If there’s anything we learned from the pandemic, it’s that our outdoor spaces are truly an extension of our homes, places where we can hang out, entertain, enjoy a meal and even sneak in a nap year-round. “What we’ve noticed over the last year is that consumers are looking for their outdoor spaces to compete with all the style and amenities of their home’s interior,” says Lindsey Zborowski, design manager for Wayfair Professional.
As such, we should approach the design process for our outdoor area — whether it’s a patio, a porch or a beachfront terrace — just like we would any other room in our home: thoughtfully! “Key factors to consider when creating an outdoor space are the size of gatherings regularly being held there, circulation and flow patterns, sight lines to the desirable views of the surrounding landscape and home, screening undesirable views and selecting materials in harmony with the architecture and surrounding environment,” says Jarrett Kest, owner of J. Kest & Co., a boutique landscape architecture firm in New Jersey.
Adds HGTV’s “Inside Out” host, landscape designer and fire pit maker extraordinaire Mike Pyle, “I’m a huge fan of creating moments within a space — designing several areas, such as a dining and lounge space, a fire pit area or other gathering spots that will pull you in.” When doing so, of course, you’ll want to consider how much room you actually have to work with, notes Pyle, saying, “Before purchasing any furniture, make sure you have at least 5 to 6 feet of space for walkways around furniture.”
Speaking of purchases, let’s talk about the elephant in the room: Investing in outdoor furniture is a costly endeavor! But here’s the thing — it’s a splurge that you’ll reap the benefits from for (fingers crossed) a very long time. “To get the right outdoor furniture that will last years, if not decades, it is definitely an investment up front,” says Taryn Whiteaker, owner of Taryn Whiteaker Designs in Seattle, Washington. “But trust me, it’s money well spent.”
With all that in mind, we culled a list of splurge-worthy products that have our stamp of approval and the praise from experts, influencers and consumers alike. Shop all of our picks below, and you’ll be well on your way to enjoying your outdoor living space to the max this summer.
Solo Stove Yukon ($459.99, originally $599.99; solostove.com)
Solo is a stainless steel, wood-burning fire pit that is also smoke-free, thanks to its 360-degree ventilation design that encourages lots of airflow and thus reduces smoke. Which is exactly why it’s one of the hottest outdoor entertaining options on the market right now.
Portable at just 38 pounds, the stove actually comes in three sizes (the smallest Ranger costs $214.99), but our favorite is this 27-inch-by-17-inch Yukon version, which can burn eight to 10 logs at a time. Perfect for surrounding with four Adirondack chairs for year-round s’mores roasting, the Solo Stove instantly creates a cozy conversation area wherever it lands. More to know: Upgrade to the “bundle” to get a stand, shield, cover, tools, roasting sticks and more.
Polywood Modern Adirondack Chair ($269; amazon.com)
Meet Polywood’s No. 1 bestselling chair on Amazon. Boasting all the attributes we love about the brand — no maintenance, weather-resistant, zero fade and a 20-year warranty — this chair has a modern spin on the classic Adirondack style, which Kest agrees is timeless.
“You cannot go wrong with a great set of two or four Adirondack chairs,” he says. “They’re easy to clean and care for, comfortable and the armrests are perfect for holding your drink.” Available in 13 colors, this chic chair is perfect for pairing on your front lawn, on a dock or just circled ‘round a fire pit.
Altura Cantilever Umbrella (starting at $2,023.08, originally $2,199; frontgate.com)
Here’s a fact: The cantilever umbrella is the most luxurious outdoor shade solution, period! And this one from Frontgate is the best of the best. Available in three sizes (10 feet by 13 feet, 11.5 feet, and 13 feet) with three color options (navy, beige and cream) and two frame finishes (a faux teak and silver), the Altura looks like something you’d find at a 5-star hotel. The powder-coated aluminum umbrella provides a massive swathe of sunbrella shade wherever it lands because it can swivel a full 360 degrees — and trust us, the crank system is incredibly easy to use.
Bonus: It comes with a cover and pole to keep the canopy fabric clean as a whistle year-round, and the base is included too. The only downside is that it’s a bit labor-intensive to assemble, requiring at least two adults to get the job done.
