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Selecting & Caring For Furniture  
Find Your Perfect Outdoor Furniture
By Plow & Hearth
2/21/2013 3:10:00 PM  


Furniture made primarily for outdoor use comes in an astounding diversity of styles and materials. Steel and aluminum---both cast and extruded, various plastics, wicker (and weather-resistant imitation wicker), different kinds of stone, cast stone, cement, and a number of woods are used to make tables, chairs, and benches for relaxing and enjoying the great outdoors. Styles range from rustic to rococo, classic---Adirondack chairs, for example---to modern. Most folks already have a pretty good sense of what they like, but there are many other practical considerations that can help make this season's purchase one you'll be happy with for many years to come.


Cost Versus Value: How Long Do You Want It to Last?

A very basic question, but one that many homeowners fail to ask, is how permanent an investment is this furniture. Is it just extra seating for a graduation party or a similar one-time event? Maybe it makes more sense to rent or to buy inexpensive chairs that, though not as durable as they could be, will do the job satisfactorily and at a great price. Most of the time---as a general rule---you're better off springing for quality, but if all you're after is a temporary solution, it makes no sense paying extra for something you neither need nor want.


Value-Priced Lightweight, All-Weather Resin Outdoor Wicker Seating
Value-Priced Lightweight, All-Weather Resin Outdoor Wicker Seating


What's Its Real Function?

Do you want a little bistro set at which to enjoy coffee and the paper? Or are you looking for a full-size outdoor dining table for gatherings of extended family? Are you looking for a short bench---seating for two---beneath a romantic, rose-covered arbor, or is it a large, family-size boot bench for the mudroom you've got in mind? Does the bench need to be very comfortable (are you going to be sitting in it for long periods of time), or is it more decorative, primarily a landscape feature at which you might pause to rest occasionally.


It really helps to be clear about what you want, to have more than just a generic sense of function. Picture in your mind's eye how you'll be using the furniture you're considering purchasing, then let that mental vignette help determine not just the size of the table or bench, but also the material, its placement, any accessories you might need (an umbrella stand or planter boxes, for example), even the plantings. After all, what you're creating is not merely a dining area or a seating solution---it's a spatial experience. So, enjoy; it's kind of like playing architect.


How Tough Does It Need To Be?

Degree of exposure is another consideration when you're buying outdoor furniture. A bench for a veranda or screened-in porch will obviously take far less abuse than one located at the edge of a bluff overlooking the ocean or even just sitting out in the open in the middle of the backyard. And whether you plan on bringing the piece in for the winter or leaving it out in the elements should also factor into your choice of materials and construction. So long as you know where a piece of furniture is going to live---year-round---it's a relatively straightforward matter to identify materials that will meet the demands of that situation.


When selecting furniture for outdoor use, be sure to pay attention to the materials from which it was made. High-quality recycled plastic, PVC, cast aluminum and fiberglass are great choices. Prefer the look of wood? Teak, cedar, eucalyptus and cypress are durable, long-lasting, and require little maintenance. Steel or wrought iron furniture can be very durable, but need to be cleaned and painted occasionally to avoid rusting. Painted wood furniture will also need to be repainted if left in the elements.


No matter how tough your outdoor furniture is, using furniture covers during the off-seasons will cut down on maintenance and cleaning and to increase its life span.


What About the Off-Season?

If you're in the market for a granite-slab bench for pond-side contemplation, chances are you'll place it carefully once and leave it in that same spot ever after. A lot of outdoor furniture, however, migrates indoors each year once the autumn leaves have fallen and the first frosts are settling in. For this reason, whether a piece can be stored easily may also be a consideration. Does the furniture you're considering buying fold or stack, so it won't take up a huge amount of storage space? Or better yet, can it be used somewhere indoors over the winter, perhaps in a sunroom, den, or finished basement? Again, your choice of material, construction, and even style will dictate a piece's suitability for indoor use.


Poly-Wood™ Adirondack Furniture
Poly-Wood™ Adirondack Furniture


Maintenance is Minimal

For the most part, you don't need to worry about maintenance when choosing between various kinds of outdoor furniture. Why? Because a little warm, soapy water a couple of times a season will generally keep all non-wood furniture looking good, year after year. For really tough stains, a scrubby pad (such as the ScotchBrite sponge pads made for washing dishes) may be necessary, but not often.



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Selecting & Caring For Furniture  
A Dictionary of Bedding Terms
By Plow & Hearth
2/21/2013 2:50:00 PM  

We’ve come a long way in bedroom décor since the Egyptian pharaohs first moved their beds up off the ground around 3400 BC! One of the easier and more cost-effective ways to give your bedroom a whole new look includes selecting all-new bedding. But with so many bedding types out there, how do you find the ones that are best for you?


What makes shopping for new bedding even more confusing is the myriad of unfamiliar terms used to describe and classify the different types and styles. (What’s the difference between a quilt and a comforter? How do you know whether or not you’ll need a bed skirt? And what’s included in a quilt or comforter set?)


