How to choose the best outdoor furniture for your space

Design and durability go hand in hand when setting up outdoor furniture

outdoor furniture nzPhotographer: Claire Takacs

Finding the right outdoor furniture can be a challenge – and that’s because it’s personal. For some, meaningful outdoor living is all about that brief but sacred moment when it’s just them and their morning coffee on the balcony. For others, the dream is reading poolside in comfort while the kids play and the barbecue heats up. And then there’s that cohort who really want to entertain on a grand scale. The best way to find your perfect outdoor setting is to know your space, and then factor in lifestyle, taste and budget. Below, discover sage advice for choosing the right outdoor furniture for your space and shop our stylish curation of outdoor pieces.

How to pick outdoor furniture for small spaces

Let’s explore apartment balconies, decks and courtyards. Perhaps your small space is only being utilised as a pot-plant hub or a sunny spot for your cat. If so, widen your horizons, pronto. Sure, space is limited and options are constrained here, but they do exist. Don’t dismiss the area you have. If you live in a high-density suburb, having any outdoor space at all is highly prized, so maximise it. Yes, you can have a sun lounger or drinks nook if that’s what you want. And maybe you can fit more than that. Size, layout and multi-purpose usage should all be front of mind when considering this.

Maximise your outdoor living area

A small space is about functionality. Flexible pieces in aluminium are a good bet as it’s a quality, reasonably low-maintenance material. Because every centimetre counts, get a roll of masking tape and make a life-size floor plan, mapping where everything, right down to the planters, will go.

outdoor furniture nzPhotographer: Tom Ferguson

How to create the perfect outdoor living area for entertaining

Ideally, you should work with a cohesive style and tone to create a seamless flow between the house and its outdoor dining. Once your design perspective has been clarified and reaffirmed, it’s time to furnish alfresco. Start with the key pieces, then move on to the optional wishlist with all of the bells and whistles.

Commit to a certain style

Decide from the outset the look you’re going for. If it’s modern and streamlined, then an outdoor sofa with a lower track arm will help with this. Select double-duty pieces, such as benches with built-in storage or an ottoman that can be used as a coffee table, footrest or extra seat to reduce unnecessary clutter. Neutral tones are timeless and create a feeling of connection. Try introducing colour by adding accessories. Greens and rusty tones are popular right now if you’d like to add some colour.

Zones & details

Party hosts can add intimate cocktail tables, drinks trolleys, self-serve food stations and extra sofas to create conversation nooks positioned away from the main action. Modular outdoor furniture and stacking stools are great for changing set-ups. Rugs, cushions and coffee tables anchor spaces, and lights, flowers, candles and decorations will complete your entertaining oasis.

It’s also important to consider heat and shade. A firepit is a great addition over winter and a cantilever umbrella is a must in summer as it offers maximum space flexibility.

outdoor furniture nzPhotographer: Tom Ferguson

Create your shopping list

A durable outdoor sofa is the cornerstone piece in any big outdoor lounge. That should be your first decision. Then pair it with an outdoor table and chairs to ensure you have flexibility for a large number of guests. Having an extendable table is desirable, and extra stacking chairs are handy. It’s nice to have a set colour or style, however thoughtful eclecticism can also be striking. Or you could opt for mix-and-match chairs and bench combinations with tables and lounge settings. Just avoid overstuffing a space. Guests will be comfortable if they can move around without obstructions. Once the primary lounge area and dining zone are established, add essential side tables, then turn your mind towards optional extras and finishing touches.

How to know if your outdoor furniture will last

Invest in quality and durability. For high-end “lifetime” furniture that’s low maintenance and can withstand the harsh sun and rain, ceramics, resins and solution-dyed acrylic fabrics will go the distance. For undercover areas with low sun exposure or light rain, powder-coated aluminium, concrete, teak and UV-stabilised polyester are cost-effective options. These pieces will require light maintenance to look great for years.

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