Outer Wicker 5-Seat Outdoor Sofa With Armless Chairs ($5,850; liveouter.com)
This sustainable outdoor sofa brand had us at one chief selling point: built-in cushion cover “shells” that you simply pull over each individual cushion and clip shut! Totally ingenious, Outer furniture is also gorgeous in design.
“We have had this set for almost two years; it has held up amazingly, thanks to its weatherproof material and the OuterShell functionality,” says Emily Porche, owner and lead designer of Porche & Co., a virtual interior and exterior design firm based in Georgia. “We are in love with the memory foam cushions — our outdoor pieces are just as comfortable (if not more so) than our inside sofa. Outer’s durability combined with the ultimate comfort is extremely impressive and makes Outer worth the splurge for many years to come.”
More to know: The wicker is made with recycled plastic bottles, the frame is crafted from aluminum-magnesium alloy with stainless steel legs, cushion covers are machine-washable and the entire line is modular and can be rearranged on a whim.
Simsbury Outdoor Wicker Dining Chairs, Set of 2 ($679.15, originally $799; grandinroad.com)
When Our House of Three blogger Carla Gulley was looking to revamp her outdoor dining space in Tennessee, she opted for a monochromatic mix of pieces — the vinyl wicker and powder-coated aluminum Simsbury Outdoor Wicker Dining Chairs and Side Chairs with the Bridgeport Trestle Table — all from Grandin Road.
“My goal was to create a beautiful, functional and comfortable outdoor dining area that we could enjoy for many years,” Gulley says. “Not only are the chairs beautiful, they are high-end and very comfortable with a built-in cushion. The quality, design and look of these outdoor pieces is everything I had imagined to create the outdoor space of our dreams.”
More to know: The entire Simsbury line is gorgeous, including this super-handy storage side table that comes with a removable ice bucket for entertaining.
Palmer Chair ($339.15, originally $399; grandinroad.com)
When she was completely redoing her Utah home’s backyard area, At Home With Ashley blogger Ashley Wilson wanted to create a specific seating area surrounding her fire, and she opted to mix two navy Palmer Chairs with two white Luciana Benches ($296 each).
“Last year I redid my fire pit area and completely used Grandin Road furniture to furnish it,” she says. “I love their pieces because they’re stylish and comfortable. This is the spot in my yard where everyone gathers at parties, and there’s plenty of seating for everyone.”
Petra Stool/Table ($109.65, originally $129; grandinroad.com)
Just like your interior rooms, outdoor living spaces can never have too many garden stools. Perfectly on-trend with its gray cement appearance, the Petra comes in two hues (a darker charcoal and a lighter sandstone) and three styles. We tried out the tapered version and loved how light but sturdy it was, how the rope handles are great for portability and the fact that it can be used as an end table for corralling cocktails or a stool for extra seating.
Rectangular Outdoor Market Umbrella ($359.20, originally $449; grandinroad.com)
Does anyone enjoy eating or lounging in the blistering sun? No. This is why creating shady areas in your outdoor space is well worth the investment. We love the Outdoor Market umbrellas from Grandin Road for a lot of reasons. First, their ultra-durable polyester canopies are fade-resistant, which means they’re built to last and will look great for years to come. Second, the crank system is smooth and fast; you don’t need muscles to get the umbrellas open. And lastly, once fully open, there’s a tilt button that can angle the canopy in two directions, providing shade to even more areas.
We tried out the rectangular option, but an octagonal version is also available in a slew of fun summery colors. Editor’s tip: Treat yourself to the brand’s rechargeable umbrella light that clamps onto the pole and will illuminate your late-night alfresco dinners.
Levine Console Table ($194.65, originally $229; grandinroad.com)
One can never have enough surface space (indoors or out!), which is why we’re obsessed with this chic console table that has loads of catchall space and is simple enough to pair well with your existing furniture. Available in black, beige and white, the mahogany/eucalyptus piece is durable and features a lacquered paint with a urethane finish that will keep it looking pristine all summer long. With two shelves for storage — and a sub-$200 price tag — this splurge is a no-brainer.
