At last, the long-awaited patio season has arrived. Cooped-up and winter-weary, you’re itching to escape into the backyard to relax while the soft summer breezes ruffle your hair.
Your lawn is mowed, your seeds planted. Your iced tea poured. But before you can head out into the wild green yonder, you must answer a crucial question: What am I going to sit on?
You’ll have no lack of choice. These days, you can spend as much time shopping for outdoor furniture as you would for your indoor living room.
Patio furniture has come a long way from the days of folding mesh lawn chairs and flimsy card tables. The new wave pairs stylish, sturdy frames of aluminum, wicker or teak with comfy cushions covered with fade-resistant, water-repellent fabrics.
Edmonton retailers say the last couple of years have seen a shift from conventional outdoor dining sets – a table and four chairs – toward outdoor sofas, loveseats and armchairs that could almost pass for living room furniture.
It’s all about comfort as you and your guests lounge away the day or evening outdoors, says Krystal Slater of Beachcomber Hot Tubs & Patio.
“There’s more entertainment value to having people sitting on a sofa or loveseat,” says Slater, who’s finding most of her customers spend more time chatting and having drinks than eating meals on their patios.
“People are definitely looking to make that outdoor space comfortable and inviting and they’re willing to spend to get what they want.”
For the same reason, sectional sofas are one of the hottest trends in outdoor furniture, says Gail Matichuk of Dinette & Patio Showplace.
“There are a lot of big beautiful backyards out there and a lot of people just want to sit outdoors and relax instead of focusing on eating outdoors,” she says.
Those beautiful backyards are often the setting for luxurious new homes that call for equally luxurious accessories.
“With some of the large houses that are being built in Edmonton and the surrounding area, they (the owners) are not going to put a plastic set on their deck,” says Matichuk.
“They’re going to look for something that has design to it, that has some colour to it.”
Firepit tables – patio tables with gas, propane or wood firepits built into the middle – are in high demand at Beachcomber, says Slater. “It adds that kind of wow factor when you have people over.”
The cost of patio furniture can also rival that of indoor furniture. Slater says a good quality set with a loveseat, two chairs and a coffee table starts at $1,200. Firepit tables can start at around $1,500, she says.
Outdoor sectionals can run from $2,500 to 5,000 or higher depending on the number of pieces, says Matichuk. But, she adds, the new generation of patio furniture is built to last. Many manufacturers offer 10- to 15-year warranties on the frame and finish of the sectionals. “It’s not something that’s going to end up in the landfill in a short period of time, unless it’s not looked after at all,” she says.
So how much work is it to keep patio furniture looking sharp?
Maintenance is minimal, but not non-existent. Slater says good-quality patio cushions are covered with high-grade fabrics, such as Sunbrella, that have been treated for UV protection; most water runs off while the foam inserts allow the rest to run through without much being absorbed.
Some cushion fabrics need to be cleaned with upholstery cleaner – available at any box store – while others can just be sponged off with water and a mild detergent from your kitchen or laundry, says Matichuk. Cover the cushions when you can to keep dust from settling into them.
As for the frames, just wash them with the garden hose, again using the mild household soap if they need some deeper cleaning. Most of the furniture can be left outside all winter, though it should be covered.
“If you have nice furniture – either indoor or outdoor – you have to take care of it,” says Matichuk.
So if this is the year you decide to update your patio furniture, think of the purchase as an investment that will add comfort and a touch of class to your backyard oasis. Be sure to choose a style and colour you’re crazy about and remember to give it some love and care, so that you will be able to enjoy it for many summers to come