Tips for choosing outdoor furniture: 6 things to consider when picking your garden tables and chairs

Looking for expert tips for choosing outdoor furniture? From factoring in the size of your space to ease of maintenance, we've got all the advice you need

tips for choosing outdoor furniture: sofa from kettler
(Image credit: Kettler)

These tips for choosing outdoor furniture are just the ticket if you're on the lookout for a stylish update. After all, garden tables and chairs play a crucial role in how you use your outdoor space, so you need to make sure they meet your needs properly. But with so many designs to choose from, it can be tricky to know the best style for you. Not to worry – we're here to help.

If you've already checked out our garden furniture ideas, you'll know that there's so much more on offer than the humble outdoor bench. These days, you can find plush corner sofas, glorious daybeds, swinging egg chairs, and even coffee tables which double up as fire pits. Whatever your garden seating needs, there's a design out there that will perfectly suit your space, style and budget. 

It's no secret that whether you need seating or surfaces, the best garden furniture will totally transform the functionality and look of your space. It's now easier than ever to recreate the same comfort and style of your indoor living space outdoors. But to pick the right designs, there's a few things you need to consider. No-one wants to invest in a brand new set-up only to realize a week or so later that it doesn't quite fit. 

Taking your time to properly consider all of the outdoor furniture options available will ensure that this is a purchase that will work perfectly for your space and will last you for many years to come. So, keep reading for our top tips for choosing outdoor furniture.

Six top tips for choosing outdoor furniture

1. Pick a style that suits your theme

tips for choosing outdoor furniture: pacific lifestyle grey sofa set

Need tips for choosing outdoor furniture? Start by thinking about the style. The elegant Barbados corner set from Pacific Lifestyle complements this more traditional country garden beautifully

(Image credit: Pacific Lifestyle)

One of the most obvious tips for choosing outdoor furniture is to consider its aesthetics. The right look can make or break a space, so before you make any solid decisions, think about the overall theme of your plot.

One of the trendiest styles at the moment is rattan (see for yourself on our garden trends feature). It's ideal for 'recreating the relaxed look of a traditional country garden', says the experts at LOFA, but when paired with neutral cushions, works well for modern plots, too.

Speaking of modern styles, you could also consider plastic. Sure, it might seem odd, but trust us. There's tons of fresh styles available in sculptural shapes and bold colors, which can add an element of fun to a space. Plus, many designs include recycled materials, making them a more eco-friendly option. 

Metal is another option, and perhaps one of the most versatile. 'It can be traditional in style – think intricate wrought iron – to modern and industrial,' says the LOFA team. 'Metal integrates easily into every kind of garden, from country cottage to rooftop terrace,' they add. And it's often powder-coated for an even more durable finish, and you can add a colorful finish too.

If you're after a more organic feel to your garden, then wood is a classic choice. Of course, there are plenty of finishes available. So whether you want rustic or modern, light or dark, or brightly-colored or neutral, there are lots of options when it comes to outdoor seating ideas or garden table ideas to fit your theme.

2. Think about maintenance

tips for choosing outdoor furniture: close-up of glass top on rattan table

Glass-topped tables are easy to wipe clean, such as this Hamilton dining table from Daro 

(Image credit: Daro)

Another one of the most important tips for choosing outdoor furniture is to consider how much maintenance – or lack of – it needs.

'Offering the durability and weatherproof qualities to rival that of its natural counterparts, plastic is light and extremely easy to clean, making it a great option for those that have kids,' says the team at LOFA. Just a quick wipe down with soapy water is generally all it takes to get it looking as good as new. Synthetic rattan is also simple to clean (just go a little gentler on some designs, to avoid spoiling the weave). For tables, look for wipe-clean glass tops, for easily mopping up spills.

Metal is also easy to take care of, especially if it's powder-coated. If it suffers the odd scratch, simply use a 'corrector' pen to repair the damage. However, some metals can show signs of rust over time – special waxes can help to prevent this, or remove light discoloration.

