Summer is here, which means we’re about to spend a whole lot more time on our patios. And unlike a decade ago, outdoor furniture today is getting just as much attention as their interior counterparts, as they are truly an extension of the home — albeit an al fresco one.
As such, design experts like Sarah Mandell of Aspen & Ivy in Barrie, Ontario, Canada recommend decorating your outdoor areas just as you would your interior spaces — with a thoughtful eye and keeping balance in mind. “You want to mix materials and colors to keep it interesting, and make sure it doesn’t look like you bought all the pieces in a set,” she advises. “So, if the lounge seating is rattan, then I will pick teak or metal for the dining chairs. The key is keeping the styles complementary. An easy way to accomplish this is to match the shapes — a rounded lounge chair should be matched with a rounded dining chair. Or, a square-armed lounge chair should be matched with a square-armed dining chair.”
Chris and Calvin LaMont, co-hosts of HGTV’s “Buy It or Build It,” add, “We mix and match woods and metals to achieve a higher-end, more custom look. Oversized metal lanterns next to cool oversized wood planters is always a great combination — and if you have a covered patio, don’t be afraid to use an outdoor rug under your dining or sitting area to provide that cozy home feeling outside.”
Another major point to consider when perusing patio furniture, according to “Elements of Style” author and Boston-based designer Erin Gates? “How exposed to the elements will the pieces be and how reliable are the homeowners to cover them during inclement weather/off season? It’s so important to be honest about this as outdoor cushions, while durable, will mildew and look worn or dirty if left out in the rain and snow over and over,” she explains. “If the furniture is for a covered porch versus and fully exposed patio, I’d choose different materials and construction.”
“Make sure you are buying furniture that is intended for the outdoors: Teak woods, wickers, aluminum and performance fabrics are all great as they withstand the elements and can age gracefully,” adds Erin Fetherston, Los Angeles-based fashion designer and interior stylist.
When it comes to colors, Lindsey Jamison of Rumor Designs in Steamboat Springs, Colorado says it’s best to stick to a family of hues. “When mixing and matching patterns and colors for your patio, it’s safe to choose two to three colors. Use these same colors and select pillows, rugs, upholstery items. Adding patterns will add interest and keeping within the same color scheme will help you play it safe and not overdo it.”
For a truly finished look, remember it’s all about the styling. “Keep the base classic/traditional, then layer in cozy accents that can be swapped out over time, like outdoor pillows or rugs,” says interior designer and stylist Dakota Willimon. “To finish, always work in plants and greenery (both with on-the-ground planters and small pots on accent tables).”
To help you get on your purchasing way this summer, we’ve corralled designer favorites and our own top patio chair picks that are sure bets and worth investing in. Trust us, the results will be magic.
If you’re not familiar with Polywood, well, you’re in for a treat. Based in Indiana, the outdoor furniture company creates everything from dining sets to classic Adirondacks from HDPE recycled plastics, all of which have the grain and texture of lumber. Maintenance-free, the Polywood pieces are literally built to withstand all climates. They’re completely waterproof, have color-stay technology and will never splinter, crack, chip or peel. We’re big fans of this set, which incorporates five of the brand’s iconic Adirondack chairs, plus a 48-inch fire pit that can be synced with a propane tank or a natural gas line, not to mention a glass wind guard, clear glass gems and a fire pit cover.
“I really love two to four chaise lounges on a patio or deck — they are so comfortable to relax or read in, more so than sofas, I find,” says Gates, who is a big fan of this teak set of two from Frontgate. “And if you are terrible about remembering to cover up outdoor furniture with cushions, this style is perfect as it can withstand rain and dries quickly! Add a lumbar pillow for extra cushioning and a pop of color or pattern.” Available in grey or white, the mesh-backed chair is also great for keeping you cool on the hottest days.
Casual but sleek, these handcrafted chairs from West Elm are made of all-weather cord and rust-resistant aluminum, making them a great choice for uncovered patios. “We recently used these chairs on a rooftop patio,” says Jamison. “They are weatherproof, stylish and comfortable, and it’s always great when an ottoman is built-in to the design.” Ottomans are sold separately for $229.
Finding outdoor storage solutions that are also stylish is a pain point for many, which is why we’re such big fans of this sleek bench from Frontgate. Available in two colorways (light gray and a bronze-hued brown) and two sizes, the handwoven bench is made of all-weather wicker, which is wrapped over a powder-coated aluminum frame. Best of all, the bench is raised off the ground and has a PVC-lined interior, providing safe, mildew-free storage for your kids’ toys, garden tools, pool accessories or whatever else you want to stash out of sight in there. A coordinating cushion and cover are also available.
