From Sun to Sand: Navigating the Best Outdoor Furniture for Desert Patios

Originally Published on February 19, 2020. Last Updated on January 3, 2024.

There’s a lot to love about desert living: Minimal humidity and mosquitos, photo-worthy landscapes, beautiful sunsets, and so on. Of course, with these pros come a few cons, such as intense sun, heat, and dust. You’ll need outdoor furniture that can withstand these elements year-round, but with a little prescience and planning, you’ll have no trouble finding the perfect patio pairings.


Jump to Section
Why the Desert is Hard on Furniture
How Materials Handle Arid Conditions
Outdoor Cushion Considerations
Patio Furniture Care
Styling Your Desert Patio
Additional Styling Ideas


Why Is a Desert Climate Hard on Outdoor Furniture?

Intense Sun

As anyone who’s ever tried to sit on a metal chair on a hot, sunny day can attest, furniture left out in the direct sun can be too toasty to sit on during the day. 

UV Damage

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.

Temperature Fluctuations

Changing temperatures can negatively affect your patio set—especially wood and wicker furniture. Sweltering days cause these materials to expand, and the shift to cooler nights causes them to contract. Over time, this cycle of expansion and contraction leads to warping and cracking. 

Dust & Wind

Arid climates are dusty, so outdoor furniture collects dirt quickly. Plus, there aren’t many trees in the desert to act as natural windbreaks. This gives strong winds the freedom to blow your bistro set off your deck if it’s lightweight and not securely anchored.

Water Damage

Deserts aren’t known for rainy weather, but if you live in Arizona, New Mexico, or Texas, you’re familiar with monsoon season in late summer, leading to major climate changes in these ordinarily dry areas, including increased humidity, thunderstorms, and hail. Lightweight, fragile, or unprotected furniture doesn’t stand a chance in this harsh weather.


How Materials Handle Arid Conditions

Before shopping for outdoor furniture, let’s talk materials. Some hold up in desert climates better than others. Browse the following pro and con lists for various outdoor furniture materials to determine which is best for your desert patio.

Outdoor Furniture Materials Pros & Cons


Outdoor Cushion Considerations

Outdoor cushions are ideal for bringing extra softness and color to a patio. Just be sure to pick fabrics that can withstand sun, dust, heat, and wildlife. Here are a few tips to help you select the right cushion materials and extend their lifespans:

  • Choose pillows tailored in performance fabric designed to handle outdoor environments.
  • Fading is inevitable; if possible, flip cushions regularly to even wear and color changes.
  • Store cushions and pillows in console tables, sheds, or garages when they’re not in use.
  • Shield fabric from damaging UV rays, stains, and dirt with a spray-on protectant. 


Caring for Desert Patio Furniture

Follow these tips to keep your outdoor furniture safe in a desert environment:

  • Regularly clean your furniture with soapy water to remove accumulated dirt and dust.
  • Store furniture in your garage or shed or use weatherproof covers to protect it in the off-season.
  • Anchor furniture to the floor to protect it from strong winds.
  • Keep furniture in shaded areas to shield it from the sun.

Styling Your Desert Patio

Martha Stewart by POLYWOOD Chinoiserie 3-Piece Chaise Set with Umbrella Stand Accent Table in Sand
Featured: Chinoiserie 3-Piece Chaise Set with Umbrella Stand Accent Table in Sand

Outdoor furniture is about much more than function. Form is also essential to create the most welcoming space. That said, there’s no right or wrong when styling your desert patio. It comes down to personal preference and a few factors: 

  • Aesthetic: How do you want your patio to look and feel?
  • Existing architecture: Which materials complement your desert home’s exterior and decorative elements?
  • Utility: How do you want your outdoor space to serve your family?
  • Protective barriers: Do you have umbrellas and awnings shading your space and retractable screens to keep dust and wind out?
  • Location: Is your patio exposed to full sun from dawn to dusk or just part of the day?

From a practical perspective, your needs will vary from space to space. Use the ideas below to inspire the design for your desert oasis.

Dining Area

Shade is essential for your dining area so your guests can stay cool during brunch or afternoon cocktails. Outdoor umbrellas block the sun during the day and can be closed at night to give you an unobstructed view of the star-spangled sky. Choose a dining set in a lighter shade that complements the colors of the surrounding desert, and lean into drought-resistant plants like cacti and agave for hints of greenery that contrast with the warmth of the space.

POLYWOOD EDGE 7-Piece Dining Set in Sand, 9' Tilt Market Umbrella & Base in White/Cast Ash, and 16" Outdoor Throw Pillow in Primary Colors Coral/Safari Coral/Chelsey Trellis Coral
Featured: EDGE 7-Piece Dining Set in Sand, 9′ Tilt Market Umbrella & Base in White/Cast Ash, and 16″ Outdoor Throw Pillow in Primary Colors Coral/Safari Coral/Chelsey Trellis Coral

Fire Pit Area

Starry summer evenings and long winter nights are ideal for deep conversations around the fire. Surround a low-maintenance fire pit table with coordinating Adirondack chairs and side tables where family can lean back and gaze at the glittering sky while keeping drinks and s’mores supplies within reach. If the patio surface is flat, place a pair of rocking chairs by the fire so grandparents can have a place to sooth sleepy babies and share stories with the grandkids.

