To my mind, there are essentially two kinds of outdoor furniture: the kind you get because you need it sometimes, and the kind you have because you use it often. The former tend to be inexpensive first, stowable second, and everything else a distant third. But the latter are all about appearance, comfort, and long term durability. In a large outdoor space, a high quality, large seating set or sectional can extend your interior decor and create a year-round gathering space – especially in a climate that’s warm year round. Built in outdoor sectionals offer the most finished look, but freestanding sectional sets offer similar flexibility for a much lower price.
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The size of the outdoor sectional set you need should be determined by two factors: how large your outdoor space is, and how many people you typically entertain at a time. Sectional sets of any size work best placed around the perimeter of a deck, patio, or lawn area, since too much seating placed in the middle of a space can make it seem quite crowded. Lining the perimeter with seating minimizes the obtrusiveness of a large piece of furniture, and paired with a freestanding outdoor fireplace or fire pit can create a nice, open seating area for a crowd.
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Of course you want to be able to seat all your guests, but you probably don’t need a unique seat for each of the maximum number of people you might host. After all, if you’re doing a lot of entertaining, it’s likely that you’ll have other seating – an outdoor kitchen, a picnic table, an outdoor bar, or so on – so remember to factor these other seats in when calculating your needs. Populating a very large space with smaller clusters of seating or tables can help encourage a large group of guests to socialize, while a larger outdoor sectional can bring the whole group together at once.
Built in outdoor sectionals can be custom made to the specifications of your particular outdoor area, which is a major advantage for odd shaped patios or decks. But if yours is more or less rectangular, purchasing individual sectional pieces and assembling them yourself might be more to your advantage. Some outdoor sectionals come in set sizes and shapes, but many more collections include pieces that can be purchased individually – usually a left and right end, a middle piece, a corner piece, and sometimes a chaise/ottoman, all of which connect seamlessly. This allows you to make each section as long or short as you want and add corners and curves exactly where your space calls for them.
Most outdoor sectionals are square, but that doesn’t mean they have to be. If you’d rather use your seating as a focal point of your outdoor space rather than a border, something like this Pond sectional might be a better fit. The rounded shape creates a more intimate seating atmosphere, bringing guests a little closer together (and around a central point, like a table or fire pit). This choice is best if you’re sure you have the space to dedicate to it, like a separate raised portion of a deck or a large patch of concrete alongside a pool, where a large island of seating won’t crowd the space or get in the way of other outdoor furniture.
Similarly, island style sectionals made with pieces that are curved offer a sleek, unique alternative to the more conventional rectangular seats. Curvy sectional pieces that are designed to fit together (like the 1/3 curve and pie slice pieces of this Ipanema sectional) can even be arranged and rearranged into a variety of shapes depending on the size of your space, the number of guests, and even how you want the seats oriented to one another. Rather than the traditional L-shaped sectional, you can wind up with islands or peninsulas of outdoor seating that can divide a space without dominating it, and that can be rearranged on the fly.
With any type of outdoor furniture, it’s important to consider how well the component parts will hold up against the elements, but this is doubly true of outdoor sectionals. Unlike lawn chairs and lounges that can be folded up and stowed away in the off-season, sectionals will likely remain outside year round. That means that it’s worth investing in high-quality, weather-resistant, fade-proof cushions to help your sectional maintain its appearance over time. And, of course, it’s never a bad idea to splurge on a protective cover. One made to fit your sectional will offer the greatest protection, and save you having to replace the sectional in whole or in part after a few off seasons.
What space are you considering adding an outdoor sectional to? Do you prefer the look of the traditional L-shaped, rectangular sectional, or do you like the more modern, curvy models? Let me know in the comments!
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