Rest easy – to make your search easier, we’ve compiled a mini “dictionary” of some common bedding terms.


Sorting Out The Different Types Of Bedding

What do all those terms actually mean? This section helps you figure out the basics.


bed skirt: Also known as a dust ruffle, a bed skirt is a decorative piece used to cover the boxspring and legs of the bed. It fits between the mattress and box spring and hangs to the floor.


bedspreads: Also known as a spread, a bedspread is a bed cover with sides that go to the floor. Bedspreads do not require a bed skirt.


comforter: Also known as duvets, comforters are thick, quilted bedcovers filled with feathers, down or other natural or man-made fibers.


comforter cover: Also known as a duvet cover, a comforter cover is a sack-like covering with three closed sides and one open side that fits over a comforter to give it a new look.


comforter set: An ensemble that includes a comforter, bed skirt and two standard shams (twin has one sham; double, queen and king have two shams).


cotton batting: A layer of compressed cotton fibers used as a fill in quilts.


coverlets: A coverlet is traditionally a lightweight, woven spread used on the top of the bedding. It can be big enough to hang down the sides of a bed or just cover the top of the mattress so that the bed skirt or bed frame is exposed.


duvet: See comforter.


duvet cover: See comforter cover.


Euro sham: A decorative casing for square pillows. These are often placed behind the standard size pillow shams as a backdrop, or on top of standard pillows as a coordinated set with a duvet cover.


pockets: The corners of fitted sheets sized specifically to accommodate today’s thicker mattresses.


quilt: Quilts are bed covers made up of three layers: a top, the batting (usually cotton or polyester fiber fill) and a backing. The layers are held together with stitching through all three layers. The top layer is usually artfully patterned; the bottom layer can either match the top or offer a contrasting look.


quilt sets: A coordinated bed ensemble that includes a quilt, two standard shams (one sham with a twin quilt) and, in some cases, a decorative toss pillow.


sham: A decorative covering for a pillow, often designed with trims, ruffles, flanges, or cording. Pillow shams are normally placed in front of the pillows used for sleeping, which would be covered with regular pillowcases.


sheet set: A complete set that includes a flat sheet, fitted sheet and two standard pillowcases (twin has one pillowcase; full and queen have two standard pillowcases, king has two king pillow cases).


Shell: The outermost layer or cover of a comforter.


split corners: On bed skirts, corners at the foot of the bed, from the platform to the hem, constructed without seams to create an opening to accommodate bed posts. Used on beds without posts, the edges at the corners overlap to conceal the opening.


thread count: The number of vertical and horizontal threads per square inch in a woven fabric. Higher thread counts result in a smoother, more durable fabric.


Features To Keep In Mind:

Looks are important, but getting a good night’s sleep is paramount. Keep these terms in mind, along with your own special needs, when shopping for bedding.


cotton-rich: Blended fabric with a higher percentage of cotton to give the fabric more of cotton’s natural characteristics, such as softness and breathability.


hypoallergenic: Having a lower incidence of allergic reaction - either naturally or as a result of special washes or treatments.


memory foam: Synthetic foam than changes its shape in reaction to body temperature, thereby “remembering” the shape of the person using it and providing more comfortable/body-contouring support.


Materials To Help You Relax:

The sky’s the limit when it comes to bedding fabrics! You can choose based on the look you’re going for, whether you’re a hot or cool sleeper, how easy the material is to care for, and more. Here are some of the more popular fabrics.


acrylic: Acrylic is a synthetic fabric that is machine washable, wrinkle-resistant, and won’t fade in the sunlight. Acrylic window treatments are easy to care for and hold up well over time.


bouclé: Boucle is a woven or knitted fabric made with popular novelty yarn to create a rough, looped or knotted textured surface.


chenille: A luxuriously soft, textured fabric characterized by a thick pile. Chenille is usually made from cotton or wool, but also can be constructed of acrylic, rayon or olefin.


cotton: Derived from the cotton plant, cotton is a soft, lightweight and breathable fabric that is ideal for bedding because it can be woven into a wide range of patterns, colors, weights and textures.


down: The soft, fluffy substance culled from the underside of a bird (usually goose or duck) that is used to fill pillows, comforters and mattress toppers. Known for its lightweight, thermal properties, down naturally contracts to retain warmth when the temperature drops.


eyelet: type of decorative cutwork in which the edges of a small hole are finished with embroidery.


flannel: Flannel is a soft, light, woven fabric made of wool, cotton or synthetic fibers. Flannel sheets, while soft, are often exceptionally warm.


fleece: Fabric with a soft pile in imitation of a sheep’s furry coat.


lace: Lace is a delicate, ornamental fabric woven in an open, web-like pattern, often combined with different types of embroidery.


