Is buying up patio furniture after Labor Day the smart way to shop? It sure looks that way, as we've been seeing lots of great ads and sales for "outdoor furniture clearance sales". It makes sense, too; the bulk of summertime activity is over and done, the kids are back in school and now there's some time to sit back and plan ahead for next year. So now's the time, really, to be checking around for deals.
But what is "high-quality" when it comes to actual construction and makeup of such patio furniture? Do you get what you pay for, even when it's on sale? How do you know if "high-quality" is what you're really getting? We get asked this a lot, and this is as good a time as any to try and provide an answer.
First and foremost, understand that "high quality" does not always equal "spending big bucks!" If you're looking for furniture that you won't use a lot, and you figure to replace it altogether every few years, you would probably do well to stick with casual low- to mid-price individual patio pieces or outdoor sets. You can find these at just about every major retailer. Lowe's, Target and K-Mart all feature a wide variety of such furniture, at some really great season-ending prices (last year, K-Mart kicked everyone's butt by marking outdoor furniture down up to 90%, so watch those ads, both in print and online). If you're looking to spend a little more but still don't want to spend as much as you might on interior furniture, Ikea is ideal, as are many department stores which still actually carry furniture onsite (some, like Sears and JC Penney, encourage shopping online and scheduling in-store pickup, so may not always have a big selection in the actual store). You should just understand that neither option typically generates furniture where the materials are of the highest-quality or workmanship. That doesn't mean they're "bad". What it tends to mean is that they often won't last for more than a few seasons.
Your high-end sets and long-term purchases of patio furniture can be found primarily with independent retailers, and can also sometimes be ordered from online warehouses. There are also parts of the country where you can find outlets (North Carolina is a big destination for all kinds of furniture, not just the outdoor variety). This is the kind of purchase that you really want to shop carefully for--check with several sources before making your decision. Depending on your needs, you can easily spend upwards of $5000-6000.00 (that's not a typo, really!), so you definitely want to be prepared before you walk into a store and a salesperson zeroes in on you.
Typically, you can find better prices on whole sets than on individual pieces--this is true for any price level of furniture. Below, we offer some general info on what to look for.
HOW TO CHOOSE
Whether you're going high-end or you're on a tight budget, there are some basics for choosing patio furniture. Your biggest review should encompass the frame of any given piece. This is the foundation on which everything else sits (literally) and, particularly if you are spending a lot, look for quality workmanship. Stay away from flimsy aluminum frames that someone slapped a couple coats of paint on--this will chip and peel quickly, and before you know it, corrosion will be all through it and it will be ready for the junk pile. Look instead for high-strength, powder-coated aluminum. This costs more, but it's worth the investment--and when taken care of, this type of furniture frame can easily last for well over a decade, if not longer.
An alternative to powder-coated aluminum or steel is today's varieties of "rattan". It's not what it used to be either--the best looking, sturdiest rattan is now a product of the laboratory (as opposed to nature). Advances in molded polyethylene (PE) material allow for the creation of a furniture frame that looks like rattan, but isn't. It holds up under typical outdoor weathering, won't stick to you on a hot day, and the color stays original a lot longer. This material is now the rattan of choice when it comes to producing high-end outdoor patio furniture. It's not all molded, either--the best PE rattan can still be hand-woven attached to a frame and it looks fabulous! Depending on the maker, it's usually lest costly than powder-coated frames, but that's not always true. Still, you can be sure this type of material is in it for the long haul.
If "price" was the sole arbiter of "good vs. not-so-good", you may sometimes be disappointed with the quality of some of the cushions being turned out for "luxury patio furniture", after the maker impressed the heck out of you with that high-end lifetime warranty and workmanship of the frame. And we're talking about the original cushions which ship with the units, not replacement cushions custom-made for luxury furniture. We've heard that more than once, too, particularly from customers who have us replace their worn cushions with ones we customize for them. We heartily recommend (and use) high-density foam padding and superior outdoor fabrics made to resist fading and stains, such as olefin or Sunbrella® outdoor fabric (would we lie to you? We have what seems like an entire rainbow's worth of colors in these types of fabric, stuffed to the max with high-density padding!)
Choosing luxury outdoor patio furniture doesn't have to mean choosing between beauty and brawn. With just a little upfront attention to details like the frame, rattan, and cushions, you can have it all – for years to come. Want to know more about luxury outdoor furniture that lasts? Check us out next time--we'll review some top brands for you.