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There is much to consider when buying outdoor furniture, the Round collection by EMU provides all the right options.

With the warmer months upon us, it is time to turn our attention outdoors and prepare for entertaining, playing or just relaxing. Furniture suitable for exterior use is a key part of this – old or new, HouseLab gives you the insight into how to furnish outdoor areas and a few tips on keeping your existing investments seasonally adjusted.

First let’s explore what to look for in buying new outdoor furniture, as we have all gone down the path of buying cheap furniture that lasts a year or two and deteriorates rapidly.

It goes without saying that aesthetics are key. If you don’t like the look of something in the showroom or store then you certainly aren’t going to be proud of it when your friends come over. To that point, there are some details that, while appealing, should be considered and perhaps avoided.

While furniture that uses mesh patterns may be attractive and let the water through, a wider pattern like the Spritz collection from Vondom results in less 'leg ham'.

One thing that designers consider in choosing outdoor seating is the rather humorously effect known as “leg ham”. It occurs when you stay seated in a mesh chair for too long, creating indentations across the back of the legs. Hardly desirable over an Australian Christmas lunch, it can be avoided by considering the density of the mesh or choosing chairs that use ‘belts’ such as EMU’s Yard chair.

Ultimately, avoiding this awkward moment comes down to ergonomics and our article on choosing the right chair might help with that.

Of course many mesh chairs come with removable upholstered cushions, which are a good alternative as they can be stored out of the elements when not in use, but more on upholstery later.

Another consideration in outdoor chairs is whether they should bear arms. This is a functional choice as much as an aesthetic one, and many ranges of chairs come with and without them. Arms give you something to rest your shoulders with, create a more relaxed feel, and help you to stand up (important for those in their later years) but they can also make it harder to excuse yourself from the table and depending on that table, prevent you getting close enough to the action. It may be worth considering a mix to accommodate different age-brackets and personal preferences.

Still in the realms of aesthetics – but more focussed on materials than form – we have the choices of metals, plastics and timber. Metal's temperature can fluctuate greatly with the weather so this choice is more appropriate for shaded areas. Plastics and timber do keep their temperature a little more controlled, though plastics need to be UV stable and bright colours are considered something to avoid as they will naturally fade. It also worth looking at stackable plastic chairs as they are inherently light weight and can be blown over – so storing them together can avoid this.

Outdoor chairs with arms can be relaxing but in the right circumstances. Pictured the Africa collection by Vondom.

Like metals, when it comes to timbers they need to be appropriate for the elements. Choosing hardwoods is the only option and traditionally this means teak, despite popular belief that rattan can be used outdoors. Australian hardwoods like spotted gum are also suitable and new initiative hardwoods can be suitable. This is most appropriate if you are considering locally made furniture or custom external joinery.

The key here is that the wrong timber will swell and distort, resulting in deformations and splitting, especially in climates where temperature and humidity shift dramatically. Unless it is a high grade stainless, steel is equally subject to the elements as it will corrode, and even marine-grade stainless steel becomes subject to tea-staining. Like timber furniture, that means taking good care of it year-round.

Aluminium is a less corrosive metal though again could do with an upholstered element to keep you from frying, which brings us to upholstery. Appealing as it is, upholstered outdoor furniture collects dirt, water, leaves and anything else the environment can throw at it, therefore requiring more care. If you do go with a softer outdoor approach, avoid complex weaves, seams and folds that can collect debris.

All this might seem complex, but really with a few good choices and some careful consideration your spring-time purchases should last you more than just a couple of seasons. Here’s a few tips on preparing the backyard furniture ready for summer.

VONDOM and EMU are exclusive in Australia to Ke-Zu.


CHECK FOR TEA-STAINING ON METAL FURNITURE - Even the most resilient of metals will suffer from tea-staining. Check all areas, especially around joints or fixings for this, and for corrosion.

CLEAR THE DECKS AND TABLE TOPS - Maintaining outdoor timber furniture requires careful consideration, your supplier can advise on the best way to remove dirt before re-oiling.

KEEP YOUR PLASTIC DELUXE - Don't use abrasive cleaning products on plastic furniture, especially with a hi-gloss or dark colours as the scratches will show.

THE SOFTER TOUCHES - Removable upholstered elements mean you can store them out of the elements during the winter months and they are easier to clean.

PROTECT YOUR INVESTMENT - When buying outdoor furniture, especially in metal or timber, ask the retailer for their suggestions on the right oils or cleaning products.