Outdoor Furniture Buying Guide

There’s many articles on the internet and in books and magazines giving us advice on how to purchase new Outdoor Furniture. How to get the right type or material for your garden. We’ve written many ourselves. So, I wanted to come at it from a slightly different angle. Use our industry expertise and experience to highlight some of the common mistakes that shoppers make when buying new outdoor furniture. A sort of guide to the wrong way to go the right way if that makes sense?!

Outdoor Furniture Buying Guide
Our Frances Outdoor Furniture Set with the upgraded Kate Chairs and Stone Parasol

As the old saying goes “good judgement comes from experience and experience comes from poor judgement”. Many of these are mistakes that myself and many of the Lazy Susan team have made over the years. Others we’ve gleaned from open dialogue with our customers, comments on our blog, social media etc. And let’s face it, we’ve all experienced buyers remorse, with everything from clothing to furniture. Hopefully, this post will help you make the right outdoor furniture purchase first time and save you from ‘buying twice’!

The Common Outdoor Furniture Buying Mistakes

The list below isn’t in any specific order, it is just some of the more common mistakes that we’ve all made in the past. We’ll run through them in more detail. Hopefully we can impart a little wisdom from our many years in the outdoor furniture industry. After all, it is a big ticket purchase, especially if you’re opting for one of the larger 8+ seater outdoor dining sets. These mistakes will hopefully double as up as questions you need to ask before you click ‘buy’ in the Lazy Susan Shop or elsewhere. We’re starting with 14 but that’s not to say we won’t add more as we think of them or you ask them. Any you’ve made and would like to share, please drop them in the comments:

  1. Not Measuring Properly
  2. Outdoor Furniture Too Big
  3. Outdoor Furniture Too Small
  4. Uncomfortable
  5. Wrong Type
  6. Wrong Style
  7. Wrong Material
  8. Not Shopping Around
  9. Not Doing Your Research
  10. Not Checking Customer Reviews & Testimonials
  11. Not Reading The Small Print
  12. Not Buying Outdoor Cushions
  13. Not Considering Storage & Proper Protection
  14. Buying The Latest Fade Material Or Style

1. Not Measuring Properly

Lazy Susan Dimensions for a 210 x 150cm Garden Table
Lazy Susan Dimensions for a 210 x 150cm 8 Seater Garden Garden Table

I’ll start with probably the biggest mistake. A one most of us have made. Not just with outdoor furniture, inside the home this is very common too. Buying pieces without measuring, thinking they’ll fit, only to find out they don’t once delivered.

Outdoor furniture is best framed on a patio or decked area. It is OK on a lawn for a day or so but never leave it long term as there’s just too much moisture (and nobody wants yellowing grass). So, ensuring it fits on a patio area, is essential. Overhang is a big design no no. It must fit and function on the space, and by that I mean you need to leave room for guests to move around, pull out chairs etc.

The key rule here is to measure carefully, and then measure again. Always, double check the numbers. Measure twice. Get help, don’t do it on your own too, and write down the dimensions of the available free space, making notes/taking measurements of any obstructions such as a BBQ or planters. Plan/sketch it out to scale on a piece of graph paper if need be.

The space requirements that we recommend are illustrated in the diagram above. We say to our customers, as a general rule, you should allow for a minimum of 75cm on each side of the table so that you have sufficient room to sit and for the chair to be pulled out with ease. Personally, I would probably even up that to 1m if you can. I like to push my chair back.

Start by measuring the free space you have available on your patio or deck area. Then using the dimensions of the garden table set you wish to purchase, work out the clearance you have, the free space around the patio when the set is in situ. 

You want people to sit down and get up easily from their seats, so you need to leave 75cm or more between your table and the edge of your patio. Or the area of free space on your patio if you have other items on there such as planters etc. If there are other items on the patio, such as containers, BBQ’s or other pieces of outdoor furniture for example, then alway start your measurement from the edge of those items and not the edge of the patio.

It might sound a little odd, but at Lazy Susan we always advise our customers that before you buy, grab some old cardboard boxes or sheets, and use them to mark out the table size on your patio. It will give you a true sense of space and flow on the patio. Measure the pieces out to the dimensions of the table, even cut to approx. shape if need be, and then place them where the table/chairs will go. This will help you to better visualise the space it will take up and see exactly what clearance you have.

