Weather hardy outdoor furniture that will last long after next summer
Consider this the ultimate guide to sprucing up your outdoor space this summer
Facing a second summer of restrictions, our homes – and the sunshine pooling outside them – have never been more important. It is the optimum time to turn our balconies, backyards and patios into our own personal havens, replete with splashes of colour and cosy accents.
While an Irish summer has a reputation for disappointing weather, considered design and robust materials can create a garden oasis to carry you through the wind and rain. Alfresco dining by day can lead to fire pit gatherings by night, happily bundled under a throw. Whether you’re looking for a quick refresh or a complete garden overhaul, now is your chance to turn your outdoor space into an elegant extension of your home.
Weather hardy essentials
When investing in outdoor furniture, you need chairs and tables that are built to put up a fight. There are a number of advantages to opting for wooden furniture – it doesn’t retain the heat, and, with proper maintenance, it will last many summers to come.
Most timber needs an annual top up with oil or stain to maintain its quality. Crafted with comfort in mind with backrest support, Woo Design’s Morena nature daybed is made from mango wood. Designed to improve with age, the M8 Sammen sun lounger from Nordic Elements is made from teak, which turns into a beautiful silvery grey over time. Powder-coated steel and aluminium has seen a welcome surge in popularity, thanks to their durability and lightweight charm. This cashmere Level side table from Maven is primed for nursing a drink, and Hay’s Palissade chaise longue, also available from Maven, is a sleek daybed built for sunbathing.
With the benefits of both aluminium and wood, the Cadiz outdoor dining collection from Meadows and Byrne is a simple and functional dining solution for those who love to host. It’s a challenge to find a sturdier side table than the Ravi concrete stool from Woo Design, which is frost resistant and low to the ground. They also stock the Danish Ivy bench, made from durable iron, which has a sleek grey finish.
Sculpted from Fibreglass, Pieces’ net bench in corallo is waterproof and weatherproof, bringing a welcome burst of red to the garden. To bring some leafy greens to your furnishings, April and the Bear’s Vondel outdoor table comes in stylish khaki green, ideal for lazy family dinners, and The Orchard’s Cool table olive is painted a refreshing shade of mint.
The pieces that won’t go out of style
Garden furniture can be expensive, meaning it’s sage to select pieces you’ll continue to love as the summers roll on. Thankfully, there is a wealth of classic outdoor sets on the market which guarantee to stand the style test of time. You can’t go wrong with muted colours like creams and greys, as proven by the Jack collection from Nordic Elements, which includes a teak lounge chair and sofas with supple pewter cushions.
Danish furniture brand Jysk, which opened its first Irish store in 2019, has some excellent budget-friendly options, from their L-shaped sofa in galvanised steel and oiled hardwood, or their classic mock-rattan table and chair set. Darker tones have been mastered by Maven’s Columbus Sunbed, with the black base cut from a high UV resistant fabric. Just as striking is this woven outdoor sofa from April and the Bear, which looks equally good bare or piled high with cushions. And, if all else fails, natural materials of wicker and bamboo help to reflect the greenery around you – take your cue from The Blue Door’s Pair of all-weather bamboo armchairs, or from Nordic Elements’ Luna exterior chair.
Best balcony buys
When transforming your balcony, draw on its strengths as a nook and make the space as cosy as possible. Bright and colourful tiling introduces colour and depth to the area when you don’t have much room to play with. Best Tile’s olden pink or jungle bliss versions are suitable for use both indoors and out, with the colours refusing to fade over the years.
Another way to introduce colour is with a printed awning – The Fabric Counter’s Raindrop coated cotton makes for an instant pastel lift. Ikea’s Applaro bench comes with inbuilt shelving, meaning you can arrange your potted plants overhead and relax below with a good book.
When it comes to seating, a bistro set slots away nicely in a narrow space, perfect for morning coffees or twilight aperitifs. The trough 2 seater bistro set by Habitat, painted an ice cream shade of mint, features a compartment for a row of pretty flowers, enough to fit three to four bulbs. Tucking out of the way, Littlewoods Ireland’s jazzy blue Hawaii nested table slots together neatly.
