The most important factor in choosing your outdoor furniture isn’t appearance, cost, or durability – it’s how you want to unwind. While the layout of your yard, garden, deck, or patio obviously has a big influence on the kind of furniture you can have, the type of seating you end up with will really define the way you use the space. So before you start comparison shopping, its important to ask yourself: what do you and your family and friends actually want to do when you spend time outside?
Are You A BBQ And Cookout Type?
If you primarily want to use your outdoor space to host big food-fests, you need two things: seating and table space. That can mean anything from a picnic bench to a full eleven-piece outdoor dining set, but almost guarantees your furniture layout will revolve around a big table. You want to keep in mind how many people you typically host (or plan to) as well as the highest number of people you think you might realistically end up feeding, and look for an outdoor dining set that matches your needs – whether it’s a small, intimate setup for your family, or one designed to expand in table length and seating to accommodate a bigger crowd as needed.
Or A Sit Around And Chat Type?
If you aren’t big on the cookout culture, though, and want to spend most of your outdoor time chatting with friends and soaking up the sun, having a centralized table might actually be to your detriment. Big tables take up a lot of space, and often don’t encourage group conversation. Instead, you want to look for comfortable, low-lying seating sets that maybe come paired with a coffee table or a few end tables. That way, you have enough surface space for drinks or snacks, but without the rigid, food-oriented seating you’d get from a more traditional dining set. Here, too, you can plan for how many people you expect to host, with everything from small, intimate seating sets to sprawling sectionals.
A Little Bit Of Both?
If choosing between those first two options is hard and you don’t have room to simply do both, don’t worry: you aren’t totally out of luck. There are definitely outdoor seating options that combine the best of both worlds, and they aren’t as rare as you might think. Nesting dining sets are a particular favorite of mine. They tend to be a little lower-sitting than most regular outdoor dining sets, and are better designed for long-term sitting with cushiony backs and seats. The “nesting” part comes in the form of padded ottomans, which on the one hand can be completely concealed underneath the chairs when you don’t need them, and on the other can be converted into extra seating for the table, or ottomans for the chairs if you and your guests want to get a little comfier.
Are You A Poolside Lounger?
Or maybe you don’t like to enjoy your outdoor spaces with a big group, and just want to put in some work on your tan. In that case, you want an entirely different type of outdoor furniture. Whether or not you have a pool, long, adjustable lounge chairs will enable you to stretch out, get comfortable, and soak up that beautiful summer sunshine. The material you want to choose for the loungers probably should depend on whether or not you have a pool (most cushiony, upholstered loungers don’t play well with chlorine), but don’t be afraid to dedicate a lot of your outdoor space to this kind of seating if it’s what you’ll get the most use of.
….Who Sometimes Wants To Have Guests?
If the idea of nixing traditional seating entirely makes you nervous, though, this is another area where you can find some comfy middle ground. Outdoor beds are a nice alternative to traditional poolside loungers (and one that provides a little sun protection if you want to sleep outside!), and if you do a little digging, you can find ones that are modular in design. That is, rather than having a single solid “bed,” these consist of several seating wedges that can push together to form a platform big enough to sprawl out on, or pulled apart to create a surprisingly effective sectional set, complete with ottoman-style coffee table. If you’re short on space but want to have the flexibility to enjoy your outdoor space both by yourself and with a group, this is a great option.
Or Do You Just Really Want To Enjoy A Bit Of Greenery?
Most of these options revolve around a deck or patio, but if your green space is a little heavier on the green, and the time you enjoy outside is primarily spent in your garden, the kind of outdoor furniture you want should be designed specifically for your garden. Stone, concrete, wrought iron, and teak benches, tables, and garden chairs are tough enough to hold up to outdoor weather conditions year-round, which means you can strategically place them throughout your garden, so you can always have a nice shady spot to sit. The very outdoor furniture that might be too heavy or prone to rust on a wood or concrete deck will have exactly the heft and hardiness you need to decorate your garden.
Finding the right type of outdoor furniture is certainly only the first step in a long and involved selection process, but if you ask me, it’s the most important one in making sure you actually enjoy your space once all is said and done.