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2021 Trend Report: Outdoor Living Space is "More Valuable Than Ever Before"

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Ingrid

Mar. 07, 2024
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HIGH POINT, N.C., March 3, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Volumes of scientific research prove the physical and mental health benefits of spending time in nature. And, while the COVID-19 pandemic has kept the majority of us at home for the past year, 90 percent of Americans with outdoor living space have been taking greater advantage of their decks, porches and patios, and consider their outdoor living space is more valuable than ever before.

ICFA 2021 Outdoor Trend Report Data

According to an exclusive January 2021 survey conducted for the International Casual Furnishings Association, people are doing more relaxing, grilling, gardening, exercising, dining, playing with pets and children, and entertaining outside.

"In normal times, outdoor spaces are areas of recreation for ourselves and our families, yet today we need them for restoration for our bodies and minds," said Jackie Hirschhaut, vice president of the American Home Furnishings Alliance and executive director of its outdoor division, the International Casual Furnishings Association.

The survey also revealed that nearly six in 10 Americans (58%) plan to buy at least one new piece of furniture or accessories for their outdoor living spaces this year. This significant and increasing percentage of planned purchases is likely due, at least in part, to the amount of time we are spending at home due to COVID-19, as well as social distancing regulations, and the proven health benefits of exposure to nature. Atop the list of Americans' planned purchases are grills, fire pits, lounge chairs, lighting, dining table and chairs, umbrellas, and sofas.

Top 2021 Trends for Outdoors: (Images and Captions)

Youth Will Be Served Al Fresco. 
Millennials are reaching the perfect age to entertain, and they are determined to do it in a big way, with new outdoor pieces for the new year. Over half of Millennials (53%) will be buying multiple pieces of outdoor furniture next year, compared to 29% of Boomers.

Can't Get No Satisfaction.
With a clear majority of Americans with outdoor spaces saying they're dissatisfied with these spaces (88%), it stands to reason they'll want to upgrade in 2021. Of those who have an outdoor space, two in three (66%) are not completely satisfied with its style, nearly three in five (56%) are not completely satisfied with its function, and 45% are not completely satisfied with its comfort.

Hosts with the Most.
Entertaining-minded Millennials are selecting traditionally "indoor" pieces for their outdoor spaces. Millennials are more likely than Boomers to have a sofa or a sectional (40% vs. 17% Boomers), a bar (37% vs. 17% Boomers) and décor such as rugs or throw pillows (25% vs. 17% Boomers) on their shopping lists.

Party First, Earn Later.
Judging by their wish lists, it is no surprise that Millennials are more likely to upgrade their outdoor oases out of a desire to entertain than their older counterparts (43% vs. 28% Boomers). What is surprising, however, is the pragmatism with which Millennials are approaching their property. Nearly a third of Millennials (32%) want to renovate their outdoor spaces to add value to their homes, compared to just 20% of Boomers.

Renovation Nation.
Those who plan to give their outdoor spaces a makeover know what they want. Outdoor lighting (52%), lounge chairs or chaises (51%), a fire pit (49%), and a dining table with chairs (42%) top the lists of those who want a refurbished outdoor living area.

The Fun in Functional.
Americans do not just want their decks, patios and porches to be aesthetically pleasing showpieces, they want to get real use out of them. Over half of Americans (53%) want to create enjoyable and functional space. Other top reasons include the ability to entertain (36%) and to create a private retreat (34%). Only a quarter want to upgrade their outdoor spaces to add value to their homes (25%).

Put Your Feet Up.
While building equity is great, most Americans are more interested in building spaces that work for them now. Three-quarters (74%) of Americans use their patios for relaxation, while nearly three in five use them for socializing with family and friends (58%). Over half (51%) use their outdoor spaces for cooking.

"At the beginning of 2020, we were focused on creating outdoor spaces that complement our homes and lifestyles," said Hirschhaut, "and today, we are creating outdoor spaces that supplement our sense of wellbeing and transform an outdoor area into an outdoor room."

The research was conducted by Wakefield Research on behalf of the American Home Furnishings Alliance and International Casual Furnishings Association among 1,000 nationally representative U.S. adults ages 18 and older between January 4 and 8, 2021.

The International Casual Furnishings Association, a subsidiary of the American Home Furnishings Alliance, based in High Point, N.C., represents more than 100 manufacturers and distributors of outdoor furniture and accents, along with retailers, independent sales representatives and suppliers to the industry. For a downloadable version of this press release, as well as the hi-res images shown here, please visit the News page of www.icfanet.org.

