How to choose the outdoor furniture you’ll actually use

With the potential of an outdoor Christmas only on the cards for many of us, now is the time to improve your outdoor living situation.

Landscaping your garden with the right furniture is the difference between creating an extension of your home that you will actually use and one that you will not.

So while buying outdoor furniture might not be at the top of your list of fun outdoor activities, the profits for future chill out weekends are high.

Lightweight furniture is easy to move around making it a flexible space, but wrought iron will last a lifetime.

Evie Kemp / Supplied

Lightweight furniture is easy to move around making it a flexible space, but wrought iron will last a lifetime.

Here’s a guide on how to buy the right patio furniture the first time. Less time sailing, more time lounging!

* Why are bright and bold garden rooms this summer
* Proven tips that will turn your outdoor space into an oasis of entertainment
* A guide to getting the most out of a small outdoor entertainment space


Most garden furniture is made of wood, metal or plastic. There are advantages and disadvantages to each.

Wood furniture generally requires annual maintenance and will deteriorate over time if exposed to the elements. However, it looks great, and as a natural product it will cause little damage at the end of its life.

Much cheaper outdoor furniture in New Zealand is made from kwila, an imported tropical hardwood – although it is a natural material, it is not necessarily an ethical choice. Look for items made from durable woods or proven hardwoods such as teak or macrocarpa.

Plastic has come a long way in the world of outdoor furniture. Forget about the brittle plastic chairs that could knock you to the floor and stab you all in one fell swoop.

Resin wicker is a popular material that is much more UV stable; it is also light and easy to clean. Look for resin wicker made from high density polyethylene instead of the cheaper, more brittle PVC. Woven resin furniture has a lifespan of between 10 and 15 years.

We’ve probably all seen a rusty park bench that proves metal furniture can stand the test of time. The wrought iron is ornate and heavy. It will rust too, but you can process and cover it – your wrought iron furniture should last a century.

Lightweight and rust-resistant options like stainless steel or even aluminum are slightly more practical. Beware of cheaper metal options that are not resistant to rust, especially in salty coastal environments (most of New Zealand).

Concrete is another popular styling choice, but it’s incredibly heavy and will require annual sealing to keep it looking pristine.

What to think about before going to the store

Weigh how much you are willing to maintain your furniture. If you think you can’t make the commitment to stain wood every year, avoid the stress.

Consider how you will protect your furniture during the winter, either by purchasing slipcovers or storing it in a shed or garage. Think of stackable chairs, which will take up much less space when stored.

Choose furniture based on how you want to use the space. Don’t take up all the space with a huge dining area if you really want a comfy lounge chair or two.

If you want a flexible space where you can push furniture aside to set up the paddling pool or do yoga in the morning, be sure to choose furniture that is light and easy to move.

Comfort is just as important on the outside as it is on the inside. The whole point of patio furniture is that you spend more time outdoors, so find pieces that feel like a vacation.

Look at the second-hand options – you may be able to buy quality furniture that you can’t afford new, and you care about the environment. Furniture picked up and delivered is easy.

Don’t forget the shade, or your beautiful outdoor decor will be almost unusable. Adequate and convenient shade makes an outdoor space truly livable. Ready-made canopies, shade sails, and pagoda-style structures are readily available these days at major retailers.

If you buy a parasol, buy one larger than you think you need and with adjustable angles. Just as it pays to have multiple light sources indoors, you need multiple sources of shade outdoors, such as permanent shade sails paired with an adjustable parasol.

Outdoor sofas need cushions. Take your outdoor furniture to the next level by dressing it in the comforts of home and incorporating color and texture. My tip for less hassle is to store your outdoor cushions in a large empty ottoman which is quick and easy to bring indoors in case of rain.

Like anywhere in your home, the most important thing is that you love it, so create a space that works for you and the way you live, that is easy and fun to maintain.

Evie Kemp is an Auckland designer, artist and stylist with a love for all things maximalist. Find her Much ebook at

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