Re-Purpose Indoor Furniture for Outdoor Use

Shopping for the perfect outdoor furniture. Photo credit:

When looking for outdoor furniture, sometimes it’s hard to find pieces that are actually comfortable and that you want to sit in. Another dilemma is just trying to find pieces that don’t look like everyone else’s. There are so many pieces being mass-produced these days; it’s hard to find anything that is unique.

I recently discovered, quite by accident, that a creative and cost-effective way to find perfect outdoor furniture is to simply re-purpose indoor furniture for outdoor use. There are a few things to keep in mind when searching, so here are some of my tips.

The perfect pair of chairs were my old living room chairs! #winning

1. The Search for the Perfect Outdoor Chair: Re-Purpose What You Have!

When looking for indoor furniture that would work outdoors, you’ll want to keep some things in mind. Is your outside space covered? If so, you can get away with a little more upholstery, and maybe even some wicker/rattan material since your furniture will not be openly exposed to the elements. If your space is strictly in the wide open outdoors, you’ll want to make sure that the material is free from pressed board, particle board, and wicker with foam underneath – anything that would rot and deteriorate easily with exposure to rain. Keep in mind that if only part of the furniture is pressed board you can replace that piece with a re-created one of a more durable material.

Look for pieces that are mainly constructed of wood or iron, but keep comfort in mind. You’ll want to find pieces that are upholstered with completely removable cushions so that you can have those covered in outdoor fabric. Sit in the chair and picture what it would feel like outside. How would it blend in with your space? What would it look like painted? Remember, you’ll need to paint the surface in order to keep it protected.

2. Sand, Prime, Paint!

Lightly sand the surface to remove any dirt, debris, rust, or furniture polish. Dust off the furniture with a stiff paintbrush. Now, you are ready to prime the surface with a primer that will help your paint to “grip”. I like Zinsser Primer, which comes in a gallon size or spray can. You can pick this up at Ace Hardware, or your local hardware store. When choosing a paint, make sure the color will go with your outdoor setting, and buy a paint that is meant for outdoor spaces. I would recommend using at least two coats to protect the furniture, and be prepared to re-paint every season in order to keep it protected, depending on your climate.

I found the perfect outdoor fabric from my favorite online fabric store:

3. Replace Cushions With Outdoor Fabric

I love to shop for fabric, so to me this is the fun part. I love for outdoor fabric at a good price. If you are not sure of the colors or pattern, ask for a swatch first before ordering.

Do you know how to sew? If not, prepare to pay someone to recover your cushions. Keep in mind that cording around the edges, zippers, and any re-upholstery work will be costly. I like taking my more complicated pieces to our local boat upholstery place to have outdoor cushions recovered. Having experience and the proper heavy-duty machines to sew outdoor fabric is important.

My old, tired living room chairs were still extremely comfortable.....why not re-purpose for outdoor use rather than donate? Little investment=smart move!

How long the furniture will last in your outdoor space really depends on what it is made of, how harsh your climate is, and how well you take care of it. If you notice an arm or part of the backing beginning to rot, consider re-creating it if you or someone you know is handy. If you can see loose nails/screws, tighten them to prevent water from seeping into hidden areas and starting the wood-rotting process. Inspect your furniture after a harsh season and make repairs and repaint accordingly, and it should last several years. Happy furniture hunting! There’s more to outdoor furniture than what you can find at your local home goods store……

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