We’re a nation of optimists, at least when it comes to the weather and the possibility of summer being a scorcher, writes Carol O’Callaghan.

Two weeks ago I had my London family visiting during a three-day spell of sunshine. It prompted the dusting off of my patio table and chairs to sit outside for morning tea and, by night, wrapping up in blankets for wine sipping and star gazing.

Thankfully, the patio set is a combination of metal, synthetic mesh upholstery, and glass on the table surface so neither it nor the chairs had decayed into mould, so the swift wipe of a sudsy cloth made them instantly useable.

Not so much luck, however, with a pair of wooden armchairs which last year were perched conveniently by the front door for the almost exclusive use of smoker friends who nip out for a quick puff between courses in the milder months. 

These fared considerably less well due to the chill moistness of an Irish winter. 

Metal framed sofas, armchairs and sidetables from Roche Bobois are part of the Traveller Largeur Canape collection by designer Stephen Burks (POA).
Metal framed sofas, armchairs and sidetables from Roche Bobois are part of the Traveller Largeur Canape collection by designer Stephen Burks (POA).

A weather-penetrated, breeze block shed rendered them somewhat arthritic and needing the relief of an injection of wood preservative. It’ll give some temporary relief, but it’s not looking good for a complete recovery.

Nonetheless, it was a pleasant few days, although the wisdom of tribal elders hung on the flu-inducing spring breeze: If it’s warm too early, they warned, summer will be a washout, and keep your vest on ‘til June.

Add to this the predictions of New Zealand weather soothsayer Ken Ring, who foretold on his Facebook page last year that we’ll be waiting until 2018 in Ireland for the summer of our dreams. Sorry to say, but Kiwi Ken was disappointingly accurate about 2016.

Apart from being able to sit outside with a gas heater, we are eternally optimistic that the weather forecasters will be wrong — let’s face it, they can only predict 10 days ahead — so let’s indulge in some garden furniture window shopping.

A double swing-style summer seat on a free-standing frame is constructed in traditional wicker and finished with soft cushion comfort €1,699 at Casey’s Furniture.
A double swing-style summer seat on a free-standing frame is constructed in traditional wicker and finished with soft cushion comfort €1,699 at Casey’s Furniture.

I think it’s time to review wooden slatted chairs and the scourge of the imprint they leave on a bare back hopeful of a tan, and the labour intensive, annual maintenance and painting with oil or preservative. 

Consider other options like synthetic faux-wicker for weightiness and quick sprucing up with a wipe of the dish cloth, or glass and mesh upholstery, which will take an Irish summer, or an attack with the power hose in the case of your wicker set, especially if it needs de-moulding.

Rain isn’t the natural enemy of faux-wicker as its repellent qualities mean a light dampening from a rogue shower will quickly dry off in a subsequently brief flash of sunshine. Aesthetically, some fall short, but search for durable sets with style at EZ Living and Casey’s, or the failsafe, Ikea.

Gazebos are a new manifestation for faux wicker, offering complete seclusion from searing mid-day sun (there’s that optimism again), an afternoon doze, or a tête-à-tête with a mate. Check out the DFS Medina which has curtains to the front for total seclusion (€1,949).

The California hammock (€79) from Hammockology at www.hammocks.ie is suitable for hanging between trees and pillars and comes with an optional stand to give you more choice about where you can site it outdoors.
The California hammock (€79) from Hammockology at www.hammocks.ie is suitable for hanging between trees and pillars and comes with an optional stand to give you more choice about where you can site it outdoors.

Get arty, but not with chalky Venus de Milos or winged cherubs urinating into the water feature. Have you tried a hammock of late, or ever?

www.Hammockology.ie does all sorts of variations on the theme, with traditional models for slinging between two tree trunks (obligingly growing within the necessary distance of each other), from €55, or try the California version on its own stand (€375).

For a touch of international chic, fashion house Missoni’s home collection swathes fashion fabrics on designs that reinvent our idea of garden furniture. 

The low level, minimally designed Master Moderno Jalamac lounger mimics the human shape in prone sunbathing mode, and is upholstered in a graduated stripe (from €2,575 at Objekt, Limerick).

Cocoon yourself away with Medina, a stylish garden gazebo hideaway filled with plush cushions, and curtains to keep the sun off (€1,949 at DFS).
Cocoon yourself away with Medina, a stylish garden gazebo hideaway filled with plush cushions, and curtains to keep the sun off (€1,949 at DFS).

Think about soft lighting too for the nocturnal outdoors, rather than glaring sensor beams, which flick on when a fly flutters past. 

Turn off your system for the season, if you can, and rely instead on soft, solar lights which will give the garden an ethereal glow. 

Indoor lamplight too is now being adapted for outdoors. Anglepoise is offering is a giant version of it’s iconic lamp, initially commissioned by the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre in homage to The Big Friendly Giant.

The Big Friendly Giant version of Anglepoiseís famous lamp is three times the size of the original and is suitable for both outdoor and indoor use (€4,920 at Lost Weekend).
The Big Friendly Giant version of Anglepoiseís famous lamp is three times the size of the original and is suitable for both outdoor and indoor use (€4,920 at Lost Weekend).

It has now gone into production at the faint-inducing price of €4,920.

So, I think I’ll stick with a few citronella candles.


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