How to choose and care for outdoor furniture
It’s no secret that us Aussies love to spend time outdoors all year round, whether it be soaking up sunny winter afternoons in the backyard or making the most of warm summer evenings enjoying an alfresco feast with friends. Beautiful outdoor furniture that draws you out and invites you to linger only makes these occasions all the more enjoyable.
Not so long ago, chunky metal and timber comprised the bulk of outdoor offerings. Now, with our outdoor areas seen as an extension of our interiors, you can take your pick from fully upholstered outdoor lounges, cushioned day beds, low-slung armchairs and funky stools that double as side tables – all of which would look right at home indoors.
“The lines between indoor and outdoor spaces are blurring,” says Mark Curtis, design manager at Sydney firm Secret Gardens. “We’re seeing furniture with minimalist frames in metal and timber, delicate lacework, moulded wire and powder-coated steel in muted shades.”
Outdoor fabrics have also improved, says Cameron Warwick, managing director of Warwick Fabrics. “As finishing and softening processes improve, outdoor fabric is becoming softer to the touch. It’s also incredibly robust and diverse in terms of pattern and style.”
Durable Outdoor fabrics
But not all outdoor fabrics and furniture are alike, says Cameron. “Look for solution-dyed fabric that is lightfast and stain-resistant and make sure cushioning is made from high-density, reticulated outdoor foam that will allow water to drain and prohibit mould.”
When it comes to framing materials, popular options include timber, metal, wicker and moulded plastic, thanks to their versatility and durability.
“My favourite materials for weather resistance are synthetic resin wicker and hardwoods with high oil content, such as teak. Both are extremely durable and moisture-resistant,” says Terry Lin, Co-Founder and Chief Design Officer at Outer.
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“Outer’s All-Weather Wicker collection is a great weather-resistant option. It’s finished with the same nano coating used in performance camping gear that makes it resistant to water and easy to clean and care for,” adds Terry.
Protecting and Maintaining outdoor furniture
What you choose will largely depend on your home’s style and location, and how much maintenance you’re prepared to do.
Timber, for example, has warm appeal but requires regular oiling. Stainless steel, aluminium and moulded wire are lightweight and low-care but can have quite a utilitarian feel. Natural wicker is known for its rustic charm but needs protection from the elements.
“It’s important to make sure that your outdoor furniture is made to live outside,” says Terry. “My biggest tip is investing in good furniture from the start, properly made for the outdoors, to alleviate hard work in maintaining it. “
“The best way to keep outdoor furniture looking like new is to help protect it from the elements. An outdoor umbrella or sunshade that keeps you from getting hot during summer BBQs can also keep the rain off your furniture in the winter – protecting against mildew, mould, and rust.
WHAT IF MY OUTDOOR FURNITURE GETS WET?
If your furniture does end up getting soaked, don’t stress. Quality furniture is built to withstand some elements. “For wooden furniture, clean it with a damp cloth and a mixture of lukewarm water and household soap, then wipe it down with a clean cloth to remove any excess moisture and let it dry in a warm, dry place,” suggests Terry. “If it’s teak, I personally recommend Starbrite’s premium teak cleaner to restore the hardwood to its original beauty.”
For outdoor cushions, you need to act quickly to clean and dry the fabric in order to prevent mould growth and staining. “Don’t leave them in their soaked state as it’ll encourage mildew and mould,” warns Terry.
“Separate the cushion from the fabric cover, clean with a soft bristle brush in a mixture of mild soap or gentle detergent in lukewarm water, then rinse thoroughly with cold water and allow to air dry in a well-ventilated room. The same goes for pieces with durable synthetic materials, which also dry easily after rain.”
If your outdoor furniture isn’t able to withstand a rainy winter, it might be time to look into a more durable option that can withstand everything our extreme climate can throw at it – season after season.
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