Choosing Wooden Outdoor Furniture – From Concept to Layout
Outdoor spaces have become a canvas extension for commercial and residential décor. Inviting people to the garden, they are designed by a familiar mantra – what is available indoors can be replicated outdoors. These dynamic arrangements demand equal attention, as they can replace the living room, the home office, and the dining area, blending harmoniously into the overall decorative narrative. Imbued with significant gravitas, wooden outdoor furniture provides stylistic diversity and an elegant option for commercial and luxury residential spaces. In this article, we explore some of the most important design considerations.
Space and layout
Setting up the stage, the outdoor layout should be inviting and functional. It should be spacious enough to provide room for a range of accessories, including planters and decorative lighting. The general rule is to avoid clutter and fill no more than two-thirds of the area with furniture.
Blasé decoration is not recommended either, as abundance can overwhelm even the most carefully designed exteriors. Whatever the style, it is vital to preserve a sense of spaciousness, which is the most salient quality of any outdoor environment.
In practical terms, built-in banquettes or corner sofas offer an excellent solution for making use of the available space. They are great for irregular spaces and L-shaped layouts, whereas modular furniture is much better for a symmetrical or floating layout without a central anchoring point.
Spatial constraints for
wooden outdoor furniture
The New York design scene, perhaps, understands the scarcity of real estate more than any other. And our experience frequently corroborates that. We have worked with many commercial bars and dining areas where the outdoor space was somewhat limited, necessitating customized furniture solutions.
Small gardens and lounge spaces are usually better served with built-in seating, as opposed to lots of chairs, which have a way of creating clutter. Lounge chairs, although romanticized and captivating, are best replaced with sling chairs, which according to the occasion can be folded and placed aside.
For some areas, it is vital to build the seating arrangement around trees, or fireplaces, and use every angle of the wall. Our technicians can access the space and measure everything, before making design decisions and adjustments. With professional installation, we can make sure that the final furniture placement matches the conceptual layout, properly utilizing every inch of the exterior.
Sustainability of outdoor wood furniture
Furnishing the garden, we are inclined to consider the ecological status of our models. Solid wood outdoor furniture offers the lowest carbon footprint, but it is vital to ask questions and determine whether the materials are responsibly harvested, from sustainable and renewable suppliers.
When forest stewards manage the landscape, they minimize the impact of logging and protect the surrounding wildlife communities. To this end, it is vital to understand that only part of the wood species used in outdoor furniture manufacturing is locally sourced. The vast majority of weather-resistant hardwoods are imported from South America as they won’t grow in the US.
To ensure sustainability, furniture manufacturers should look for relevant import certifications. These include requirements from the Plant Protection and Quarantine program, the Environmental Protection Agency, and CITES, which protects endangered species along with a broader commitment to preserving wild flora and fauna.
The most important planning consideration is to determine the primary function. While large outdoor spaces may accommodate several activities, a small urban terrace may have to do with a narrow focus. From casual evening cocktails and lounge areas to full-fledged dining, the function will dictate the furniture requirements and the overall layout. Outdoor restaurants, hotel lounges, and rooftop bars may all have different traffic flow and activity requirements, dictating the layout and the overall choice of furniture.
In any case, small spaces will require innovative items with a much smaller profile. Bar tables and stools can provide functional versatility without overwhelming the layout, as opposed to Adirondack chairs – an iconic outdoor furniture piece that demands spaciousness and restricts functional pluralism.
Weight is another important factor, as it can prevent ad hoc changes to the layout, or impact garden areas with grass or delicate flooring. With a variety of base options, choosing the right one is of vital importance.
Species of wood for outdoor furniture
Wooden outdoor furniture can be made from several hardwood varieties, each with a unique set of characteristics. The selection process, some would argue, is equally important as the manufacturing phase, requiring careful considerations and expertise.
The best wood for outdoor furniture is teak, with enough silicates and oil to perform with unmatched durability. This strong hardwood is widely used in the construction of ship decks and yachts, due to its superior resilience to the weather. Constructed properly, and with adequate care, it will last for decades.
But even within the teak lineage, important distinctions ought to be made. Many manufacturers would use Guyana teak and misleadingly sell it by referring to the outstanding qualities of the “real” Tectona Grandis.