Microfiber: A synthetic weave of tightly woven fibers that offer a smooth, supple surface with a silky hand and natural water repellency.


polyester: Polyester is an easy-care, synthetic fiber that’s machine washable, dries quickly, is wrinkle-resistant and takes dye easily. Polyester is often blended with cotton or with other synthetic fibers.


sateen: A luxury fabric woven very tightly, using the satin weave technique, which imparts a subtle sheen and a soft, silky hand.


satin: Fabric woven and finished to create a very smooth, lustrous face appearance.


silk: Silk is a natural fiber that features a soft hand, lustrous appearance and superior draping qualities.


suede: Sueded fabrics include cotton, silk or synthetic fabrics designed with a napped finish to resemble the look and feel of leather.


It’s OK To Embellish A Little:

Add texture to a room by adding texture to your window treatments! Fabrics don’t have to be plain – textured or patterned weaves, embroidery, embellishments and trim add visual interest to basic fabrics, making your window treatments as much a fashion statement as your furniture or area rugs.


appliqué: Appliqué refers to a needlework technique in which pieces of fabric are embroidered onto a background fabric to create a design.


binding: A narrow length of fabric that has been sewn on to cover seams or unfinished edges. Referred to as “self-binding” when in the same color and fabric as the base fabric. Contrasting binding is of a different color, pattern or fabric.


damask: Damask is an elaborately patterned, jacquard-woven fabric constructed from silk, linen, wool, cotton or synthetic fibers. Common design themes in damask fabrics include flowers, leaves, fruit and animal figures. Metallic threads can be added to the pattern for effect.


embroidery: Embroidery is decorative, ornamental needlework stitches used to dress up a base fabric. Embroidery can be machine woven or done by hand.


jacquard: A jacquard weave creates an intricate, textured pattern within the fabric. Tapestries, brocades and damask fabrics are all jacquard weaves.



Wilmington Heirloom Jacquard Reversible Coverlet

matelassé: A soft, jacquard-woven fabric with a quilted, puckered surface appearance that adds dimension and texture. Used most often in coverlets.


piping: A thin decorative trim used to finish a hem, seam or as an outline. Can be the same or contrasting fabric.



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Selecting & Caring For Furniture  
A Dictionary of Window Treatment Terms
By Plow & Hearth
2/21/2013 2:48:00 PM  

One of the easier and more cost-effective ways to give a room a whole new look includes adding new window treatments. But with so many types and styles of curtains, blinds and drapes to choose from, how can you find the ones that are best for your windows?


What makes shopping for new window treatments even more confusing is the myriad of unfamiliar terms used to describe and classify the different types and styles. (What is a cellular shade, anyway? What’s the difference between a curtain and a drapery? And why is it important to know the depth of a rod pocket?)


To make your search easier, we’ve compiled a mini “dictionary” of some of the terms you’ll find to describe common window treatments.


The Basics:

These terms describe the different types of window treatments and their basic components or parts used to describe them.


blinds: Refers to window treatments made of horizontal or vertical slats, kept in place with string, cord or fabric tape. Materials for blinds include plastic, metal, wood and heavy fabric.


curtains: Not to be confused with draperies, curtains are unlined, stationary window coverings. Curtains can be hung over windows using a curtain rod or decorative pole, and are most often held back with tiebacks or holdbacks to let in some light. Curtains can be made of most any lightweight, sheer or semi-sheer fabric.


drape: Not to be confused with draperies, “drape” refers to the way a fabric hangs on the window.


draperies: Draperies are window treatments made of fabric that’s heavier than that usually used for curtains. They can be stationary or mobile, and can be used with fabric tiebacks or fixed holdbacks mounted on either side of a window. Draperies can be lined for the purpose of insulation or light blocking and used with a variety of decorative or non-decorative curtain rods. They also come in many hanging styles. Common materials for draperies include brocade, boucle, chenille, damask, suede and velvet.


Draperies are often lined, tailored, and pinch-pleated. They usually stretch from floor-to-ceiling, giving them a more formal look. Draperies are most often seen in a living room, master bedroom, or dining room. They often cost more due to the high quality of the fabric, the fact that they are lined, and the beautiful way they "drape" from the curtain rod to the floor.


hand: This refers to the actual “feel” and draping abilities of a fabric; for example, a fabric with a “soft hand” drapes easily and is soft to the touch.


rod pocket curtains: Also known as a pole top curtain or draperies. rod pocket curtains or draperies have a horizontal sleeve stitched across the top that opens to allow a curtain rod or decorative rod to be slipped through. The curtain or drapery is then arranged to create a soft, gathered look.


shade: “Shades” can refer to blinds, pleated shades, roller shades and other opaque window coverings that can be adjusted to fully or partially expose or cover a window.


sheers: Made of lightweight, translucent and finely woven fabrics, sheers can be used alone to obscure a view while letting in plenty of light or under draperies to create a layered look.