For the patio in her own Los Angeles home, Fetherston opted to fill the space with sustainable brand Outer’s luxe seating options, all of which have built-in cushion cover “shells” that pull over each individual cushion and clip shut. “For my personal home, I love Outer outdoor furniture,” Fetherston says. “I have their aluminum modular sectional which is great for summer entertaining as the pieces are lightweight enough to easily change configurations around. Sometimes I set it up like a 7-piece L-shaped sectional or I can break the pieces up into facing sofas or chair pairings depending on our entertaining needs.” If you don’t want to opt for this sprawling set, the Aluminum Armless Chair can be purchased for $1,250. All of Outer’s pieces come with a 10-year warranty.
Check out our Outer furniture review here.
Chic and easy to mix with other pieces, this acacia wood-chair has quick-drying cushions, and looks way more expensive than it is. “This is such a classic,” says Mary Patton of Mary Patton Design in Houston, Texas. “Depending on one’s climate, I would recommend bringing the cushions inside or having a dedicated place to store them.
A bestseller for Home Depot, this simple, streamlined set is also the most affordable option on our list, with the chairs coming out to just $75 each. Made from a durable powder-coated steel frame, the dark brown chairs come with water-resistant cushions, but the slat-style seats can be used without cushions, too.
An Adirondack chair, but with a modern twist! “This is a classic chair done in an elevated way from West Elm,” says Patton, adding, “Be mindful of outdoor pieces that are not only comfortable and stylish, but also furniture that will hold up through the seasons and weathered elements.” Available in two stain hues (light brown and light gray), the chair is made from moisture-resistant mahogany and eucalyptus woods, and at 30 inches wide, it’s great for smaller spaces.
A splurge for sure, this Arhaus chair is simply stunning. “I love that these chairs swivel and the frame can accommodate a drink and small plate of snacks,” says Kristin Bartone of Bartone Interiors in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. “The cushions are luxurious and easily removed for thunderstorms and pollen season. Teak is a beautiful, soft, natural material that brings warmth to your outdoor living space.” Customizable with more than 80 cushion fabric choices, the low-profile chair also comes in a non-swivel (slightly cheaper) version, and it can coordinate with the brand’s outdoor sofa.
Like something straight out of a design magazine, this luxe lounge chair is handcrafted from kiln-dried teak and incorporates a stately lattice design that we love — and we’re not alone. “Frontgate patio chairs are ideal for my clients because they combine both style, comfort and functionality,” says Sasha Bikoff, owner of New York City-based firm Sasha Bikoff Interior Design, who has a pair of these lounge chairs on her own home’s patio. “Oftentimes, clients have to keep buying outdoor furniture, however, I always feel confident that with Frontgate the product is going to last.” The product is backed by a 10-year warranty.
$998 $698 at Serena & Lily
A cult-favorite piece, Serena & Lily’s interior hanging chair now comes in weatherproof outdoor materials, meaning you can bring the chair’s easy-breezy silhouette to your al fresco space. “I love furniture that moves,” says Bartone. “A moveable seat allows you to sit for longer periods of time, enjoying conversation and good company. This swing from Serena & Lily can be hung from a tree or ceiling truss or comes with a freestanding frame. The simple weave is sturdy for easy maintenance and adding a pop of color with a pillow and blanket lets you style specifically for your space.” Available in light wood and white, the chair also comes in double-width size and can be paired with a Sunbrella cushion.
ICYMI: The rattan trend isn’t going anywhere, which is why we love this set of two resin rattan-and-metal club chairs from Wayfair. “Blending modern style with resilient durability and exceptional design, this club chair provides various options for office waiting areas, coffee shops or in a client’s outdoor setup,” says Lindsey Zborowski, Hospitality Design Manager for Wayfair Professional. Available in light brown or gray, the chairs also come with water-resistant cushions.
Get a bang for your buck with this outdoor set that includes two chairs, a loveseat, a table and four throw pillows. “Crafted from weather-resistant solid eucalyptus, this set is something you’d find at a picturesque hotel or restaurant,” says Zborowski. We couldn’t agree more.
“I love classic wicker, it’s just a style that will never be ‘out’ no matter what,” says Gates. “The scale and proportions of this set is perfect. I would keep the upholstery neutral on the sofas and do the chairs in a coordinating stripe and then add color with pillows.” Available in a variety of cushion and piping colors, the set is made from resin wicker and a powder-coated frame.
Perfect for a conversation set or as outdoor dining options, these French bistro-style chairs will bring an outdoor cafe vibe to your space. “We recently used similar chairs at a cafe brunch spot in Steamboat that has the cutest patio by the creekside,” says Jamison. “The black-and-white modern style diamond pattern was the perfect bistro style.” Jamison recommends pairing the chairs with this striped table umbrella for an eye-catching look.
