Design Experts Share Tips to Buying Outdoor Furniture

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Summer has arrived, which means it’s time to get out and enjoy the fresh air and long, sunny days. Whether your own outdoor oasis is a Center City balcony, a beach house down the Shore, or a poolside patio on the Main Line, furnish it with style this season. For help navigating the world of outdoor décor, we asked some of Philadelphia’s design-industry insiders for their tips and insights.

Exit Strategy

As evidenced by Philadelphia’s many pop-up parks and gardens, spending time outdoors is a major part of our local culture—and has become even more appealing with the introduction of chic new all-weather furniture lines. “Outdoor furniture is appreciated so much more now than ever before,” says Jinous Kazemi of Old City’s Millésimé and Ligne Roset. “People want to enjoy the same level of comfort and luxury outdoors that they do indoors.” Accordingly, outdoor décor has evolved to include much more than just lounge chairs and umbrellas; when done right, an alfresco area can be a seamless extension of a home’s interior. “The idea is to have pieces that could easily be in your living room, dining room, or outdoor space.”

High-Tech in Disguise

From fast-drying foam cushions to weather-resistant metals to soft-to-the- touch textiles, new technologies have opened up a range of possibilities in both form and function for outdoor furnishings. “The trend the last few years is towards full-scale [indoor-like] outdoor furniture, with upholstery as opposed to mesh-type furniture,” says Edward Kelly, owner of OLC Furniture and Lighting in Old City. Look for materials like powder-coated aluminum, polyethylene, and teakwood, all of which are easy to maintain and available in a variety of looks, feels, and finishes.

Express Yourself

No matter your taste, try to think about outdoor décor in the long term. “Go with a style that’s yours and not just a temporary trend,” says Pierre Berardo, general manager of Roche Bobois. Just like their indoor counterparts, outdoor furnishings should reflect your taste and lifestyle. Berardo suggests bringing your home’s floor plan to the store to make sure that everything fits, taking photos of the inside of your home to match the same feel, and being vocal about your needs. New materials mean that now a piece of furniture is not something you keep for a year. “You keep it for 10 or 15 years,” he says. “It’s important to make sure that you have confidence in style and quality.”

Light Bright

Barbara King’s top choice for chic outdoor decorating may surprise you. “Buy a rug or mat to ground the space and tie it all together,” says the president of Valley Forge Flowers, the Main Line’s main stop for bold floral displays, rustic home décor, seasonal accents, and more for over 40 years. At The Barn, a still newish retail experience that focuses entirely on outdoor living and sits adjacent to VFF’s main store, discerning green thumbs can scoop up lanterns, pillows, and gardening tools in addition to King’s favorite patio overlooked design aspect is lighting, according to King. “Fire tables, candles, and lighting on strings create magical outdoor areas,” she says. Interior designer Barbara Balongue, who worked alongside King in creating the 7,000-square-foot Barn, adds that lighting solutions should figure just as heavily into the space as whimsical accent pieces. “Solar shades, awnings, drapery enclosures, and screens can extend the usability of outdoor spaces and allow them to be used in inclement weather and for longer seasons,” says Balongue. “Ambient lighting can be tied into these types of systems to highlight the décor and to create an environment that allows for relaxation regardless of the time of day.” No matter what your outdoor décor goals are, King says that creating a dynamic setting can be the difference between going out or staying home. “People have such busy schedules so it is a treat to stay at home with friends and family, talking across a fire or sipping wine on a comfy sofa under the stars,” says King.

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