Summer is bearing down on us.
With the longer days, warmer climes, the scent of jasmine in the air and the vibrant bursts of jacaranda leading us into summer- it's time to turn our efforts to spending as much time outdoors as possible!
If your patio, yard or balcony has been neglected somewhat over the cooler months, fear not, you aren't alone. It's time to brush off the BBQ, tidy up the garden and resurrect the furniture... or, if things are really dire: pop out and replace the lot!
One of the biggest challenges in maintaining a functional, great looking "outdoor room" is picking the right furnishings.
As with indoors, one size doesn't fit all when it comes to style and functionality so it is important to know what it is you should be looking for to meet YOUR outdoor entertaining and relaxation needs.
Here in Australia we have a pretty unique climate - within cooee of the coast (even up to 7km inland) you can contend with the destructive impact of salty air at the same time as having to cope with extreme cold in winter and searing hot sun in Summer! So, how do you navigate this then to select the type of furnishings that will see you in good stead for more than one season?
Firstly, put down that catalogue and put away that credit card - some groundwork needs doing first!
In tackling the revival of your outdoor entertaining area for summer it is paramount that you isolate exactly how it is that you intend to use the space - what are you most likely to get up to out there?
How you live should dictate how you furnish - never the reverse.
Are you more often a sun lounger?
Is it primarily a causal dining space?
Or is this a pretty versatile area seeing a plethora of rowdy late night parties take place?
Secondly, how invested are you in your purchases?
Can you see yourself willingly, wanting to maintain and monitor the items to ensure they are not wearing away?
Or like most, are you more inclined to lean towards low-maintenance with maximum return?
Getting to the bottom of these questions will help you pin-point what it is you should be creating within your urban oasis.
To start the ball rolling, lets take a look at a few issues that call for consideration when deciding what materials your outdoor furnishings should be comprised of:
Despite the recent increase in "eco-woods" and reconstituted timbers promising better weather resistance and low upkeep - timber still rates as one of the most high maintenance materials used in outdoor furniture.
You have only to look at decking, tables, chairs, benches and cabanas across Australia's backyards to see the stay of decay that many fall into through neglect. The appeal of timber is undeniable. When new, it exudes warmth and a traditional aesthetic which is often competitively priced.
Splintering, Greying and water damage are common afflictions faced by timber settings so be sure to explore with the supplier exactly what is required of you throughout the products lifetime to keep it looking sparkly and something you can be proud to entertain with. Resanding, oiling and waterproofing can be an arduous task!
All too often the lure of "low-maintenance" stainless steel is used to seduce buyers seeking a more contemporary look. But buyer beware: stainless does not always translate to stain proof!
Be sure to ask the right questions when researching your purchases: if it definitely is steel then what grade is it? What is the finish on the metal? As a general rule marine grade stainless steel is the preferred option though by no means is it guaranteed to be hassle free: Corrosion will usually be avoided but "tea staining" or discolouration is still very much likely, so be aware that from time-to-time washing will be necessary.
Aluminum also is a wonderful alternative, usually higher in price, the resistance of anodised aluminum furniture to salt and humidity see it being used in making airplanes, boats and even the deck chairs and lounges on many cruise ships!
One of the biggest boom areas in outdoor furniture in recent years has been seating, lounging and dining options that make use of the amazing world of plastics. Everything from PVC to soft rubbery options has afforded designers great scope in creating shapes, colours and sizes in furniture that we have never seen before for the home.
As with timber and metal - not all plastics are as they seem. A client recently advised he wanted a quite well known clear plastic chair for use on his new terrace around his outdoor dining table. I had to burst his bubble straight away as contrary to many people’s beliefs: not all plastic is suitable for leaving outdoors. As with metals, the grades and treatments applied to furniture in manufacturing will dictate whether it can withstand the UV exposure to the sun and the effects of long-term humidity and water.
For a few weeks your slick new setting may be the envy of your friends but once the materials start to feel the effects of their environment the cracks, quick literally, will start to appear and before long it will look tired and potentially become unsafe.
Of course beyond these three core categories, there are many options across glass, natural woven materials and stone – as with any purchase be sure to ask yourself the right questions before you set off for the store about what pieces you require and how the space will be best used, and then with your consultant or designer make sure you have covered the ins-and-outs of maintenance and upkeep to ensure you get the most from your purchases and uninterrupted fun in the sun!
Story by Owen Lynch - www.owenlynchdesign.com