Patio Sets: What to Consider Before Investing in One
It’s probably fair to say that because we South Africans would happily spend any day enjoying the outdoors (particularly if some rugby, friends and a braai are involved), our patios can be seen as a priority investment. But making sure that investment is going to be the best fit for our homes and lifestyles, give us the best bang for our buck, and hold up for more than a couple years, is an undertaking that definitely needs a bit more forethought than the average furniture purchase. Particularly because it’s going to be exposed to whatever our unpredictable weather, uninvited critters and water-loving kids can throw at it. If you’re just diving into the patio furniture market, here are some of the key factors and questions you may want to do some mulling over before taking the plunge.
Plan your perfect patio
Just like the rest of your home, your patio is an extension (pretty literally, in this case) of what you’re all about. Whether that’s a social butterfly who loves entertaining round the braai, or more of a cocoon dweller (bring on the hammock/hanging egg chair/personal breakfast nook, right?), your patio is yours for the making. So, sit back and dream a little dream to envision how you’d be using your patio on a regular basis. No need to try and imitate that sprawling wannabe magazine spread your ex-bestie keeps brag-posting about on Facebook – just focus on your space, your lifestyle, and what will be your own awesome patio memories for years to come.
Weathering the elements
It’s unavoidable that any furniture destined to spend at least part of its life outdoors is going to have to face up to some of the elements. And as much as we all love talking about the weather, you don’t want to be lamenting how it destroyed your latest beloved patio purchase.
In SA, we can look forward to plenty of sunshine hours to make the most of our outdoor spaces much of the year round, but that also means the furniture’s going to take a bit of a beating if it’s not under permanent shade cover. Other than sun damage, your patio may have to contend with an often unpredictable mix of thunderstorms, flash floods, crazy coastal wind and the occasional hailstorm. So you’ll need to weigh up the conditions where you live and how exposed your patio is to whatever nature is going to throw at it – then think about your all-weather strategy.
Offense or defence?
To look at it one way, you can opt to play ‘offense’ by sticking to the most weather-hardy materials and putting in whatever elbow grease is necessary to keep them at their toughest. Or you can go more on the defence by investing in additional patio coverage in the form of roll-down canvassing, shade sails or patio umbrellas, or sticking with more lightweight and mobile furniture that you can move or stow away at the first signs of trouble. Of course, then you need to make sure you have a convenient space for quick-access storage.
Either way, it’s always a good idea to have a decent set of patio furniture covers at the ready. They don’t add much to the overall purchase cost, but they can add years to the life of your precious investment.
It’s also important to think about the surface your furniture’s going to stand on – ground moisture is no friend to many kinds of wood (despite the opposite conclusions you may be tempted to draw from, well, trees…), and it will expose certain metals to rusting. Purchasing an all-weather, quick-drying outdoor rug is a good way to add a defensive layer, besides adding some extra style and comfort to any outdoor setup.
Choose your materials wisely
And so comes the next logical question – what furniture materials are going to best suit your personal patio plans? The weather may be out of your control, and you may not be able to change your patio’s physical location, but with the wide range of furniture material options out there, you can at least take matters into your own hands when it comes to durability and the amount of maintenance you realistically see yourself doing (cos yeah, toddlers are a thing), comfort, style, and budget.
The most popular frame materials to consider are metal, wood and synthetic rattan (but be sure you know your rattans), while plastic is also a more economical option.
Here are the major highlights to help you figure out what material scores highest on your priority points. (We’ve also done a more in depth look at individual materials, which you can check out here).
Durability & maintenance
If your top concern is durability, you may want to start by looking at metal patio sets. Although most metals will be prone to corrosion with regular exposure to wet conditions (and especially salty sea air), aluminium and stainless steel will hold their own against the elements with just a little routine maintenance. While wrought iron is the literal heavyweight of the metal bunch (and is still holding strong in gran’s back yard), it does need more regular treatment to keep its dignity intact.
If you love the natural look of wood and want something that you’ll be able to pass on to the kids one day, go with teak – its unique natural properties make it the superhero of outdoor furniture, holding its integrity even in the most extreme conditions with minimal treatment. Most other types of wood, lower quality rattans, and plastic are more vulnerable to heat and moisture damage and will do better in more protected setups.
On the other hand, high density polyethylene (PE) rattan offers a popular alternative that’s UV resistant, highly durable and very easy to maintain. In many sets, the PE rattan is woven over a lightweight aluminium frame, which gives you the best of both worlds in quality, looks and durability.
When you imagined your dream patio on that perfect Sunday afternoon, it probably involved some degree of lounging about, shooting the breeze, yes? When it comes to comfort, it’s less about materials, and more about design, plus a little something extra. A plank of uninviting hard wood, or a raw, sun-baked wrought iron patio platter does not quite inspire visions of said lounge-dom. But throw a few sumptuous, high quality, rump-friendly cushions in the mix, and now we’re talking! (Also, it doesn’t hurt to add some welcome shade in the form of a patio umbrella.)
Of course, it’s not a good idea to transplant your old living room cushions to the patio and hope for the best. You’ll want to ensure that whatever pillows your patio set comes with or that you’re adding to it are properly rated for outdoor use – paying attention to both the covers and the filler materials. In this case, man-made trumps natural fibres, which is why outdoor fabrics are usually made out synthetics like vinyl, polyester and acrylic that are water-resistant, breathable and resistant to fading and other damage. Even so, no cushions going to love excessive doses of sun or extended soaking, so it’s always best to try and keep them out of the rain or use protective covers when they’re not being used.
With all other things considered, choosing the style of your patio furniture may just be the easiest (and most fun) part of the deal! Every material has is characteristic personality – the warm, natural old-world-new-world charm of wood, the sleek modern lines of shiny metal or ornate stateliness of wrought iron, or the homely, welcoming embrace of wicker.
You probably already have a good idea of what speaks to you, and you can’t go wrong choosing a style that’s a natural extension of your indoor décor and architecture. Of course, you could also mix up styles for an eclectic, multi-textural effect.
For the best shopping experience explore an inspired range of quality outdoor and patio furniture at a Cielo showroom, or browse the full range right now by clicking here.
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