Making outside cosy and comfortable

You'll make sure you don’t spend your time outside uncomfortably parked on a cheap patio chair. When it comes to outdoor comfort, there are a few things to consider.

20 August 2018 | Infrastructure

According to How It Works, you have to insist on good quality craftsmanship. From sloppy welds to cracked casters to amateurish paint finishes, a close inspection will expose that great outdoor furniture bargain for what it really is.

There are a couple of important lessons here. It’s easy to think of outdoor furnishings as somewhat less important than the stuff you buy for indoor use. In fact, the reverse is often true. What you buy furniture to use outside, it must be able to stand up to sun exposure, wind, rain and probably some roughhousing, too. Inspect every piece you’re considering for flaws, especially if the deal sounds too good to be true. This is one area where a higher price is often a good indicator of better quality.

Form follows function

Your best bet when deciding on the right materials for your outdoor furnishings is to evaluate how you plan on using your furniture and how much time you want to spend maintaining it. A lightweight aluminium or plastic chair will be rust-resistant and easy to move around if you plan on dragging it into the front yard for a party or stowing it in the garage. It won’t have the weight and stability of an iron or stainless steel piece, but it might be stackable (or collapsible) so you can hang it on a wall in an out of the way spot when you aren't using it.

Don't undersize

Some patio chairs are just too narrow and skimpy. Others are built so low that getting out of them can be downright embarrassing, especially for older people. Sizing for loveseats and couches can be tricky, too. Some are pretty deep from front to back, which can make them uncomfortable to sit in for any length of time. When shopping for outdoor furniture, sit down and relax, literally. Test the pieces you have in mind. Think comfort and buy accordingly.

Shading

During the hottest part of the day, sitting outside can get pretty unpleasant if your furniture isn’t situated in the shade. Whether you’re using a cantilever umbrella, a motorised awning or are blessed with a permanent wood or fiberglass roof over your patio or deck, make arrangements for some naturally refreshing and sheltering shade.

Make it flexible

You know that great footstool in the family room that everyone wants to use? It’s a comfortable item that's also flexible and convenient. You want that kind of flexibility in your outdoor furnishings, too. Here are some flexible patio pieces you might consider adding to your wish list:

• Standalone umbrellas you can move from place to place.

• Dividers or screens that can block the view from the street or nearby homes. Some even come equipped with planters in the base for stability and a little seasonal colour.

• Wheeled carts that can transport food and other necessary items in and out of the house.

• Drop-leaf, collapsible or accordion tables that can be extended when you have guests.

Follow the sales

Everybody loves a bargain and seasonal items like outdoor furnishings can vary in price. Avoid buying in spring unless you can score deep promotional discounts.

Integrate furniture

It’s nice to think of your outdoor area as an oasis of calm in a hectic world, but it isn’t on a desert island somewhere; it’s situated on your property and sometimes in plain view of the neighbours and people driving or walking by. You may think that bright orange lounger with the yellow smiley faces looks adorable; just make sure it doesn’t clash with the rest of your home's exterior. Sure, outdoor furnishings should be fun and carefree, but if you just spent a fortune trying to improve your homes curb appeal, don't spoil the effect with a silly, seasonal accent piece.

Lush and plush

Comfort is important. You may want steel or wood construction in your patio furniture for stability and longevity, but don't forget that without some homey comforts like soft, plush cushions, your outdoor furniture will go largely unused. Avoid pancake cushions. You know, those thin, puny little cushions that aren't plush or even very pliable. Opt for chubby cushions that feel light when you pick them up. Look for cushions with polyester filler, too. The more lightweight and springy the filler is, the more quickly it will dry out after exposure to moisture. That means it will resist mould and mildew and stay comfortable and sweet smelling longer.

Check the details

A patio set can look attractive but have glaring flaws that can lead to problems after a few months. On large furniture pieces, choose cushions with springs. They’ll hold their shape longer.

When inspecting metal furniture, bring a magnet. Aluminium is not magnetic, but steel often is. Although it doesn't work with all types of steel, you can sometimes distinguish aluminium from steel construction (or fittings) by just testing them with a magnet. Remember, steel will rust while aluminium and stainless steel won't.

Look for aluminium loungers made with long, unsegmented framing pieces. They cost a little more, but they'll last longer. Check chairs to make sure the legs are solid and sturdy. Sit in the chair to see if it shifts or flexes as it takes your weight. Opt for furniture assembled using stainless steel screws.

Run your hands along wood pieces to make sure they're sanded smooth. Check to make sure chair and table legs have rubber or plastic feet that won’t scratch your deck or patio.

Testing textiles

You can’t grab a pillow from your family room and expect it to adapt to life outside on the patio. Most textiles designed for indoor/outdoor use are made from all-weather materials that repel water or encourage moisture to evaporate quickly by remaining porous.

Fabrics designed for use outdoors are usually fade resistant and UV protected, too. They’ll look good and feel soft and comfortable for at least a couple of seasons. When you're evaluating fabrics for outdoor furniture, check cushion seams for heavy duty thread and consistent, even stiches. Choose cushions with vents that encourage air flow and is quick drying.

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