Styles for Every Window:

OK so you’ve decided whether or not to go with blinds, curtains, shades, or a combination. The fun doesn’t stop there! Each of these very different treatments comes in a variety of styles from casual to formal, traditional to modern, classic to cozy. You can even choose styles based on how much or how little light you want to let in These terms explain the different styles available so you can best decide what works for you.


ascot valance: A triangular top treatment usually used between matching panels. A double rod would be used, with the panels on the inside rod and usually 3 ascots on the outside rod for a finished look. An ascot can also be inserted between the panels on a single rod.


blackouts: Blackout draperies are lined or coated window panels made from heavyweight fabric. Blackout draperies are designed to block light and insulate windows so that artificially warmed or cooled air doesn’t escape and outside temperatures can’t penetrate the rooms as easily. Blackout draperies also reduce exterior noise.


blouson/balloon valance: A straight-across valance that is sewn as a pocket that can be filled with tissue paper for a full, puffy look, or left unstuffed for a more tailored look.


café curtains: Also known as tiered curtains or kitchen tiers, these short, straight curtains cover the lower half of a window. Café curtains are usually paired with some sort of top treatment, such as a swag valance.


cellular shade: Known for a distinctive “honeycomb” fabric construction, cellular shades are multi-layered, pleated shades that trap air to provide a high level of window insulation.


crescent valance: A gathered, half-moon valance usually used with jabots or as top treatments to window panels.


grommet-top curtains: Grommets (or eyelets) are metal, plastic or rubber rings used to reinforce a hole in fabric. Grommet top curtains and draperies are hung using “grommets” or “eyelets” – metal, plastic or rubber reinforced holes in the top of the fabric through which decorative curtain rod can be threaded, instead of using a rod pocket to hang the window treatment.


insert valance: A valance that is usually shorter in width than a regular valance. It is used between two panels or a pair of swags.


panel: A panel refers to a single curtain or drapery. A conventional window treatment requires two panels, also known as a “panel pair.”


pinch pleats: A pinch pleat is a three-fold, stitched pleat at the top of a formal drapery panel. The draperies generally are hung on a traverse rod using drapery hooks inserted into the back of the pleat.


roller shade/roll-up shade: Flat fabric, plastic or vinyl shades that roll up onto a cylinder. With roller shades, the cylinder is spring loaded, while with roll-up shades, the shade is drawn up with cords or strings. Roll up shades also can be made of wood.


Roman shade: This fabric window shade creates a tailored, flat look at the window. The classic Roman shade features a flat face fabric that forms pleats as the shade is raised; these pleats are formed by rings threaded with cords or tapes sewn on the back of the fabric that allow the shade to be raised and lowered.


swag: Also known as a jabot, it’s a decorative window top treatment that features a soft, curving semicircle centered on the window with fabric hanging down on both sides. Multiple swags can be used on a window to create a highly decorative top treatment; longer swags can also be used alone as a simple window embellishment. Swags can be made from any fabric and are can trimmed with fringe, lace or tassels.


tab-top curtains: Tab top curtains and draperies are hung from fabric loops or tabs sewn across their tops. A curtain rod or decorative pole is threaded through the tabs, creating a window covering that hangs straight and flat.


tailoring: The term “tailored” or “tailoring” refers to panels or valances with simple, straight lines that hang straight down from the rod.


thermal backing: Thermal-backed draperies are coated on the back side of the material with an insulating layer to block light, heat, drafts or sound. They work similarly to thermal-lined draperies, which have a separate lining that acts as the insulating layer. Thermal linings can be obtained separately for regular draperies.


tie tops: Tie-top curtains and draperies have ribbons or tapes sewn across the top that are used to tie the panel to the rod or to rings and create a casual, homespun look.


valances: Valances are decorative window treatments that cover the top part of a window. They can be used as the top layer of a layered window treatment or as alone as a decorative accent.


Material World:

Curtains, draperies and even blinds come in a variety of materials that can add weight or lighten up a room, depending on the look you’re going for. Whether a room’s crying out for the luxurious warmth of chenille or the springy lightness of traditional gingham, Here are just a few of the most popular materials, along with their benefits.


acrylic: Acrylic is a lightweight fabric that looks and feels like wool, but is machine washable, wrinkle-resistant, and won’t fade in the sunlight. Acrylic window treatments are easy to care for and hold up well over time.


bouclé: Boucle is a woven or knitted fabric made with popular novelty yarn to create a rough, looped or knotted textured surface.


chenille: A luxuriously soft, textured fabric characterized by a thick pile. Chenille is usually made from cotton or wool, but also can be constructed of acrylic, rayon or olefin.


damask: Damask is an elaborately patterned, jacquard-woven fabric constructed from silk, linen, wool, cotton or synthetic fibers. Common design themes in damask fabrics include flowers, leaves, fruit and animal figures. Metallic threads can be added to the pattern for effect.


