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6 Popular Types of Outdoor Furniture

Outdoor furniture such as loungers should be selected to enhance and compliment the outdoor space. See which are the popular pieces of 2023.
Outdoor patio chair designed by Andrea Cochran of ACLA Landscape Architecture

Landscape furniture is often the last component purchased and selected during a landscape design. Therefore, it can often be treated as a finishing detail but in practice this design element is a critical component that unifies and contributes to the creation of a memorable landscape.

When landscape furniture is left to the end of a design, the selection is often impacted by a ‘shrinking budget’ and product availability. Similar to interior furniture, landscape furniture comes in a wide variety of material, colors and styles. When selecting furniture, there are three main pillars that should guide a selection:

  1. Style
  2. Function
  3. Durability

Interior aesthetics and design strategies can be borrowed and applied to this area of landscape design. Landscape designs focus on creating usable spaces and creating functional “landscape rooms.” Landscape rooms create a sense of space and also provide programmed elements that dictate how it should be used. Statement furniture pieces paired with complimentary pieces allow for balanced spaces to be designed and most importantly enjoyed. Landscape furniture should assist in the creation of functional and aesthetically impressive landscape spaces. 

Aluminum Umbrellas

Outdoor Aluminum Umbrella : Image by Hauser Outdoor Furniture
Outdoor Aluminum Umbrella : Image by Hauser Market Outdoor Furniture

An umbrella is a unifying furniture piece that defines and creates an intimate space within the landscape. Visitors are naturally drawn to an umbrella, not just for the shade it provides but also the intimate space and boundary it creates. An aluminum umbrella should be the first furniture piece purchased. Its overall size allows for spaces to be created around and beneath the structure. The addition of this furniture piece is the first step to creating various rooms throughout your landscape design.

Aluminum is the ideal material for outdoor furniture, especially umbrellas. Aluminum umbrellas are easy to clean and require little to no seasonal maintenance. Other materials such as fiberglass, cedar, teak and steel are not budget friendly nor do they offer the same durability and functionality features as aluminum. Umbrellas often have to be re-positioned to accommodate moving sun-patterns. Aluminum umbrellas are extremely lightweight, making it easy to handle, set-up and re-position. In addition to their maneuverability, aluminum is also naturally rust resistant providing longevity for outdoor use. 

The size and shape of the umbrella should be selected based on its intended use. A square or rectangular umbrella is ideal for shading dining areas while circular or octagonal umbrellas are best suited for lounging or seating areas. Available height should also be a consideration when selecting an umbrella. Consider the location of hanging awnings, low hanging utility lines and tree branches to ensure the umbrella will fit comfortably without causing any obstructions. Features such as tilt and height adjustments allow the umbrella to be further customized to ensure it provides functional use throughout the day.   

The overall aesthetic and style of the landscape design should be considered when selecting an umbrella. Umbrellas can easily become statement furniture pieces or functional subtle additions. Selecting unique shapes and bold colors will draw the attention of visitors to the space created by the umbrella but by selecting complimentary or muted colors the umbrella can blend into the surrounding design while creating needed shade.  

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Outdoor Dining Set

An outdoor space can be transformed into a high quality and comfortable dining area with the addition of a suitable dining set. Cool summer evenings are ideal and picturesque backdrops for enjoying meals outdoors.  An outdoor dining set should be as functional as those selected for inside the house, being flexible to accommodate intimate sized gatherings or larger dinner parties. An outdoor dining set including both matching table and comfortable chairs should be purchased together at one time. This ensures all components function well together. This also protects the owner by ensuring both the table and chairs are covered under the same product warranty timeline. 

Dining sets are available in materials such as teak, wrought iron and aluminum. The surrounding aesthetic should dictate the material selected for the dining set. Outdoor dining sets are rarely statement furniture pieces but instead should be selected to seamlessly integrate into the surrounding design. A teak dining set offers a bohemian aesthetic in a more relaxed atmosphere while a wrought iron table and chair offer a more formal atmosphere that can be integrated into an English cottage garden aesthetic. 

