Fun in the Sun: A Buyer’s Guide to Outdoor Sofas


Fun in the Sun: A Buyer’s Guide to Outdoor Sofas

Bring the indoors out and lounge your days away this summer. Here’s how to select the best sofa for your outdoor space.

Summer's coming, and there’s no better time to soak up some sunshine with friends and family on your patio, deck or verandah. This means it’s also time to gear up with outdoor furniture, and the best place to start is with a sofa. Here’s a guide to materials and designs, as well as some tips on what to bear in mind when you’re out shopping.


The right choice of outdoor sofa will not only serve as an extension of your interior style, it will prove sturdy in the face of changing weather conditions. When it comes to materials, ornate wrought-iron, plastic and even faux wood have been supplanted, with customer preferences veering towards rattan, teak and other woods.


Popular Choices

Treated rattan is durable, lightweight, easily portable and shows excellent strength, making it a favourite for outdoor sofas. What’s more, rattan is able to absorb a variety of dyes and stains, so it’s doubly attractive to buyers. Treated rattan will also reduce the amount of effort you need to put in to keep your sofa in shape.

Tip: These days, you’ll also find a more modern, lightweight and synthetic material called polyethylene rattan used for building outdoor furniture. The material is resistant to water and UV rays, and also helps reduce reliance on natural rattan resources.


Note: While rattan and wicker are terms often used interchangeably, they are two different things: rattan is the material used to make furniture, while wicker refers to the technique or construction method that involves weaving natural materials such as rattan, cane or bamboo into intricate patterns.


Teak is in demand for a variety of outdoor furniture, because it has a rich colour tone and is hard-wearing. What’s more, it boasts a high natural oil content, which ensures that your sofa is able to endure outdoor conditions that much better. Plus, teak is easy to care for.
Teak will age and display splits and marks in time, but some people find this lends a sense of refined elegance and rustic appeal to a sofa.


Since steel is stronger than aluminium, you’ll find that it’s often used to build larger pieces such as sofas. However, the resulting furniture is quite heavy, and steel is prone to rusting. That’s why you’ll need to ensure that your steel sofa has been treated with a protective finish such as powder coating or that it has been galvanised.


Resin and plastic
These materials are also making waves in outdoor furniture thanks their low-cost, lightweight and durable natures. Think bold colours and straight, contemporary lines. Plus they’re low maintenance. The only disadvantage is they may not withstand very heavy winds, so choose wisely or for a very protected area.


What are the Popular Designs?
“Today people are demanding more comfort from their outdoor sofas. The aesthetic is becoming more ‘indoor’ as they seek to blend indoor and outdoor patio spaces together. “Spaces need to have an ‘open’ feeling – and this is achieved through open weaves or thinner frames, so they appear aesthetically transparent and don’t ‘interrupt’ the space.


If you have a compact patio, deck or backyard that you want to set up for small intimate gatherings, a loveseat is the way to go. It’s essentially a two-person sofa that works well when paired with a set of chairs and a table.

For larger gatherings and parties, consider sectionals. They’re versatile and can create multiple seating options depending on the occasion. This means that you can customise or rearrange a sectional to suit your tastes and needs.

Looking to laze away a summer afternoon? Daybed sofas are your go-to. They’ll provide you with ample space to lounge and laze on, and some daybeds are also available with features such as shade canopies and footrests for added comfort.


Cushions for Outdoor Sofas
Sofas lack appeal without cushions, and your outdoor sofas are no exception. While you’ll find cushions in a variety of outdoor-friendly fabrics, acrylic is the most hard-wearing and breathable among them, and will resist colour-fading better than the others.


Shopping Advice
Think about the weather
Consider your local weather conditions throughout the year. Is your weather hot and humid or is it dry? Do you live near the coast, or perhaps in a more urban area? With extremely hot and dry weather, wood has a tendency to crack and split. Excessive exposure to moisture could also damage your wicker furniture, and high salt content in the air near the coast can damage metal left outdoors, for example.

Measure your space
Keep in mind your outdoor area dimensions when planning a purchase. You’ll want to accommodate everyone. However, you also don’t want your sofa to overwhelm your space. Ensure there’s enough room surrounding your furniture to walk around it comfortably. Apply the same principles of traffic flow as you would to your indoor areas.


Where to place the sofa
Will you place your sofa on a paved surface, wooden deck, or on the grass? It’s best not to place soft wood on grass as repeated exposure to moisture can cause the wood to rot. Even metals will corrode if in steady contact with moist surfaces.

Consider comfort
Outdoor spaces are meant for relaxation, so make comfort a priority when choosing your sofa. Throw in a few extra cushions to make it more cosy, and while you’re at it, remember to look for fabric that resists mildew and fading.


Most importantly, don’t ignore your budget. When you’re in the market, inexpensive furniture is easy to come by. The problem is that it’s not going to wear very well. It’s more important to choose the highest quality pieces that you can afford.

Source: Pia Sinha, Houzz Australia Contributor, Houzz