Things that make you go hmmm: Know these answers before buying outdoor furniture

Some of our customers arrive with a tape measure and a scale diagram of their outdoor area with clearly defined prerequisites for their outdoor furniture. Others adopt a slightly more organic approach, and we tease out their needs and preferences with a series of questions. Regardless of which type of customer you are  the more thought you put into your purchase,  the more satisfied you will be long term with your decision.

So here is a list of the questions to ask yourself, to ensure you make the optimal choice for you:

What are the dimensions of your outdoor space?

A great first step is to pull out your tape measure at home and capture the dimensions you have to work with, making note of any obstacles you have to contend with. Hint: make sure you make allowances for bi folding windows and doors that open outward onto your outdoor area.

Lounging, dining or both?

If you want both, ensure you have the space to accommodate them both. For example, a 2M outdoor dining table and benches alone need a footprint of at least 2.5M X 2.0 M. 

Is an outdoor umbrella part of your master plan?

If so, know where your umbrella will be placed on your deck  and make sure it will live in harmony with your outdoor furniture pieces. Hint: cantilever umbrella bases are big- make sure your furniture pieces will fit around the base. 

Is your outdoor space a north facing sun trap?

This could impact the frame and fabric colour you choose. You may wish to avoid dark or  black furniture as it may not suit.

How will you store your furniture in off peak?

Cleaning and maintenance is the less sexy part of outdoor furniture, but one that can’t be ignored. Storage of your cushions in the off season needs to be considered. Otherwise, consider covers.

Will you add to your outdoor furniture in years to come?

If you are planning to purchase a lounge suite this year and a dining set next, make sure the set you buy is versatile enough so that other furniture will work well with this year’s purchase. 

Will your outdoor furniture stay in one spot or be moved around?

With a corner sofa, you’re committing to leaving it in one spot, whereas two and three-seater sofas and single chairs can be reconfigured more easily. 

Do you anticipate moving in the next few years?

If the answer is yes, choose a sofa set rather than the corner suite. It’s more versatile and therefore more likely to suit your next home as well.

When do you need your furniture?

Many customers underestimate the time it can take to order and receive your furniture and end up disappointed.  It’s almost never too early to start looking.If you find something you like, and often the business where you make your purchase can store it  until you need it.  

What budget do you have to work with?

Few people have unlimited budgets so prioritise what you need most. Choose a range that can be added to in future as your budget allows. You can always ask if there are any ‘seconds’ available.

Whether you are the uber-prepared customer or the ‘wing it’ buyer,  I hope these 10 questions will help ensure you make the best purchase decision for your outside space. 


Kerry is the co-owner of OutsideSpace NZ, offering a range of contemporary outdoor furniture for coastal living kiwis seeking quality product and design at an achievable price.

The earthy aesthetic is everywhere in interior design right now.

It’s best described as natural, organic and warm incorporating cotton, jute, linen, leather, wool, rope, and other woven natural fibres.  Furniture pieces are constructed with natural materials including natural wood, rattan, bamboo, and plywood. It looks effortlessly stylish and calming.

Here are some tips to successfully  transition this look into your outdoor living this NZ summer:

1. Start with the basics: outdoor-proof textiles are the unsung hero of this look  

The heavy focus on textures and textiles is integral to this look but natural materials (e.g. linen, cotton, leather) simply don’t survive outdoors in New Zealand’s climate.  Don’t despair. The better outdoor textiles are engineered for outdoor use so you can achieve the look. Don’t scrimp on quality: choose Sunbrella®  or an equally proven outdoor fabric or forgo this textile-heavy look altogether.

Sunbrella® fabric makes this earthy natural look achievable in outdoor living Source

2. Stay neutral…ish

Limiting the colour palette of your outdoor living space is a designer move and this is no different for this natural, earthy look. Adhere to a soft palette, neutral muted tones.  Grey upholstery is still highly relevant for this style, but it is now sharing the limelight with warmer tones such as bamboo and wheat and even blush. Avoid strong patterns, wide stripes, botanicals and florals. Instead,  interest is created from the textures, tones.

The earthy aesthetic is muted and tonal Source 

3. Pair it up

‘Neutrals’ doesn’t mean boring, especially when you pair up complementary tones that define this aesthetic. Pleasing combinations of include blush/sage, denim/blush, sesame/rust and blush/rust (as shown below).  Other tones that work equally well are terracotta and olive, sesame and charcoal.

