Outdoor Decor: Choosing the Right Outdoor Furniture

When it comes to completing your deck, porch or outdoor patio, furniture is the main event. Down here in the South, y’all know we love an outdoor space! But no matter where you happen to live right now, we’re willing to bet your outdoor space is getting a lot of extra use at the moment, especially as we move into the summer months. A refresh for outdoor seating and dining, space-planning for an existing outdoor space, and choosing the right furniture items for an outside living area have been hot topics among both our commercial and residential clients as of late, and something we wanted to given attention to here on the blog (and, it gives us a good excuse to bring back a few images of our favorite outdoor projects!) So let’s retreat to the terrace and talk shop on some of the things that make for the perfect outdoor pieces.

What’s on the (outdoor) Agenda

When our team is looking at an outdoor space, one of the questions we always start with is what clients will be doing with the space. It’s great to have nice-looking furniture in your outdoor area regardless, but as we’re strategize-ing how to bring in some design TLC, functionality is always at the top of our minds. If you love to lay out on a chaise chair but you have no desire to serve meals outside, there’s not much reason to have a big outdoor dining table that will sit unused. From both a space and budget standpoint, we always emphasize what will be used and enjoyed the most, and let those items take center stage. If you’re going to splurge on certain pieces of furniture, this is where you want to do it- those work-horse items that will garner all the wear-and-tear that naturally comes along with well-loved pieces. Thinking about how you will spend your time outside and what brings you that outdoor-joy is a great place to start.

Backyard styling - By Cat French Design

Space and Place

One thing we see often with outdoor spaces is that they can be a challenge to organize. Sometimes the unintentional result is that a lot of random things get parked out there (we’ve all done it!). From couches to tables to storage- there’s a strong temptation to try to cram everything into one place. But, we know from a lot of experience that a crowded feel or having to constantly move things around whenever you go out there can be a big drain on time and energy. And let’s face it- if it’s not an enjoyable place to be, it won’t get used. Defining the areas is a good way to think about what furniture you will need, and what will serve you best in the space. This is where we see a lot of clients come to us for help. Deciding on the best type of furniture and doing some strategic planning goes a very long way to making the space functional + enjoyable. Do you want a full outdoor living area, complete with couches? Or, do you need slimmer profile seating and attractive toy storage areas for your young family? We love digging into the creative work of solving the functional problems and finding beautiful pieces that meet every need.

Cozy Screen Porch Furniture - By Cat French Design

Turning Tables (and chairs)

The right furniture can create a multi-purpose space too, if that’s what works best for you. Maybe you don’t have need of a full outdoor dining table, but a larger, more substantial coffee table would serve you well as a dual space to eat, work outside, and provide some play surface area for kids. One of our favorite examples of highly functional furniture pieces take us back to when we were designing the Tree House (read more about it here!). In this custom-designed screened-in porch, the living and dining areas are adjacent and open to each other. To make the spaces feel both defined and also connected, we included these fabulous swivel chairs, which can be turned to the fireplace and also can easily be part of the dining area when turned slightly the other way. This allows conversation and line of sight to easily flow both ways, making the spaces feel fluid. This one element does so much to enhance the usability of the space, while also building the transition from the living to the dining area in a beautiful seamless way.

Outdoor living - By Cat French Design

Trim and Fade

We can’t let the post go by without talking about outdoor fabrics and finishes, y’all, because it really is THAT important. Beautiful pieces? Absolutely! Comfort? That’s a given. But, we’re also very invested in designs that last, and by extension, pieces that will stand up to the elements. Nobody wants to see that brand new cushion fading after the first sunny week, or drag out a huge furniture cover every time there’s so much as a light rain. Performance fabrics have been around for a long time, but there have been significant improvements over the years, and they’re not all created equal. One of the things we do when we assess a client’s outdoor space is look closely at how sunlight falls on the area, and what kind of environmental exposure the furniture will get on a regular basis. Is it covered, semi-covered, or open? Is there direct sunlight part or all of the day? These are all things that matter when we’re making recommendations to our clients about how hardy that furniture material needs to be.

Screen Porch Dining - By Cat French Design

Opt(ions) Outside

There are so many looks for an outdoor space- and we love ’em all. Whether you’re a fan of the traditional wrought-iron set, a devotee of the classic outdoor wicker, or your taste is a little more modern, there actually a huge amount of choices for trim, style, and fabric- everything under the proverbial sun. The choosing of outdoor pieces can be a world all of it’s own and an investment. Whether it’s getting the look just right or finding good quality pieces- we’re here to help. When it comes to this specific area, clients love to take advantage of our Afternoon Design Session. We offer many different service levels, but this one in particular is a focused working design session that is perfect for tackling that deck, porch, or patio and making it a beautiful, finished, inviting part of your home.

Front Entry Decor - By Cat French Design

All photography by Cat Wilborne.

Looking for a bit more help with your outdoor space? You can always reach us at hello@catfrenchdesign.com or call 919.537.8148. Want to keep checking things out? See even more images from past CFD projects on our Portfolio Page or on our Instagram!