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Al fresco settings – 8 key steps to sitting pretty outdoors

Summer’s not coming – it’s here! But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad time to review your personal outdoor paradise – after all, the sales are already in full swing. Here are 8 steps towards achieving an outdoor entertainment space to be proud of

Top of the world – this outdoor setting gray, black
Top of the world – this outdoor setting is found at the top of the home rather than the bottom of the garden. See the original story here

1 You're made if you measure

Before you head out to your local boutique furniture supplier or let your fingers do the walking online to explore larger outlets, first give your tape measure some exercise and work out the exact area you are dealing with.

Many rules that apply to interior design also apply in your great outdoors. Now, armed with the size of your decided area, choose outdoor furniture pieces on a scale that suits the space without swamping it. This includes allowing plenty of room for when chairs are pulled out.

As with interior considerations, it’s worth mentioning that two chairs with the same back and seat areas might take up quite different areas of space. A handsome seat with rolled arms, a curving back or elegantly splayed feet might take up almost twice the floor area of a more pared-back chair design.

Again borrowing from indoor thinking, a slender-legged table, chair or al fresco cabinet piece will bring a lighter, freer feel than pieces with solid bases or more substantial footings.

So, in essence, don’t crowd your setting and by the same token, don’t leave it feeling lost in an otherwise unadorned expanse of lawn or deck.


This stunning outdoor setting responds to the scale estate, interior design, property, real estate, resort, villa, gray
This stunning outdoor setting responds to the scale of the upmarket home it forms part of. Read the original story here.

2 Furniture follows function

Now, with an understanding of scale, how best to put your outdoor space to work (and play)? It may seem obvious, but make sure your use of the space is reflected in the type furniture you choose.

Two chairs and a pretty accompanying table are ideal for a small deck, patio, or other outdoor nook.

On the other hand, an al fresco table and chairs setting for eight might bring out the best – both aesthetically and functionally – in an outdoor room, on a sprawling deck or a sheltered lawn.

The size of your setting is naturally dependant on the number of people it’s likely to accommodate as well as the area it occupies.

However, by the pool or mid-lawn, loungers might be more appropriate.

Whatever the specific function of your outdoor furniture, don’t leave a guest poised with a glass and no where to rest it. A side table in the shade here, maybe an elegant drinks cooler there, and perhaps a shade umbrella just beyond that – make sure every choice furthers ease and relaxation.

Of course, another consideration of your outdoor furniture’s role is also as a visual focus from within your home. A hammock in that shady Pohutakawa is ideal for summer daydreaming and makes for an attractive visual element within your landscape.

This small, shaded garden features matching antique-look outdoor backyard, courtyard, furniture, garden, landscaping, outdoor furniture, outdoor structure, patio, real estate, table, yard, brown
This small, shaded garden features matching antique-look outdoor furniture. Read the story here.

3 All in the family, or gathered together?

There are two ways to go here. Buy a crisp, uniform outdoor suite where all pieces are clearly made for each other, or alternatively, go for a more eclectic, gathered-together look.

The former makes life easy, but the latter may create a more character setting. If you choose to mix and match, make sure the different pieces have a common design thread running through them – perhaps all with the same colour tones, similar materials, or reflecting a similar period look.

Choice of materials is a critical aspect of
Choice of materials is a critical aspect of selecting your outdoor furniture. Read the associated landscaping tips story here.

4 Material strengths (this is a big one)

To ensure you get great use out of your outdoor furniture you need to pay close attention to what it’s made from.

You may well select outdoor furniture along similar lines to your interior pieces – but there is an all-important difference. Your outdoor choices have to contend with rain and moisture, mould and rot, rust and corrosion, warping, fading, cracking, even holding on to too much heat. That’s a lot to deal with.

In terms of wood, teak is a great option, although it will silver over time. Many other woods will have to be protected, perhaps regularly, to keep the elements at bay. Avoid soft woods, such as pine – however, hardwoods, treated properly, will last and last.

Regarding metals and alloys, aluminium and marine grade stainless steels are both dependably durable and rust resistant no matter the weather.

Wrought iron is also popular but buyer beware, while many such settings are touted as rain or weather resistant that does not mean rust proof. Powder-coated metals combat rust to reasonable degree, but scratches in the surface or poor metal joins will let oxidation and unsightliness commence.

Weight is another consideration when choosing the right materials, too. Aluminium is light, meaning it is easy to lift – but that means by a gust of wind too.

Lastly, resins and plastics are becoming more and more popular as new manufacturing techniques allow for more varied design options. Plus, because colour is inherent in their chemical make-up, they are fade resistant too. 

The last point holds true for furniture fabrics and upholstery too. And as well as hold their colour under the harsh New Zealand sun, acrylic fabrics are also quick-drying and easy to maintain.

In keeping – classic brick cladding backdrops traditional backyard, chair, furniture, garden, outdoor furniture, outdoor structure, patio, plant, table, yard, brown
In keeping – classic brick cladding backdrops traditional look wood outdoor furniture in the grounds of this clinic in a domestic home. Read the garden story here.

5 Style of furniture

A clean, crisp modern home may lend itself to outdoor furniture along similar lines, while a traditional bungalow might call for more classic choices. There are no definitive rules, though. For example, you may like to contrast your demure interiors with more colourful or playful outdoor choices.

Note: outdoor furniture isn’t just for Christmas – select elements that you love now and will still love in years to come.

Humans' primeval love of fire is safely accommodated
Humans' primeval love of fire is safely accommodated in this rustic (literally) fire pit. Read the fire pit story here.

6 As the seasons turn accessories make the difference

Getting the most out of your garden or deck setting can be as simple as purchasing the right accessories. Even when summer ends, with the use of outdoor heating and a strategic sheltering awning, the al fresco experience can continue into the cooler months.

While there are many gas and electric options, a fire pit offers a fantastic open air gathering point. This is one place where an oxidising metal finish can add a welcome rustic accent to your setting.

Having a dedicated place to store your outdoor
Having a dedicated place to store your outdoor cushions etc makes keeping things tidier easier and means your furniture will have a long and beautiful life.

7 Storage and maintenance

While outdoor furniture is ideally capable of remaining outside year round, coverings and cushions may not fare so well. A dedicated storage box lets you keep things looking fresh but also allows for a quick reinstatement when the sun is shining and your guests are on their way over.

Plus while we’ve touched on which materials offer best weather resistance, it is always a good idea to choose pieces that are easy to look after in general terms. If your furniture can be simply hosed off or wiped clean with a damp cloth then all the better.

Try before you buy! Comfort is even more backyard, estate, home, house, leisure, outdoor structure, patio, property, real estate, resort, black
Try before you buy! Comfort is even more important than style (but only just). Read the landscaping story here.

8 Comfort!!!

That wrought iron setting with its curling, decorative design narrative may look straight out of a Parisian café, but quick question, is it actually comfortable? Does it fit the contours of you and is the cushioning soft?

Whatever the setting, the material, the style, take the time to actually take a seat before you choose.

Story by: Trendsideas

17 Jan, 2021

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