, once last season’s furniture makes its debut, it no longer looks to be in guest-ready shape and requires would-be entertainers to explore new outdoor seating options. They quickly discover, there are a lot of choices!  So, too, do first time outdoor furniture shoppers, who often get overwhelmed by the materials, styles, and selections available. If you are in the market for new seating and eating options for your outdoor living space, read on for tips to help navigate through the sea of considerations.

Great outdoor furniture brings comfort and function to your deck or patio; it allows your indoor rooms to move outdoors. A weather-proof table and chairs, for instance, brings your dining room outside and relaxing rockers or Adirondack chairs create a living room that has a cover of blue sky for its ceiling. The first step in identifying the right furniture is to think about how you want to use your outdoor space. Do you want to eat meals on your deck, or relax by a fire on your patio? Will you entertain large groups of people or host smaller, more intimate gatherings? Answers to these questions will point you in the right direction for what to buy.

Material Selection

When you’re shopping for furniture, choose easy-care materials and pieces that compliment that look of feel of your landscape and home. There are many options.

  • Natural wood is sturdy and comfortable, but it will require regular maintenance and preservative treatments for weather and UV protection. Choose weather-resistant woods like redwood, teak, cedar and cypress that require less maintenance.
  • Rattan and Wicker. Natural materials like rattan and wicker provide a casual, comfortable look for your deck, but they will require weatherproofing every few years. Synthetic rattan and wicker has a resin finish that will last a lot longer.
  • Steel and Wrought Iron. Both materials are extremely sturdy, but will need cushions for comfort. They're great for the outdoors, but will need to be painted or treated periodically with a weatherproof finish to prevent rust.
  • Aluminum, Plastic and PVC. These materials are rustproof, lightweight, inexpensive and easy to maintain with a little soap and water. However, because of their lightweight construction, they may need to be secured in high winds and storms.

Furniture made using these materials will look fresh for years. However, no matter how weather proof the furniture is, you’ll want to store it over the winter to expand its lifespan. Consider the room you have for storage before you make a purchase. Additionally, try before you buy – sit in the chairs and try putting the umbrella up and down a time or two. Make sure like the comfort and usability.

Ensuring Good Quality

When you’re shopping, don’t assume that price is the best indicator of quality. So how can you tell what good quality furniture looks like?

  • Finish consistency. Wood should be smoothly sanded and free of flaws, even in hidden spots, such as the underside of the tabletop. Painted metals should have a uniform finish. Wicker shouldn't be unraveling or loosely wound on the frame.
  • Tight and well-fitted joints. Metal welds should be fairly smooth. Make sure metal has no bare, unpainted areas or, worse, rust spots.
  • Be sure chairs don't wobble or flex too much (some flexibility is OK, especially on tubular metal chairs designed to be springy). Do the same with the table after it's assembled.
  • The retailer’s return and exchange policy. Just in case, upon delivery or pick up, your pieces appear damaged or poorly finished.


Outdoor living spaces, like their indoor counterparts, are greatly enhanced with varied colors, textures and accessories. Cushions and throw pillow provide wonderful comfort for lounging and encouraging guests to linger. Purchase products made especially for outdoor use so they will hold up well under the elements. Two popular material options are solution-dyed acrylic and spun polyester as they resist moisture, mildew and staining. Most fabrics designed for outdoor use will also resist fading. Cushions with vents for air circulation will dry more quickly after spring and summer showers. You can create an extra cozy lounging spot with the addition of a carpet, made for outdoor use. Personal style and preference reign supreme when selecting colors palates. Bright, colorful patterns will complement a Mediterranean-themed landscape and offer energy to a night on the patio and neutral, subdued tones will offer a relaxed, clean look.

Good outdoor furniture is an investment. Take the time to weigh the various materials and products available so you can enjoy the comfort and beauty of the outdoor rooms you create.

Photo Courtesy of Hoffman Landscapes, Wilton, CT

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