4 Questions to Ask Before Buying Contemporary Outdoor Furniture
You wake up one morning and finally hear it. The tell-tale, high-pitched noise of birds chirping outside your window can only mean one thing: summer is just around the corner. As the mercury rises and the neighbors dust off their sprinklers, it’s time to finally think about buying the contemporary outdoor furniture your patio deserves. After being cooped up inside all winter, extending your living area to include whatever open-air space you have is a welcome relief.
When it comes to furnishing your outdoor space — whether it’s an apartment balcony or a sprawling acreage — there are a few things you need to consider. To ensure you find the outdoor furniture of your dreams, we’ve put together this list of questions you need to ask yourself before clicking that “buy” button.
How big is your space?
As you begin planning your outdoor space, it can often feel like a “grass is always greener” situation. People with small spaces envy the seemingly limitless options available to those with huge backyards, while those with Martha-worthy gardens and decks wish they didn’t have to spend quite so long on backyard maintenance.
Whatever situation you find yourself in, there’s furniture that will help you make the most of your space and lifestyle.
If you’ve got space to spare, the common belief is that you can do whatever you please in your outdoor oasis. The world’s your oyster! However, big spaces come with their own set of unique challenges.
For one, how are you going to divide the space? When a space is big and empty, it can be tough knowing exactly where to start. We recommend thinking about your most-used areas of the yard and looking to furnish them first. Perhaps you have a wraparound porch where you spend hours reading and drinking lemonades during those long summer days, or maybe there’s a corner over by your prized rose garden where you’d love a spot to sit and take a break after hours spent pruning in the sun.
If you’ve got one large space, such as a big patio or multi-level back deck, consider dividing the space into zones. A sectional sofa such as the Lubek lets you easily (and beautifully) create a designated lounging area thanks to the two sides. Once you have one key area established, you can create your other “rooms.” Add an eating space with an outdoor dining set like the Linden, and a casual conversation pod with some Reni Lounge Chairs.
Smaller outdoor spaces
If you have a small outdoor area, you might be feeling like you picked the shortest straw when it comes to your space. While you might not be able to hold the Superbowl in your yard, you also don’t have to worry about spending precious hours mowing the lawn or performing general maintenance.
That said, there are a few challenges presented by smaller spaces. Depending on the size of your space, you’ll most likely need to choose one main function of your outdoor area. Whether it’s a compact dining table, like the Atra, for intimate dinners al fresco, or a single lounge chair like the Lucara for your weekends reading in the shade, there are contemporary outdoor pieces that will not only work, but thrive, in your space.
When buying contemporary outdoor furniture for a small space, it’s a great idea to look for double-duty pieces. For example, our Ora Coffee Table works as both a modern outdoor coffee table and a storage container for outdoor accessories or furniture covers. Our Boden Bar Cart? Gives you a place to serve drinks, but can be switched up to work as a mobile side table or a potting and gardening station, too.
And a piece like the Leiden Stool can work practically anywhere. Use it as a side table to hold your sparkling coconut-flavored water, or as an extra seat when your bestie pops by.
Another great option for smaller outdoor spaces? Modular sofas. A piece like the Kezia or Corvos lets you customize the size and shape of your outdoor sofa to fit your space perfectly. If you’re looking for more small space ideas for your outdoor area, we’ve got a whole blog post about the topic here.
How do you use your space?
Whether your space is big or small, you’ll want to seriously consider how you’re using whatever outdoor square footage you have. You might be a dinner party domino who lives for entertaining and trying out new recipes on family and friends. Or, you might be someone who enjoys lounging with a good book, a beverage by your side, and no plans for the day. Before you buy a single piece of contemporary outdoor furniture, you’ll want to know exactly how your space will be used.
Here are some questions to guide you in the right direction:
- What does your ideal day in your outdoor space look like? If you’re having a hard time visualizing this, think about moments where you’ve felt jealous of somebody else’s outdoor space. Perhaps an old high school friend posted an Instagram photo where they’re laying poolside on a comfy-looking chaise lounger. Maybe your brother-in-law sent some pictures to the family chat of his pals enjoying his rooftop dining table and chairs. While it might seem like a silly exercise, this can help you narrow down exactly what you truly want.
