Is that garden furniture really a bargain? Things to consider before you buy outdoor items

Summer is on its way and us Brits love to get outside as much as possible as soon as we see the sun coming out from behind the clouds. This very weekend I went for a walk along the promenade as soon as the drizzle stopped. I’m really excited about the upcoming bank holiday too and hope to get out in the garden. You see, the plot around my new home is a bit of a wasteland at the moment; very overgrown and there’s no real space to enjoy the outdoors so I really want to get it sorted before the hazy days of summer arrive.So I’m planning to lay a patio (anyone know where to get some paving slabs on a budget? Please let me know if you do!) and would love to get a proper lawn sorted out. I’ll need a mower for starters and, if I want to spend my summer in the garden, somewhere to sit would be helpful. Outdoor furniture can make those long, summer days a little more luxurious and can really transform a garden into an extra room of the house. Of course, I’ve jumped ahead past all the digging straight to the fun bit! But does that red sale sign or Ebay auction really mean you’re getting a bargain piece of furniture? Here are some tips for choosing garden furniture that works for your home and lifestyle.

Think about materials

Finding a set of garden furniture that will last year after year is the most thrifty thing you can do when it comes to outdoor furniture, so it’s important to think about what it’s made of. This is particularly important for us UK folk who cannot make any safe predictions about the weather, even in summer! Besides the obvious weather-defying materials like plastic and metal, there are some other materials to consider that could last the distance, and provide a little more comfort. For example, teak is is resistant to swelling and warping, but this good-looking wood could cost you a lot more money.

At the moment I just have one of these Acapulco chairs from Cox & Cox – I’m using it in my bedroom but I’d love to have a pair to use outside in the summer too.

Another popular choice is rattan, a tightly woven plant material that can last a long time, although the individual weaves sometimes come apart and fray gradually. Similarly, other materials are used to create the same wicker effect as rattan, including bamboo or straw, although rattan is said to be the most long-lasting. And there are plastic versions available these days so, if you like this style, perhaps go for a synthetic version instead. Whichever material you choose, don’t forget that you make it more comfortable by using throws and scatter cushions from SofaSofa. Just remember to take them inside at the end of the day or if it starts raining! 

Think realistically about space

Do you have a large lawn, or a small balcony? If you’re pushed for space – make sure you get the right furniture for how you really want to use it – if you’re a serial sunseeker, a sunlounger may be more useful than a table! If you have a larger area, or host a lot of parties, you may want a table with several chairs. You may also want some extra guest chairs that can be folded away and brought out when needed. Consider how much indoor/garage space you might need to store extra pieces – there’s no need to buy that extra bench if you can’t store it somewhere, so save your money to buy a picnic set for dining outdoors instead. How often will you really be outside?

Sounds obvious, but if you host a lot of BBQs, you’ll be likely to use garden furniture a lot more than if you’re away for most of the summer. If you’re planning on hosting a lot of outdoor events, the longevity of your furniture will be more important and you might be prepared to spend more money to make sure it lasts longer. But if you’re only out in the garden a couple of times a year, investing in high-end garden furniture might be a waste of money for you. Why not look into pieces that can double-up and be used indoors too? I saw a lovely bistro table and folding chairs in Ikea that would work equally well as a breakfast spot in the kitchen during the rest of year.Don’t forget about delivery prices

When buying large items, it’s important to remember to account for delivery prices. Some online shops may have free delivery but if you’re shopping in a DIY store and can’t fit it in your car, the only choice might be to pay for delivery. If so, that red sale price tag could end up costing you a lot more. Buying second-hand from eBay can help you to bag a bargain, but watch out for the collection-only listings. If you live a long way from the seller or would struggle to collect the furniture yourself, you can use websites like Shiply to find a cheap courier so that the deal you bagged at auction remains a bargain!

I hope these tips for choosing outdoor furniture have given you some ideas for your summer garden. I can’t wait to choose some lovely seating for my soon-to-be-installed patio. Well, if you’ve got a garden (even if it’s a postage stamp plot or a balcony) you might as well make the most of the free relaxation space at home with a lounger, parasol and a magazine. And I can’t wait. All we need now is the weather!

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Cassie is a freelance writer with a Masters degree in lifestyle promotion studies. She loves to 'get the look for less' so regularly shares thrifty fashion posts, DIY interior design ideas and low-cost recipes on her blog.

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