2. Outdoor Furniture Too Big

Linked to the above but this just might be the most common mistake of them all. It happens when you don’t measure the free space you have available. Our larger dining sets look stunning but if you go 8 seater plus you need a big footprint free/available. Photographs can be deceptive, and even if you were to view in our showroom, it can often look smaller than it really is in such a large open plan space.

Your outdoor space needs to work, so as per the previous mistake, make sure you measure for table, chairs and space to move round once in situ. However, this mistake is more than just about measuring (or not) the available free space, it is critical you pay attention to scale.

Any new garden furniture set should be the same scale as other pieces in the garden so it doesn’t seem too big or too small placed alongside the rest of your outdoor items, and that includes garden building, shrubs, trees etc.

Think of the the whole space. It needs balance!

Too big a set and it can dominate your patio or garden. You want a space that functions much like any room inside the home. A space that flows and is easy to move around, appealing on the eye. Too big and it will look cluttered and uninviting.

A good rule of thumb is that minimum of between 75cm and 1m of clearance between garden furniture and any adjacent items such as walls, edges of decking/patio, planters etc. This will give you that all important ease of movement around the space, and balance and scale with the entire patio design/layout.

3. Outdoor Furniture Too Small

It’s not just too big. Too small can be just as big a mistake as pieces too big. Small sets on a large patio can become lost. The key to any successful home design, be it inside or outside you property, is cohesion, that balance and scale I mentioned. The space should feel balanced, and you outdoor furniture part of it. Of course there are many a design tricks such as ‘sectioning’ larger spaces. But again, think scale, what looks pleasing to the eye.

A small cosy corner of the garden is perfect for a small bistro set. However, that bistro set on its own on a large open patio could look lost. If you do have the luxury of space, then think of a few sets that perform different functions. Pair a more relaxed garden sofa with an outdoor dining set for example. You want your patio to function on a number of levels if you can.

The best way to help visualise before you buy is to utilise one of the many free garden planning apps such as iScape. With Augmented Reality (AR) and by simply uploading an image of your outdoor space, it will help you plan and visualise the end result. You can add in all the design elements from boarders to your new outdoor furniture. It is perfect for getting a feel for the layout, scale and flow. Essential if you’re working with a blank canvas or radically changing the design/layout of your outdoor space.

4. Uncomfortable

Forgetting about function and buying based on aesthetics is a very common mistake. With all furniture, not just outdoor, we are often sold on the style. However, regardless of how great the piece looks in your garden, remember that you’ll have to sit on it for a good few years to come.

This is a mistake I know all too well. I purchased a modular rattan sofa set in 2010, pre-working for Lazy Susan. It looked stunning, modern, clean lines, dark brown poly-rattan with cream cushions. We bought it from a large DIY chain that will remain nameless, so I could of tried before we buy’d. I didn’t. It was exactly what we were looking for in terms of looks. Got it home, unboxed sat on it and it was awful.

Now the cushions weren’t of great quality but they weren’t the main problem, although they didn’t help. The boxey design looked great but it meant when you sat down you couldn’t really recline, sit back, it was just too uncomfortable on your back and thighs. It just didn’t work at all. I think we replaced it the following summer if memory serves me correct, £400 wasted, and lesson learned.

Madison Table with April Chairs
Our Madison Table with April Chairs is the perfect al fresco dining combination.

The Lazy Susan Chair collection is designed to be ergonomic, and is shaped to the natural curves of the body. Even without our additional seat cushions (more of those later in this post) they can be sat on for many hours as they provide the correct support where it is needed. More formal than a garden sofa, they are designed specifically for outdoor dining, and that means sitting at our garden tables for an afternoon or longer. When it comes to comfort, think purpose!

5. Wrong Type

That last line above leads in nicely to the next mistake on our list…

When I say ‘think purpose’, I’m referring to the type of pieces you purchase, be it garden sofa, outdoor dining, sun lounger, garden bench, 2 Seater, 6 Seater and so on. How do you want to use your outdoor space? Is it for a spot of al fresco dining or kicking back when the sun shines?

If you have a large garden, then it could be you purchase multiple pieces to serve those different functions. If space (or budget for that matter) is limited, then you need to shop a little smarter. Get pieces that allow you to make the most of your garden, get the most enjoyment from it.

6. Wrong Style

Style isn’t as common a mistake as type (above) and material in the section below. However, I wanted to include it in this article as it does crop up.