Similar conflation can be seen between Robinia (Black Locust), otherwise known as pseudo acacia and Acacia. Although very similar, they differ in terms of aesthetics, weight, and density. While both are very durable species, resistant to insects and rot, designers use them according to different aesthetic and environmental considerations.
Other wood varieties that show outstanding properties for outdoor use include Ipe (Tabebuia), Redwood (Sequoia Semprevirens), Tigerwood (Goncalo Valves), and Garapa (Apuleia Leiocarpa). All of these species react differently to weather conditions and hardware. Robinia, for example, must be paired with stainless steel screw connections, otherwise, it will undergo discoloration due to the high acid content.
Wood finishing options
Solid wood furniture is especially vulnerable to the elements. This is why we employ a range of finishing options, according to the type of hardwood, the use case, and the environment.
With the proper finish, we can make outdoor wood furniture more durable and weather resistant. This applies to sofas and luxury dining tables as much as it does to wooden deck chairs and bar tables, as the solid frame requires equal treatment irrespective of design and upholstery options.
While water-based finish applications have their advantages, oil is the most prudent choice for the outdoor environment. A quality finish will protect against dirt, water, and UV exposure, by penetrating the wood, enhancing the strength of the surface. Being thicker, it will dry quite slower, making for a much more even finish.
Different hardwood varieties and finishing options may go along with additional embellishments or material combinations, and designers often play with glass, metal, and concrete to achieve captivating visual and tactile results.
Custom upholstery options offer millions of combinations using a wide palette of colors and patterns. Designed professionally, they can redefine furniture pieces, and give character to the space they inhabit.
However, outdoor furniture manufacturers should intimately understand the challenges of precipitation and sun exposure, temperature differences, and humidity. Fabrics, for example, may have colors as an integral part of the yarn, to prevent fading. Solution-dyed acrylic will fare better under sun exposure than fabrics that are printed or dyed at a later stage of the manufacturing process.
Cushions can be problematic as well, especially when left in the rain, as many remain soggy for several days after a rainstorm. However, the reticulated or open-cell foam will allow water to dissipate quickly, prolonging the lifespan of the upholstery. Pile fabrics like chenille or bouclé, or thinner weaves in general, are much easier to dry. The same is true for flat surfaces, so designers should prioritize accordingly.
For those who want a compromise, cushions can be replaced with thin pads that are easily added to the solid wood frame. These can be made in various thicknesses, firmness, and with different techniques, to provide support and comfort that will delight clients and guests. Utilizing a combination of shapes and angles, with a harmonic interplay of thickness and firmness, upholstery options can transform outdoor environments into sophisticated lounge areas exuding comfort.
We work with a range of outdoor foams, outdoor cushions, and water-resistant fabrics, to create unmatched durability. The goal is to manufacture outdoor furniture that is resistant to precipitation, sun exposure, temperature changes, or harsh weather in general. Visually striking pieces that are easy to maintain, and extremely resistant to the environment.
How to protect wooden outdoor furniture?
Outdoor furniture requires more TLC than its indoor counterpart, and it all starts with proper placement, regular wiping, and drying. Cushions and fabrics should be dried quickly, as soggy materials can damage the wood where they get in contact.
UV rays and temperature differences, on the other hand, cause discoloration, dryness, and, over time, slight cracks along the surface. The furniture should be kept away from direct sun exposure, it should be mostly dry and rotated periodically. Garden umbrellas can help protect against rain and direct sun exposure, providing a degree of temperature control for the outdoor environment.
When necessary, finish reapplication and wax solutions can be applied depending on the hardwood and the previous treatment options, with occasional sanding and polishing to restore the surface sheen and its luxurious appearance. SENTIENT craftsmen devote their expertise and attention, to maintaining, fixing, or replacing any part of the fabric, foam, or wooden structure that goes through the usual wear and tear.
Elevating your outdoor furniture collection
Outdoor spaces have a unique dynamic that represents an extension of interior décor, and a much broader functional range. To reflect this reality, luxury outdoor furniture must fit into specific aesthetic and practical narratives. It is our job to collaborate with designers and deliver stunning furniture models that satisfy those requirements, made with the proper structure, at the correct cost, and ready for shipment and installation. We provide an infinite range of furniture customization options for outdoor commercial or residential areas, with a usual project duration of 12-14 weeks.