ARTICLE Stephanie Matheson
The right outdoor furniture will ensure that you can make the most of those balmy summer evenings. So get ready to set the table and invite family and friends around for a barbecue.
Before you head out to choose an outdoor dining table and chairs, consider how many people you will want to entertain on a regular basis and measure the available space of your outdoor area. It’s a good idea to then take the furniture measurements home and check if they will fit in the space. Simply cut and tape old newspapers to size or use chalk to draw on your deck.
Once you know the size of table you want, analyse your outdoor space. Will you be placing your furniture on a hard surface or on grass? Does your area get a lot of sun? Or is your backyard a shady spot? You may want to consider investing in some accessories such as sun umbrellas, blankets, throws or even a small outdoor heater. If moss builds up in your area, make sure you get furniture that can be cleaned easily.
Some spaces may be too small to fit a full-sized dining furniture set. Armless chairs and bench seats conserve space – you can even build benches into your deck. A bar table and stools are another great option for making the most of a smaller area.
You can find patio furniture made out of wood, resin and plastic, aluminium, and iron. Wooden outdoor furniture is probably the most popular choice for Kiwis. It offers a stylish natural look, is long-lasting and sturdy. Pine is a more affordable option, while teak is an extremely tough and more luxurious alternative. The quality of wood does vary, which is often indicated by a difference in price. Most shops, including Mitre10 and Freedom Furniture, offer a good selection.
Wood Outdoor Furniture
Wood will fade in colour over time but can be stained to retain a natural look. With a bit of maintenance, it will last for many years. You can leave your furniture outside over winter and rest assured that it will not blow over easily in a strong wind. Simply apply mild soap and water in spring to clean it. You could also consider using a furniture cover to provide better protection from the elements and lengthen the lifespan of your gear.
Wicker Outdoor Furniture
Combined with wide seats and plush cushions, wicker brings the cosy and comfortable lounge look outdoors. It’s lightweight but typically doesn’t hold up to the elements as well as solid wood or metal. Resin wicker is a popular alternative. It’s weather resistant and stays cool to the touch during the hot New Zealand summer days. This type of furniture is usually less expensive than wood and can be found at many home improvement stores, furniture shops and some garden centres.
Plasic Outdoor Furniture
Plastic furniture is the most affordable option on the market and an ideal choice if you’re on a tight budget. There has been a recent explosion of funky colours and styles. The Viento and Bellini chairs, to name but a few, are current favourites available at JS Interiors. Many other models – plastic and wood – are available at the Design Warehouse in Parnell. The sun will fade some plastic over time and make it brittle, so it’s a good idea to store this type of furniture in your garage or a shed. Plastic chairs are often stackable, which is a bonus.
Aluminium Outdoor Furniture
Aluminium tables and chairs add a contemporary look to your outdoor space. Being corrosion-proof and lightweight makes them a fantastic low maintenance option that works well on hard or soft surfaces. Aluminium works well with or without cushions, and comes in different styles and colours. The fact that aluminium does not rust is the material’s biggest advantage – especially in New Zealand’s harsh climate where salt air and sun easily damage other materials.
Like any other outdoor furniture, aluminium furniture comes in a variety of qualities. Pay attention to the welding points to ensure that the pieces you select will stand the test of time. Most home improvement and furniture shops will carry a selection of aluminium products for you to choose from.
Wrought Iron Outdoor Furniture
Not quite as common and somewhat harder to find in New Zealand is wrought iron furniture. It’s virtually indestructible but rather heavy, so it may not work for all outdoor areas. However, it’s easy to clean with water and soap. Touch up any areas where the paint has chipped or cracked to avoid rust. Should any rust appear, this can be sanded down and repainted. The downside of iron is that is it harder to move than most other furniture. It’s also more affected by ambient temperatures: it will heat up in summer and be cool to the touch in winter. Cushions are definitely a good idea.
Trendy accessories can add a personal touch and wow-factor to your outdoor setting. Cushions and other soft furnishings as well as lanterns and tableware are the obvious choice. If you already have an outdoor dining set, these items are an easy and simple way of updating its look. Other fantastic additions for your deck are occasional chairs, stools, sun-loungers and ottomans. One of the coolest finds this season is the Isla lounger from Coast New Zealand, turning any outdoor space into a relaxing holiday haven.
For the cooler seasons, you’ll be able to add throws and blankets as well as heating devices. Outdoor gas fires, wood fireplaces, chimeneas and electric heaters all extend the use of your deck or garden well into the cooler seasons. Visit www.renovatemagazine.co.nz to read more about heating options and all you need to know to choose the perfect heating solution for your space.
Keep it looking good
A little bit of care and maintenance will ensure that your outdoor furniture will last for many years to come.
Wood will fade in colour over time, but can be stained to retain a natural look. Resin and metal furniture requires the occasional wash down with a mild detergent and water. Make sure you rinse the residue off.
On metal, it’s important to repair any scratches quickly by sanding the area slightly, then applying a matching paint. While aluminium won’t rust like wrought iron, it won’t look as nice with scratches and chips.
It’s best to store cushions and other fabric items indoors when you’re not using them, to extend their lifespan. Go for outdoor fabric that has fade protection or marine grade fabric.
Once winter comes around, the ideal scenario is to store your furniture in the house, garage or a storage shed. Alternatively, heavy-duty covers can protect your pieces from the worst of the elements.
If you find that your pieces have worn over the years, get creative and give them a new lease on life with a fresh coat of paint or wood stain. There is a vast range of colour options available.
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For more helpful tips on decorating your outdoor space, get in touch with Zones to arrange a free consultation.