Your Complete Guide to Full Sun Outdoor Furniture
If you’ve put down roots in the desert, you won’t have to worry about the degrading saltwater that rots outdoor furniture in coastal areas. But, the same things that drew you there — abundant sunshine, warm temps, and plenty of outdoor opportunities, can pose a problem when choosing high-quality outdoor furniture.
Weather conditions sometimes fluctuate quickly in the desert. While nighttime temperatures are more moderate, your furniture will need to withstand extreme heat and daytime sun, as well as wind and dust. Here’s a closer look at the specific weather-related challenges that can impact the look and lifespan of your patio furniture.
The good news? The more you know, the more prepared you’ll be to select quality pieces that will hold up to everything from the burning sun to high winds.
Why Is a Desert Climate Hard on Outdoor Furniture?
As anyone who’s ever tried to sit on a metal chair on a 90+ degree day knows, furniture left out in the direct sun can be too hot to sit on during the day.
After repeated exposure to UV rays, finishes and fabrics can fade. This means your bright red aluminum lawn chairs may eventually end up a sad shade of pink. Not only that, but damaging sunlight conditions can even weaken the fibers in some materials, causing them to become brittle and prone to breakage.
Fluctuations in temperature can negatively affect your patio set — especially for wood furniture. Sweltering hot days cause wood to expand, a lack of humidity or rain quickly dries it out, and the shift to cold nights can cause the material to contract. Over time, this cycle of expansion and contracting causes warping and cracking.
Dust and Wind
Arid climates are dusty, so outdoor furniture collects dirt quickly. Additionally, the lack of large trees acting as natural windbreaks means that strong winds can blow your set out of your backyard if they aren’t heavy enough or securely anchored.
Deserts aren’t known for rainy weather, but If you’re in Arizona, New Mexico, or Texas, the monsoon season is a whole different story. You can and should take steps in the mid-to-late-summer months. These include tethering items so high winds don’t blow them away and using a cover on porous furniture to minimize exposure to moisture.
How Materials Behave in the Desert
Various materials perform differently in the desert climate.
For example, some are naturally resistant to water and rust, while others can be treated to prevent corrosion. Meanwhile, materials like aluminum, plastic, and HDPE lumber are easy to clean, while others — like teak and wicker — require more maintenance. Aluminum may be affordable and durable, but it overheats more in the sun than a wood or HDPE lumber chair would.
Before choosing your outdoor furniture materials, it can be helpful to ask yourself a few questions, including:
- How much time do you want to devote to maintenance?
- How much do you want to spend on your investment?
- How long do you want your furniture to last?
- How functional do you want your furniture to be?
- Will your outdoor patio furniture be outside all year?
Answering these questions can help you decide what’s most important to you when choosing furniture. The following pros and cons can help you further hone in on the best material for your outdoor living space.
- Affordable and easy to maintain
- Lightweight and easy to move
- Needs anchoring to prevent it from blowing away
- Absorbs heat and gets hot when left out in the sun
- Not as durable as other types of metal furniture, such as stainless steel or wrought iron
- Hardwood doesn’t absorb heat
- Less likely to get blown about by desert winds
- Teak wood furniture is more expensive
- Requires regular treatment to maintain its natural color and avoid the silver patina look
Injection Molded Plastic Furniture
- Affordability (making it a popular choice for many homeowners)
- Lightweight and easy to move
- Easy to clean (just wipe with a damp cloth)
- Likely to be blown about if not anchored
- Prone to fading and warping in direct sunlight
- Lightweight and easy to move
- Doesn’t absorb heat (making it a great option for spots like sunny Arizona)
- Durable and available in many colors
- Requires regular maintenance and cleaning to maintain appearance and prevent breakage
- Prone to being blown around by the wind
*Although there are many wicker products made from natural materials (bamboo, rattan, or other vines) and synthetic materials (including resin), for the purpose of this article, we’re looking at plant-based wicker furniture.