eyelet: A lightweight curtain fabric decorated with small, embroidered holes; the holes are often laid out in a flower pattern. It is also known as “eyelet lace” and is often used as trim.


gingham: A casual cotton or cotton/polyester blend fabric that has a small-scale checkerboard design of colored squares alternating with white squares. Gingham frequently is used for tier curtains.


lace: Lace is a delicate, ornamental fabric woven in an open, web-like pattern, often combined with different types of embroidery.


linen: Linen is a flat-woven fabric made from the fibers of the flax plant. Linen is extremely strong and smooth with a crisp texture. It can also be blended with cotton, silk, and other natural fibers.


polyester: Polyester is an easy-care, synthetic fiber that’s machine washable, dries quickly, is wrinkle-resistant and takes dye easily. Polyester is often blended with cotton or with other synthetic fibers.


rayon: A versatile, semi-synthetic fiber made from cellulose, rayon has a shiny finish and superior draping characteristics. Most rayon fabrics need to be dry-cleaned.


silk: Silk is a natural fiber that features a soft hand, lustrous appearance and superior draping qualities. Common types of silk include and dupioni.


suede: Sueded fabrics include cotton, silk or synthetic fabrics designed with a napped finish to resemble the look and feel of leather.


voile: A simple, lightweight, semi-sheer fabric made from cotton, polyester, silk or rayon, voile is a popular as an under-treatment in layered window treatment ensembles.


It’s OK To Embellish A Little:

Add texture to a room by adding texture to your window treatments! Fabrics don’t have to be plain – textured or patterned weaves, embroidery, embellishments and trim add visual interest to basic fabrics, making your window treatments as much a fashion statement as your furniture or area rugs.


appliqué: Appliqué refers to a needlework technique in which pieces of fabric are embroidered onto a background fabric to create a design.


basketweave: A basketweave is an allover textured design created by an under-and-over weaving process, resembling the weave used to make baskets.


box pleat: Box pleats are evenly spaced and stitched double pleats, with fabric folded under on both sides to create a box. Box pleats are often used as a header for draperies.


burnout: A fabric design produced by dissolving away one or more fibers in a fabric using a weak acid or chemical salt, which destroys some of the fibers to create a relief or silhouette pattern.


embroidery: Embroidery is decorative stitches used to dress up a base fabric. There are many different types of embroidery used to embellish curtains and draperies, including eyelet, chain stitch, cross stitch, crewel and satin stitch patterns.


jacquard: A jacquard weave creates an intricate woven pattern using multiple levels. Tapestries, brocades and damask fabrics are all jacquard weaves.


matelassé: A complex jacquard woven fabric with an embossed, quilted appearance.


slub or slubbed fabric: Small nubs or bumps in a fabric, woven to create a random, allover texture.


The Nuts And Bolts Of Hanging:

No need to settle for the traditional traverse rod if you don’t want to (and we explain what that is and how it works, too): today’s window treatment hardware options come in a wide array of decorative and functional styles and colors that are sure to add the perfect finishing touch to your ensemble.


brackets: A bracket refers to a piece of hardware attached to a wall or window frame used to support a curtain rod, decorative rod or drapery holdbacks. In wall-mounted brackets, plastic or metal screw anchors are used to install the bracket and add stability and extra support to the rod.


café rod: A café curtain rod is a narrow metal or plastic rod used to hang lightweight curtains that comes in two diameters (½” or ¾”).


center draw: “Center draw” refers to drapery traverse rods that open and close from the center.



clip rings: Clip rings are small metal, wood or plastic rings with a clip that are used in hanging curtains or draperies. The rings slide onto the drapery pole or curtain rod and the clips attach to the fabric panels. Clip rings can be used with pinch-pleated draperies in place of hooks.


drapery hooks: Drapery hooks are inserted into the back of the pleats in pinch pleated draperies. The hooks are then threaded onto a carrier on a traverse rod.


finial: A finial is a decorative end piece used to finish or cap the ends of a drapery rod or top of a drapery holdback. Finials come in a variety of shapes, including balls, urns, pineapples, leaves, flowers, scrolls and fleur-de-lis.


holdbacks: Like fabric tiebacks, holdbacks let curtain or drapery panels to be pulled to the sides of the window and held there. Made of metal, wood, resin or plastic, holdbacks are mounted on the sides of the window and come in virtually any shape and design.


tension rod: Tension rods are adjustable, spring loaded curtain rods that mount on the inside of a window frame or between two walls. Most tension rods are telescoping rods with rubber tips, which anchor the rod and eliminate the need for tools when installing.


tiebacks: Tiebacks are slim strips or loops of fabric that fasten drapery or curtain panels to the sides of the window. The most common type of holdback (see above), tiebacks are often made of a fabric that matches the window panel. They can be trimmed with tassels or fringe to create a more decorative look.


traverse rod: Traverse rods are drapery rods (usually hidden) that allow the panels to “traverse,” or open and close” across the window. They are usually hung on drapery pins or hooks, which are threaded onto small carriers on the inner side of the rod, allowing the carriers to slide on a draw cord to open or close the draperies.