SOURCE International Casual Furnishings Association

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Should I buy expensive or cheap outdoor furniture?

Avleen M.

Published on 2 Nov 2021

From outdoor lounges to garden benches, outdoor furniture can be so expensive. Instead of focussing on price, it's a better indicator of quality to look at the materials used. Also consider the garden furniture's suitability for your climate and unique outdoor area, its comfort, support, and how often you'll realistically use it.

Why is outdoor furniture so expensive?

Since garden furniture is designed to be left outdoors 24/7, it needs to hold strong against inclement weather like harsh sun, rain and wind.

This resilience to all sorts of outdoor weather is a non-negotiable. Poor quality outdoor furniture will turn into junk fast - it can rust, corrode, fade, get mould on it, or fly away in the wind.

To avoid this, the materials must have naturally weather-resistant properties. Furniture is then treated for extra protection against the elements, e.g. through powder coating or UV stabilising.

Indoor furniture doesn’t need this extra step in the manufacturing process. It can use non-weather-safe materials like pine, which makes it cheaper than outdoor furniture materials to produce.

Shipping costs are higher

Since garden furniture is big and bulky, delivery is expensive if you're buying online. Even delivering a small 3-piece lounge set from a local retailer can cost upwards of $100.

Picking up your furniture from the store directly is cheaper; just make sure you have enough boot space and a passenger to help you convey the furniture into your car.

What is the average price for patio furniture?

We did some research on the price range of commonly bought furniture items sold by four popular retailers - IKEA, Mimosa and Marquee outdoor furniture (both Bunnings brands), and Harvey Norman.

Product & StoreIKEAMimosaMarqueeHarvey NormanOutdoor dining chair$17 - $129$45 - $249$8 - $399$149 - $599Outdoor table$21 - $349$70 - $1,369$20 - $319$399 - $3, 099Outdoor dining set (outdoor table and chairs)$55 - $1, 303None$99 - $199$599 - $5, 699Outdoor lounge setting$368 - $1, 559$349 - $3, 069$159 - $399$699 - $4, 999Single cushion$1 - $69All $19$29 (only one cushion sold)$19.95 - $49

Prices current at 29/10/21.

Top Tip - Look at materials, not at price

Based on our research on the websites of the above four retailers, we found that price is often a good indication of the quality of materials used in garden furniture - but not always.

A more reliable way to gauge durability is to look at a garden set's specs to see what it's really made of. This means if you want to scout for a good deal, you may be able to find decent quality materials at a more affordable price.

Here are some materials that are commonly cheap or expensive, and an explanation of whether they are long-lasting or not.

Cheaper materials

Resin/plastic

Plastic or resin is cheap and cheerful - but it's also pretty resilient.

It's easy to clean, doesn't need cushions because it's soft, and doesn't require yearly treatment or maintenance. It will still be slightly pricier than indoor plastic furniture due to its weather resistant quality.

The downsides are that it can lose its shine after many hours in the sun. If you covet flair, it isn't the most stylish option.

Rope construction

Rope fabric is used on outdoor chairs. It's weaved to form the structure of a chair back and seat. Durability will depend on what the rope is made of (e.g. Olefin is resilient while cotton is unsuitable for outdoor use), and also what the chair’s frame and legs are made of.

Plain steel

On the cheaper end of the scale, this includes hollow steel tube frames. Steel, like other metals, can rust and corrode in response to water and salt in the air.

For outdoor furniture to last, steel shouldn't be plain steel, but powder-coated or stainless steel. These extra layers protect it against weather-related damage.

600D polyester cushions

Polyester is naturally water-resistant, but if it’s not coated with a special material like PVC, it can wear out fast. If the fabric has a low thread count, this is especially the case.

Most cheaper outdoor cushions are made from 600 denier polyester, which is coated on one side and does the job of resisting water well enough. Any dye will be fade and weather-resistant.

More expensive materials

A 5-piece teak dining set.A natural rattan outdoor lounge.

Teak

One of the few all-weather hardwoods, teak is a sophisticated and expensive material for outdoor furniture. Teak is extremely longwearing when regularly maintained and treated.

Synthetic rattan

This takes other names, such as resin wicker or PE wicker. Synthetic rattan is an artifical version of rattan, a natural material sourced from a vines.

Synthetic rattan is actually more durable than natural rattan (which is just as expensive - if not pricier). Resin wicker is moisture, fade and UV-resistant, and requires minimal cleaning and maintenance.

