Outdoor Furniture Ideas: A Guide to Materials and Fabrics

This summer, you’re probably looking forward to some well-deserved R&R on comfortable backyard furniture (you’re not alone). While outdoor furniture is designed to withstand the elements, some types of outdoor furniture hold up better in different climates. Do you have the right type for your weather conditions? We’ve got you covered. Here are a few ideas to help you decide.

1. Contemporary: Aluminum

aluminum chairs around a table showing outdoor furniture ideas

When it comes to outdoor furniture materials, aluminum represents durability at its best. Unlike steel or iron, aluminum doesn’t rust or get easily damaged when exposed to moist or salty outdoor air. It also doesn’t crack or dry out when exposed to the sun. Keep in mind that as a lightweight material, it isn’t wind resistant and may not be ideal for areas prone to high winds. Aluminum also retains heat easily, so it isn’t recommended for hot climates.

Aluminum offers superior malleability, meaning aluminum outdoor furniture comes in all sorts of fun designs. It’s also easy to clean, easily recycled, and extremely lightweight, making redecorating and storage a breeze. Plus, it’s extremely affordable. I’d say aluminum provides the best value for the money.

2. The Classic: Wrought Iron

Wrought iron chair and table

Sturdy and timeless, there’s a reason why wrought iron outdoor furniture has been around for centuries. It comes in countless styles, from classic Victorian to the contemporary designs popular today. Given the hard material, it helps to add cushions for comfort. I love how versatile and durable wrought iron is: you can repaint it or switch out pillows seasonally, and it will give you years of use.

This material is extremely heavy and weather resistant – avoid placing wrought iron furniture directly on your lawn since it can’t be easily moved for mowing. Keep in mind that the paint on wrought iron can chip, so if you decide to paint it, keep extra on hand for touch-ups down the line. Cleaning is easy – just use a damp cloth.

3. The Ageless Beauty: Wood

Teak wood chairs showing different types of outdoor furniture ideas

If you’re looking for outdoor furniture ideas that bring a sense of effortless charm, you can’t go wrong with wood. While all wood isn’t the same, hardwoods in particular are exceptionally durable. And unlike metal, wood doesn’t absorb heat from the sun, making it a perfect option for hotter climates. I love decorating my wood furniture with fun, colorful pillows that can be switched out seasonally.

When taken care of properly, wood can last a long time – but it is higher maintenance than other furniture materials, requiring regular sealant for weatherproofing. It can also splinter and should be stored indoors during snowy or rainy weather since it absorbs water, causing it to swell.

4. Easy Care: Plastics and Polymer

Plastic lounge chair in garden

Probably the most affordable of all outdoor furniture materials, plastic is also completely waterproof and extremely lightweight – perfect for frequent rearranging and redecorating of your outdoor area. This makes plastic an excellent option for coastal regions with frequent exposure to saltwater and areas with high levels of rain, though plastic isn’t suited for high-wind locales.

Plastics and polymers come in a variety of colors and can be painted to resemble other materials such as wood – giving you a variety of outdoor furniture ideas to choose from. I love that you can leave this type of furniture outdoors all year long, maintenance is minimal, and it’s generally strong enough to handle roughhousing from the kids or grandkids.

5. Added Decor: Fabrics

Wooden bench with fabric cushion and pillows showcasing outdoor furniture types

When choosing fabrics to mix up your outdoor furniture ideas, keep in mind that natural fibers tend to break down fast. Instead, opt for fabrics made from synthetic thread, infused with plastic. Not only do they hold their color longer, but they’re more resistant to extreme weather changes. Acrylic fabric is great because it’s mold and mildew resistant and holds up against wear and tear.

If you’re considering foam furniture, think about how well it holds its shape while still providing comfort. It should also be able to dry quickly to prevent mildew and moisture damage. The best choice for wet environments is dry fast foam, also called open cell foam.

Mix Up Your Outdoor Furniture Ideas

Outdoor picnic table with mixed furniture types of wood and metal

Can’t decide which of these outdoor furniture ideas you love most? Don’t be afraid to mix and match different outdoor furniture materials. Wrought iron and wood, or aluminum and plastic look great together. You can also explore other furniture types not covered here like wicker or mesh. Whatever inspires you to go out and enjoy a little more time in your backyard, I’m all for it!

What are some of your favorite materials for outdoor furniture? Let us know in the comments below.