The Facts About Outdoor Furniture

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It is finally — gloriously — summer, and I’m ready for some serious patio time. To see what’s great on the lanai this year, I asked my friend Gavin Duke of Page Duke Landscape Architects to answer a few questions about furnishing the perfect outdoor life.

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MS: Let’s start with brands. What are your favorites, and in what materials?

GD: I like to start at Munder Skiles, which has such a great selection of both teak and and iron. It’s all long lasting with thoughtful design. I also specify a selection of Brown Jordan that is cast aluminum and very durable with a classic look. The Janus et Cie brand is a go-to for a medium price range that is comfortable and doesn’t break the bank. They have really nice chairs and chaise selections.

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MS: What day-to-day decor do you recommend outdoors?

GD: I like old-fashioned spring iron chairs. I recently found some 1930s iron chairs covered with rust, and had them sandblasted and powder-coated with a French blue, and added pillows. These are so fun just to sit in and rock slightly, and listen to the morning birds as the sun comes up. So, I recommend chairs outside and devices inside, so you can reconnect with nature.

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MS: Beyond tables and chairs, what other pieces should we be considering?

GD: Umbrellas. These are much-needed with sun conditions and creating safe zones for shade when there is no natural vegetative cover. We use the Tuuci line for cantilevered setups. It maximizes the space and you are not always tripping over or trying to maneuver around the umbrella. Another is planters. They bring a lot of life to the summer garden, especially when they feature citrus and are underplanted with plumbago or some other annuals.

MS: What’s the most common mistake people make when buying outdoor furniture?

GD: Buying too cheap. Cheap furniture usually ends up lasting three years and then needs replacing. Sometimes the medium to most expensive choice will actually end up costing less in the long run.

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MS: What is an easy way to dress up your outdoor space for entertaining?

GD: There are little things that can make a big difference. We like to use candles piled on the terrace, tables, and our candelabras. It adds a bit of life to an evening party. Party string lights add a festive layer while also providing a safe way to move around at low light levels. Cushions in colorful colors added to seating and walls add comfort and a visual pop.

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MS: What’s new and exciting on the patio these days?

GD: We get a lot of request for fire pits. It seems people want to gather around a fire, and s’mores for the kids keeps them busy while the adults are running to refill the wine glasses. The other is home gardening. We do a lot of raised planter box gardens so fresh food is available — providing the squirrel population doesn’t get to them first. Nothing beats fresh herbs for a recipe, or fresh tomatoes added to a salad. Yum!


Mary Spalding is a Nashville based interior designer with over 30 years of experience. She has overseen countless home revitalizations, renovations, and restorations. She can be reached with your projects and ideas at mary@spaldingway.com.

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