If you want to spruce up your garden or BBQ area with nice seating, then choosing the right chair for the job is essential. Learn how with this quick guide to choosing the best outdoor chair for your needs.
We don’t pay enough attention to the chairs we’re using on a daily basis. Many of us figure that as long as it’s good enough to sit on, then it’s good enough to own. However, simply thinking of chairs that way robs you and your loved of hours upon hours that could be spent in better comfort.
But with outdoor chairs, it’s not as simple as just choosing the most comfy chair. A swivel computer chair is great in your office, but no way is it going on your lawn! When you subject your chairs to the elements – sun, wind, rain, dirt – you also need to consider durability, and that means choosing the right material and build.
In this article we will discuss different types of outdoor chairs and tell you about the things you need to look for so that you can find the best chair to put on your deck, in your garden or drag down to the lake for a picnic.
Without further ado, let’s get into discussing the different characteristics that make up high quality outdoor chairs.
How to Choose the Best Chairs?
Factor in Your Desired Location for the Chair
In real estate, they say that three most important things are location, location, location, and you can say the same thing about purchasing a chair.
Shopping for a chair that is going to be kept in your living room should be a completely different process from looking for a chair that you intend to use in the office. It’s important to remember that certain chairs are built to be used outdoors and they would not be quite as useful if they are kept inside your home. For the best durability and suitability for yard use, make sure you choose chairs specifically designed for the outdoors.
The number one job for every chair is to provide comfort, but they can go about doing that in different ways. Some chairs may provide comfort by serving as sturdy surfaces that people can confidently rest their body weight on knowing that they will be fully supported.
Other chairs prefer to cover you in soft cushioning so that you can lean back and relax to your heart’s delight. Which one is best for you depends a little on the feel you are trying to create – do you just want a functional space where people can have a drink and socialize, or do you want a boho chill-out zone where people can lie back stare at the clouds or stars for hours?
Design also matters just in terms of aesthetic value. If you’ve got some kind of design scheme you’re following for your home, it’s obviously important to look for a comfortable but also nice-looking chair that does not clash with that style. For example, if you have an outdoor space that has a natural aesthetic with beautiful timber and nice stonework, then plastic chairs are probably going to look tacky and out of place.
Frame Materials Make a Huge Difference
Chairs are made out of all kinds of materials and you should absolutely pay attention to the specific material makeup of whichever chair you are eyeing.
Wood & Timber. Wooden chairs are classic pieces that can look stylish anywhere you put them, but they have a tendency to break down faster than other materials especially if they aren’t well made. If your chair or bench is resting on the ground for long periods, then treated timber will protect it against rotting. Choose pieces designed for outdoor use as they are likely to be more durable than pieces that are not.
Metal. Metal chairs are prized for their durability and versatility, although they lack a certain aesthetic appeal that can make them less desirable for some folks. They also have a tendency to rust over time, which doesn’t really affect the usability so much (unless it is so bad it rusts through completely!) but it does create a really awful eyesore. Metal is durable though, so if you are prepared to paint it every now and then, then no problem, But remember, metal gets really hot in the sun, so just keep that in mind before you accidentally burn your guests rear-end at your next party.
TIP: When choosing outdoor plastic chairs make sure they are UV resistant and designed for outdoor use.
Plastic. Chairs made out of different types of plastic may not be seen by many as great additions in terms of style, but they are so customizable and cost-effective that they can’t help but be useful around your home. However, be careful when choosing plastic chairs to make sure they are designed for outdoor use. In particular, you should make sure the plastic is UV resistant; not all plastic is UV resistant and may breakdown when exposed to sun. Just because an indoor plastic chair looks durable, does not necessarily mean it can withstand sitting in the sunlight day after day.
Recycled Materials. It’s also not a bad idea to go for chairs made out of recycled material if you want to be more environmentally-conscious with your purchases. These could include anything as simple as a cushion on a milk crate, or bespoke pieces made from reclaimed timber. Just be careful that any timber is sanded back or painted to avoid splinters. As trendy as they may be, pallets are a goldmine for nasty splinters.