Most consumers have a clear style in mind, and to be honest options are sort of limited in our industry, is it classical or modern? They do blur though, and style rules can be broken if you have a clear aesthetic in mind. For example, a traditional home can be given a twist with modern furniture, and vice versa.

That said, our advice with outdoor pieces is to choose a style that ‘fits’ with your home. If in any doubt, play it safe. I think that is why our classically styled sets massively outsell our modern. They are better suited to the styling of homes and gardens in the UK. Your home, and the pieces you have inside should dictate what goes outside. You have to have a designers eye to mix different styles, it can look incredible, but is very easy to get wrong.

Your outdoor furniture should coordinate and complement the style of your home and the rest of your furniture. It should also be a style you’re comfortable with, one you can live with for several years, and most importantly won’t date.

The bulk of our collection is classically styled, but modern can be retro too, take the 60’s/70’s styled pieces that are incredibly popular at the moment. They are modern in look but have been around for a number of decades, and for good reason. Well designed pieces don’t go out of style!

7. Wrong Material

Now material on the other hand is a much more common mistake than style.

Much like buying pieces that look good but are uncomfortable to sit on, people purchase a piece based on look without researching what it is made from. Different materials have their advantages and disadvantages. Some require significantly more maintenance than others to keep them looking good for example. Some are too heavy to pick up and move around the garden if needed.

Think about how you want to use your furniture and look at the pros and cons of each material.

We have chosen to construct our collection from cast aluminium as it is a great all rounder, perfectly suited to the climate in the UK. It has a protective painted coating so it won’t rust or rot. It is light enough to pick up but not so light that it will blow over. And most importantly, it is very easy to maintain. You can leave it outside and all it will need is a wipe down with warm soapy water every now and again.

We looked at the pros and cons of different materials in our recent Garden Furniture 101 post, so please give that one a read too.

8. Not Shopping Around

I think this goes for any big ticket purchase, but it is often overlooked in our industry. For some reason we wouldn’t dream of buying a new sofa on impulse, but outdoor furniture sets, many of us have made the mistake of not shopping around.

Shopping around isn’t just about looking for the lowest price too. Yes, of course the price is important, but there is a host of other factors you need to think about. You’re not just comparing the price of the same item at a different price. The only place you can buy Lazy Susan outdoor furniture is from Lazy Susan.

Shopping around will answer questions you didn’t even know you had. It will form the basis of researching the market. It will help you find the outdoor furniture that is perfect for you. Make an informed purchase. And most importantly it won’t make you fall into any of the other common mistakes listed in this article.

9. Not Doing Your Research

I can’t stress the importance of doing your research enough. You could be mistaken for thinking this is the same as shopping around, but I would advise you to dig a little deeper.

Shopping around is the starting point. Find out the pros and cons of different outdoor furniture materials. The advantages and disadvantages of different types of outdoor furniture. The Lazy Susan Blog for example is packed with impartial tips and advice, that’s why we started it.

The leading home and garden magazines/websites regularly feature articles that look at the latest styles, what works, what’s hot etc too. All of this can be done from the comfort of your own home. Get on the internet and do a little research before you buy. If the final purchase decision you make is an informed one, then you know you’re getting pieces that are right for you, your garden, and they’ll last for many a summer to come.

10. Not Checking Customer Reviews & Testimonials

At Lazy Susan we pride ourselves on the quality of our products and service. Our Customer Testimonials are testament to that.

“We received excellent advice on the products over the phone, and then were welcomed at the warehouse to see and choose the products. At all times, the staff were extremely helpful and a minor problem was resolved very quickly. The furniture range available at Lazy Susan was by far the best range I’d found anywhere and the quality seems very high. The company is impressive – it’s so rare to find a company which seems to get everything right (products, price, service), so I would certainly recommend Lazy Susan to others.”

Louise Ford

The high number of customers who send us Photographs of their new Lazy Susan outdoor furniture in situ further illustrates this, and for me, is a great way of truly showing what you’re getting. Untouched, real photos of our furniture.

Before you buy online, you need to know you’re buying from a reputable source. We’ve covered this in much more detail in our Safe shopping online with Lazy Susan post. Make sure you give it a read as that article took an in-depth look at how we can help alleviate any fears you may have when it comes to safe shopping online for outdoor furniture.

11. Not Reading The Small Print

When shopping online it is vital that you’re aware of the refund or returns policy, and that that said policy is fair. The likes of eBay and Amazon have detailed complaints or dispute handling processes in case something goes wrong. You’re buying from pictures, there’s an element of trust involved. 