POLYWOOD 5-Piece Nautical Grand Adirondack Conversation Set with Fire Pit Table in White and 16" Outdoor Throw Pillow in Midnight Linen/Sky Blue
Featured: 5-Piece Nautical Grand Adirondack Conversation Set with Fire Pit Table in White and 16″ Outdoor Throw Pillow in Midnight Linen/Sky Blue

Poolside Hangout

A pool is the centerpiece of many desert homes. Make the most of this space with waterproof outdoor 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. Incorporate an Adirondack set fitted with a large umbrella so you can oversee the fun while relaxing in the shade.

POLYWOOD Classic Adirondack 3-Piece Round Dining Set in Aruba, Coastal 3-Piece Wheeled Chaise Set in White/Parchment, and 16" Outdoor Throw Pillow in Natural Linen/Glacier Spa
Featured: Classic Adirondack 3-Piece Round Dining Set in Aruba, Coastal 3-Piece Wheeled Chaise Set in White/Parchment, and 16″ Outdoor Throw Pillow in Natural Linen/Glacier Spa

Additional Styling Ideas

Lean Into Green

Drought-resistant cacti, agave, and palm trees bring beauty to your patio area while creating soft places for the eye to land. We also love the charming look of a tabletop succulent garden. Style a large terra-cotta bowl on an outdoor coffee table, filling it with desert-loving succulents.

POLYWOOD EDGE Coffee Table in Sand, Two Shelf Bar Side Table in Green, and 16" Outdoor Throw Pillow in Leaf Dune Burlap and Leaf Grey Mist
Featured: EDGE Coffee Table in Sand, Two Shelf Bar Side Table in Green, and 16″ Outdoor Throw Pillow in Leaf Dune Burlap and Leaf Grey Mist

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.

POLYWOOD Lakeside 7-Piece Farmhouse Dining Set in White and Seat Cushion - 16.5"D x 17.5"W x 2.5"H in Crimson Linen and Chartreuse Boucle
Featured: Lakeside 7-Piece Farmhouse Dining Set in White and Seat Cushion – 16.5″D x 17.5″W x 2.5″H in Crimson Linen and Chartreuse Boucle

Go With the Boho Flow

If the bohemian lifestyle and striking landscapes are what attracted you to the desert, then let the Wild West influence your home’s decor. 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 terra-cotta, leather, and brass. Local artwork and bohemian accessories such as macramé will give your space an authentic feel without being overwhelming. 

POLYWOOD Vineyard 6-Piece Deep Seating Set in Mahogany/Spiced Burlap
Featured: Vineyard 6-Piece Deep Seating Set in Mahogany/Spiced Burlap

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. Stick to straight lines and simple geometric shapes to complete the theme.

POLYWOOD Modern 3-Piece Curveback Adirondack Set in Sand and 16" Outdoor Throw Pillow in Natural Linen
Featured: Modern 3-Piece Curveback Adirondack Set in Sand and 16″ Outdoor Throw Pillow in Natural Linen

10 thoughts on “From Sun to Sand: Navigating the Best Outdoor Furniture for Desert Patios

  1. Great post!

    I have read this post and it is really helpful content for those who are facing problems selecting outdoor furniture. you have also discussed materials for Sun outdoor furniture. to know more about outdoor furniture you can visit the site.

  2. “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, “…….?

    Hot days cause wood to expand?
    Lack of humidity or rain dries it out?
    What type of wood are you referring to?

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  4. I don’t understand how you can say HDPE lumber “Doesn’t absorb heat (cool to the touch when it’s hot outside)”. I only wish that was my experience, and I am disappointed you make such a misleading claim. In the sun the furniture becomes too uncomfortable to even touch, much less sit on the chairs or use the table to eat at.

    We have a Polywood dining set, gray color, (table, 4 chairs, and a bench) and 2 Polywood lounge chairs. I like them a lot most of the time, but they do get too hot to use here in the California sun.

    I just took my instant-read Thermapen thermometer outside to see what the temp of the furniture is. On the polywood furniture in the shade, when I touched the thermometer probe to the chair, it read 100 degrees F., which is more or less the air temp right now (although hardly “cool to the touch”.) When I touched the probe to the polywood table in the sun, the probe registered 139 degrees F.!! The air temp even in the sun is obviously not 139 degrees, so the furniture is much hotter than the ambient temp.

    I am very interested in hearing an explanation for how you can justify your claim that polywood furniture “doesn’t absorb heat” and is “cool to the touch when it is hot outside.”

    1. Hello Susan,
      The darker colors will retain more heat than the lighter lumber colors will as this is the nature of the material. However, if it’s nice enough to sit outside and enjoy the day, the furniture will be fine to use. We also offer cushions for extra comfort and allowing to use on those extra hot days.
      Best wishes,
      Heather

  5. The writing style of this blog is captivating and easy to read. It effortlessly holds my attention from start to finish. I always look forward to the next article!

  6. This blog on creating a cozy outdoor patio space is an absolute gem! It’s filled with practical and creative tips that can transform any patio into a warm and inviting haven. I love how it emphasizes the importance of comfort, lighting, and greenery to create that perfect ambiance. Plus, the step-by-step guidance is incredibly helpful for both beginners and those looking to refresh their outdoor spaces. Thank you for sharing these fantastic ideas to make our outdoor spaces even more enjoyable!

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