Here’s your guide to the most fabulous furniture en plein air — whether that’s to entertain, pretend you’re working outside, or simply soak in that sun-fuelled serotonin.
The Best Outdoor Furniture: Summer 2022
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Still Stuck? Our Expert Guide To Buying The Best Outdoor Furniture
The Founders Behind McKinnon And Harris Share Their Secrets
Will Massie, who founded McKinnon and Harris with sister Anne in 1991, gives his expert tips for choosing and buying your outdoor furniture this summer.
What should you look for when choosing outdoor furniture?
Outdoor furniture should be an investment and complement one’s lifestyle, serving as a backdrop for memories made with loved ones and friends. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Buy aluminium outdoor furniture – it’s an ideal material because it resists corrosion and requires minimal maintenance.
- Beware of the fragility of cast aluminium furniture. A good rule of thumb is the heavier, the better.
- Invest in high quality outdoor furniture that will last. Furniture that must be replaced seasonally is a huge waste and contributes unnecessarily to landfill.
- Moisture is the enemy of all outdoor furniture, so it’s important to keep it out. Look for joints sealed with full circumferential welds. If you see visible joints, the frame may be assembled with internal screws and will not prove to be long lasting.
- Steer clear of metal furniture which has been ‘chromated’ as a pretreatment. Remember the movie Erin Brockovich? Hexavalent chromium (Chromium VI) is one of the greatest carcinogens and environmental dangers. Unfortunately it’s still used in a surprising amount of metal outdoor furniture manufactured overseas.
- Buy cushions made with quick-draining reticulated foam instead of polyfill foam, which allows for airflow keeping mildew out. You don’t want to find your cushions are still wet from a rainstorm after your guests have already sat down!
What trends are you seeing in outdoor furniture?
It makes sense that green has been a big colour trend this season – we’ve all felt a greater need to be closer to nature, and it connects to landscapes. As throwaway culture becomes less acceptable, we’re seeing a major shift towards sustainable and eco-friendly materials. Scaling up has also been in demand through lockdown, to create multifunctional oases where you can dine, entertain, meditate and nap all in one place. Our technical stone top is the perfect as a casual table that multitasks as working kitchen counter.
And what are the classic investment pieces?
Our clients often start out with a bench or tea cart. Once you have these base pieces, you can add to a collection over time. A mantra that feels especially true at the moment is simplification and choosing fewer and better things. Less is truly more. Our rocking chairs are a classic that heal the soul on a veranda or in the elements. Clients come back time and time again to replace theirs. For a starter piece, Palm boxes are brilliant to frame entryway and define a garden room. Our philosophy is to make things that we really love and would want ourselves, and that shapes everything we do. We concentrate on classic pieces we know will last the test of time rather than fast-changing trends.
Tips for looking after your outdoor furniture?
Surprisingly – the best time to clean your outdoor furniture is after a Great British shower. Storms blow dirt around and cushions and frames are easy to hose off so the dirt doesn’t set.
I use a Craftsman Cordless Portable Wet/Dry Shop vacuum with a soft bristle attachment to clean our performance fabric cushions. It’s also best to use Meguiar’s Car Wash soap which has a balanced pH for washing furniture frames and cushions. Unlike harsh dishwashing detergents, this cleaner doesn’t strip off wax protection. Use a microfibre towel, soft rag, or sponge (the same thing that you would use a car or boat) to clean the frame. Work into a rich lather and rinse away.
Protective covers are also a must, we have some excellent prêt-à-porter covers tailored to each piece to keep your furniture looking nice during the off season.
What is your current favourite piece from McKinnon and Harris?
Our chic and playful Perrow drinks cart is the perfect mixology hub for summer garden entertaining – and seamlessly transitions from cocktails to dessert.
How to mix and match outdoor furniture?
We’re seeing designers using different finish colours for dining tables and chairs. Using contrasting styles of chair around a dining table is eclectic and playful. All of our pieces share a classic family resemblance, so it still feels unified. The same goes for casual seating; layering different styles of furniture and fabric feels more collected. Comfort is key – everyone always gravitates to the most comfortable seat in the garden!
Any final styling tips for garden and outdoor furniture?’
I like potted plants to strategically define and accentuate the space. Palm boxes perfectly punctuate a room or create structure on a large terrace. There’s also nothing like real wax candles to transform a garden into a serene sanctuary. Glass hurricane shades are so practical outside and add richness and reflection even when they aren’t lit.
Featured image by Leisureplan.