Low-slung and wide, this chair has a casual elegance to it that we just love — and so does Bartone. “The Indio collection is constructed from eco-friendly FSC Certified Eucalyptus Wood which immediately moved it to the top of my selection list,” she says. “Eucalyptus adds warmth, but doesn’t change color in the sun like teak.”
When in doubt, opt for an Adirondack. This one from Polywood is a no-brainer because it folds flat for easy storage or transportation. “This is the best material for outdoor spaces that are fully exposed,” say the LaMont brothers. “This Adirondack is not only an all-weather, durable and stylish option, but it’s also green and made with zero waste.”
“I love the modern vibe this chair projects,” says Willimon. “The use of teak and wicker is a nice mix of materials and would look great paired with other teak furniture. Plus, this chair doesn’t have a cushion, which makes maintenance super easy. I would style this with a root coffee table for a fresh look.” Made of handwoven, resin wicker, the chair’s dimensions are a seat depth of 23.75 inches and width of 30 inches, making it a great option for taller customers or anyone who likes a generous seat.
An old-school style with a new-school spin, this rocking chair is perfect for both front porches or back patios alike. “I love Polywood because they are such easy maintenance and made from recycled household plastics,” said Bartone. “The seat is contoured for comfort, so even without a cushion you can sit and rock for hours.” Available in 13 colors — from a classic white to a fun tangerine — the chair has raked in more than 1,000 positive Wayfair reviews and has a 4.8-star rating.
“In addition to emotional comfort (who doesn’t love the soothing feeling of rocking back and forth?), this generously-scaled chair is made from sustainably harvested teak that weathers beautifully over time,” says Lindsay Foster, senior director of merchandising for Frontgate. Adds Willimon, who is also a huge fan, “I love the classic lines in the silhouette of this chair. With more than 100 fabric options — including water-repellent Sunbrella Rain — this piece could fit into any patio design with a timeless look for years to come.”
When designing actress Odette Annabelle’s Austin, Texas, patio space, Fetherston again turned to Outer, picking the Brown Wicker U-Sectional, which can be disassembled into six armless chairs and two sectional chairs, allowing for interchangeable seating arrangements. “Odette wanted flexibility with the configurations, and we really fell for the built-in OuterShell covers — that was a home run,” said Fetherston. “Plus, Outer sofas have a really beautiful, modern silhouette, in great colors, so it works as a foundation piece to build around in so many ways.”
$499 at Grandin Road
Extra seating is nice to have, but if your outdoor space is compact, it can be hard to justify the footprint. Which is exactly why we’re such big fans of these luxe stacking chairs from Grandin Road. Bistro-style in design, the chairs are made from a handwoven synthetic wicker and a powder-coated aluminum frame that can handle even the harshest of climes. Cushion-free, the zero-maintenance set comes in three colors (brown and white, navy and white and all-white), stacks onto itself and is great to have on hand when guests come over.
Chock full of bohemian charm, this outdoor-friendly set of two chairs is perfect for pairing with an existing seating area. “Providing the same look as classic woven wicker, this set’s durability is credited to its recycled resin rattan,” says Zborowski. “It’s an ideal choice for a weather-impacted spot like a coastal home or hotel deck as it is produced with Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified teakwood.” The chairs come in gray and natural wicker hues.
Like something you’d find at a luxury hotel, this set of chaise lounges from Sunhaven is a surefire way to gussy up your pool or backyard patio. With double-wide resin wicker and an aluminum frame, the Sunhaven products can stand up to even the harshest climates with zero wear or tear. We love the plush cushions, and the fact that all the pieces arrive pre-assembled, ready to go straight out of the box. Sunhaven’s modular sectional sets are some of the most reasonable prices (for enduring quality) on the market.
Adhering to her philosophy of mixing complementary materials, Mandell recommends pairing this stunning handwoven wicker-and-aluminum club chair from West Elm with the brand’s Portside Outdoor Dining Chair. Made from moisture-resistant mahogany and eucalyptus woods, the chairs come in a set of two or four ($899 or $1,797) and are available in light brown or light gray hues, which coordinate nicely with the Outdoor Lounge Chairs’ natural and silver color options.
$1,099 at Grandin Road
What we love about the Simsbury collection from Grandin Road is that the pieces are maintenance-free because the cushions are embedded beneath the wicker seat! Genius, right? Right. This chair not only rotates 360 degrees, but it also rocks back and forth, and it’s going to be everyone’s favorite seat. Other pieces in the collection include dining chairs, ottomans and sectionals.