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Outdoor Sofa and Sectionals

Outdoor sofas and sectionals are typically the most used outdoor furniture piece. In addition to being the most used piece they are also the largest in terms of square footage. When paired with an outdoor umbrella and an outdoor surface rug, sofas can create an intimate and comfortable space ideal for relaxing, socializing or entertaining. Outdoor sofas and sectionals made of weather resistant materials such as aluminum or synthetic wicker should be selected to ensure a durable and long lasting investment. 

Modular sofa and sectional pieces allow the furniture to be rearranged in order to meet the needs of a flexible outdoor living room. Modular sofas can easily be broken up and rearranged to accommodate for large social settings where singular seating is preferred. Durable cushions that are also water wicking will help ensure the furniture is always ready for use at a moments notice. 

Outdoor sofas and sectionals offer a wide array of customizable features to ensure they match the overall aesthetic of your design. Cushions that have slipcovers overtop allow for easy cleaning and also provide the opportunity to introduce seasonal color features. Weight plates are also by some manufacturers to provide additional ballast to furniture if they are to be installed in windier settings. These weight plates will ensure your furniture will never be blown around by high winds and will stay exactly where you have positioned them.

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Adirondack Chairs & Chaise Loungers

Chaise Loungers : Image by Old Bones Co.
Chaise Loungers : Image by Old Bones Co.

Adirondack chairs have become a symbol for relaxation, cottage country and long summer days. These chairs have a unique and signature style that can easily be used to create a picturesque seating area. 

Typically created from wood but also available in plastics and composite materials these chairs can be used to create focal points when used in groupings of 3. They can be used to create signature Adirondack seating areas, perfectly suited to be positioned around firepits, fire tables or docks. Available in a wide variety of colors and finishes these chairs can be selected to best compliment your surrounding landscape. Adirondack chairs will always create a focal point and should not be used for supplementary seating. Although not the best chair for long term comfort, Adirondacks are a timeless style addition that have the ability to draw the attention of visitors. 

Chaise loungers are a “must have” furniture additions for landscapes with pool or water access. Loungers with adjustable tilt brackets provide comfortable seating options for those looking to read, suntan or socialize. As they will likely be exposed to constant sun and water, materials that do not fade such as synthetic wicker should be selected as well as quick drying cushions. Chaise loungers should always be purchased in groups of three. Single chaise loungers become focal points, resulting in them becoming un-used additions. Purchasing in groups of three provides a sense of balance to what would otherwise be seen as an uncommonly long furniture piece. 

Fire-tables

Carson Round Propane Outdoor Fire Pit by Arhaus
Carson Round Propane Outdoor Fire Pit by Arhaus

Outdoor fire-tables are captivating additions to any landscape design. When used they create gathering spaces that naturally draw people together. When paired with outdoor sofas and sectionals they can create conversation spaces that provide comfort throughout the night. They provide natural lighting and also heat, allowing outdoor living spaces to be used well into cool fall weather. Traditional fire pits are rustic, rarely permitted in urban settings and have a number of safety concerns. Fire-tables provide an elevated safe modern experience that can be customized to the overall landscape aesthetic.

Fire-tables are available in a wide variety of materials. Materials range from modern stainless steel tables using glass fire rocks to more traditional aluminum frame fire tables using natural toned lava rocks. Fire-tables are fueled by either propane gas or natural gas and require little to no maintenance. It is critical to review your local municipalities by-law regulations to ensure the fire table you are selecting abides by all local codes. 

Fire tables can provide year-round enjoyment and have the ability to effortlessly enhance the comfort of your outdoor space.   

Conclusion

Landscape furniture is a critical feature that is necessary to create a comfortable and inviting landscape design. Furniture should be selected to compliment the overall landscape design aesthetic while also providing necessary program elements to create usable spaces. Landscape furniture can elevate both the atmosphere and functionality of your landscape regardless of its size. The addition of furniture to your landscaped space should be viewed as an investment but by purchasing durable and timeless pieces you can ensure a long term investment. This investment contributes to cultivating an inviting and comfortable outdoor space that can be enjoyed throughout the seasons, time of day and weather.   

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