Outdoor Living

Outdoor Furniture

More than just chairs and tables

Outdoor rooms are more than just patios with metal or plastic chairs and a garishly-colored umbrella; they're extensions of your home and deserve the same careful thought and planning that an indoor room receives. An outdoor room is another place for you to entertain guests, take a nap in the sunshine or cook up a delicious feast. They require the right kind of accents and furnishings to make them feel truly inviting.

On this page you'll find information on outdoor furniture, including: Creating Moods

When decorating an outdoor room, you need to consider what kind of mood you want to create, just as you would with an indoor room. Remember, it's good to have a running theme through several rooms to tie them together, but if you have outdoor rooms on different sides of your house, you may want to consider different moods for each of them.

Think about:

  • What kind of mood your yard creates. You'll want to tie in any outdoor room to the decor already present in your garden, and use elements from these as ideas for your room's furnishings.

  • Natural focal points in your yard. If you live by a sea or lake, why not create a calming theme in your outdoor room? If your house abuts the woods or is set in the middle of a field, you can use the natural colors, shapes and textures as inspiration for your space.

  • The functionality of the room. You want your furnishings and outdoor accessories to reflect the use of the space. For example, wrought-metal benches may look wonderful, but they're really more for art than sitting, and won't create a sense of coziness in an outdoor living room. However, you can get that sense of delicacy and beauty by choosing a fabric that features dragonflies or lace or by adding a few metal outdoor sculptures, like cranes or butterflies.
Choosing Furnishings for an Outdoor Space

Obviously, choosing furnishings for your outdoor room will depend on what kind of room it is, but if your rooms are close together, you may want to choose outdoor furniture that is multi-functional and will work in every space. Once you've decided what kind of mood you want to set in your outdoor room, you should consider these things:

  • Seating - how many people will you entertain on a regular basis? A dining table typically comes with two to eight chairs. A living room should contain enough furniture to seat people comfortably, with space enough for outside chairs to be brought in.
  • Furniture functionality - can your furniture work comfortably in one or more outdoor rooms? For example, a daybed can be a place to nap as well as a place to chat with friends. A sofa with a coffee table can be a place for a coffee break as well as somewhere to eat an impromptu barbecue meal. Outdoor furniture can be expensive, so make sure you get the most out of them.
  • Properly weatherproofed - if you don't have a pergola or shelter (or even if you do), you need to make sure that your furniture doesn't get ruined if it comes in contact with water. Many people buy furniture made of strong wood and acrylic or tightly-woven fabrics for this purpose. Don't worry - you won't have to sacrifice comfort and style for weatherproofing.

Outdoor Lounging

A fresh way to relax

Enjoying the fresh breezes is a wonderful way to start the summer, and it's even more enjoyable when you know that you won't have to pack up all your cushions and blankets in case it rains. Outdoor bedrooms and living rooms are the modern trend, and not a moment too soon. Homeowners are beginning to realize the value of living outside, and outdoor furniture is starting to reflect the comfort and style of that found inside.

Lounging outside can run the gamut from simply kicking back and reading to napping outdoors. Garden furniture used to be stiff, uncomfortable and not really appropriate for taking a long nap or cuddling with close friends. Nowadays, the selection of garden furniture is closer to the sofas and daybeds found indoors. Fabrics are weatherproof, but not uncomfortable or sticky like the old acrylic coverings or rough like the woven plastic on lawn chairs. You can relax in soft blankets, pillows and cushions that may even be more comfortable than your indoor furnishings. It all depends on how much you're willing to spend on your outdoor furniture.

High-end outdoor living rooms always include:

  • A focal point, normally a source of heat, like a firepit or fireplace.
  • Seating clustered comfortably around a coffee table or arranged around the space in small sociable groups.
  • A serving cart or table to place food, if the outdoor living room doesn't join up with an outdoor kitchen.
  • Outdoor accessories to personalize the space.
  • , like speakers and a TV.
Lounging on a Budget

Buying outdoor furniture should be based on what you need as opposed to what you want. If you can't afford to build a high-end outdoor living room, you can still create a wonderful space on your deck or patio. Many people like to buy outdoor furniture that can be transformed into a number of different options. Outdoor furniture is extremely well-made but can be quite expensive, so start with a multi-functional main piece and work up to creating the room of your dreams. A good idea may be to add a new furnishing every year until you get it to your ideal.

Daybeds are a good option for those on a budget. These convert from a bed to a sofa and provide extra seating around the barbecue or firepit. Many people buy portable or moveable daybeds, but if you want to create an outdoor bedroom, you can spend a little more and create a Roman-style daybed under a curtain-draped portico that will also transform into a cool seat by the pool or a place to relax after a barbecue. Pair it with a coffee table and you have a place to visit with friends. An Asian-style daybed is even more multi-functional. It can serve as a sofa, and when the cushions are removed and placed on the patio floor, the base of the daybed converts into a table and chairs that are perfect for an impromptu outdoor feast.

Ottomans are inexpensive and make perfect seating when you find yourself with more guests than you expected. Not only can they also be used as tables, but some ottomans can be opened to reveal storage spaces for more delicate accessories and blankets that might not stand up to the weather.

What to Look for in Weatherproofed Furniture

It's important to make sure that your furniture is properly weatherproofed, since you don't want to spend a whole lot of money just to see your pretty fabrics and wood get spattered or soaked in the first rainfall.