That’s why here at Lazy Susan our testimonials are so important. They’re from real customers, they validate what we are saying about our furniture. However, if you’re not happy. You need to know that you can return, quibble free.

At Lazy Susan our policy is clearly outlined in the Delivery & Returns section of our main shop website. We also have a range of procedures and assurances in place, to ensure that buying from us is simple and hassle free:

Price Promise

The Lazy Susan Furniture Price Promise is to match any furniture price that is exactly the same as ours. We will require proof of the offer, as well as photographs to show it is exactly the same as our product. 

Guarantee

Even after your purchase with Lazy Susan, we pride ourselves on our after-sale service; offering a 12 month guarantee on all our furniture in the rare event of any design or manufacturing related damage after your purchase.

One Year Guarantee

As a relatively small company within the furniture industry we are able to closely monitor the quality of our products and customer service throughout the purchasing process. 

In order to maintain our reputation as a trusted, customer-centric company, we offer all customers a 1 year guarantee on all our furniture in the rare event of any design or manufacturing related issues.

Warranty

Please simply complete our Warranty form to receive your 12 month Lazy Susan warranty. 

Once the form has been completed, your details will be added to our special warranty database and your purchase will be covered 12 months from the delivery. This includes any structural damage and naturally occurring paint damage.

Unlike many of our competitors, if you are not happy with the products or service, just give us a call and talk to one of the Lazy Susan team.

We’re open Monday to Friday, office hours are 9am to 5pm. We’re always happy to talk through any concerns you may have. We want to ensure you are 100% happy with your Lazy Susan furniture.

Yes we make mistakes, we’re only human, but as our customer testimonials illustrate, we’re fully committed to service and take pride in customer satisfaction and high-quality products. 

So, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to call us on 01243 717197 or email us via our Contact Form.

12. Not Buying Outdoor Cushions & A Parasol

I said we’d come back to this one. It is another common mistake many people make. We see it often. Customers order our furniture, and then come back to us a month or so later to order Seat Cushions and a Parasol.

Outdoor Furniture Buying Guide
Our Seat Cushion Pads

That’s not to say our seats are uncomfortable. They’re ergonomic and designed for outdoor dining as we discussed earlier in this post. Sitting for an extended period of time. However, you will significantly up that comfort with seat cushions.

While a parasol on the other hand will help keep the sun off you and out your eyes, extending the time you can site and enjoy that BBQ. Not only that, I personally think they ‘finish’ our furniture, up the look if you like.

13. Not Considering Storage & Proper Protection

Garden furniture isn’t cheap, so if you don’t want to be replacing it every few years, spend a little money up front on the right protection ig you can’t store in a shed or garage during the winter months. Keep it clean, keep it dry, and it’ll last for many a summer to come. If you can’t store inside, get a good cover!

14. Buying The Latest Fad Material Or Style

The final mistake is another that I myself made with that poly-rattan sofa set. At the time they were the latest must have fad. However, the problem with that, aside from the fact it was awful to sit on, is that they date.

I don’t know about you but if I am paying £300+ for a set of new garden furniture, I don’t want to have to replace it in a few years because it has dated or gone out of style.

Go for classical quality is my, slightly biased I’ll admit, advice.

Your furniture should fit your lifestyle, not only now but in the foreseeable future. Keep the styling simple. Look for furniture that is classically styled. And that doesn’t have to mean traditional. Many modern styles are what we call a design classic, in that they have a clean contemporary look but they’ve been around for a number of decades.

As the fashion designer, Yves Saint Laurent said “fashions fade, style is eternal”. Now he was talking about clothing but the same is also true when it comes to furniture.

The Lazy Susan collection, be it our Modern or more traditional styled pieces all retain a clean classical style that will not date. Go for outdoor furniture that is not only built to last, but will still look good in ten years time.

That spontaneous purchase for the latest fads and trends can turn into costly mistake. Make a considered purchase, if you see something in a DIY store don’t just buy on impulse.

Do your research and check the measurements, materials it is made from and most importantly, visualise that furniture in situ on your patio. If you know you’re going to love it for many a summer to come, and you’re sure you’re not making any of the mistakes in this article, then buy it. 

If you have any questions before you make a purchase from Lazy Susan, then please don’t hesitate to Contact Us.

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