Space is a major limiting factor when it comes to buying outdoor furniture. Not only do you have to decide how much furniture you have room for on your deck or patio, but also how much of the space you want to dedicate to pieces you might not use that often – and pieces you might need to store in the off season. Calculating the right number of seats and the right size outdoor dining set can be a major headache, especially if you want to be able to use that space for other things. Flexible outdoor sets tackle this problem head on, with designs that expand with the size of your group and stow away thoroughly and easily, maximizing the functionality of your outdoor area without taking up too much space.
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The idea behind flexible outdoor sets is to pack as much functionality as possible into the smallest amount of space. That means starting with a shape – usually a square or circular outdoor dining table – and then creating pieces that nest entirely underneath it. Unlike traditional outdoor dining or seating sets where chairs or benches push up against the edge of the table, these are specifically designed so the seats fit entirely underneath the table when they aren’t in use. There’s no sacrifice to the amount of seating available, but the whole set takes up much less space.
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Flexible outdoor sets can be as simple as the table and benches above, but they only get more complex and intricate from there, not to mention more comfortable. When the chairs are designed to fit entirely underneath the table, there’s a bit more leeway to have thick cushiony chairs if you live in an inclement climate. Pushing the chairs underneath the table doesn’t offer perfect protection from the elements, but it does offer some, keeping the worst of sun, rain, snow, and debris off the cushions. Plus, having an outdoor furniture set that fits into a single tight cluster also means it’ll be much more convenient to stow away in the off season if you need to.
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And it isn’t just chairs that you can fit underneath a table. As long as there’s still space to spare, more furniture can be nested inside it. One of the best examples of this is a design that’s becoming pretty common: sets that include one square table with four square chairs and four square ottomans, all nested into a perfect cube, with the ottomans under the chairs and the chairs under the table. This is a fantastic setup for a small outdoor space, because not only does it give you a dining set for four, it can also easily be transformed into a comfortable, laid back seating set for four, or, in a pinch, even seating for eight.
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Other designs, like this Deep Water set, go a step further in making a multi-purpose outdoor set with a spectacularly small footprint. Instead of four chairs, this set boasts two pillowy loveseats that close in around and underneath a square table. Like the chairs above, each loveseat has two ottomans nestled underneath, but these ones come with cushions, and when separated out look every inch like a traditional outdoor sectional set. Once again, this set affords dining for four and seating for up to eight, but with a little more cush and comfort – you’ll just need stow the spare cushions on the seats when you push it all together.
Then there are flexible outdoor sets that focus solely on being able to scale to fit the needs of various sized groups. Adding or removing a leaf from an outdoor table isn’t the only way to accommodate a bigger or smaller group anymore. Now there are telescoping tables like this Sanibel dining set, which tucks away to the size of that same simple square table, but hides a double set of benches (which nest within each other, two with backs and two without) as well as a second full sized table that pulls out from the side (and pushes back in to store underneath the main table top). All put together, this looks like a plain jane table without chairs, but can be used easily either for a small group of four or be expanded up to comfortably seat eight, so you don’t have to invest the money and space in a really big outdoor dining set if you only occasionally host more than four people.
Flexible outdoor sets can also be quite useful for those times you don’t have a lot of people over. This Pidgeon Point set is a lovely circular sectional set that can comfortably seat a fairly large group, with a good sized coffee table in the middle. But once your guests go home, all those curved pieces push together, and once you top the coffee table with an included cushion, the whole thing transforms into a massive circular outdoor bed, complete with canopy and perfect for sunbathing or stretching out with a good book. Your friends will never know unless you tell them, and the transformation is so simple you can easily do it on a whim.
What’s your bigger concern when buying outdoor furniture: how much space it will take up on your deck, or how much space it will take up in storage? Let me know in the comments!