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Selecting & Caring For Furniture  
Wicker Furniture 101
By Plow & Hearth
2/6/2013 12:40:00 PM  

A wicker furniture grouping can be an instant upgrade to the look and feel of any home. Built for real comfort, the classic design, soft contours and pleasing texture of woven wicker furniture is an invitation to sit back and enjoy some personal time relaxing or entertaining friends and family.


A Little History

Natural wicker is a term used for any vine or natural filament that is woven onto a frame to make various furniture pieces. Traditionally made from rattan, woven wicker has been in use as a furniture construction material for thousands of years.


Casual living first began moving outdoors in Europe during the Victorian era. Long popular in the Far East where they originated, wicker styles began making their way into European gardens, porches and patios. We still draw on those classic designs to produce modern synthetic wicker that meets today’s lifestyle demands of durability, low maintenance and high value.


Traditional Rattan Wicker: Your Indoor Wicker Choice

Rattan is a fast-growing tropical plant that produces stalks and vines that are used in all kinds of construction, including furniture. Rattan can be easily bent to construct furniture frames and split to produce the flat material used to weave the body and seats. An excellent choice for your living room, family room and especially the sunroom, natural rattan does not hold up well outdoors over time. The rattan material will start to fade, weaken and break down after a couple of years of exposure to the elements; likewise rattan frames, while easy and inexpensive to produce, also don’t hold up well when used outdoors.


Wicker Furniture Made From PVC: The Best Wicker For Outdoors

Say hello to all-weather wicker! Modern PVC wicker is made by melting PVC resin and extruding it in different shapes and sizes to make the strands and filaments used for weaving the body of the furniture onto a fixed frame.


PVC resins themselves vary in quality. The chemistry of good quality, synthetic wicker makes it UV- and weather-resistant while keeping it strong and flexible over years of use. Good quality PVC wicker can be made with a multicolor textured surface that is attractive and mimics the look and feel of natural wicker. Less expensive PVC wicker may save on initial cost, but will fade easily and become weak and brittle over time.


The metal frames and PVC wicker are formed and woven into shapes and contours that combine pleasing visual design with seating comfort that no other furniture can match. It has all the charm and relaxed comfort of traditional wicker furniture with the added benefit of being low maintenance and weatherproof. The PVC resin weaving will not absorb water, so it dries quickly even after a soaking rain. Best of all, it never needs painting or treating.


Rattan wicker is generally woven onto rattan frames, while PVC wicker is most often woven onto of powder-coated tubular steel or cast aluminum frames that are tightly wrapped with PVC wicker material. This makes them exceptionally strong, lightweight and completely weatherproof. While the steel frames offer affordable strength and durability, cast aluminum frames have the added benefit of being resistant to corrosion – a quality that makes them particularly suitable for coastal climates.



Prospect Hill Wicker Seating Handwoven Resin Wicker Outdoor Dining Collection

Some benefits of All-Weather PVC Wicker include:


Style. Any style you can find made from rattan, you’ll also find in PVC: rockers, gliders, chaise lounges, settees or seating groups with matching side tables, coffee tables and ottomans add comfort and style to your porch, patio or deck.
Easy entertaining. Tempered glass tabletops on your outdoor PFC wicker dining sets make them a cinch to clean up, while stackable chairs are as easy to store as the cheap plastic kind found at discount stores – and are a whole lot more attractive. 
Care and maintenance. Talk about easy to clean - PVC wicker furniture is stain-resistant and quick-drying. A hose and brush is all you need to keep it looking great. To make it even easier to clean (and keep it looking great year after year), add furniture covers in the off seasons. 

Add Color And Comfort With Cushions

Cushions are an integral part of the look and comfort of wicker furniture, and a new set of cushions is an easy and affordable way to update the look and style of your wicker furniture. Choose matching cushions from a wide range of stripes, solids, patterns and colors. A great long-term decorating advantage of wicker furniture is that cushions and pillows can be replaced to easily create a fresh and different style for the porch or patio without having to replace the furniture. Quick-drying cushions are treated to resist fading, soiling and stains.





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Selecting & Caring For Furniture  
Outdoor Furniture 101
By Plow & Hearth
2/6/2013 12:39:00 PM  
Durable All-Weather FSC-Certified Eucalyptus Wood Outdoor Furniture

If you’re looking to refurnish or update your outdoor areas, the possibilities are endless…and can sometimes be overwhelming. There are many all-weather furniture materials and styles on the market. Some of the most popular choices include wicker, wood and metal. Here’s a guide to clarify your options and help you make the most of your spaces.