Blush is part of my Sunbrella® fabric palette for the 20/21 season 

Grey shares the limelight with Sesame: another earthy combo Source

4. Don’t forget your (micro)greens.

Think small leaf plants, grasses or succulents in smaller ( not oversized) pots, Choose imperfect interesting pots with texture: terracotta or raw concrete pots, galvanised steel planters and wooden box planters all suit the look. Outdoor suitable plants such as String of Pearls, Succulents such as Echeveria ( pictured below) and grasses are also good choices.  Small space installations are more in keeping with this earthy vibe according to Gina Franich, curator of The Garden Alcove.

Small leaf microgreens and succulents in small interesting pots. Source

5. Simply natural

With so much to love with this style, it’s tempting to over-accessorise. Think minimalist and classic ensuring that your accents are truly outdoor-proof or be prepared to bring them inside when not in use. An overcrowded outdoor area doesn’t look good in any style.

Bravely minimalist version of the earthy aesthetic Source

Happy planning!

Kerry is the co-owner of OutsideSpace NZ, offering a range of contemporary outdoor furniture for coastal living kiwis seeking quality product and design at an achievable price. She believes New Zealanders can do better than buying their outdoor furniture from stores that sell lumber and paint.

She’s hoping this blog has credibility, given that she sells outdoor furniture and has an inherent bias. Hopefully what redeems her is that she refers to trends in general.


For many of us in NZ, seven intense weeks at home has instilled a newfound appreciation of how much our outdoor living contributes to our overall enjoyment of home life.

Based on the wave of post-lockdown enquiries I’ve received, it seems that many of you have found your outside living space underwhelming and are now motivated to begin its transformation.

If this sounds like you, here are 6 ‘Get and Forgets’ to bring you up to speed in the world of outdoor styling for 2020/21.

1. Get: Warm. Forget: Cool  

This season,  you’ll see the resurgence of warmer tones like taupe, terracotta, and cream.  Grey doesn’t disappear but it will share the spotlight. The industrial look of stone and granite remains highly relevant but the look has evolved from being steely cool to a kinder, warmer, earthier vibe. Less cold concrete and more warm-toned timbers and tiling.

Warm replaces cool Source

Grey Aluminium Outdoor Furniture Auckland

The warm tones of corten steel Source

2. Get: Toned and Textured. Forget: Loud and Floral

There is a heavy focus on textures this season.  Cushions are textured and tonal, and outdoor rugs are chunky. Throw rugs are substantial. The better outdoor textiles are engineered for outdoor use, so you can achieve the look. 

Textures galore in 2020/21 Source 

3. Get: Natural. Forget: Plastic

White resin moulded chairs ruled for many years in outdoor living, as they were both stylish and hardwearing. However, the movement to more a natural aesthetic has meant marine-grade steel, aluminium, and wood are re-emerging as the outdoor materials of choice in outdoor furniture. 

Even the treatment of timber decking has evolved. Timber is now more likely to be left to age or silver off naturally rather than be stained a less-than-natural looking colour. 

Note: please do your homework when choosing natural wood and other natural materials for outdoor use, or read my blog about this subject 

Natural timber deck, corten steel fire pit, aluminium/steel/timber furniture Source 

4. Get: Relaxed.  Forget: Formal 

Forget buying eight matching dining chairs with your outdoor dining table. It simply looks too formal for today’s relaxed style. Keep it casual by incorporating bench seats instead. A good multi-generational solution for older guests that enjoy the back support of a chair is to introduce outdoor dining chairs on one side of the table, with benches on the other.

Effortlessly stylish casual outdoor dining in 2020/2021 Source

If you are limited in outdoor space and must choose between dining or lounging furniture, pick lounging. Casual dining is still easily achieved using your outdoor lounge furniture. It’s harder to relax whilst sitting at a dining table.

 Casually cool in Mt Eden  Source

5. Get: Permanent cover.  Forget: Temporary shade

The holy grail of outdoor living is the outdoor room. Just cast your eye back to the images above and you’ll realise what makes many of these settings so engaging is the cover above. It completes the look and is incredibly inviting.

Many of my clients are investing in permanent outdoor cover which has the dual effect of providing shade cover and creating a brand new ‘room’ in the home. I’m often told that it quickly becomes the most popular living space in the household. 

This is often achieved via a louvre system, such as Louvretec which looks beautiful and is highly functional. Selfishly, I’m always pleased when my client has a louvred system as it extends the life of their outdoor furniture and keeps it looking gorgeous longer.

