Entertaining family and close friends during a casual barbecue or a sunset dinner is the perfect way to catch up and make new memories. Enjoying the great outdoors for a meal or just a sangria means you’ll be gathered around a dining set, and the combination of chairs, benches, a table, and possibly an umbrella will need to last as long as your home.
Before investing in the perfect outdoor dining set, it’s important to ask yourself a few questions about your family and your outdoor space:
- Do you have a large family or group of friends?
- How often do you entertain?
- What size is your outdoor space?
- Who will be using the furniture (adults, kids, both?)
Step 1: Decide Between a 5-Piece Dining Set and a 7-Piece Dining Set
The typical outdoor dining set will comfortably seat four to six people. POLYWOOD dining sets are available in two basic configurations: seven-piece dining sets featuring a typically rectangular table and six chairs, and five-piece dining sets featuring a square or circular dining table with four chairs.
When making this first decision, here are the main points to consider:
- How large is your space? Sprawling patios and decks are more suited for seven-piece dining sets — after all, you’ll need to accommodate six chairs, one table, and still leave plenty of room for people to walk about freely. Chairs shouldn’t feel packed into the dining area — we recommend at least an 11-by-14-feet area for a standard seven-piece dining set.
- What types of events will you be hosting?
- Five-piece dining sets are terrific for late morning mimosas, afternoon snacks, or kicking back with a beer in the evening with a few friends.
- Seven-piece dining sets are constructed primarily for big meals — if you’re hosting a barbecue or making a large meal for your entire family you probably want to invest in a larger dining set.
- What’s your budget? Seven-piece dining sets require more capital, but if you have the space and the large family, they are worth the extra money.
Step 2: Choose Between Dining-Height and Bar-Height
You may automatically imagine a traditional dining height set (closer to the ground and more relaxed), but many spaces and activities call for taller bar-height dining sets.
Make the decision easier by asking yourself:
- What kind of atmosphere do I want?
- Dining height (28 to 30-inch table height) is ideal for guests of all ages as the chairs are easier to get in and out of compared to bar height. If you often find yourself chatting into the night with your guests after dinner, dining sets are typically more comfortable over extended periods of time. As the most versatile height, you can dress your dining set up or down to easily transition from a casual weeknight meal with family to a formal dinner party.
- Bar-height sets are a great option for the casual entertainer. You have the option to sit comfortably, but at 40 to 42-inch table height, bar tables are also the perfect height to stand and rest your drink while mingling with guests. Bar-height sets can be dangerous for kids to climb in and out of, so it’s best to stick with dining height if you’re often in the company of children.
- How much space do I have? This decision is as much about function as it is form — dining-height sets spread people out a bit more and require more room. With bar-height sets, your foot traffic will compact as people lean in to tell jokes and share drinks. If you’re trying to fill the space on your back porch go for a dining-height set.
Step 3: Consider Seating Options
Dining sets aren’t one-size-fits-all: There are several types of seats that can be packaged in a dining set. Here are particular advantages of our seating options:
- Swivel Chairs – These chairs offer optimal comfort and a 360-degree view without moving your chair but tend to be more expensive.
- Pros: Great for long conversations and comfortable; easy to relax
- Cons: Takes up more space (ideal for table ends)
- Side Chairs – The most basic dining chair, side chairs provide diners with the easiest entry and exit. Sitting in a side chair doesn’t require anyone else to move.
- Pros: Space-saving (stretch your six-seat table to eight by using side chairs on either side of the table)
- Cons: No place to rest your arms
- Arm Chairs – Arm chairs include armrests so you can enjoy your drink or kick back and relax.
- Pros: Great for long conversations, comfortable, easy to relax
- Cons: Could feel restricting side to side
- Folding Chairs – the high-back comfort of a folding chair lends a relaxed air to any outdoor entertaining space.
- Dining Benches – Cozy up to your spouse or keep a close eye on the kids with a dining bench that runs the length of the table.
Often dining sets contain different combinations of these seating options. Consider what will best suit your needs.