The best wooden garden furniture is usually built to be durable, from sturdy, long-lasting materials that don't need much maintenance. However, some require a bit of upkeep if you want to keep them looking pristine. Teak, for example, will last for years but turns a silvery-grey over time. Some people love this look – it adds a certain charm and is great for cottage garden ideas – but if you're not a fan, you can use a specialist cleaner and stain protector.

Don't forget about textiles too – removable cushions can often be popped in the washing machine for a freshen-up (but do check the label first). And for ultimate easy-maintenance, opt for fully-waterproof ones that you can leave outside in the odd rain shower.

Head over to our guide on how to clean outdoor furniture for more advice.

3. Go environmentally-friendly

tips for choosing outdoor furniture: barlow tyrie teak table and chairs with parasol

Opt for sustainably-sourced wooden furniture, such as this dining set up from Barlow Tyrie

(Image credit: Barlow Tyrie)

Eco-friendly tips for choosing outdoor furniture are always good to bear in mind.

If you're opting for wood, think about where the material was sourced from. For instance, all LOFA members supply products made from FSC Certified wood from managed forests. This means that all their wooden furniture is sustainable, and also completely recyclable. Metal is generally recyclable, too.

For an alternatively sustainable choice, opt for furniture made from recycled plastic or marine debris, suggests the LOFA team. Recycled plastic ticks all the boxes if you're conscious about the amount of plastics in our oceans and looking for ways to help our planet, they add.

4. Choose the right size for your space

tips for choosing outdoor furniture: outdoor sofa and table from kettler on patio

Set-up from Kettler, including the Palma Grande sofa and firepit table

(Image credit: Kettler)

When choosing your outdoor furniture, you'll definitely want to make sure it's the right size for your space.

As the team at LOFA says, 'Furniture comes in many shapes and sizes, from dining sets that seat 12 right through to bistro sets just for two.' So, consider how many people you need to seat, and how much space is available.

When it comes to outdoor tables, the experts at LOFA advise to 'add an extra one metre all round, on top of the table's measurements, so that chairs can be pulled out comfortably and safely.'

'In a small garden or on a balcony, a round table will allow more people to be seated,' they add, 'as a round table takes up less space.' Don't forget about foldaway options, too. The best bistro sets and collapsable tray tables are good options for less generous spaces.

5. Consider how heavy it is

tips for choosing outdoor furniture: black bistro set from ascalon

Bistro set from Ascalon Design

(Image credit: Ascalon Design)

If you're looking for versatility, one of our top tips for choosing garden furniture is to think about how heavy it is. Picking lightweight tables and chairs gives you the flexibility to move them around should you wish – for instance, to make more space for guests, or to chase the evening sun.

Plastic and rattan are often the lightest options so make good choices for busy households or, as LOFA says, for sun worshippers.

6. Finalise your color scheme

tips for choosing outdoor furniture: bramblecrest grey corner sofa

The cool grey of this San Marino square modular sofa and coffee table from Bramblecrest adds a modern edge to this patio space whilst pops of sunny yellow draw the eye

(Image credit: Bramblecrest)

Color is another important aspect of outdoor furniture and can totally change how it sits in a space. If you're looking for a failsafe option to complement your plot, go for neutral tones. As the experts at LOFA advise, soothing shades such as greys, browns and muted tones can blend into any outdoor space.

You may already have a chosen garden color scheme, in which case, extend the theme to your furniture for a sense of cohesion. 

Another option is to use your furniture to create a bold impact. This works well if you're pairing it with neutral backdrops – think neon orange against a black fence, or azure blue against a white-washed wall. It's a surefire way to liven up a space and add a contemporary edge. Take a look at our colorful garden furniture ideas for lots of gorgeous designs.

Holly Crossley
Acting Deputy Editor

The garden was always a big part of Holly's life growing up, as was the surrounding New Forest where she lived. Her appreciation for the great outdoors has only grown since then. She's been an allotment keeper, a professional gardener, and a botanical illustrator – plants are her passion.