Wicker Outdoor Furniture

Wicker is an elegant, yet sturdy choice for porch or patio furniture. The woven design of Wicker Furniture is a classic style that has become an outdoor standard.


While wicker can be made of natural materials like rattan and bamboo, it is often crafted of resin—a durable, low-maintenance, easy-to-clean material that resists sun and weather damage and is sometimes more inexpensive than wicker made from natural materials. Some wicker furniture is constructed with powder-coated steel frames to add support and durability. Wicker is often lightweight, which makes it easy to move around on your porch, patio or in the yard to create new seating looks whenever you wish.


Value-Priced Lightweight, All-Weather Resin Outdoor Wicker Seating


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Wood Outdoor Furniture

No matter what type of house or garden you live in, the natural beauty of Wood Furniture is sure to blend with any outdoor setting. And you don’t have to worry about durability – when properly constructed and maintained, outdoor wood furniture can be enjoyed for many years.


Eucalyptus is a renewable, sustainable wood that’s a popular choice with those concerned about the environment. It looks great, too, weathering to a soft, gray shade over time that lends a rustic, old-time feel to any gathering. Nowadays it can be quite low-maintenance, too.


Looking for a sleeker, more elegant style? Teak, an Asian hardwood famous for its ability to withstand wet weather, has long been the wood of choice for boats, docks, and even shower seats. This, along with the fact that it needs little in the way of maintenance, makes teak ideal for deck, patio and even poolside furniture.

Many kinds of woods are suitable for outdoor furniture when you add a protective coat of exterior grade paint. Painted Wood is easier to care for because its smooth surface just wipes clean. It has the added advantage of letting you pick the colors you want to complement the look of your outdoor spaces.


Painted Wood does require more maintenance than eucalyptus or teak. To touch up or repaint wood furniture, first scrape off any loose paint, then sand the furniture lightly before cleaning and repainting it with a brush or spray. Using Furniture Covers on painted wood outdoor furniture will keep them in top condition longer.


Forest Stewardship Council-Certified Eucalyptus Outdoor Furniture Collection

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Metal Outdoor Furniture

If you’re looking for ultra-durable outdoor furniture that’s built to last, Metal Furniture is a great option. It’s tough, sturdy, and comes in a variety of styles. And because most metal outdoor furniture now has a rust-resistant powder coating, you won’t have to worry about rain damage. For added comfort, color and style, you need only add cushions.


Aluminum Furniture is a very popular choice for outdoor furniture. Like plastic, it has the advantage of being very light and easy to move, but it’s much tougher and sturdier, particularly when reinforced with steel legs and welded joints. A powder-coated finish helps aluminum furniture maintain its good looks for years. It can also be easily touched up or repainted as needed – just clean and lightly sand the surface, then spray on a couple light coats of exterior grade metal paint.


Heavier and more substantial than aluminum, Wrought Iron Furniture is a good choice if you live in an area with consistently windy conditions. It comes in many styles and shapes to add a classic look to your outdoor area, and can be powder-coated for extra weather-resistance.


Like wrought iron, Steel Furniture is also sturdy and substantial. It's also more cost-effective than other options, and can be welded, screwed or bolted together. Tubular steel furniture is lightweight, offering an affordable alternative to aluminum. And while steel furniture can require more maintenance, keep in mind that a good quality paint finish can last for years. Dealing with rust as soon as it appears goes far toward maintaining the beauty of your steel furniture – just clean and sand the surface, then touch it up or repaint it with a rust-inhibiting exterior grade paint.


Blooming Garden Cast Aluminum Bench

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Best Seats Outside The House

When choosing furniture for your outdoor spaces, you not only need to decide on what materials are right, you need to choose the right style, too. Outdoor seating options include chairs, stools, swings, loveseats, benches – even hammocks. Here are a few you might want to consider.


Having originated in the Adirondack Mountains of Upstate New York at the turn of the 20th Century, Adirondack Chairs remain a favorite outdoor seating option, particularly in rural settings. Modern improvements include weather-resistant materials, plus a wide variety of stylish colors.


Nothing says "relaxation" more than the perfect hammock. Constructed of cotton or polyester, they’re built to resist weather for years. You can often add a personal touch with a coordinating cushion set.


Whether in the garden or on the front lawn, porch or patio, a good bench, chair or stool completes the look, as an accessory or a place to enjoy your work. There are lots of great shapes, sizes, colors, materials and designs to choose from. Pick one that blends in or stands out among your trees, shrubs and flower beds.


Get in the swing of the great outdoors with rockers and gliders! Rockers and gliders offer a traditional, comfortable way to enjoy a leisurely afternoon on your porch or patio all season long.


Lounge chairs offer supreme comfort indoors and out. Designed to reduce spinal pressure, muscle tension and stress, they’re perfect by the pool or at the beach—their breathable mesh covers help keep you cool.