What Kind of Cushioning Do You Prefer?
For the most part, outdoor furniture doesn’t have cushioning built into it. And if there is any cushioning, it is usually designed to be removable. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have cushioning that you either buy or make yourself. It’s not an essential element per se, but given the choice between a cushioned outdoor chair and one without any padding, I’m going for the former each and every time.
Cushions on your outdoor chairs also adds a super cool aesthetic to your garden party or BBQ, especially when coordinated with other design elements. It’s like bringing the comfort of the indoors, outdoors.
The cushioning used for the chair you’re getting should obviously be soft, but there are other things to consider beyond that. For instance, what specific materials are used for cushioning? Is the cover durable and designed for outdoor use? Can it withstand moisture and rain, or will it go moldy and gross over time? Choose cushions designed for outdoor use, unless you plan on bringing them inside at the end of the day.
You should also take into consideration how the cushioning is wrapped up:
- Leather cushions may look good, but they can be incredibly uncomfortable on your skin once the summertime rolls around, and wont hold up very well outside. Depending on where you live, you might even have some animals try and eat your cushions. Ok, it sounds silly, but when I was in Tasmania Australia we had to keep all leather things (eg shoes) indoors at night because Tasmanian devils would take them… so it’s not unheard of.
- For comfort, I like to go for chairs that feature cotton cushions but again these aren’t the most durable for outdoor use.
- Marine canvas is designed for outdoor use and can get wet, but not necessarily the most soft and comfortable.
- Plastic and vinyl cushioning in my mind is yuk (I personally hate the feel of it against my skin) but have to admit it is quite durable.
I suggest you don’t leave your cushions outside all the time, even if they are designed for outdoor use. As I explain in our story, we live in Australia and here we have something called redback spiders. They are small black spiders and their bite can sometimes be fatal, and they love to build their nests in little nooks like those created by cushions on outdoor chairs. If you live somewhere prone to spiders or other similar nest building critters, don’t leave your cushions outside all the time.
TIP: Cushions left outside on your chairs can attract spiders and bugs. Store them indoors when not in use.
Does It Adequately Support Your Body?
When you sit down in a chair, you’re typically allowing several parts of your body to rest. To avoid having those parts of your body feel uncomfortable or even strained, they need to be supported properly. It would also be ideal if the chair you’re looking to buy provided an ample amount of back support.
Chairs that lack that important element often struggle to provide an acceptable level of comfort and you should try to avoid them if you can. While you can get away with chairs with less support for a BBQ or party, if you want to give your guests the maximum amount of enjoyment and chill out experience, then this is something you might like to consider.
Can the Chair Be Moved Around?
It’s not something people often think about, but how easily it can be moved around definitely affects the quality of the chair. Especially for a BBQ or party, expect your guests to move their chairs around while they move around and chat to people.
Portability also ties into this. Can it be packed up, like a folding chair? Or stacked? Or is it a permanent fixture like a heavy bench seat?
Having a chair that can be moved around relatively easily is not essential, but just a point worth thinking about.
How Much Weight Can It Hold?
Chairs are going to be used a lot and by a bunch of different people.
For it to be considered a quality product, it has to be capable of providing adequate support for a variety of possible users.
The good news is that most chairs are designed to hold a lot of weight. Even those seemingly flimsy chairs that get pulled out when there are guests coming over can be surprisingly strong.
Capacity is also linked to material makeup, so just make sure that high quality materials have been used in the creation of the chair you want to buy.
Withstanding Different Types of Weather
Picking out an outdoor chair does not have to be a tricky proposition. As much as possible, you should go for the all-weather chairs.
That said, it’s not enough to just put money down for an all-weather chair and then call it a day. If you want to preserve the appearance of your chair, you should still store it when you know that there’s rain coming over the next few days or if it’s the winter time and no one is really up for spending plenty of time outdoors.