Louvretec outside space living nz

Yes please to Louvretec. Source

6. Get: Real. Forget: Perfection

Remember that the intention of refreshing your outdoor living area was to create a welcoming setting to relax and enjoy each other’s company. It’s hard to relax if everything needs to look picture perfect like an unattainable Pinterest image. 

Aesthetic and design are fundamental considerations, but your space also has to be liveable.  We’re all past trying to live like an Instagram image, as we transition squarely into an era of conscious and truly authentic living. Yes, tidy up and make it pretty when guests arrive, but relax and embrace the imperfections too. 

Outside Space Family Auckland

Real life for us

Happy planning!


Kerry is the co-owner of OutsideSpace NZ, offering a range of contemporary outdoor furniture for coastal living kiwis seeking quality product and design at an achievable price. 

Whether you want to zjoosh up your outdoor area with a few accessories or take the plunge and invest in new outdoor furniture, here’s 10 things to know about what’s trending this summer. 

1) Grey power
I love grey, and so does everyone else it seems. Grey upholstery and soft furnishings are everywhere for summer with tones ranging from Seafog to Charcoal and everything in between.  Anthracite is a new-ish frame colour popular in powder-coated aluminium furniture. It’s like a ‘gunmetal grey’ colour and is more forgiving than black. It also pairs well with timber.

grey outdoor furniture

Grey…never boring. Source


2) Accent cushions and textiles 
This year, accent cushions are subtle, classic and neutral. Instead of bright patterns and bold colours, the interest comes from their textures, subtle details, or slight variations in tone between cushions. TBH I can’t find any outdoor ones I like so I use indoor ones!

outdoor furniture cushions

Accent cushions’ interest comes from their textures and variations in tone between them. Source


3) Stylishly casual
Refreshed designs of old casual classics such as designer picnic tables are popular.  Keep it casual by pairing your dining table with bench seats rather than the requisite set of matching dining chairs (which is what our parents defer to). It looks more effortlessly stylish yet informal. 

outdoor furniture - 3 bench seats

bench seats with dining tables… casually cool.  Source


4) Greenery galore 
Large-leaf tropicals are an essential feature of outdoor settings. The Giant Bird of Paradise,(Strelitzia nicolai) is THE outdoor plant of the year. Install it with a beautiful conical pot and bang, you’ve updated your look for summer.  Get in touch with Danny’s Palms for your palms or Black House Creative who have the most perfect pots on offer.  Plus they offer botanic styling as well (meaning, they will match the perfect plant and pot for you).

outdoor furniture and plants

A dynamic duo- Giant Bird of Paradise in a conical pot.  Source


 5) Rattan, really?
Many of us haven’t recovered from the era of the Mitre 10 requisite brown square modular rattan sofa sets. However, rattan, in particular, PE rattan,  is making a comeback as a feature material for smaller pieces like occasional chairs and dining chairs. Think ‘hand-woven basketry’ rather than ‘nasty hardware store boxy’. 

rattan outdoor furniture

The return of rattan, to a point. Source


6) Well-rounded
Curves are everywhere …  round pouffes, round outdoor rugs, round side tables and coffee tables. Adding a round side table or a round rug is an easy way to update your outdoor space. Tip: best not to go overboard with round accents, it can look a little forced.   

outdoor liviing - little round table

Round is abound. Source

7) Where’s wood?
Teak and other types of wood are still popular but it tends to be mixed with other materials rather than being the sole material of outdoor furniture.  The look is less chunky and more ‘designer’.You’ll see it on more on walls, flooring and ceilings and less on outdoor furniture itself.

wood - outdoor furniture setting

Wood tends to be mixed with other materials for outdoor furniture. Source


8) Matching sets remains a no-no
You haven’t matched your handbag and shoes since the nineties. The same rule applies to your outdoor dining and lounge suites.


9) Materials: keep mixing it up  
As seen from every image in this blog, mixing and matching materials is still the rage.  Kiwis are pairing concrete tables with resin chairs, wood tables with steel frame chairs. Almost anything goes and it’s a great way of making your outdoor area uniquely yours. 


10) In the “where are they now” file
RIP….. the sun lounger. This item used to be a requisite in every outdoor space, back when the solo pastime of sunbathing was a thing. Now lounging around outside is widely recognised as a group sport and outdoor sofas and corner suites provide us with the opportunity to put our feet up and enjoy the outdoors… together. 

RIP… stainless steel outdoor furniture. This look has mostly been superseded by powder-coated aluminium/ and powder-coated steel furniture.  I am sure it will be fierce again one day, but just not this season.

