Patio Furniture and Furnishings
The first consideration is what the furniture should look like. It's easier to answer that question by choosing furniture that reflects the purposes of the space. For example, chairs and tables for a dining area are likely to be different from chairs and tables for a lounging area. Pick colors and styles that fit into the overall design of your patio.
Be practical, too, when choosing furnishings for outdoor use. Look for durable materials that offer year-round usability. In addition to durability, your outdoor furnishings should be weatherproof and easy to move around. Select chairs and other seating with removable cushions so you can stow them during inclement weather or remove them for cleaning. If you won't use your patio in the winter, include an outside storage area in your plan so you can conveniently protect the furniture from snow and ice.Seating -- freestanding or built-in?
Seating on your patio will fall into one of two categories.
- Freestanding seating: rockers, chairs, lounges, and dining sets with cushions. These come in more design styles than built-in units. Freestanding furnishings offer flexibility -- you can move them around to change the nature of the space. If you design your patio for entertaining, keep some folding chairs handy for overflow crowds. Make the storage area large enough to keep the chairs out of the way when you don't need them.
- Built-in seating: planters with platform tops, attached benches, and low walls. Built-ins are less flexible because they aren't movable, but they take up less space than freestanding furniture and, cleverly designed, can also provide storage space. For comfortable built-in seating, follow the 18-inch rule: Place the seat 18 inches above the surface and make it at least 18 inches deep. Benches are the most basic form of built-in seating. Planters and walls can fill in as benches if their top surfaces are wide enough to sit on. Stairs are an often overlooked opportunity for built-in seating. In a crowded setting, if stair treads are wide and deep enough, your guests can sit on them. Build your stairs at least 4 feet wide if you want them to serve as seating. Sturdy handrails are a must for stairway safety and can also act as grab bars to help people get up from sitting on the stairs.
Sizing up the furniture
Buy outdoor furniture that suits your patio's size. You want it to appear comfortable, not overwhelming or lost.
If you have a small patio area, use a round table -- it takes up less space than a square or rectangular one. On a larger patio, you can set up conversation areas with groupings of tables and chairs or lounges and side tables. Include a serving cart, and leave plenty of room to walk around the furniture.