Step 4: Choose Your Dining Set
Even after weighing these options, you may find yourself stuck. Don’t fret! We’ve rounded up our favorite dining sets for the main types of outdoor seating areas.
Your back porch is a multi-functional living space — your dining set here shouldn’t crowd out vital space to hang a swing, read a book, or play a tug-of-war over with your dog over their favorite chew toy. We recommend our Coastal Collection, a mix of weather-resistant sling material with our genuine POLYWOOD lumber.
When you have more space to dine and entertain you should take advantage of what your patio was intended for — food and fun! We love the Coastal 7-Piece Dining Set for larger patios due to the convenience of the folding chairs and the comfortable simplicity of the Coastal line.
Soaking up the sun and stretching your feet is the top priority when dining by your pool. Pick a dining set that naturally puts you in a position to take it slow and enjoy the day with the Palm Coast 7-Piece Dining Set. This option is perfect for casual eating by the pool and a Slate Grey hue will go with anything. One of our most popular color pairings is a White Nautical Trestle Dining Table with Aruba Palm Coast Adirondack Dining Chairs.
Balcony or Small Space
When you’re working with limited space to dine outdoors you don’t have to sacrifice comfort or durability. Ditch the complete sets and combine collections to maximize space efficiency. A 36″ Round Dining Table paired with some Nautical Highback Chairs or Signature Folding Chairs will provide a body-contouring shape for sitting and lots of room for drinks and snacks without crowding your balcony or alcove. Plus, these chairs fold when not in use! These chairs also pair perfectly with our Farmhouse 37″ Dining Table or the Nautical Trestle 37″ Dining Table.
For another stacking option, our Euro Collection offers a variety of dining and bar heights and the side chairs easily stack when not in use.
Should You Add a Rug?
Many homeowners choose to lay a rug underneath their dining set to protect the deck or patio wood and to visually unify the dining furniture. If you go with a neutral color palette for your outdoor dining furniture, an outdoor rug is a good opportunity to add a little splash of color.
Outdoor rugs are constructed with materials that are more resistant to weather and wear. When choosing a rug you should make sure it is large enough to completely cover your seating area; otherwise, young kids or dutiful cooks serving their homemade meal can trip or snag their chair legs on the edge of the rug. With a five-piece dining set, your rug should measure at least eight square feet, and if you go big with a seven-piece dining set you will need a rug that measures a minimum of 8 by 10 feet.
Rugs aren’t required — dining areas by your pool or next to the grass are often left without a rug for simplicity and practicality.
Must-Have Dining Accessories
Don’t call it a day once you order your dining set — remember to order essential dining accessories so your dining set is useful and comfy.
- Cushions – Many POLYWOOD dining sets are available with all-weather performance fabric cushions that are quick-drying and resistant to inclement weather. Enjoy extra support and notice that the colors don’t fade, even after plenty of use.
- Umbrella – Whether it’s the beating sun or the occasional pocket of rain, don’t let Mother Nature spoil your afternoon sandwiches. Our POLYWOOD umbrellas are also constructed with all-weather performance fabric. Simply use a solution of mild soap and water to clean and a soft-bristle brush to remove any wayward food scraps. This goes for the cushions as well!
- Plants – Greenery can easily tie your entire outdoor dining area together. Low maintenance plants are perfect for the centerpiece of your dining table. Don’t feel like you have to get too fancy; a small succulent garden or a bowl of hardy, colorful flowering plants will do the trick.
Now that you’ve read our guide you can select a beautiful dining set for your space with more confidence. As a recap, below are some questions you should now be able to answer:
- How many people will be using my outdoor dining set, on average?
- Will a traditional dining set height serve my needs better than a taller bar height set?
- What kinds of seating styles will provide the greatest utility for our space?
- What style of dining set will best complement the design of my outdoor dining area?
Of course, there’s only so much we can cover in one article. If you still have questions feel free to reach out to us directly at (855) 935-5550 or send us an email at email@example.com. Our Customer Experience Team will get you connected to the best outdoor dining furniture for you!
Blog Post Updated April 30, 2021