In terms of greenery, hanging plants don’t compromise on space. Woven versions, like this plant hanger by Industry and Co, soften the area, while the Vitlok flower box by Ikea can be slung over the balcony ledge. Designed in dark grey, Industry and Co’s plant box takes up a little more room, but looks striking when lined with blooms.
A rug, like Maven’s Way mat, helps to add layers to an otherwise confined space. Finally, a chic hanging chair saves on square feet – Woo Design’s rattan version is hand-woven and sustainable, and Jysk has a lighter fabric Nittedal edition with some gentle fringing.
Summer temperatures rarely eclipse 20 degrees, meaning clever heating solutions are essential in your outdoor space. Electric heaters are no-fuss, heating one spot directly and switching on and off with ease. The Orchard’s Sunset 2000 halogen lamp is operated by remote control, and can cast warmth from quite a distance.Those with a culinary leaning might prefer to plump for the outdoor fireplace with grill iron, which comes with storage space for chopped logs.
For creating an atmosphere, you can’t beat the hazy glow of a fire pit. These flaming vessels are perfect for warming your toes or toasting marshmallows, becoming a gathering spot in any outdoor space. The Orchard has a sleek black geometric outdoor Buck fire bowl, while the Corten steel fire bowl by Howbert and Mays is designed to endure rain showers and storms with its protective rust coating.
The Outdoor Furniture store keeps it simple with their Ace fire pit, and designed in a basket style, The Blue Door’s fire pit is made with raw metal, and works using wood, rather than coal. A more sustainable alternative is a bio-ethanol burner, which is a fuel produced from waste, meaning there is no scent or smoke. The Chantico Glassfire version by Wayfair makes for a cosy centrepiece on a table, hemmed in by toughened glass and brushed stainless steel. Lastly, the Cosiloft 100 black top doubles up as a lounge table and heater in one, fueled by gas.
Nature for gardens big and small
There’s nothing quite as peaceful as the chorus of birdsong on a summer’s day. Biophilic design is the idea of infusing an outdoor space with markers of nature, whether you have a boxy balcony or a sprawling patio. Known to reduce stress, biophilia makes a calmer space for you as well as the birds and the bees.
Tipperary-based basketmaker Hanna Van Aelst has designed a beautiful willow bird feeder, available from the Irish Design Shop, inviting smaller birds to feed on seeds and nuts. They also sell a blue tit nestbox in bright green and orange, which can be hung on a tree or wall around the nesting season in spring.
For smaller winged creatures, The Blue Door has a bee box made from bamboo canes, encouraging pollination. Butterflies can also flit across the lawn thanks to their red butterfly hibernation box, which works best when placed near lavender, flowerbeds or nettles.
Sturdy plant pots are a beautiful garden fixture year-round, letting the greenery inside take centre stage. April and the Bear’s Grey Gard planter set with a concrete matte finish is frost-proof, while Ikea’s Sharonfrukt plant pot has a lovely green glossy coat. To make a statement with your plant pots, The Blue Door’s spruce timber folding shelf ladder props up against the wall, displaying potting in with a dash of rustic charm.
There are also a variety of modish tools to help those who are new to green-fingered pursuits – Ikea’s Grasmaro 3-piece gardening set covers the essential utensils, while Maven’s Liba watering can is a streamlined addition to any garden.
When day fades to night, atmospheric outdoor lighting can keep the conversation going until the early hours. Bringing lighting and furniture together, Curated’s Meridiano floor lamps are stools with inbuilt light fixtures, casting a warming glow through the latticed frame.
For subtle additions to a stone or cement wall, Hicken Lighting’s Tivola LED exterior wall light blends in nicely with a textured finish. Nothing beats candles for a touch of romance, with Meadows and Byrne’s Porter lantern or Arnott’s bamboo Pomax Tula design bringing flickering luminosity to the dinner table.