Stainless steel

This is a corrosion-resistant metal alloy that stands up strong to Mother Nature. It's heavy and robust, making it great for large, weight-bearing dining tables.

Olefin

Used in outdoor cushions, this is a synthetic material made from polyolefin. It resists water, heat, UV rays, mildew, colour fading and stains. This is a resilient material that’s also more comfortable than polyester.

Textilene

This is a woven polyester fabric covered in PVC used in more expensive outdoor cushions. The material is typically thick and resilient.

It is resistant to water, wind, mould, UV rays and fading. Some manufacturers claim it is a flame retardant, which could make it safer when using it near a firepit. It’s less comfortable than Olefin fabric.

Best bang for your buck

We found these wild card materials on both cheap and expensive furniture. They are all considered good quality materials, and you can buy them affordably if you look hard enough.

Powder-coated aluminium

Versatile and durable yet affordable, powder-coated aluminium is a top pick when it comes to outdoor furniture. It’s strong, like stainless steel, and the powder coating prevents rusting, corrosion or peeling of the metal underneath. The more layers the better, which you can preserve by avoiding harsh chemical cleaners.

Eucalyptus

While timber outdoor furniture is usually expensive, eucalyptus outdoor furniture appeared to be an exception with some brands, such as Mimosa Outdoor Furniture.

Wrought iron

The LACKO 2-piece dining set from IKEA, $115.Vintage wrought iron outdoor dining set.

Wrought iron may look thin, intricate and delicate, but it's surprsingly strong. Many pieces have a vintage look and are fairly budget friendly. Like other outdoor metals, wrought iron is best protected with multi-layered powder-coating.

However, this furniture may also use paint or clear coating for protection. This isn't as enduring as powder coating, but will still afford some protection against the elements - and bring the price down.

Shopping based on your climate

Even if a material is weather-safe and you can afford it, it should also suit your climate.

Windy weather

  • Avoid aluminium or other light furniture, for example made of plastic. It can go flying when it’s too windy.
  • If you're buying an outdoor umbrella, the more durable the better. Patio umbrellas can withstand wind - but only with a heavily weighted base, durably constructed frame and thick fabric.

Hot climates

  • Furniture made from stainless steel or other hot metal alloys retain heat. It can be dangerous to touch if furniture is left exposed to the sun.
  • Left in prolonged sunlight, some timbers may develop a patina and change colour over time. Eucalyptus, for example, develops a silver patina. Some people find it attractive; others don't.

Wet or humid climates

  • You’ll want to avoid anything made of timber. Even weather-safe hardwoods can soak in condensation. When the wood dries again, it can become cracked and warped, making the shape uneven. Yearly treatments are neccessary to maintain outdoor timber - but even this may not be sufficient if you live in a wet or humid climate.

Final tips to save money on outdoor furniture

Be flexible with the aesthetic

If you’re intent on your outdoor furniture having a certain look, you may have to pay more. If you're flexible with the aesthetic you may be more likely to snag a bargain.

Having a cohesive furniture design outdoors is arguably less important than having one indoors. Outside, it's nature rather than manmade creations that's the focal point! Furniture and decor doesn’t all have to be matching, either; variety can be eclectic and fun in an outdoor setting, and can make it feel more relaxed.

Scale down

While it may be tempting to splash out on that luxurious 9-piece dining set for all your summer alfresco dinner parties, realistically consider how often you'll get practical use you’ll get out of your purchase. Maybe you’re inspired by the idea of having a fancy outdoor entertaining space, but will actually only do it occasionally. In this case, scaling down to a smaller set-up that's suitable for your everyday household needs will save money.

Shop off-season

Garden furniture is usually cheaper in the colder months. (This trend excludes the pandemic prices of 2020 and 2021, when garden furniture was flying off the shelves in winter lockdowns). While shopping on second-hand sites like Gumtree or Facebook marketplace is appealing, you can't verify the materials used, or know how long ago the furniture was bought. This means the quality and longevity of your new garden furniture will be in question.

Wrapping up

While you may want to save some cash on your outdoor set-up, furniture that's not properly treated or made to last in all sorts of weather conditions won't last very long. However, it is possible to find resilient materials at a cheaper price if you take the time to look for them. This way, a good deal doesn't come at the cost of quality.

2021 Trend Report: Outdoor Living Space is "More Valuable Than Ever Before"

Should I buy expensive or cheap outdoor furniture?

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