Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Furnishing Your Outsides

When I was a kid, our outdoor furniture consisted of a rust-red picnic table on the back porch, a few folding chairs made of vinyl, and an old recliner that my dad was too fond of to throw away. This collection was exceptionally functional, albeit lacking in a certain style, and we spent many hours enjoying our backyard from the seats of that furniture.

Rule Number 1: Get Seating!
So when I talk about outdoor living, one of the first things worth mentioning is that it is critical to have places to sit. This seems obvious, I know, but I’ve been to many a home where the yard is pretty and yet void of furniture. And without furniture, there is nothing beckoning you to linger for awhile.

I’m sure that part of the reason for lack of seating is that outdoor furniture can get expensive, especially if you’re like me and you appreciate the modern designs and fabrics that are out in stores these days. But let me say that lesson number one in outdoor living is to acquire seating, even if all you can afford is a dusty recliner and some folding chairs.

Hand-Me-Down Potential
Moving on from the obvious, I think that hand-me-down patio furniture can be a treasure waiting for discovery. Perhaps because of all that fancy furniture out there these days, people are commonly replacing their old pieces in favor of new. Fortunately for those of us with a little DIY muscle and a willingness to save, this furniture--and a makeover--can be a bargain.

Things to look for in used outdoor furniture:

* wrought iron styles will never go out of style. Plus, they are hard to beat for durability and weather resistance. Nevermind if used pieces come in unattractive colors (like bright green), have outdated cushions, or are covered in floral motifs--some spray paint and slipcovers can provide an instant facelift!

* wood/teak pieces
are also a great find, depending on the condition. Often a light sanding and some stain can revive old wood furniture, so keep your eye open for Adirondack chairs, benches and the like.

* finally, wicker is one of the most popular choices for outdoor spaces. Likely the cheapest option, wicker is timeless and can take a paint makeover easily. Uncovered, it will wear easier than wood or iron, but you’re still sure to get your money’s worth out of it.

My Makeover Tale

I preach about used furniture from experience. My husband and I were very fortunate to inherit a used patio set of iron furniture. Covered in thick green paint and scrolling flowers, it certainly wasn’t the modern look I was looking for. But I was shocked at how quickly it improved with some dark bronze spray paint. The color minimized the floral, and synchronized mismatched pieces.

The cushions I dutifully slipcovered in ivory canvas, and adorned with lots of throw pillows. And the look was exactly what I wanted! Except that I left the cushions out one too many times in the rain and they got a tad...um...moldy. So learn this final lesson from me: buy waterproof or weather resistant cushions and save yourself the mold!

Do you have an outdoor furniture makeover story? Share by posting your comment below. Or, take a picture of your favorite outdoor spot, and upload it to the Retro Summer Flickr page!

Previous Retro Summer posts:
***don't forget to check out upcoming events at Retro Summer '09's webpage!***
Plant Nerds & Cookie-Cutters: a glance at topics to come
Oh How I Love a Good Field Trip

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