Weather Beaters

Great Values in Outdoor Furniture

Today’s outdoor furniture is available in more-complex, weather-resistant configurations than it was 4 years ago. Meanwhile, the variety of available fabric coverings has expanded in all price ranges.

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What’s one of the most creatively designed rooms in today’s homes? It might just be the outdoor one that’s on the deck, patio or porch.

Thanks to progress in water- and sun-resistant materials, your so-called outdoor room might include previously fragile products, such as more-detailed rugs, wall art and electronics. Outdoor rugs, which are available from dozens of manufacturers and start at $100 for a 5-by-7-foot size, now use olefin and seagrass, which are fibers that we believe dry faster and are more fade-resistant than are the fibers that we saw on the market 4 years ago. Wall art now is printed on aluminum composites, copper and other metals. We’ve seen these pieces, and the metals improve the art’s resistance to dirt and rain.

Big-screen outdoor TVs have hit the market in the past 2 years. These TVs are engineered with weatherproof plastic resin or aluminum exteriors that protect interior components from rain, dirt and insects. The TVs start at $2,000 for a 32-inch LCD model to $6,500 for a 55-inch screen and are about twice as expensive as their indoor counterparts are.

And the range of weatherproof furniture and other outdoor products that manufacturers produce has expanded rapidly. Prices haven’t changed in the past 4 years, but all of the experts with whom we spoke expect prices to climb by $20 to $100 in the year ahead. Even traditional products will increase in price, as the costs of cotton and steel continue to rise.
FORM AND FUNCTION. When it comes to the shape of deep-seating furniture, you have more choices today than ever before, if you can afford to pay a premium price. Deep seating—seating that has cushions that are at least 8 inches thick—has evolved beyond chairs, love seats and sofas in the past 4 years to include large, modular L-shape sectional sets of three to nine pieces.

These sets began to hit the market in 2007, but now 15 manufacturers have modular outdoor collections. The latest setups include corner pieces and armless chairs, which are traditional indoor pieces that have migrated outside in the past year. Accent tables and ottomans that provide additional storage, seating and serving space also are included. You can expect to pay about $1,500 for a three- or five-piece set and up to $6,500 for an eight- or nine-piece set, which is roughly the same as comparable indoor sets.

In addition to L-shape sectionals, U-shape crescent configurations—another indoor idea—are available from 12 manufacturers. These curved configurations allow groups of people to sit together in a semicircle cluster, and they cost roughly the same as do modular L-shape groupings of the same number of pieces.

Motion, of course, always has been a staple of outdoor furniture, but now even today’s high-fashion deep-seating pieces include motion of some kind. In addition to single-seat gliders, glider rockers and swivel rocker club chairs, you now can find love-seat gliders that cost about $300 more than nongliding love seats do. Premium models (those over $1,500) typically now have operating handles that are “hidden” by being incorporated into the arm of the seating.

Most outdoor-seating manufacturers now offer sets that include chairs that glide or swivel, and the feature adds about $250 to $300 to the price of a typical $500 chair. That’s a pretty hefty markup, considering that indoor gliding chairs are only about $100 to $150 more expensive than are nongliding models. The retailers and manufacturers with whom we spoke expect outdoor gliding chairs to become more common in the next 2 years, but outdoor gliders still will be $150 to $200 more expensive than are their nongliding counterparts.

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