- How do you use your indoor space? This is a good indication of how you’ll use your outdoor space. For example, if you like cuddling up with your dog on your sofa with a warm cup of coffee, chances are this is something you’ll adapt for outdoor living when the time comes. With that in mind, you’ll want to make sure you get something soft, cozy, and durable, like the Kezia Modular Sofa. If you love having your friends over for taco night and some Gin Rummy, you’ll want to make sure your outdoor space has a dining table, like the Atica, and tons of seating.
By carefully considering exactly how you’ll use your space, you save yourself the heartbreak (plus the time and money) of having to buy new furniture in the future when you realize your outdoor space isn’t quite working for you. The above questions might seem simple, but they’re powerful when it comes to helping you figure out just what type of outdoor furniture to buy — and keep.
Where do you live?
No, we’re not trying to guess your bank security question. Seriously thinking about where you live will help you when you search for the perfect contemporary outdoor furniture for your space.
Different environments and weather conditions have unique impacts on certain materials and fabrics. For example, if you own a beachside cottage you need to consider what salt water and salty air might do to your outdoor furniture. Untreated metals don’t love salty conditions, but aluminum, teak, acacia, and synthetic wicker all do great near the beach.
If you live in a cold and rainy climate, you’re going to want to make sure the outdoor furniture you choose can be stored somewhere safe and dry when those common downpours or snowstorms wreak havoc. If a surprise rainfall catches you off-guard, fabrics like polyester, acrylic, and polypropylene are naturally weather-resistant (note: not weather-proof), along with hard materials like teak, resin wicker, aluminum, and polystone. For more information on the best outdoor materials for rainy climates, check out our blog post on the topic here.
Besides weather, you’ll want to consider a few other components of your outdoor space. Is your yard home to families of birds? You might want to invest in some furniture covers to ensure your favorite sofa doesn’t become their favorite bathroom. Sap-dripping trees can also leave a sticky mess on your outdoor furniture, so those covers will come in handy here, too. No matter where you live, there are outdoor materials and solutions so you never have to compromise on style.
What’s your style?
Buying outdoor furniture ten years ago often meant you were forced into purchasing whatever was available. With all of the options available today, it’s much easier to find pieces that reflect your personal style and personality.
However, just trying to figure out your style in the first place can be a challenge. Are you into a traditional terrace, or are you drawn to a boho backyard? We put together this fun quiz to help you figure out your outdoor furniture style. It’s an exact science*, so choose your answers carefully.
(*It is not.)
Here we go:
Your dream vacation looks like:
a) A warm desert hike, followed by glamping under the stars
b) Lush forest exploration, followed by cozy, fireside cabin time
c) A day spent sightseeing in an energetic city, followed by rooftop cocktails
What color palette do you tend to gravitate towards?
a) Warm tans and beiges, with hints of terracotta and black
b) Moody navy, greens, and grays with natural accents
c) Crisp whites, light blues, and pale grays with pops of brighter colors
If you could be any animal, you’d be:
a) A clever but relaxed desert fox
b) A sleek and noble deer
c) A fast-paced, energetic cheetah
Your ideal get-together includes:
a) A boho long-table dinner under the sun
b) A catered lakeside feast for your nearest and dearest
c) A chic rooftop bash with the city’s movers and shakers
What are your favorite types of plants?
a) Cacti and succulents
b) Rainforest ferns and pines
c) Modern grasses and bamboos
Mostly As — Grab that SPF, the Arizona Desert is calling. You’re into a warm, earthy palette, natural textures, and the freedom of that open-air feeling. Explore the Arizona Desert style.
Mostly Bs — Oooh, things are feeling lush. With dark woods, woven details, and tranquil colors, you dig a sophisticated Lake Tahoe look. Explore the Lake Tahoe style.
Mostly Cs — You always look for a little culture in every experience, which is why the Urban Patio look is just your speed. Clean lines, industrial materials, and pops of bold color bring the energy of a bustling metropolis. Explore the Urban Patio style.
Now that you’ve asked yourself these four key questions — and taken a very official style quiz — you’re on the right track towards finding the contemporary outdoor furniture that works for your space and your decor style.