Outdoor furniture can change the entire look and feel of your alfresco area. While there are countless options to choose from to create your home’s distinctive aesthetic, ensuring you purchase pieces that are fit for purpose and will stand the test of time is crucial.
How will the furniture be used?
This is the first question to ask when considering the type and style of furniture that will work best for you. It’s important to consider what the furniture will be sitting on, whether it’s tiles or a concrete patio, for example, as well as the types of uses it will have.
“Depending on the setting, you may want to consider buying furniture with plastic feet so it doesn’t mark decking or paving when moved around,” Design Concept’s Richard Lee says. “If you’re looking at poolside or lounging furniture, you might want to consider loungers with wheels for ease of movement.”
If children will be using the furniture, adjustable feet may be something to consider so chairs don’t rock when used.
Removable cushion covers are another thing to consider, especially if your furniture is bound for entertainment areas where food and drink are likely to be spilled. Being able to remove the cushion covers and wash them may be important for situations such as this.
What makes outdoor furniture fit for purpose?
Unlike indoor furniture, outdoor furniture needs to be able to withstand the elements. While many lower-cost pieces are advertised as outdoor furniture, it is often the case that they aren’t in fact designed to be outside year-round, or even in wet weather.
“When furniture is marketed as being suitable for outdoor use, more often than not, doesn’t mean you can simply buy your furniture and leave it outside for the foreseeable future,” Design Concepts’ Richard Lee says.
“How many times have you sat on an outdoor cushion and felt the water quickly seeping out it even though it hasn’t rained for some time? That’s because the foam inside the product isn’t designed to get wet. While the cushion may be fine to be outdoors in ambient, dry conditions, it isn’t designed to continue to function in other conditions.
“The same goes for steel frames, that will rust if left out in the elements, and fabric too. Fabric not designed to perform in New Zealand’s harsh climatic conditions will quickly fade and degrade rendering it unusable quickly after purchase.”
What are the key things to understand about outdoor furniture?
To know if the furniture you are purchasing is fit for purpose is relatively simple. “We call it the Three F’s,” Richard says. “Fabric, foam and frame.
“Buying outdoor furniture, especially in New Zealand where the climate is harsh and the sun severe, can be difficult if you don’t know about the materiality of what you are buying, which is why we always suggest people understand the Three F’s.”
Fabric If you are choosing an outdoor setting that has a fabric component, ensuring you choose the right material is critical. There are countless inexpensive options, and it’s often hard to tell the difference between a cheap copy of a quality fabric and the real deal. Generally, it’s only once the fabric has been purchased and spent a month or two outside that it becomes obvious whether it is quality or not.
“That’s where knowing the best brands is important. In New Zealand those brands are Sunbrella and Sunproof, brands we use for all our collections to ensure every piece meets the highest standards.”
Both of these fabrics are guaranteed for a minimum of five years in New Zealand against any fading, but generally will last in top condition for much longer.
Foam “Foam is important. If you’re not buying furniture that uses reticulated quick dry foam, you’ll want to be used to sodden pants! We’ve all done it; sat down and quickly realised there’s moisture seeping thick and fast through the cushion beneath us,” Richard says.
“Like everything, it’s often easy to be swayed by the low price tag of regular foam, but it is not fit for purpose outdoors. In comparison, quick dry foam, which is used in all our pieces, provides the same level of comfort but will not hold water.”
This also means after a heavy downpour, the cushions can be dry enough to sit on after as little as 15 minutes. Not days.
Quick dry foam has revolutionised outdoor furniture, not only because it doesn’t hold water, but also because there is no need to move cushions and fabric inside – quick dry foam is designed to be outside year round.
Frame Outdoor furniture framing should be able to withstand all the elements. Aluminium is one of the best materials for outdoor use due to its durability. It will not rust and will stand the test of time. Think aluminium window joinery.
“We also use marine-grade stainless steel in some of our framing. This is important as some cheaper stainless grades will rust over time. The best way to tell if you are buying quality stainless furniture is to hold a magnet to it. It should not stick. If it does, steer clear as this indicates a low grade material.”
Wood is another steadfast component of quality outdoor furniture but not all grades and species of timber are suited to outdoor furniture though, so it’s important to make the right choice if you’re looking for furniture that will look stunning but also stand the test of time.
Hardwood is always the preference for quality outdoor furniture because it is much more stable than softwoods like pine. It is unlikely to warp or cup over time.
“Outdoor furniture is commonly made with hardwoods including Kwila, Jarrah and Rosewood, but Teak is far superior to these as it does not bleed, and is one of our mainstays. Teak has minimal movement and thrives in harsh climatic conditions, easily tackling year upon year of continued exposure to the elements.”
What other materials are great for outdoor furniture?
A couple of the rising stars of outdoor furniture materiality are high pressure laminate (HPL) and ceramic, both of which are known for their durability and strength, making them ideal for hard-wearing pieces.
“HPL is made of phenolic resin impregnated sheets with a melamine resin impregnated decorative top, which are bonded under heat and high pressure,” Richard says. “HPL is considered one of the most durable materials available and has superior resistance against impacts, abrasions and general surface wear.”
The Marlborough table incorporates an HPL top made in the Netherlands, which is guaranteed for five years outdoor use.
The other rising star, ceramic, creates a stunning aesthetic when used in outdoor furniture. “It’s a sleek, elegant material, which until recently hasn’t been used widely for outdoor furniture,” Richard says.
“The benefits of ceramic are wide ranging: it’s very stable outdoors and is highly resistant to scratches, similar to a ceramic benchtop. It is colour fast and won’t fade over time, while also being resistant to warping due to the way it is manufactured at high temperatures. Ceramic is easy to clean and requires little maintenance over time. All ceramic is guaranteed by us for fives years outdoor use.”