After seasons of same old, same old, outdoor furniture styling is finally perking up, says Kya deLongchamps.
I’m moved watching families, gathered like hysteric ants, bumping dolmen-sized, three-piece suites to the top of the people carrier.
To add to the irony of it all, we are now involved in the outdoor/indoor fashions, potentially a space and money saver.
That said, there are some pieces that will never make a corner of the kitchen diner. Consider the whole home footprint inside and out before buying something unreservedly outdoorsy.
Nobody wants a steel tube, polyester, lime-green cocacabana lounger in the house.
The basics of scaling your seasonal furniture to the space you have doesn’t change, especially when it’s simply never going inside.
Crowding out a tiny garden with a full suite of colonial woven furnishings, skirted to the ground and complete with three-seater cushions says — well, cramped.
If you don’t have a shed on call, this also introduces a storage issue by September. If your garden is really a turning space outside a French door, or you are confined to a balcony, a great bench using a wall as a back is best.
Add dedicated cushions, joined by folding chairs hung up while out of use and it will still afford as many as six diners — more if you’re really good friends.
Keep in mind that some garden pieces are rated for occasional rather than heavy use, sit on it and judge any give, joints and fixings.
Designers continue to amaze with outdoor bench designs in contemporary and classic styles that appeal strongly for rooms indoors — ideal for pulling off boots by the back door or doing double duty over the winter in the conservatory.
Just buying one thing? Then kick up the quality. Inspired by Japanese art and designed by Lionel Doyle, the Manutti San is an elegant bench in Iroko and powder coated stainless steel that will move inside as the days darken. Sit down — €1,903.28. (Seen below.)
Elsewhere, choose hardwood, slats, and coated metals to slough off the weather. Argos has a really pretty all-in-one two-seater and table, the Newbury duo-bench — clean, crisp, a great buy for under €130.
Centre this on some beautiful container planting and even bower some roses over-head. Pick up cushions for €22.09 and a good cover — job done.
Look out for textiles, throws, and seats pads wherever you go. Meadows & Byrne always stocks fresh classics to stash over the winter. Plastic storage boxes? Condensation cookers for natural fabrics long-term. Find room indoors.
The hangover from the industrial trend (not yet given its P45) is the re-emergence from the war years of lightly framed metal furniture.
Along with the expected aluminium folding bistros (grab a Saba 4-seater in black and orange - side table €18, rectangular table, €57, folding chair €18, B&Q), there are plastic wrapped wire numbers inspired by classic south of French and South American modernist chic.
M&S shines with a group of just three pieces ideal for a tiny space or drinks corner. The Loft Lois coffee table (€129) matched to sofa (€199) in powder blue, and fan-like chairs (€79) are straight from 1950s Acapulco.
Carry wine, napkins, and more in versatile heavy baskets with handles (weaves are really appreciated this summer). My choice is the gorgeous Stripes baskets at BoConcept, well priced for this Danish brand at €79 a piece.
Moving to a slightly larger garden with the good footing of a patio or deck, a dining set might be joined by a couple of dedicated folding loungers, that again can be collapsed down and easily stored on garage hooks with parasols.
The slinky Punta lounger not only receives your gorgeous sunburnt body, but rock with a poolside Hockney/ Hollywood vibe at €33, in a gorgeous eucalyptus at B&Q. It’s still worth thinking of where it’s all going to go, however.
Where you rise to the third of an acre or more, furniture can take to the trees in hanging pods, hammocks, and independently staged relaxing archipelagos, physically separated from the house.
A hanging pod in a weather-defeating resin weave is not only a sculptural eye-catcher but a great spot for sulking after a June row. Good examples start around €250 with frame or ready to suspend, www.theorchard.ie
With a good vertical thrust they look groovy in sunrooms or even large family rooms too, so shift the pots and dog basket about later in the year.
Save room on a beam by winter and a hefty sheltered limb by summer for Oliver Bonas’ brand new real rattan swing chair, €313, www.oliverbonas.com
Dining sets in weaves largely follow the contemporary Italian, or the Edwardian weave. Legs are emerging from the recent, down-to-the-ground Lloyd Loom styles of chair, supported in tough oily tropical woods that can certainly stand a full wet summer.
Debenhams stock some of the prettiest of the rattan pretenders, the Palmira, with its light airy pale grey finish. It features a sturdy rust-proof metal frame, round kicked out legs on show, tempered glass top to the tables and fabric cushions.
The more shell-like chair styling is classy, and start at €1,008 for round table and four lovely chairs that can work well indoors (there’s 37% off the entire range online).
The seven-seater L-shaped garden sofa with two stools and a lovely retro table comes in at €1,386. Despite appearances, these sets can put up with even heavy rain and frost.
If you love your portable, stackable plastic classics, slide some of these beauties out under the sun.
Kartell has some great choices, including its Dr No, and Dr Yes shell chairs which start in groups of four in one colour, for about €71 (try Caseys Furniture or buy online).
Finally, ensure the footing in your garden is up to the weight of the pieces.
Gravel can pitch metal frames, and clay-based soils will swallow and potentially degrade supports and feet.
Add a few pavers simply bedded into sand — an afternoon’s work.
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