After enduring a winter that seems endless, we’re looking forward to spring’s arrival and embracing a more outdoor-centric state of mind. As part of the seasonal transition, we’re assessing our outdoor areas and thinking about ways to enhance the usable space for relaxing and entertaining. To help guide us through the process of selecting—and maintaining—outdoor furnishings that will transform exterior areas into places of fun and function, we asked Donna Bain of Rumson, New Jersey-based Bain’s Outdoor Living for advice. Here are her recommendations:
Consider how you’ll use your outdoor space. The point of setting up outdoor areas is to create comfortable gathering spaces to bring people outside, but what are your specific needs? Are you interested in dining, lounging, or hanging out poolside—or all of the above? In addition to determining the purpose of the area, think about how to optimize your outdoor living space in terms of versatility and taking in the beauty of the surroundings. These factors will help you pick the right pieces and setup for the area.
Pay attention to scale. If your outdoor space is small, carefully consider the proportion of the pieces so it doesn’t look cluttered (or appear even smaller than it is). If you have a larger area, feel free to select items that are bigger in scale, and create full separate lounging and dining spaces with plenty of room in between.
Mix, layer, and accessorize. Rather than sticking to a single collection, mix and match complementary furniture pieces from different collections to create interest in your outdoor room. Also, don’t underestimate the power of texture. Consider combining metal dining pieces in the same space as a resin wicker seating group to create a layered, sophisticated look. Last but not least, tie it all together with accessories such as lanterns, decorative pillows, throws, plants, and pots.
Keep outdoor furniture in good condition. Once you’ve invested in your outdoor pieces, keep them in good condition for years to come by caring for them properly. Here’s how to ensure your furniture stays in top form:
- Teak: Contrary to popular belief, teak furniture does not require any special maintenance routine or any additional protection apart from occasional cleaning. Left to age naturally outside, teak will gradually change to a soft, silver-grey as the pigments in the surface layer of the wood begin to fade away. We recommend that you allow your teak furniture to weather naturally this way and simply clean it thoroughly once or twice a year with mild soap and a soft bristle brush.
- Wovens: Wicker or rattan-like woven fibers are crafted from highly durable, UV-resistant, and environmentally friendly all-weather materials that require minimal maintenance. These all-weather fibers are an excellent choice for humid, salty environments. While they will not mildew, they still need to be cleaned periodically.
- Cushions and textiles: Today, outdoor textiles are made to withstand the outdoor elements, but they are not impervious to weather extremes, and they do require some care and maintenance. Bring your cushions indoors if you know of inclement weather approaching— cushions should never be exposed to water for any prolonged periods. If your cushions do become saturated with water, squeeze excess water out, then set them on their side to air dry in a well-ventilated, clean, dry area (drying times may be accelerated if cushions are able to stand on edge in direct sunlight). Acrylic fabrics should be cleaned regularly to keep dirt and pollen from accumulating and becoming embedded in the fabric.
- Furniture covers: Furniture covers are a great way to prolong the life of your pieces. Designed to fit loosely over the furniture with a fastener to secure them in place, covers are lightweight and resistant to mildew, mold, UV rays, tears, and abrasions.
TSG Tip 252 from Donna Bain of Bain’s Outdoor Living in Rumson, New Jersey.