Fashion Meets Function
By Nick Candeloro
After years of being an afterthought, outdoor furniture has become a priority for homeowners looking to create their own personal oasis at home. The ability to entertain in a stylish backyard is now as important as having a top-of-the-line kitchen or large ensuite bathroom. To keep up with this growing demand, the outdoor furniture industry has found new ways to use different materials to create an array of well-designed, durable and exciting furniture, just as attractive and stylish as their indoor counterparts.
Outdoor furniture designers have finally been able to make a name for themselves in the same way as indoor furniture designers. The days of simple plastic table and chair designs and colourful floral-patterned cushions are gone. Today, outdoor furniture options are seemingly endless, and with the re-emergence of various trends, there are now thousands of ways to dress up your space and to truly make it an ‘outdoor room.’
A myriad of materials
There are a wide variety of materials being used to manufacture outdoor furniture, allowing design and creativity to be even more prominent. While pieces are made using everything from tubular aluminum, wood and wrought iron to stainless steel and wood-plastic composite (WPC), the three most popular materials are cast aluminum, resin wicker and extruded aluminum.
Still one of the most popular categories used in the North American market today, cast aluminum furniture offers a wide range of designs with an array of styles, from modern to traditional. It can add sophistication to any outdoor space; with the addition of some beautiful seat cushions, the completed look can be quite striking.
Aluminum offers the look of cast iron, while remaining rust-resistant, lightweight and virtually maintenance-free. However, be careful with lower-quality aluminum sets; metal preparation and paint quality make a huge difference in the furniture’s longevity. If these are compromised, corrosion may set in and affect the surface and finish of the pieces. Look for products that use paints with ultraviolet (UV) inhibitors to ensure they can withstand many hours in the sun without discolouration or blemishing.
Weight also plays an important role in the quality of cast aluminum furniture; however, the heaviest set is not necessarily the best. Modern manufacturers are able to adjust weight content to keep prices lower. If engineered correctly, the weight may not affect the strength and durability of the furniture. That said, higher metal content does tend to make a stronger product. Look for quality finishes, good weight content and a proper warranty.
Also known as all-weather wicker, resin wicker is as popular as cast aluminum, and has dominated the ‘conversation’ and ‘deep seating’ furniture categories in recent years. It has contributed to the resurgence of outdoor cushions and comprises some of the most comfortable furniture made today. Designs range from modern to traditional; resin wicker can also be combined with other materials, such as stainless steel and wood, to produce unique looks.
Resin wicker is made of a durable, weather-resistant and long-lasting synthetic material. However, given the popularity of this material, the range of quality levels is vast. As a result, you need to be selective when purchasing this furniture.
The most important factor to look for is a wicker fibre with a high UV rating, as this allows the furniture to withstand long hours in the sunlight and cold weather without fading or breaking. Most new fibres on the market wear well in hot and cold weather conditions; however, make sure there is a good warranty in place and you purchase the furniture from a reputable specialized retailer. Also look for furniture with an aluminum frame. This will ensure a rust-free subsurface, while making the furniture lighter and easier to move around your backyard.