The Great Outdoors: Furniture Edition
March 23, 2014 3:01 PM   Subscribe

Never-ending winter be damned! I want to think about outdoor furniture, but I'm basically clueless. What holds up well? Dining set-up or lounge? Specific recommendations appreciated!

Because winter has been kicking my butt, I've turned my thoughts to preparing for warmer days and nights to come. We have an empty deck and patio that are begging to be enjoyed once the snow and ice recede. AskMe gave me plenty of wisdom on the subject of indoor couches, so maybe you can all help me figure out outdoor furniture too. What should we be looking for or avoiding? Tips or tricks to keep in mind?

Potentially relevant details: CT weather sucks, the backyard is small, but the deck is reasonably-sized, and I'm a tremendous mosquito magnet, so please recalibrate my expectations of hanging out in my backyard, if you must.
posted by Diagonalize to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Teak is perfect for outdoor furniture - it can be expensive, but it lasts forever outdoors and is easy to maintain. My personal preference is a couple of wooden Adirondack-type chairs and ottomans, with generously-sized side tables between them for setting down drinks, food, and books.

I'm also a terrible mosquito magnet. The only thing I've found to deter them is those tacky citronella torch things. They are ugly but they do work wonders.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 3:48 PM on March 23, 2014

I pick up director's chairs whenever I see them reasonably priced. They're comfortable, they dry fast if it rains, and cloth is nicer than metal. I have to replace the fabric from time to time. For some reason, director's chairs show up at Goodwill a lot. I got a couple of round tables that have a hole for an umbrella, and a couple of umbrellas/ bases. My deck is on the front of my house, facing southwest. The umbrellas really help keep the deck and house cooler in summer. I got a mosquito net that goes over the umbrella to use in the evening, and some solar fairy lights. It looks very romantic, and it does keep out the skeeters. A fan will also discourage them. I have a table that's just plywood, about 20" x 60", on top of 2 stools, that acts as a buffet, and is really useful.
posted by theora55 at 3:58 PM on March 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Measure your deck or whatever area you plan to put the furniture and figure out how big is too big. Table and chairs look great in the store, but can make a small space too crowded if you don't plan. Figure out if you should do a full table or a bistro set. Will there be room for a chaise and a little side table for it? Two chaises? Do you have a grill? Planters? Enough room to maneuver around everything? Measure twice, buy once!
posted by sageleaf at 4:07 PM on March 23, 2014

My main advice is to think first about where things get stored off-season, and what can you fit there. That will orient you to flexibility or size points.
posted by Riverine at 4:21 PM on March 23, 2014

If either the deck or the patio has a roof, install a ceiling fan. You can buy them from whatever big-box hardware store is near you for under $75, they're relatively easy to install, and they're like magic. My father has both a covered porch and a covered patio, and he put ceiling fans on both. Not only is it significantly cooler, but if there are bugs, you just turn on the fan and, like magic, no more bugs.

Many patio sets will have both dining and lounge options--you can have a table and four or six chairs for it, and then a chaise and a couple recliners, too. If you've got the room for it, combining lets you have the best of both worlds.
posted by MeghanC at 4:26 PM on March 23, 2014

We use a box fan set on the ground and pointed toward our legs to keep the mosquitoes away. Works great.

My favorite deck furniture is a pair of "anti-gravity" recliners purchased from Sam's Club. I was just thinking about them today - it's soon going to be time to pull them out of the shed and set them up. Hurray!
posted by summerstorm at 5:00 PM on March 23, 2014

Response by poster: I'm pretty good about measurements and proportions. We probably can't fit a dining set alongside a couch/chairs combo, so it'll come down to one or the other, but we do have a roomy garage for storage. Do you always have to store the furniture someplace else in the off-season? I grew up in L.A.; home-ownership combined with seasons is still really new to me. I guess I was hoping we wouldn't have to lug stuff around too much.
posted by Diagonalize at 5:32 PM on March 23, 2014

I bought not-very-expensive metal furniture at Menard's and it's held up for 8 years now and can be left out all winter. It's got a few rusty spots that I'm loosely considering scrubbing clean and spraying Krylon on, but I'm not very motivated about it, it owes me no money. I have a dining table with four fixed chairs; a conversation arrangement with two rockers and a two-seat glider (and two end tables); and a small cafe table with two other chairs that I call my wine-drinkin' table that was my original patio table but has been demoted to the area back by the swingset. The metal-mesh doesn't look too visually heavy and is easy to hose off.

We have found a) people love those rockers and sit in them more than the loungy pieces; b) we get a LOT more use out of the table-and-chairs than the conversation area, especially when the rocker chairs are pulled up to the table. People love to sit around the table with drinks and lean back and bounce in the rockers. Conversation chats tend to drift naturally to the table. I would personally opt for a table with chairs over other options if you intend to entertain a lot outside. (If you're after napping outside, it won't do.)

We entertain almost exclusively in our backyard, so we do eat dinner out there a LOT. The cafe-sized table was good and we could fit four people, but a dining-size table is definitely better if you're going to be eating outside a lot. My other tips are small side/end tables that are easy to move around can be good footstools and spare space for food/drinks; and if you place a potting bench strategically it can be both your outdoor bar/buffet AND a potting bench.

For the mosquitos, nothing beats a box fan.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:52 PM on March 23, 2014

If you don't have the space to store outdoor furniture elsewhere during the off-season, measure them and purchase some covers for your furniture. If you can also move the furniture close to your house where it could be slightly protected by overhangs and walls, that would also help. It does make a difference in the life of your furniture to keep it out of the winter weather, plus you get that "hooray, it's spring!" feeling when you uncover it all and set it up in the springtime.

Don't forget to get some wind decorations, too (though skip the windchimes if your house is close enough to other homes that you might annoy your neighbors with the sound). Outdoor-ratedstring lights are a nice touch, and you can also add a fire pit, chiminea, or fire pan for cooler weather in spring & fall.

Re: mosquitoes, I have not found that citronella works (at least on the mosquitoes around these parts), so I keep bottles of bug spray right near the door of the patio. I have never used a box fan, but I can tell you that I got about sixty bites during a long session with the leaf blower last year after forgetting the bug spray. So I don't know if that's a surefire solution.
posted by aabbbiee at 1:15 PM on March 24, 2014

Response by poster: Incidentally, we ended up getting a set of cast aluminum furniture from Costco and broke it in last weekend with a party. It was more than we were expecting to spend, but the quality is good, people absolutely loved the fire pit and the rocker chairs, and I had the best nap of my life on a chaise lounge the next day. All in all, we're quite pleased.
posted by Diagonalize at 3:45 PM on June 4, 2014

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