Placed on a low table or lawn, echo the sunset with The Orchard’s Solar Orb, which beams 20 hours’ worth of tinted light. From Ikea’s LED range, the Solivinden lampshade is just as playful, patterned with tropical flowers in shades of white and red. The pendant lamp from the same range is a cream orb hanging overhead, successfully putting the spotlight on the tabletop, while the matching lighting chain casts a good deal of warm yellow light.
Fairy lights are a well-known garden hack by now, but Habitat’s Berry solar string version looks like a cluster of fruits festooned on a tree, introducing jewel tones to the dimmed garden by night. Article’s Dandelion stake light is a delicate twinkling cluster, mimicking the flowerheads nearby, while their outdoor torches can be plunged into the ground, made from wax and bamboo sticks. And, for a dose of Dickensian drama, Maven’s Bollard oil lamp is easy to clean and uses disposable oil capsules.
Certain accessories can elevate your outdoor space, bringing some playfulness to the Great Outdoors. Pushing beer gardens to the back of your mind, a drinks trolly is a fantastically kitsch excuse for an evening nightcap. The Maribou drinks trolly from Meadows and Byrne can be wheeled in and out, while the Kesterport Hammond version from Arnotts is a solid, stationary, addition to any cocktail connoisseur’s balcony. The Fermob Luxembourg bar cart, available from Amara, can be left outdoors all year round, with the teal frame built to withstand the weather.
If you’re really into your Pina Coladas, create a beach bar of your own with Habitat’s Club Tropicana-inspired gazebo with stools, designed with rattan seating and a grass-style roof. A parasol is essential for summer days spent lounging, with Jysk selling some gorgeous colour block versions for just €7.50.
Taking things up a notch, Smallable’s range of fringed and striped umbrellas from the Business & Pleasure Co in baby pink and buttercup yellow are evocative of the Italian coastline. Their sling deckchair, fringed in powder blue, is a fun twist on a garden staple. Habitat’s wooden director chair is dappled with a Sicilian lemon print, while the blue gradient deck chair from Howbert and Mays is a contemporary update on the traditional striped canvas.
A backyard pizza oven will be an instant hit with any dinner guest, with this rotating version from Brown Thomas featuring a detachable portable stove for barbecues. With a playlist to hand, the icing on the cake is an outdoor sound system, such as this weatherproof on-wall speaker, blending into the background in a subtle shade of white.
Savvy textiles are a simple way to update a tired outdoor space, breathing colour into a dining area with print and pattern. While soggy Irish forecasts and fabrics don’t appear to go hand in hand, many soft furnishings are designed to withstand the whims of nature. A bold rug can conceal weathered woodwork or paving – Ikea has several affordable outdoor options, with their Skelund rug mimicking lush greenery with a delicate leaf print. Alternatively, their geometric Svallerup rug is reversible, designed to cope with rain and sunshine.
A more pricey alternative for larger spaces is Smallable’s Nanimarquina Shade outdoor rug, with muted greens and pinks blending together through the weave. For a picnic-style dinner party, sit cross-legged with Curated’s Garden layers mattress, which is filled with fast-drying foam rubber and can be commissioned in tangerine checks or nutty browns.
Bring a pop of colour to your garden seating with Ikea’s Funkon cushion in tangy orange, or lie back with Maven’s water resistant Palissade chaise longue headrest cushion. The Orchard sells a simple pastel B-Bag outdoor cushion in a wipe clean fabric, for those looking to adhere to a more subtle colour story.
For sun worshippers missing holidaying abroad, a fabric hammock is a nice addition – Dunnes Stores have a bohemian fringed Eclectic version by Carolyn Donnelly, while Maven’s Path hammock is sustainable, made from yarn spun from post-consumer plastic. When the evening rolls around, a warm throw is essential, with a number of Irish brands offering handsome alternatives made from natural fibres.
Stable of Ireland’s herringbone blanket brings some egg-yolk sunshine to the lawn, while Irish Design Shop’s mohair throw comes in three fluffy shades of poppy, rowan or azure. Make sure to bring the throws indoors when the rain clouds loom.
Adding a few dinner candles, a tablecloth, or even just some fancy glasses to your table is an easy way to shake up your monotonous mealtimes.
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