Choosing outdoor furniture
When selecting outdoor furniture, there are a number of factors to take account of. On the practical side, consider:
Space available. Include comfortable use of the items and manoeuvring around them. An occupied dining setting can take a lot of space and still require additional leeway for serving and general circulation
Durability. This will be influenced by the amount of exposure the items will have. More robust materials and construction are likely to be more expensive
Care required. Some materials may require maintenance (such as oiling of timber) which will in turn affect durability.
Comfort and safety. Items which you genuinely expect to use regularly obviously have to be good to use. If an item is too hard and cold, does not dry out fast enough after rain, is of the wrong height or is hard to get in and out of, you'll be you're discouraged from using it and wasted your money.
On the aesthetic side, consider:
The style of your home and garden (modern, traditional, formal, eclectic, rustic, resort-style etc)
Colours of exisiting walls, fences etc nearby
Furniture as art Will the furniture be a feature (e.g. colorful or ornate) or a more low-key addition to the space
Renovators look outdoors
A poll of Archicentre architects indicates outdoor living additions are becoming popular among Australian renovators (Daylight Saving a Boost to the Outside Room Trend. (October 2008)
The American landscape, 2008
Spring Makeover for Your Landscape gives an overview of landscape trends in the USA. University of Illinois Extension (March 2008)
Americans to pursue yet more elaborate outdoor living
Leading American landscape architects are predicting a demand for outdoor living rooms and dining rooms in addition to the outdoor kitchens which have become so popular in recent years, according to the American Society of Landscape Architects. Read more at their website: Landscape Architects Identify Outdoor Design Trends For 2008
Deadly Decks Warning After Collapses in VIC and NSW Archicentre, Royal Australian Institute of Architects (December 2007)
Outdoor Living Space and Amenities Increasing in Popularity About the 2006 Home Design Trends Survey by the The American Institute of Architects
More thoughts and ideas...
The trend for "outdoor living" continues to grow around the globe. The line between "indoors" and "outdoors" is becoming increasingly blurred as people are opening up their homes and creating new living areas on patios, decks and in gardens, allowing them to cook, dine, work or just relax "al fresco".
If you work from home, outdoor rooms will allow a refreshing change of scene without having to venture too far from the office. Laptops and mobile phones help make work portable.
Make any weekend a holiday by turning your backyard into your own personal holiday resort. Many Queensland homes already have a swimming pool. Even if you don't, you can still create a tropical ambience at home with furniture for lounging, colourful drinks and some tropical plants and accessories. More ideas for creating a tropical themes here: Tropilocus.
Whether understated or over-the-top, having a theme in mind will be a useful aid when selecting from a vast range of outdoor accessories available.
Suitable lighting will extend the use of your outdoor living areas into the night, which is especially important if you plant to entertain. You can also create special effects with artistic use of coloured lights, highlighting of feature trees or architectural elements, or underwater lights in pools or water features. (Obviously, be sure that any electrical equipment used outside the home is suitable for the purpose, and installed by qualified and licensed professionals as necessary.)
Under a covered deck or patio, furniture and other accessories may not need to be as quite as tough as those designed for full outdoor use. However, they are likely to be exposed to more adverse conditions (dust, reflected UV, moisture, insects etc) than they would be indoors. So, these are not not the places for your most precious pieces, perhaps. Also, security can be an issue. Sadly, there's always the chance of theft or vandalism in accessible areas.
Residents of cool climates are adding fireplaces and heaters to their outdoor areas. For most Queenslanders, sun shading will be a more pressing need. If you're building a new home, you have the oppportunity to work with sun and shade in the orientation and design of the building. Most people have to work with an exisiting construction, but there are still many ways to add shade, from patio extensions to umbrellas, and in a variety of materials. Louvres or retractable awnings offer more control for winter sun and summer shade, which might also help to regulate temperatures inside the house.
If you do decide to add heating or cooking equipment to your patio, fire bans and smoke restrictions might affect your options. Check with local authorities if necessary. Another environmental problem in many parts of Queensland are storms and even cyclones. Remember to secure or safety store loose items in advance.
Links to background information
These links cover issues associated with outdoor living, plus some of the materials you might find outdoor accessories constructed from.
Effective shade structures
Discusses the design of shade structures and implications for UV protection. The Medical Journal of Australia
Royal Horticultural Society, UK
Information and news for consumers and industry from the Australian Liquefied Petroleum Gas Association
The Adirondack Chair
Qld Dept Primary Industries
The center for Turning and Furniture Design, Indiana University of Pennsylvania
Kwila Intsia bijuga
(formerly Afzelia bijuga
syn. Afzelia australis
), I. palembanica
. Qld Dept Primary Industries
(Kwila or Merbau timber) Tree Conservation Information Service, Global Trees Campaign
See also Tropical Theme Gardens - Materials
, which has more information about some of the more obscure timbers, thatching products etc from which huts and furniture are sometimes constructed