Furnishing the Great Outdoors

By Janet Ramin on June 26th, 2010

The first warm breeze wafts by and thoughts naturally lead to gardens, beaches, barbecues, and sunbathing...in short, the great outdoors. Summer is almost here and we look to our outdoor spaces for enjoyment and relaxation. For those lucky enough to have a backyard, terrace or balcony, this provides a wonderful opportunity to apply your design planning skills to the great outdoors.

Just like your indoor rooms, your outdoor space may allow for socializing, dining, entertaining, and relaxing, but with the added bonus of an alfresco setting. As lovely as living outdoors is, the great outdoors comes with special challenges beyond those found in typical interior design issues. The first big challenge is the sun.

Outside furniture copyright Mazuvo

While the sun is a welcome sign of summer, its rays are strong enough to ruin most furniture and upholstery. The other damaging agent is water from the rain or snow. For these reasons, outdoor furniture is usually made of special materials like teak, iron, and aluminum. Any other metals would rust and other woods would just rot.

The sun can also fade upholstery fabrics, and lengthy exposure to water can produce mildew. Specially dyed fabrics like Sunbrella are resistant to fading and because it's acrylic, Sunbrella fabrics are also resistant to mildew.

A popular activity outdoors is sunbathing; hence, the most popular piece of outdoor furniture is the lounge chair. Skyline produces a sinuously curved lounge chair called the Red Mountain sunbed. For an adjustable lounge chair, Skyline also produces the Jade sunbed — its back can recline from raised to flat. All Skyline outdoor furniture is made of synthetic weaving materials such as Viro, Polystrand, or Raucord — all non-toxic, eco-friendly, and weather-resistant.

Skyline Red Mountain sunbed
Skyline Jade sunbed

If a casual look is what you're looking for, Frontgate designs a lounge chair in teak, called the Verona. Teak is a wonderful hardwood, perfect for the outdoors since it is highly resistant to rot, warping or shrinking that affects other woods. Teak also ages gracefully and can be revived with some sanding and application of teak oil.

Frontgate Verona

You can also choose from metal outdoor furniture. Frontgate also offers a powder coated cast aluminum collection called the Fiore and Maison. Cast aluminum will not rust and can endure for many years. It is also lightweight and cheaper than cast iron. Frontgate's Maison line has a traditional feel, with turned legs and c-curve back splats. The Fiore line has a more contemporary air with straight legs and straight back splats. A selection of upholstery fabrics are available and made of solution-dyed acrylic fibers that is fade- and mildew-resistant.

Frontgate Fiore
Frontgate Maison

Dining alfresco is another popular summer activity, and demands the right furniture. Mazuvo from Switzerland has a very relaxed dining set called the Corona. Made of Raucord — a polyethylene synthetic fiber — and Sunbrella upholstery, the Corona line has armchairs, dining table and ottomans. Its white wicker material and elliptical curves makes for a sophisticated choice that matches with any surrounding. For a fun and whimsical look, Mazuvo has also the Adonis line. The Adonis seating and table have conical shapes and its size makes it perfect for socializing by the poolside.

Mazuvo Adonis

For those with only a balcony or a small terrace and space is tight, Janus et Cie offers the Panama line — bar height chairs and a small bar height table. Panama furniture is made of dedon fiber, a weatherproof, toxic-free, recyclable synthetic fiber. Their Miramar line has folding chairs with only a 19" inch width seat. The Miramar is made of oiled Castillo wood — also weather-resistant.

Janus et Cie Panama
Janus et Cie Miramar

Some people may love the outdoors but are concerned about personal sun damage. With this in mind, Mazuvo designed several unique furniture with sun protection. Their lounge-bed, Skyline, has a collapsible canopy that when raised provides convenient shade. Its egg shape offers a soothing, nesting atmosphere. Another lounge-bed, Balu, has a more permanent solution to sun shade with its basket-like shape and curtains to block the rest of the light.

Mazuvo Skyline
Mazuvo Balu

With just a little research, planning, and interior design classes from NYIAD, designing an outdoor space is a breeze. And the results can bring a big payoff — a relaxing and enjoyable space that can rival a resort's facilities, all without leaving your home.