The Best Outdoor Furniture
Deck and Patio
Anchor your outdoor dining area with a sturdy table and chairs and it will feel all the more like an agreeable outdoor room. Look for a table that's large enough for your family plus a few drop-ins. Chairs should encourage lingering (extra pillows help).
Aluminum designs are a sensible choice for this heavy-use area―the metal is inherently rustproof and durable, says Cheminne Taylor-Smith, editor in chief of InFurniture, a trade magazine. "It's a lightweight, long-lasting, and hard-wearing material," she adds. It can stay out year-round, and requires little upkeep (just periodic washing with mild liquid soap). Look for pieces with rustproof hardware, seamless welds, and a UV-resistant powder-coat finish for insurance against oxidation, which can cause chalky streaks on unfinished aluminum. Here, three common types.
- Tubular aluminum: A cost-conscious yet durable choice. Hollow tubing is cut and bent to form streamlined shapes.
- Wrought aluminum: Similar to tubular aluminum but pricier, due to more workmanlike and durable welding.
- Cast aluminum: Made by pouring molten aluminum into molds, this solid (and heavy) material retains fine design detail.
Read on for more stylish outdoor furniture picks, plus tips on how to keep your patio set sparkling all summer long.
Wicker is the traditional choice, but it isn't immune to moisture or sun damage. "You have to either protect it or simply not care about it falling apart," says Becky B. Smith, editor in chief of Casual Living, an outdoor-furniture-and-accessories trade publication. Fortunately, there's an alternative: all-weather wicker, a synthetic (usually vinyl or resin) or coated natural woven material (treated with a protective finish) that are woven around an aluminum frame. It has UV resistance and an ability to weather the damp and the cold.
- Look for pieces that are tightly woven. You shouldn't be able to see through the weave or poke your finger through it.
- Most synthetic wickers can stay outside year-round without showing much wear. To clean, hose down with water and a mild soap.
- The luxury of low-maintenance will cost you: Expect to pay no less than $200 for a good-quality chair.
As for fabrics, the best is solution-dyed acrylic, according to Steve Lida, a co-owner of Outdoor
fabrics.com. "It's inherently mildew- and fade-resistant," he says. Weather-treated polyester, a more economical alternative, is a solid runner-up. Opt for light-colored fabrics, which absorb less heat. The following textiles retain their good looks, no matter what the elements.
- Solution-dyed acrylic: This fabric resists UV rays, moisture, mildew, and staining. It has the look and feel of indoor fabric and is machine washable and bleachable. It's often sold under the brand names Sunbrella and Outdura.
- Polyester: A quick-drying, affordable choice. It lacks the UV resistance of solution-dyed acrylic, so look for options that come with UV-protective coatings. Spot-clean only.
- Woven mesh: Used in "sling" furniture, these vinyl-coated polyester yarns won't stretch out, are mildew-resistant, and can be hosed down. One brand name to look for is Textaline.