- Doesn’t absorb heat (cool to the touch when it’s hot outside)
- UV-inhibited pigment systems prevent fading in direct sunlight
- Heavier weight means it’s harder to move and less likely to blow over
- Easy to clean with a quick wipe down with a damp cloth
- HDPE lumber can be more expensive than other materials.
An added benefit of HDPE lumber is its sustainability; hundreds of thousands of pounds of landfill- and ocean-bound plastic containers are transformed into beautiful and durable all-weather furniture every day.
Styling Your Desert Patio
Of course, outdoor furniture is about much more than function; form is also critical — especially if you want to create the most welcoming space. There’s no right or wrong when it comes to styling your desert patio. It comes down to personal preference and a few basic questions:
- How do you want your leisure space to look and feel?
- Which materials best match the architecture and decorative elements of your desert home?
- Will you have lots of guests over?
- Do you move your furniture around often, or do you keep your décor static?
From a practical perspective, your needs will vary from space to space. Use the tips below to decorate your patio, pool deck, or other exterior areas.
Shade is essential for your dining area so you and your guests can stay cool when daytime temperatures soar. Outdoor umbrellas provide essential shade during the day and can be closed at night to give you an unobstructed and gorgeous view of the star-filled night sky.
Don’t forget to consider capacity, and make sure your outdoor patio dining set gives your family plenty of room to spread out and adequate seating for guests.
If you have an outdoor kitchen or bar, choose counter- or bar-height chairs that coordinate with your dining set to offer additional seating — whether you line them up along the bar top or pair them with a counter- or bar-height table.
Whether it’s in a shaded spot under your balcony or a transitional area between your kitchen and pool, deep seating and modular sectionals create perfect spaces to unwind. All-weather conversation area furniture lets you create a living room gathering space that can hold its own against the desert sun. Accessorize with side tables, an ottoman, and Mexican serape throws to complete the look.
A pool is the centerpiece of many desert homes’ outdoor areas. To make the most of this space, you’ll want waterproof poolside furniture.
Chaise lounges are perfect for working on your tan or dozing off after sunset. Add a small dining set nearby so the kids can enjoy a quick snack or popsicle break before cannonballing back into the pool. Further amplify the space by incorporating an Adirondack set fitted with a large umbrella so you can oversee the fun while relaxing in the shade.
Additional Styling Considerations
Greenery may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the desert landscape, but it is a wonderful addition to any outdoor space. Drought-resistant cacti, agave, and palm trees will add beauty to your patio area while creating soft places for the eye to land.
We also love the charming tabletop garden look of a large terracotta bowl filled with colorful succulents on an outdoor coffee table.
Implement Unexpected Statement Pieces
Mixing unexpected pops of color and energetic statement pieces throughout a neutral color scheme adds visual interest to outdoor desert spaces.
For a striking contrast, hang a weather-resistant painting or graphic print on an empty exterior wall, or select seat cushions in bright hues for your outdoor dining chairs.
Add Some Spark With A Fire Pit Table Set
After an adventurous day of hiking through the rugged desert terrain or mountain biking through majestic canyons, relax with loved ones on comfortable lounge chairs and enjoy a night filled with lively conversations gathered around the fire pit table.
With a fire pit table, you can stay warm on chilly nights in the desert while adding a spark of style to your outdoor space.
Go With The Boho
If the bohemian lifestyle and striking landscapes are what attracted you to the desert, then let the Wild West influence the décor around your home. Look for Southwestern-inspired patterns and upholstery in earthy tones of sienna, umber, and ochre to complement the warm landscapes.
Accentuate your seating areas with geometric kilim rugs and regionally important materials like terracotta, leather, and brass. Local artwork and bohemian accessories such as macramé will give your space an authentic feel without being overwhelming.
Master The Art of Minimalism
When designing a desert getaway, less is always more. The sleek modernity of Southwestern architecture pairs perfectly with the minimalist design style. Steering clear of collections of knick-knacks lets you cut through the clutter to make a big statement. To complete the theme, stick to straight lines and simple geometric shapes.
How have you styled the outdoor spaces around your desert home? Share yours with the hashtag #polywood to be featured.