Different Types of Outdoor Chairs on the Market
1. Adirondack Chairs
You may not have heard of an Adirondack chair before, but there’s a good chance you’ve already seen one.
If you live in a beach town, it’s also highly likely that you’ve sat on an Adirondack chair at least a few times before.
Adirondack chairs are styled pretty distinctly. The seat often slopes down at the back and the backrest typically features a pronounced lean.
Most of the Adirondack chairs you’ll find today are still made out of wood, but there are also those items that make use of so-called “faux lumber.” Wooden Adirondack chairs are still what I prefer, but the faux lumber ones are suitable substitutes.
2. Lounge Chairs for the Beach
Few things are as relaxing as spending a quiet afternoon at the beach. If you want to enjoy your beach weekend even further, you’ll want to have a good beach chair on hand. Not just for the beach though, you can also put these out on your lawn to lounge on.
So, what qualities should you look for in a good lounge chair for the beach? I personally prioritize portability and reclining ability when I’m out shopping for a chair to use on the beach.
The portability is important because traveling with anything bulky that takes up too much space in your car is never fun. The reclining ability is valuable because you want to soak in the sun’s rays while in a very relaxed position.
3. Outdoor Folding Chairs
Do you have an event coming up and you’re planning to set it up in your backyard? If hosting an event is indeed in your in plans, then you’ll likely need to get a hold of some outdoor folding chairs in a hurry.
When selecting folding chairs to use in your yard, you should look for the ones that can be carried around easily. In all likelihood, your guests will want to mingle with one another and it would be best if their seating did not prevent them from doing exactly that.
4. Plastic Outdoor Chairs
Cheap and surprisingly durable, basic plastic outdoor chairs can withstand the elements, are strong and stackable. You can pick them up from almost any hardware store, stack them in a corner of your shed when unused and bring them out by the tens when you have a party. They are not the prettiest to behold, but they sure are functional and not too bad for comfort either.
5. Hanging Chairs and Hammock Chairs
Hammock chairs and other hanging chairs are great choice for comfort and creating a real chill out vibe in your outdoor space. They are comfy and can add a nice design aesthetic. You will need something strong to hang them from though (a beam above a deck or a strong tree branch). To keep them in good condition, put them in a covered area or bring them in when not in use. These are more like feature pieces as they can be expensive, so you usually wouldn’t buy more than a couple.
6. Timber benches
There are all sorts of styles of timber benches for outdoor use. They can range from classic benches to a sawn off tree on the ground. Just be mindful that timber will deteriorate over time as mentioned above, so be prepared for that when you get one. This natural material in my mind is a perfect fit for the outdoors though, as timber benches with a wood stain blend into the environment much more beautifully than synthetic materials such as plastic.
7. Acapulco Chairs
Acapulco chairs are among the most visually striking pieces of furniture that you can add to your outdoor area, particularly a covered deck or patio. According to Apartment Therapy, the Acapulco chair was first produced way back in the 1950s and they also became quite popular in Mexico around that time.
It’s easy to see why the aforementioned type of chair became such a hit. Sitting down on one feels incredibly relaxing especially when the sun’s out.
In all likelihood though, you’re not getting an Acapulco chair for its ability to provide comfort. The exquisite appearance of the Acapulco chair is what many people are after. It’s a stunning design piece and one that would fit in well in plenty of homes.
All kinds of outdoor chairs are now available for people to purchase and that’s a good thing. Yes, having so many options available can make it difficult for you to find the absolute best chair for your outdoor needs, but it also means that you will have many great options to choose from.
Whether you need a chair to add to your deck or patio, or to bring out for the occasional garden party or BBQ, or even on to take on the road, you will have numerous options to consider and the chances are also high that you will end up with a great item, especially if you stick to this guide.
If you have some old furniture to retouch with some paint, make sure you know how to clean the furniture properly before painting.
This article was originally written by Jason Brown in January 2019 and updated by Sara Kooring in September 2022.