Stainless steel frames have given way to powder-coated steel frames. Source


For me, my happy place is spending time outdoors, particularly in summer. If this blog gets you excited about summer and thinking about creating a comfortable outdoor space for you and your loved ones, then I’ve succeeded. 

Happy summer planning!

Kerry is the owner of OutsideSpace NZ, offering a range of contemporary outdoor furniture for coastal living kiwis seeking quality product and design, at an achievable price.  She believes New Zealanders can do better than buying their outdoor furniture from stores that sell lumber and paint.

She’s hoping this blog has credibility, given that she sells outdoor furniture and has an inherent bias.  Hopefully what redeems her is that she refers to trends in general and only reference products other than her own.  

So, you are already over our New Zealand winter and planning for the summer ahead which includes refreshing your outdoor living space with new outdoor furniture.  Instagram and Pinterest are great sources of inspiration, but they can lead the uninitiated down a dark path of regret if you buy into the fantasy without really thinking it through.  Avoid heartache, follow these five practical tips to help you make well-informed buying decisions.

1) Ask yourself, is it really outdoor furniture?
Have a good look. An outdoor setting doesn’t mean the furniture is built for outdoor use. This is relevant right now with the current trend in natural bamboo furniture. If this is a look you aspire to, ensure that the product is truly moisture resistant, as NZ’s damp climate is the number one enemy of bamboo. I love the look, and it works in some climates,  but I choose not to sell this material as I don’t want to disappoint my customers when it fails to live up to their expectations.


The product description on the website for the hanging chair above  says “Made from natural rattan so best kept undercover away from rain or indoors.” source

2) Black is the new challenge
I love Pinterest images of stylish black aluminium outdoor furniture that oozes uber cool- urban -minimalist. It also fits in beautifully with the natural earthy timber outdoor architecture or Byron Bay-inspired white and black monochromatic exteriors that are so on trend at the mo’. My modern black aluminium framed ranges have been top sellers, but if my customers’ outdoor area is uncovered and south facing, black aluminium will be uncomfortable to touch in summer and I suggest they steer away from this option.

In short, avoid disappointment and make sure your outdoor living space is the right environment for the style of outdoor furniture you like.

black outdoor 2

Black aluminium framed furniture may not suit  uncovered sun-intensive areas source

3) Accent fabrics: Know the tradeoff of textiles
Those incredible textured accent cushions and interesting fabric throws look amazing on Insta. Sadly they are far from outdoor proof. By contrast, polyester outdoor fabric print cushions which are designed to dry quickly, and provide up to 500 hours of fade resistance generally aren’t great Instagram fodder as they don’t knock it out of the park in terms of style.

The accent cushions we used in this image, posted on Instagram, above are not outdoor-proof. source

By virtue of their engineering, truly sun and fade-resistant fabrics like Sunbrella®, are limited to basic colours and patterns, and are best suited as an upholstery fabric. I feature Sunbrella® as my upholstery fabric of choice for most of my furniture outdoor ranges but it’s not a very interesting fabric to use for accent cushions. For my throw cushions, I simply cheat and use indoor ones in my photo shoots ( like the image above) and in my real life as they are more inspiring. However,  I don’t keep them outside for long.

4) Be discerning about outdoor accessories
Indoor plants, metallic-look vases, paper lanterns and electric strings of uncovered bare bulbs lights strung between poles look great on Pinterest but are examples of accessories that may not actually be robust enough for 24/7 outdoor use.

If you want to replicate a highly accessorised look you’ve seen, ask yourself if you are prepared to schlep most of it in and out each day.

Example of boho-verkill that’s also not very outdoor-proof source 

5) Be prepared to substitute:
Don’t despair! You don’t need to give up completely on achieving a particular look you’ve seen, just be honest about what you’re prepared to do to get it. I’m into low maintenance living and have recently purchased some artificial bird of paradise plants for the covered outdoor area of our beach place to give us that tropical beachy look without the hassle. They look great even after weeks of us being away. The real ones certainly didn’t.

So browse away, and enjoy all those aspirational outdoor living images you pin and save as favourites. Just be discerning about what you see so you are not disappointed with the choices you make when it comes time to buy. After reading this, if you now peruse Instagram and ask yourself “Can I really live like that?”, “Does that fit our lifestyle?” “What will that look like in a year?” then I’ve done my job.

Kerry is the owner of OutsideSpace NZ, selling contemporary outdoor furniture for coastal living kiwis seeking quality product and design, at an achievable price. She only buys ranges she loves yet also suit the NZ lifestyle.