A good piece of weatherproof furniture should be made of strong resin, cast aluminum or synthetic wicker. These materials are strong and will hold up to rain and snow. They're also lightweight enough to move around easily. Any cushions should be covered with fabric that will not get moldy in damp weather. Wood should be stained with waterproof sealant to protect it, and any exposed wood on pergolas or decks should also be stained.

Outdoor Dining

A delicious alternative to indoor meals

No longer does outdoor dining furniture have to mean scratched, wobbly plastic tables and chairs - imagine yourself dining on a granite-top island complete with padded barstools. The outdoor kitchen has been transformed from a small wooden building independent of the house to an oasis of food, fire and space-age appliances. Barbecue never tasted so great!

Outdoor dining furniture can vary from a long, low table with cushions as chairs or encompass a large grill island with cabinetry, a refrigerator and even a dishwasher. The main feature, of course, is the cooking component, be it a grill or a stove. Some people include a fire element in their rooms that they can also cook over, like a firepit or a smoker. Furniture should be functional and comfortable, while still reflecting the theme in your kitchen.

You should consider:

  • Whether you want a permanent setup or something you can take inside in the wintertime. If you want something permanent, you'll have to make sure that everything is weatherproofed or properly sheltered. It will also help you make a decision about whether you want to eat on a table or an island.
  • If you want to be able to cook outdoors or just have a place for parties. If it's the former, then you might want to think about getting outdoor appliances that will allow you to do all your cooking in your outdoor kitchen. You may want to buy cabinetry that will store dishes, trash and other kitchen utensils so that you're not hauling things back and forth from your inside kitchen. If you choose the latter, you can buy less expensive furniture and make do with a built-in barbecue.
  • The size of your table. How many people will you entertain at the time? What style should you go with? Consider the size and shape of your outdoor room, and what kind of theme you want to create. A more traditional table will fit into a room with more elegant furnishings. If you're looking for discounted furniture, get a multi-functional table that will transform into a sofa when you're finished. If you want to go all out, why not try an island with a built-in firepit, attached to your main grill island?
  • Other dining furniture, including serving carts. A serving cart will allow you to get away with having no table at all, which works for a family who doesn't have the space or the money for multiple outdoor rooms. Decor should be minimal in the kitchen. Remember, it's a place to cook first and foremost - you don't want a lot of accessories in the way.

Security. Remember, your outdoor kitchen doesn't have a door you can lock, so you might want to buy locks for your cabinets, storage areas and refrigerator to prevent thieves from taking your things.

Outdoor Furniture Accessories

The extras that make an outdoor room yours

Even if you've bought the furniture and installed the appliances, an outdoor space is not complete without furniture accessories. These are the extra touches that personalize a room and make it unique.

Lounging Linen

Although having a comfortable sofa or daybed to lie on can be heavenly enough on a hot day, when the weather gets cooler you may want to cover up with a blanket or add a few extra pillows to your outdoor lounger. Outdoor linens normally include curtains, pillows, blankets, towels and tablecloths. They're made so that you can leave them outside without worrying about them getting wet and covered in mildew.

Outdoor Blankets can be made of water-resistant fibers like nylon so that you can spread them on the ground and not worry about them getting wet or dirty. Most blankets and pillows (also constructed of waterproof fiber) are machine-washable, so you can keep them nice and clean. You don't have to worry about sticking to a plastic or an acrylic pillow nowadays - the linen is as soft as your bedroom pillow and can come in all different colors and patterns to match or dress up your furniture. If you want to be extra warm in the cooler months, buy blankets and pillows made with a fleece and nylon blend to keep cozy.

Curtains lend softness and privacy to your outdoor room as well as shade you from the harsh sun and wind. Outdoor curtains are normally made of a strong acrylic fiber that's both sun and water-resistant, so even in a rainstorm you can sit in your outdoor room and never feel a drop of water or a puff of wind. You can buy the curtains by the yard or as a set and hang them wherever you want. A curtain is a great way to create a temporary separation if you have more than one outdoor room, as well. If curtains aren't your thing, you can try an outdoor sunshade, which will block the sun and the wind just as well.

Outdoor Rugs

Rugs are a perfect way to set off a room - the right rug can pick up subtle colors in the furniture and give the space warmth. You can find them in all colors and sizes, and they're perfect in front of the barbecue or as an accent to a complete outdoor living room. Plus, if you have children who like to play on the floor, a rug will give them a comfortable spot to sit. Outdoor rugs are made of polypropylene and are braided to stay strong against constant foot traffic and rough weather. Many of them are easily cleaned, as well - simply hose them down and hang them to dry.

Outdoor Umbrellas

These are a well-known feature of outdoor rooms. Umbrellas have come a long way from being flimsy, brightly-colored shades that had to be attached to a table. These days, they range from resembling sails on a ship to naturally colored Asian-style sunshades. If you already have a pergola, chances are you won't need to buy an umbrella, but if you can't afford to build a shelter, you can buy a well-made patio umbrella to suffice.

Umbrellas are extremely versatile: you can have them standing over your table or on a sliding post, you can mount them from an exterior wall, or you can use them as an awning. They're made of tough cloth or acrylic fiber that repels water and sunshine to keep you cool and dry. However, you should take most umbrellas indoors for the wintertime or during strong wind storms, as the force of the elements can break the umbrella's ribs.

Outdoor Dishes

If you're going to eat outside, but don't want to drag your good dishes in and out of the house, don't worry - outdoor dishes are just as pretty as indoor ones and are hardy enough to withstand potential dropping. You can also get covers for your food if you're worried about flies and other insects trying to sample your food before you do.