Hypnos Tile Outdoor Rug & Mat (starting at $23.60, originally starting at $29.50; grandinroad.com)
When it came to finding a rug to accent her gray-hued dining set, Gulley “fell in love with the design and the colors of Hypnos,” which she says grounds her space and adds a pop of color. Crafted from ultra-durable polypropylene, the rug is stain-, fade- and mildew-resistant.
Orren Ellis Belle Stone Propane Outdoor Fire Pit Table ($719.99; wayfair.com)
Fire tables are among our favorite outdoor entertaining items because they churn out some serious smoke-free heat, look gorgeous and can be turned off in seconds. This one fits right in with the stone/cement trend taking over outdoor spaces right now and will elevate your space’s chic factor big time. Available in dark and light gray hues, the table comes with a propane tank cover that can double as an end table. More than 1,100 Wayfair shoppers agree it’s worth the splurge.
Polywood Chippendale 7-Piece Dining Set (starting at $1,995; wayfair.com)
Founded three decades ago in Indiana, Polywood is an outdoor furniture company that creates dining sets, sectionals, chairs and tables from HDPE recycled plastics — approximately 30,000 milk jugs are recycled per hour to create the brand’s all-weather lumber. Which leads us to say: We’re obsessed! Virtually maintenance-free, the Polywood pieces like this gorgeous dining set mimic the look of wood, yet they are built to withstand all climates, they’re completely waterproof, have color-stay technology and they’ll never splinter, crack, chip or peel.
Truly, all you need to keep a Polywood set looking pristine year after year is soap, water and sponge for a light wash. We’ve tested the goods ourselves and can confirm they are well worth the splurge, and will look just as good on day 1,000 as they did on day one. Did we mention each purchase comes with a 20-year warranty? Available in a slew of colors and styles, the hardest part is deciding which set best matches your aesthetic.
Joss & Main Fiberglass Planter Box ($215.39; wayfair.com)
“Planters are a wonderful way to add interest to your space and you need to think bigger than just a small accessory, you can use them to create privacy or delineate one area from another area with a nice long low planter like this one,” says Kest. “Change out the plants seasonally as you wish, and use mulch in the bottom half before you add potting soil — an insider’s trick that is less expensive, lighter and lets the water drain!”
SunHaven Kensington 12-Piece Large Sectional Set ($3,199; sun-haven.com)
Whether you have a big family or simply love hosting the whole neighborhood on game day, this giant sectional set from SunHaven is our absolute favorite for the price. Featuring a whopping 12 pieces, including the huge sectional, two club chairs, two ottomans, all the coordinating cushions and a coffee table, the set can easily accommodate 10 adults or a dozen kids.
We tested the product in real life and found that not only are the pieces gorgeous to look at — seriously, it’s like something you’d find in the lobby of a fancy island hotel — but they’re also incredibly comfortable, with deep seating and ultra-plush materials.
We also loved how the set is modular, meaning you can rearrange your seating setup on the fly, but it’s also super stable, thanks to the clips that keep the pieces attached. Did we mention that it comes preassembled with zero setup involved? Done and done.
Capistrano Lounge Chair ($1,398; serenaandlily.com)
Oozing with Palm Springs vibes, this easy, breezy chair is made of resin wrapped over aluminum — meaning that while it looks dainty, it’s incredibly solid too.
“We used these at a large patio space on a project in Florida and they look stunning,” says Lindsay Kate Bilchik, owner and principal designer of L. Kate Interiors based in Connecticut. “The thick weave of the back is sturdy and has such a pretty design, it adds so much to the space. The chairs are super cozy too and can be moved from the table to be used as accent chairs.”
Concrete Outdoor Stool ($199, originally $299; arhaus.com)
The phrase “the more the merrier” could certainly apply to garden stools when it comes to outfitting your outdoor space. Kest advises, “Go for light enough to move easily, great to put a drink on and wide and sturdy enough to sit on if needed. We love the clean lines of this one.” Crafted from high-strength, glass fiber-reinforced concrete, the stool’s neutral palette is guaranteed to seamlessly blend with your existing decor.
