Help Your Outside Match Your Inside

Not too many decades ago, the humble picnic table was the epitome of outdoor furniture. But those days are long gone.

“Outdoor dining has always been around, but now it’s more about options and seating,” says Jerome Rackers, owner of Lifestyles Furniture. “It’s all evolved from the picnic table.”

People are still buying and using patio dining sets, he says, but the emphasis these days is on the broader concept of outdoor living, rather than outdoor dining. Today’s technology has freed people from cable and cord constraints, and they’re spending more of that free time in their outdoor spaces. “Dining is not nearly as significant as outdoor comfort,” Rackers says.

Rackers recommends doing your research before buying any outdoor furniture. That set you see at a “big box” store may not be the big bargain it appears to be, he says, if the discount cushions you buy, for example, aren’t high quality and go flat in a couple of years.

Rackers notes that resin is particularly popular these days. “We do a lot of woven resin,” he says. “Much more cushioned seating.” Advances in engineering have made today’s resin furniture not only functional but also highly fashionable. Manufacturers such as NorthCape International sell striking woven resins in varying patterns. Homeowners can choose from a wide variety of seating styles, from single chairs to chaises to sectionals. Groupings often include a coffee table and side tables, or even a table with a built-in recessed fire pit. Resin pieces are easy to clean with a mild detergent.

“You really want an aluminum frame,” Rackers says. “Steel will rust.” Two other important considerations are cushion construction and fabric. “You want open-cell foam material, so water falls through. It dries faster.”

Rackers’ go-to for cushions is Sunbrella Fabrics.

“Sunbrella is renowned as one of the best products,” Rackers says. He adds that some people initially balk at the price, but explains it this way: “It’s like the difference between a radish and a carrot. The red color of a radish is only skin deep, while the orange of the carrot permeates all the way through.”

Sunbrella Fabrics’ cushion fabrics are designed to hold up against the elements without fading. They are available in a whole host of solids and prints, and run the gamut from bright, bold shades to more subtle pastel hues. Shocking as it may seem, you can clean the fabric with bleach! Rackers cites another good reason to spring for Sunbrella: serviceability. A lot of people decide they want to add to their seating options, and will need new furniture pieces and cushions. When you deal with companies such as Sunbrella and NorthCape, Rackers points out, you can easily get the matching pieces and cushions you need.

As Columbians continue looking for ways to make the most of their outdoor space, outdoor fire features such as fire pits or fireplaces are becoming more popular.

“We don’t have 12 months of nice weather, we have maybe two months of spring and two months of fall,” Rackers says. “Summer can be pretty hard to enjoy because of the hot weather.”

Fire features are ideal for Columbia’s climate because of the cooler evening temperatures during spring and fall. “A lot of people are doing mobile fire pits with LP tanks,” Rackers says. “You can move them to different locations.”

Sounds like one more reason to get fired up about outdoor living