Choosing Patio Furniture

Sunshine is pouring down and you just want to revel in it, spending all your free time this summer in the privacy of your own back yard reading a novel or sharing a pitcher of drinks with friends. But where is everyone going to sit? That's where patio furniture comes in.

If you are looking to furnish your outdoor space, you can be daunted by the wealth of choices in styles and materials and prices.

Your emotional expectations can complicate matters further. You want outdoor furniture to do more than just look good, you also want it to be efficient and functional, and to have lasting value. Quality patio furniture is an investment – for many people, it may be the only set they buy.

When buying patio furniture, consider construction, style and value for the investment.

Construction

Look for durability. Make sure pieces are sturdy and seams or joints are firm.

Think about how much time you want to spend to maintain the furniture. Wrought-iron is guaranteed to rust: it definitely requires maintenance. Wood also needs work: it will weather to a natural silver or gray if a sealant isn't applied up to several times a year.

Other materials include resin, aluminum, cast aluminum, wicker and rattan. There are combinations such as wood and metal, metal and glass, glass and wood, all in an array of finishes. Metal is powder-coated for durability.

Decide among cushion sets, sling sets or strap sets. Cushions are more expensive and demand more maintenance, liking cleaning and storing for the winter. But they are also the most comfortable. Sling sets are the most popular and can last 5-10 years.

Fabrics include cotton and acrylics. If you want longevity, look for material that resists fading, is washable, will not mildew and repels stains.

Comfort

As for comfort? That's personal. Test out the furniture to make sure it’s comfortable for your body.

Style

Don't choose a design based just on what is in style. Take a cue from your home’s architecture: look at the lines of your home - the simplicity or the complexity of them - and make decisions on whether you want to contrast or complement them.

If your house architecture is very busy, you might want to contrast it with patio furniture that is extremely elegant.

Conversely, you can take a modern house with sleek lines and complement it with Asian-style furniture because of the cleanliness of lines. You can mix cross culture styles when you use the same aesthetic in all your pieces.

Be aware of just how big – or small – your furniture will be outside. Scale can be tricky. A big chunky Craftsman-style house would not be complemented by small, fussy Victorian wrought-iron patio furniture when wood would be a better choice.

You can also consider your outdoor furniture as an extension of your home’s interior decoration and make a seamless transition from indoors to outdoors.

Price and Value

If you can't afford to buy more than a table and chairs on your initial shopping trip, remember most manufacturers carry their lines for at least 4 years and some up to 20 years, depending on the popularity. Later, you can add chaise lounges, bar chairs, gliders or love seats to your collection.