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Outdoor furniture has come a long way since the days when the family gathered around a wooden picnic table plus benches in the backyard.

Much of today’s patio furniture has so much sophistication and beautiful design it looks as if it belongs inside your house instead of outside. It might even cost more than the couch, chairs and coffee table that you use in your great room. But the many great choices can make buying new furniture complicated.

Here is some advice on how to shop for today’s outdoor furniture:

1 | Remember you’re creating an outdoor living room

You want to create inviting settings to encourage outdoor gatherings of family and friends. How about a curved sofa with cushions and a dining table and chairs? If you don’t have a fireplace or fire pit to gather around, maybe you want a mini-fire pit in the middle of a coffee table or dining table, according to Nick Stelfox of Carefree Outdoor Living in the town of Carefree.

2 | You need sturdy upholstery

We may not have ice and snow, but we have a harsh climate with 85 percent of our days being sunny in both Tucson and Phoenix and even 90 percent in Yuma. Choose strong materials that won’t deteriorate or fade in summer sun and heat. For a long time, Arizona residents always bought Sunbrella fabrics known for standing up to UV-rays and monsoon storms, but now there are other textile manufacturers that also sell strong fabrics. Literally hundreds of colors, patterns and textures are available in the marketplace. Make sure you can remove cushion coverings that can be laundered gently in your washing machine or washed by hand. Ask about the quality of the foam used for cushions as well. Look for marine-grade, high density foam that will resist mold and mildew.

Arizona Iron Furniture, a Phoenix furniture manufacturer and retailer with six stores, uses Sunbrella fabrics for cushions and sews fabrics together with Tenara thread, says owner Ryan Roberts. The unbreakable thread, selling for $200 a spool, carries a lifetime guarantee.

3 | Look for tough, well-made frames

Powder-coated iron or aluminum are the most long-lasting choices for our climate. Roberts does all his designs in iron frames that carry a lifetime guarantee. Don’t buy wood for Arizona outdoor use. When you shop, you may also find out that wicker is extremely popular and can cost less. It may not last as long, but if you crave the look, go for synthetic wicker, not wicker woven from natural materials. Look for pieces from a better manufacturer and keep it covered in rainy weather.

4 | You can reupholster or replace cushions for use on your furniture frames

Even if your cushions seem indestructible and the fabric doesn’t fade or tear, you may want to replace them eventually with new patterns and colors. Arizona has many outdoor furniture stores that can arrange that. Simply bring in your old cushions to provide the measurements for your new cushions or new cushion covers. It’s not very easy to find new ready-made cushions that will fit your old frames.

5 | Quality furniture will last longer

“As a general rule, you get what you pay for,” Stelfox said. He prefers to carry familiar name brands: Tommy Bahama, Tropitone, Brown Jordan, Lane. Arizona Iron prides itself on being American-made in Phoenix.

6 | Styles are changing

The mid-century modern look seems to be one of the major inspirations for today’s outdoor furniture. Some stores say that many customers buy some of the furniture for use indoors.

7 | Important extras to think about

You’re probably going to buy an umbrella to match your outdoor furniture as well. Look for sturdy construction and heavy-duty fabric on umbrellas as well. Outdoor tables are available in many shapes and sizes and can be topped with many coverings – onyx, travertine, honed slate or even concrete. Arizona Iron can custom make them in any size.


Another possibility for your patio is a covered daybed where you can take a nap on beautiful days or sleep outside on balmy evenings. Now that’s what living in Arizona is all about.


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