Good outdoor furniture is worth the investment, says Alan Wilson, owner of Granville Street’s Industrial Revolution, the family run home furniture store that has kept pace with design trends for over three decades, while sticking with brands known for quality.
“I don’t know why, but it seems like everybody, including grocery stores, decides they want to sell outdoor furniture and I just shake my head,” he says. “A lot of people say ‘well, it’s not something I’m going to use that much’ but I try to tell our customers, because it’s outdoors it’s all the more reason why you want better quality. You want fabrics that aren’t going to fade in the sun, you want quick dry outdoor foam. If you use cheap foam it’s just going to soak up the water and it’s going to take days before you can sit on your chair again.”
The difference, says Wilson, between a wicker set that costs $300 and one that costs $1500 is that with the pricier version you’re getting a tighter weave that won’t begin to unravel or rot after a year or two, and with aluminum frames variations in thickness indicate quality — the cheaper options being made with thinner frames, meaning less tensile strength, which you can tell by how light they are to pick up.
“I always say buyer beware,” says Wilson. “It’s like anything else, you get what you pay for. If it’s really inexpensive, there’s a reason it’s inexpensive and if it costs more there’s a reason it costs more, and the consumer should really ask the question why am I paying more?”
Wilson says locals are finally looking at their outdoor spaces as an extension of their indoor, reflecting their style, and with many of his customers being downtown (condo) dwellers he sees a movement away from large outdoor dining sets and towards more lounging options.
“If you have a small little deck, you’re not necessarily going to go out there and have a meal on it, you’ll probably go back inside, but you want to be outside so you might want a really comfortable lounge chair with a little table you can put your cup of coffee on or have a sandwich kind of thing; so lounging chairs have been really popular.”
Multi-use outdoor furniture is also something that’s growing in popularity, says Wilson, such as the collection of small benches and cubes by Quebec City’s Twist Production that they carry at Industrial Revolution, which light up.
“They’re Canadian made product,” says Wilson. “It’s kind of neat because they’re dual purpose, you end up with outdoor lighting and you end up with some square cubes that can be used for end tables or little coffee tables.”
The use of polypropylene in good quality outdoor furniture is also growing, says Wilson.
“People would look at it and they might call it plastic,” he says. “But it’s not really plastic, because plastic deteriorates in the sun. Polypropylene is made from recycled materials, so it’s long lasting, it’s UV treated, it’s meant to be used outdoors. It won’t fade out or literally dissolve after a few years and there’s some great new designs in polypropylene.”
Stainless steel furniture for indoor and outdoor use is also a new trend, he says.
“People that have solariums, they’re looking at outdoor furniture indoors,” he says. “You know, they’ve got stainless steel appliances and a lot of stainless steel in the home and then they’ll put this in as a kitchen set and it looks fantastic.”
Maja Boricevic, spokesperson for Ikea Canada, says they’re noticing people are using their outdoor spaces more than ever.
“There are tons of options for outdoor storage, modular seating, growing and decorating, so whether it’s a small balcony or a sprawling terrace, there are many solutions to help host the perfect barbecue with your guests or grow your own garden for those with a green thumb,” she says.
Canadian Tire’s Design & Style Expert Tracy Platt says her kids call their porch their “outside living room” and the accessories she has used to achieve this — cushions and string lights — are proving popular with Canadian Tire customers who are after doing the same.
Natural materials like concrete and wood feature strongly in the outdoor furniture collections that Canadian Tire is currently carrying, says Platt.
“Mixing and matching to create your own look has been a trend for both interior and outdoor spaces,” she says. “Unexpected pairings like a classic wicker chair with a contemporary fire table, for example, creates a designer look and allows you to add to your own collection.”