Outdoor furniture needs attention to keep it in shape

Now that the dog days of summer are (hopefully) behind us, Atlantans will be unwinding, dining and entertaining outdoors in droves. But before the relaxing begins, it’s worth examining how well the outdoor furniture weathered the summer heat and humidity.

While most materials used to create patio tables, chairs and recliners, as well as umbrellas, cushions and curtains, are strong enough to endure the elements, they also need some attention to keep them in top condition.

“Outdoor fabrics have become much more interesting, and we don’t want people to be afraid of them,” said Greg Martin, who co-owns the Westside outdoor furniture company, Kolo Collection, with his wife, Michelle Larrabee-Martin. “But nothing is bullet proof. If it gets wet and dirty, mold will grow.”

The first tactic to keeping outdoor fabrics fresh is to place them in a covered area. If they’re in the open, cover or bring them indoors when the weather is wet. “At least tip the cushions up so the water runs off,” said Martin. “But it’s better if they stay dry.”

Porch drapes and hardware should also be cleaned regularly to prevent mildew. The best option is to start with fabrics that can hold up to the weather. The Sunbrella line offers a range of outdoor materials treated to be fade- and water-resistant and easily cleaned with basic bleach.

Furniture also needs some attention. “When blowing off your outdoor space, blow off the furniture, too,” suggests Martin. “Wipe the loose dirt off regularly. If you stay ahead of it, you’ll be fine; otherwise, you’ll need to do more aggressive cleaning. And at least once a season, I get the furniture off my deck and scrub it down.”

Anna Brumby, head of her family’s Brumby Chair Company in Marietta, advises buyers of the firm’s iconic porch rockers to keep them covered if they’re in unprotected areas. “If they do get rained on, they can be wiped down with a mix of half water and half soap,” she said. “It’s also a good idea to spray them down with half water/half vinegar if you’re putting them away for the winter. That prevents mold from starting, especially if the rocker is stored in a place where there’s a lot of moisture.”

How well outdoor furniture holds up is also a factor of its makeup. While wood has long been a popular option, buyers will find other elements to choose from.

“Aluminum is one of our favorites,” said Martin. “Even if it gets scratched, it won’t rust. Coated aluminum, used in the Luxembourg chairs in the famous gardens in Paris, is very easy to maintain, won’t rust, and has a long life.”

Reclaimed materials can be turned into durable furniture. Turns out those ubiquitous plastic milk jugs make great chairs.

“You may have seen those Adirondack chairs in front of West Egg on the Westside or Empire State South in Midtown,” said Martin. “They’re heavy, durable and easy to clean. And the color extends all through, so if you scratch it, it’s less noticeable.”

Buyers who still want wood in their outdoor spaces often opt for teak, one of the most durable options. But more are now going for ipe, a South American hardwood with twice the density but a lower price tag than teak.

“Most of our customers know ipe as an interior or deck flooring,” said Martin. “It’s not quite as well known for furniture. But it’s very popular because of its strength; it holds up. And many think it has a richer look than teak, even though it will weather in the same way.”

Information about Kolo Collection is online at kolocollection.com. Details about Brumby rockers and other outdoor pieces is online at brumbyrocker.com.

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