Serena & Lily Teak Sling Chair ($498; serenaandlily.com)
“Generally speaking, I look for items that are both functional and fashionable when splurging on our backyard space. We spend a lot of time out there, so it’s important to me that the items work as well as they look,” she tells us. “Serena & Lily’s outdoor collection is so darling, and it’s hard to pick favorites. Last year we got these gingham sling chairs, which are so comfortable, and I love that you can also buy a matching camp stool ($298) so you can really kick up your feet and relax.”
SunHaven Olivia 7-Piece Outdoor Roped Wicker Sofa Set ($2,199; sun-haven.com)
If you’re looking for patio pieces that are a bit more design-minded, we love this natural roped wicker set from SunHaven. Featuring a sturdy aluminum frame and ultra-thick cushions, the Olivia set is also no-assembly-required. Available in a multitude of set sizes and in two colorways (natural/ivory and gray), we can attest that the purchase is well worth the splurge, and still a fraction of the cost of higher-end brands with similar looks.
Eton Umbrella Table ($367.08, originally $399; frontgate.com)
“These Frontgate umbrellas are a favorite of ours; they come in all different sizes and colors, and we especially love the tilt feature,” says Kest.
And don’t forget the base. You can get one that doubles as a side table, or if you are using the umbrella in an area that you may want to move or adjust the shade, get a base that rolls. If it is under your dining table, perhaps a low-profile base would be best — we like this one.
Serena & Lily Outdoor Throw Pillows (starting at $68; serenaandlily.com)
The pièce de résistance of any super-gorgeous outdoor space is a slew of gorgeous throw pillows tying together sectionals, sofas, chaise lounges and accent chairs alike. And we’re here to declare that Serena & Lily’s options are simply the best, most chic outdoor options on the market. Yes, there are cheaper alternatives, but if you’re looking to splurge, head straight to S&L.
Why? Well for one, all of the brand’s outdoor options are UV- and water-resistant, standing up to the elements despite being utterly preppy meets bohemian meets coastal chic in design. Chock-full of pretty prints, textural details and hues covering the entire rainbow, Serena & Lily’s outdoor pillow covers are going to be the icing on your outdoor cake — simply mix and match sizes and styles and you’ll be happier than ever with your investment.
Polywood Coastal Chaise With Wheels ($789; houzz.com)
“I first discovered Polywood furniture about three years ago and I keep going back to them over and over again,” Whiteaker tells us. “When picking out furniture for our personal use, we prioritize heavy and sturdy furniture that we know will last. All of our Polywood furniture is the perfect combo of clean modern pieces that fit our aesthetic and are built to withstand the harsher climate we have in the Seattle area. They are easy to clean, look amazing and we constantly get compliments on it.”
For her latest outdoor project, Whiteaker opted for two Coastal Chaises in the black hue. “I wanted something that matched the rest of the furniture in the backyard but also felt comfortable enough to take an afternoon nap in,” she says. “The fabric makes them extra comfortable and is also UV-protected, fast-drying and resistant to weather, mildew, fading and tearing. Again, I’m all for the all-weather furniture!”
Teak Bar Cart With Beverage Tub (starting at $1,839.08, originally $1,999; frontgate.com)
We’ve tested this beauty ourselves, and to say it’s the ultimate entertaining hub in our backyard would be an understatement. Crafted from teak, the bar cart (that’s right, it’s got wheels!) comes complete with a side-by-side beverage tub and ice bucket, both of which are stowed underneath sliding panels. Two metal handlebars are great for hanging towels, and those top panels offer generous countertop space for glasses, planters and more. Available in a natural or dark gray finish, the wood develops a silver gray patina over time if untreated with oil. Bonus: There’s a shelf for corralling even more stuff below.
Hanging Rattan Chair ($498; serenaandlily.com)
Potentially the most swoon-worthy item on our list, this lovely hanging rattan chair from Serena & Lily is crafted from hand-bent rattan and would look dreamy hanging in a covered patio nook. Bilchik couldn’t agree more, saying, “We absolutely love this chair, as it adds a whimsical addition to any outdoor space for both kids and adults!”
More to know: Hanging chairs and benches are a major outdoor furniture trend at the moment, and this stunner also comes in a double wide and bench version, in a white and natural stain.