Finishing Touches

Don’t forget to touch up your outdoor furniture with fun, relaxing accents. Add comfort and color to your outdoor furniture with Outdoor Cushions. Some outdoor cushions are made from polyester that is UV-protected to resist fading, and treated to repel soil and stains. Other types of outdoor cushions are made from solution-dyed acrylic fabric that is both fade- and stain-resistant.


Umbrellas provide shade and shelter from the elements, and also add color to your outdoor areas.


Furniture covers extend the life of your outdoor furniture and help keep them clean, smooth and ready-to-use when warm weather arrives. For painted wood or metal furniture, covers minimize annual maintenance and offer fast and easy clean-up. Simply take the cover off your patio furniture in the spring to reveal clean, beautiful, ready-to-use furniture.





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Selecting & Caring For Furniture  
Good, Better, and Best Woods For Outdoor Furniture
By Plow & Hearth
1/31/2013 12:24:00 PM  


Not all woods are created equal when it comes to year-round outdoor performance. Only a few varieties, out of the hundreds available, are durable enough to withstand drenching rains or the harsh rays of the sun.


For a piece of outdoor furniture to stand up to the ravages of nature long term - even in a relatively mild, balmy climate - it must be made of a wood with some natural resistance to rot and insect infestation.


How Woods Work to Resist Rot

Woods work in two very different ways to resist rot. Chemical compounds offer the first rot-resisting solution. Some woods, such as redwood, cypress, and the cedars, contain these chemical compounds that bugs, bacteria, and other agents of decomposition find offensive, so they look for their meals elsewhere.


Physical barriers account for the second form of rot resistance. Woods such as white oak and black locust feature structures called tyloses that fill the pores of the wood, preventing moisture, and the decay-causing creatures that thrive in moisture, from getting into the wood in the first place.


Whether chemically or physically, the result is the same - these woods stand up to the elements, season after season.


Wood Types

Northern White and Western Red Cedars 
Both of these woods are native to North America and are traditionally used for boat building, house siding and furniture. They’re valued for their combination of lightweight, interesting grain pattern and extreme durability in outdoor conditions. Although cedar will show knots and cracks in the grain, it maintains its durability for 20 years or more without warping, splitting or rotting. Its light-colored surface will weather to a silver-gray patina.
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Teak
The king of durable woods, teak will hold up long enough to pass down to the next generation. It needs no maintenance (aside from the occasional light sanding or cleaning to remove surface dirt), is dense and straight-grained, and will not warp or crack over time. Because of its high mineral content, teak resists rotting even in the wettest conditions. Over time, the surface of the wood will weather to a beautiful silver-gray patina. 
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Eucalpytus
A renewable resource - eucalyptus is a plantation-grown hardwood that is sustainably harvested and in plentiful supply. This high-quality, kiln-dried timber is incredibly solid with great durability and strength and has beautiful grain and a smooth finish that requires minimal maintenance. Eucalyptus is extremely dense, rot- and decay-resistant with a high oil content that repels water and moisture. It also weathers to a soft gray if left untreated, however, it can be stained to maintain its rich tones. 
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Native White Oak 
Its unique cell structure repels moisture, insects and rot. The famous American sailing ship, Old Iron Side, was built with white oak and could repel British cannon balls. Dense and straight-grained, white oak furniture has an oil finish and can be left to weather to a gray patina or cleaned and re-oiled annually. 
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Acacia (Locust)
Many varieties of acacia (or locust) grow around the world and are renowned for their long-term, outdoor durability.  Locust fence posts are often the last thing standing long after the fence itself is gone. Acacia is a moderately heavy, dense wood with interesting variable grain patterns. An oil finish can bring out the character of the grain or it can be left to weather to a dark gray.
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China Fir
A fast-growing evergreen, china fir is traditionally used in China in all kinds of construction where a durable, easy-to-work wood is required. Its surface is very similar in appearance to white cedar. It’s lightweight, with a smooth, straight-grained pale yellow surface that will weather to an even gray over time. Long-lasting in wet or dry conditions china fir is a great value and requires little or no maintenance. 

 

Taking Good Care

For unfinished woods, which generally turn a beautiful silver or gray as the years go by, a light sanding with 150- or 180-grit sandpaper once a year will knock down any fuzzy grain (caused by rain and/or snow), eliminate any larger fibers that could cause splinters, and generally give the wood a clean, smooth look. Don't be overzealous in sanding, however: You don't want to sand through the silver and expose the original color of the wood once the furniture is on its way to developing a natural patina. Furniture with an oil finish should be sanded in the same manner - once a year - then given a light coat of whatever oil the manufacturer or retailer recommends.


Protecting Your Investment

Furniture covers help extend the life of your outdoor furniture and keep the surface clean, smooth and ready-to-use when warm weather arrives. For painted wood or metal furniture, covers minimize annual maintenance and offer quick clean up. Simply take the cover off your patio furniture in the spring to reveal clean, beautiful, ready- to-use furniture.



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