Whether you are lounging on a wicker chaise or looking to create memories around a fire pit, outdoor spaces are a summertime extension of your home. Escape Home contributor Isis-Maya Nissman shares everything you need to know about selecting and caring for outdoor furniture
How to select outdoor furniture
Here are the most important things to consider when picking out your ideal outdoor furniture:
Design — Outdoor furniture should reflect your aesthetic preferences. Even if you choose to work with an interior designer, take some time to dial into your specific style. Lindsay Schleis, vice president of business development at the sustainable outdoor furniture company POLWOOD, suggests choosing “a style of outdoor furniture that matches your current design aesthetic, yet has a timeless element that will work as your tastes evolve.”
Plan — No matter how big or small your space is, “you still have to start with a plan, ” says veteran interior designer Judith Mielnicki. She always suggests beginning with a loose goal and exposing yourself to a variety of outdoor designers, products and brands.
Climate — Where you live will have a huge impact on what outdoor furniture you select. For those who live in hot and humid climates such as Florida, Mielnicki suggests considering “durable materials and products that can withstand the heat and the sun and everything else.”
Upkeep – Think about how much money, time, and care you are willing to invest on your outdoor space. Be wary of certain materials that will require a greater upkeep. Schleis reminds shoppers to “keep in mind not just the immediate cost, but the value over time.”
Make the most of your materials
Wondering what materials make the best outdoor furniture? Popular durable ones include aluminum, iron, metal, cedar, wicker, plastic and wood. While a teak sofa may generate a warm outdoor ambiance, be aware that materials like this will need a high level of upkeep, including sealing, staining and oiling. An all-around winner when it comes to patio and outdoor furniture is aluminum or plastic lumber (a wood alternative). If you have less time for cleaning and maintenance, materials like these provide a more “set it and forget it mentality,” according to Schleis. Plastic lumber is also “infinitely recyclable,” she added, and therefore a sustainable choice.
Storage matters: keeping your outdoor furniture fresh
Depending on what type of outdoor furniture you spring for, you will be looking at vastly different storage requirements. While many pieces may be protected by a properly placed cover, some more delicate items will benefit from indoor storage. If you live in a temperate climate and don’t need to weather the trials of hurricane season, you could leave your furniture outdoors. However, in areas with greater risk of storms or severe heat, it is always advisable to store your furniture indoors. Mielnicki suggests utilizing a garage, shed or anything that will offer protection against the most brutal elements and give your furniture a longer shelf life. Furniture made of plastic, aluminum, or metal will have a greater advantage when it comes to withstanding the wear and tear of the great outdoors.
Cleaning tips and tricks
Want to enjoy your outdoor furniture for years to come? Cleaning your outdoor pieces can greatly extend their longevity. Don’t forget, power washing your outdoor furniture two to three times per year can also be instrumental in keeping them looking fresh. Follow along to discover the top cleaning hacks for wood, wicker, metal, iron, aluminum, and plastic:
Wicker and wood
Both wicker and wood pieces are popular for their ability to imbue any space with nostalgic charm and warmth. Remove dirt and grime from your favorite swing, chair, or table by using a mild oil-based soap mixed with warm water. You can also use a commercial wood cleaner, but be sure to read the directions thoroughly as wicker pieces may require a more diluted solution. For a DIY cleaning fix, you can mix together one-fourth cup ammonia, two tablespoons of white vinegar and one quart of warm water. Keep in mind that hardwood furniture will also generally benefit from an annual sanding and application of a protective oil, stain or polyurethane.
Metal, Iron, and Aluminum
Generally considered to be low-maintenance materials, metal, iron and aluminum can be cleaned weekly with a simple soap and water solution. But the biggest pitfall of these pieces is the threat of oxidation. Prior to cleaning, you can remove as much rust as possible using a metal polishing solution of equal parts white vinegar and water. If your furniture could use a full repaint, be sure to sand off any rust and then prep using a rust resistant primer before repainting.
Light and low-cost, plastic outdoor furniture allows you to play with fun colors, patterns, and trends. Ensure your plastic chairs, tables, and lounges continue to shine by wiping them down with a homemade cleaner of one-half cup baking soda with one gallon of warm water. If you are scrubbing down colored plastic you can use a mix of one-fourth cup vinegar with one quart of warm water. Do your best to avoid abrasive cleaners and consider sealing in the sparkle with a protective coating of automotive paste wax.
To keep cushions from becoming moldy and mildewy, treat them with a waterproofing spray (even if the cushions themselves are waterproof). To remove existing mildew, you can use borax. Start by mixing one cup of borax and a couple squeezes of dish soap into a bucket of water. Scrub the entire cushion with that solution and let sit for several minutes before rinsing. Another way to remove mildew is with a power washer. Consider fabric when purchasing cushions. Materials like cotton, linen, polyester retain moisture, whereas material that is primarily acrylic or olefin will be more resistant to water and mildew.
Investments pieces, trends and other outdoor additions
While trends come and go, it is important to hold onto your personal aesthetic. While there is no need to perfectly match your interior and exterior design, Schleis says that “spaces should seamlessly blend in with the rest of your decor to present a cohesive visual flow.” Neutral, timeless pieces accented with pops of color and on-trend fabric patterns can harmonize your space. For a true slice of Americana (and a worthwhile investment), she recommends a high quality-Adirondack chair. These stylish and functional chairs, she says, “evoke a unique sense of relaxation often associated with outdoor living, waterfront vacations, or mountain retreats around a crackling campfire.”