It’s that time of year again, when we all start looking out our windows, daydreaming about what could be done to dress up our outdoor spaces. The reappearance of the spring/summer sun draws attention to where we could use a comfortable seating area, a functional grilling and dining setup, a spot for poolside relaxing, and so on. We don’t want to bring you out of the clouds and back down to reality, but we will say you shouldn’t just go out and buy the first pieces of outdoor furniture that catch your eye.
There are a lot of things to consider when choosing furniture to ensure that it’s right for your space, from what can actually fit there to how it will fit in to any preexisting design. Arguably, the most important thing to consider when shopping for outdoor furniture is materials. What a piece is made out of can affect everything, from the style of the space it’s in to how much time you’ll have to spend cleaning and caring for it.
Below are the four main categories or materials commonly used to make outdoor furniture. We recommend assessing the pros and cons of all of your options before busting out your wallet…
Pros- Since wood already occurs in nature, style wise it fits perfectly in most outdoor spaces. Popular varieties of wood include pine, oak, eucalyptus and cedar. Although, the real winner is teak. Originally used in boat building, teak has natural oils that protect it from heat, moisture, and rot. It is a rainforest wood, but you can look for a Forest Stewardship Council stamp on furniture if you want to make sure the materials used to make it have been responsibly harvested.
Cons- If you live in a place where extreme weather is common, be careful picking out wood furniture as it’s vulnerable to moisture and sunlight damage. On top of that, wood finishes are susceptible to scratches and other damage from sharp or rough objects and repairs to wood furniture require time and skill.
Wrought Iron: This is another material that works well in a more traditionally designed outdoor space. It’s often used in formal settings as it can offer a luxurious look but can be used to create more casual and contemporary pieces as well.
Pros- Whatever your style is, if you’re furnishing a particularly windy environment, wrought iron is the material for you as it is very strong and weighty, making it essentially tip-proof.
Cons- Like some woods, you want to be careful keeping wrought iron pieces in wet environments because it will rust over time. If this does occur, sand down the offending area and apply a paint touch up to stop the corrosion from spreading.
Aluminum: Another metal that’s commonly used to make outdoor furniture is aluminum. These pieces are perfect for more modern spaces.
Pros- Aluminum is durable like wrought iron, but much more rust resistant, making it more suited for wet conditions. You can also get tubular aluminum, which is hollow and therefore lightweight. Perfect for a situation where you might need to move pieces around a lot or put them into storage more often.
Cons- If you’re looking for a specifically stylish design, you may not find it in the aluminum section. Many aluminum furniture producers stick to the same, traditional designs.
Synthetics: It’s now more common than ever for outdoor furniture to be made from synthetic materials (plastic, resin, Marine Grade Polymer, etc.) These pieces often look very casual, but you’d be surprised by how many interesting styles of synthetic furniture exist now.
Pros- Quality pieces made of synthetics are durable and very easy to clean. You definitely won’t have to worry about how wet this furniture gets, just air or towel dry! Similar to tubular aluminum, this is another lightweight (and often inexpensive) option.
Cons- It can be hard to create a luxury feel with synthetics, and they tend to be lightweight making them more susceptible to being blown around in the wind.
We have a notable mention: wicker! Furniture made from wicker gives the space it’s used in a rustic, country vibe. People who like a cozy design style often use wicker furniture both inside and out. For an outdoor space, though, you should consider using all-weather wicker, which is actually made from woven synthetics instead of completely organic materials. These pieces last longer when exposed to a lot of moisture. Although, wicker furniture tends to be lightweight so if you prefer the original just make sure that part of its care routine is to bring it inside during harsh weather. Pro tip: look for tightly woven pieces to ensure quality.
But hey, don’t limit yourselves! You can also mix materials, either in the same piece of furniture, or by combining many different types of pieces. The options really are limitless, for example, try adding mosaic, slate, or tempered glass table tops! The important thing to note when choosing your material or materials is if they will be the best withstanding the specific environment you will be placing the furniture in. Once you pick materials, you can move onto things like style and color, as you will most likely have a wide variety of options no matter which one you choose. If you have more questions about what materials would work best in your environment, feel free to give us a call or send an email, we love talking furniture!