5 Reasons to Use Your Outdoor Furniture -– Inside

I purchased a lovely outdoor furniture set this year — the first I had ever owned. It was a delicate white faux wicker with green cushions and would have looked stunning on my future patio. The problem was that the patio never got built, the wind this year was awful, and we soon moved to a place that made it even more impractical to use. Our solution? Bring it inside. It turned out to be the best decorating decision we ever made!

What was supposed to be a temporary arrangement (using our new outdoor furniture in our living room until newer furniture could be bought) soon became the answer to all of our previously troubling decorating issues. Here are the five reasons we will continue to use the outdoors inside, and why we may never go back to traditional furniture.

1. Kids ruin things, and outdoor furniture is virtually indestructible.

My youngest three kids are all boys. At ages 6, 4, and 2, nothing is safe from their reenactments of the fight scenes in The Pirates of the Caribbean and their desire to have their palms forever covered in peanut butter. For these reasons, I love my outdoor furniture. It wipes clean without any special upholstery equipment, and since it was designed to withstand rain showers and the occasional mud fight, it can handle an unexpectedly leaky diaper like a champ. In a few words: My stuff will look new after many months of wear and tear, and I won’t have to scream, forbid fun, or suffer from extremely high blood pressure to ensure it. The same cannot be said for my plush loveseat and sofa. (They smell just like the life they sadly lived for the past few years.)

2. $500 is usually all you need.

Did the idea that I could get a loveseat, two chairs, and a glass coffee table for under $450 appeal to me the most? Undoubtedly. With the amount I would expect to pay for just the traditional living room sofa, I could get a brand-spanking new set of furniture and have it look fresh out of the box. If you’re thinking ahead for next year, you can score a set on super sale at most any retailer once they start pulling out the fall displays. (July or August is when most will start dropping in price.) Even if you go very high-end, you can time it right, and get a more lavish set for up to 12 people to comfortably hang out for no more than five $100 bills. That’s pretty sweet, if you ask me.

3. The look is timeless.

If you play your cards right, you can pull off a complimentary look for most any time period. My white wicker, for example, went nicely with the sandy brown walls in my home. Even if the decor had been pink with blue polka dots, however, I could have switched out the cushions and updated with each change in styles. Outdoor furniture is basic, clean, and ready to rock your choice of interior design — no experience needed.

4. You really can DIY.

The other night, my husband and I found ourselves having a hard time hearing the movie we were watching. We could have turned up the volume and risked waking up our youngest, most-fickle son. Instead, we picked up our light-weight but sturdy outdoor furniture and moved it closer to the tube. No sweat, no fuss, and we could put it right back when we were done. The ability to move the furniture by myself is also a plus when I want to vacuum well, or when we have a vicious game of The Bigs 2 going on the Wii. Even my son can move the furniture when he needs to.

Another advantage is that the furniture came in a box that I could easily fit into my van. I paid no outrageous delivery fees, and I could set it up myself with a screwdriver and a bit of patience. If you’re single or unwilling to rely on others to get your furniture home from the store, I can’t say enough about using outdoor furniture.

5. You can still always use it outside.

Unlike typical indoor furniture, which has a shelf life that may vary by how hard you use it, outdoor furniture can live for a very long time. If you find that you eventually want to go ultra chic and invest in that leather sofa and recliner set, you can — without the guilt of feeling like you’re betraying your perfectly good existing set. Outdoor furniture can always be placed outside again.

If you don’t personally have room for it, it can be donated to a nursing home. You may also find that the set itself may make a nice “starter set” for a college dorm room or newlywed’s apartment. The possibilities truly are endless, and usually don’t require that you set anything out on the curb.

Outdoor furniture is a growing, exciting market. With new variations that include eco-friendly, recycled materials and designer coverings, you will almost certainly be able to maintain all your dignity when substituting traditional furnishings with this more affordable alternative.

*Note - A keen reader over at Lifehacker, brought up a good point about flammability standards.  Generally speaking, outdoor furniture is not always labeled and sold as indoor furniture.  For this reason, it may not have to pass some of the same flammability tests that your normal furniture will.  If you're usure as to whether it does, check the tags and labels on all components (it will usually tell you.)  Many sets are made for either indoor or outdoor use, and should not be a problem.  Consumers who will be using their furniture near open flame or while smoking should probably be checking their furniture carefully, regardless.  (Futons, office furniture, dining chairs, and the mattresses inside fold-out couches are not generally subject to some of the same standards as "indoor furniture."  The same goes for slipcovers, ottomans, throw pillows and throws -- some of these can also be highly flammable.)  If in doubt, check it out -- before you buy.  (And if you store your outdoor furniture indoors over the cold season anyway, be careful of how you store it.)

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Guest's picture

I recently moved cross-country for work, and I've been debating what to do about the "furniture situation."

This seems like an excellent solution. Thank you.

Guest's picture

This is one of best ideas I've seen! I was just looking at "indoor/outdoor" fabrics to redo some dining chairs we were given. It never crossed my mind for the rest of the house. We need new furniture for the living room (kids have really done a number on it!) and this is great. I'm so excited!

Guest's picture
carol l

when it gets dirty, take it outside and spray it off.

Guest's picture

Appreciate the recommendation. Let me try it out.

Julie Rains's picture

I've done this also -- decorated with wicker in my sunroom (though other rooms would work) on the advice of my parents, who did the same several years ago. Last year, when I needed an extra chair and ottoman, I found a nice set during the end-of-season sale at my fav home improvement center: much less expensive than traditional furniture. My older set has lasted over 15 years though I did have to get it reupholstered about a year ago; but, that was easier also b/c I just had to take my cushions in rather than the entire sofa, chair, etc.

Guest's picture

Before I had kids, I would have rolled my eyes at this suggestion. However, with two preschoolers, a german shepherd, and two elderly cats in my home now, we're doing the same thing. Patio furniture can be very stylish, relatively inexpensive, durable and is so easy to clean. We have hardwood floors and also love patio rugs. We got a 9'x12' rug for around $125 (regular price, didn't wait for the clearance!) and it looks great and is a breeze to clean. It's the only rug we've ever owned that the kids and pets haven't ruined! And people complement us on it all the time.

Guest's picture

Why'd you buy it before you had the patio? Good deal?

I used to sell this stuff. I generally recommended AGAINST putting "plicker" (that faux wicker plastic stuff) inside in places it's going to have heavy usage. The plicker I'm familiar with has a metal frame, which can bend and warp from being jumped on. Also, if you have wrapped legs, it can and will unravel and sometimes has sharp edges.

If it works for you, good times. I'd just caution your kids from jumping on it. Plicker won't hold up like a regular couch or loveseat will, period. It's a good short term solution, but it's probably more frugal to bite the bullet and buy regular furniture for rooms with heavy usage.

If you WANT to do plicker (I'm not a fan, I'll admit to this) look for something with a thick weave and something white. The paint WILL come off, and it's easier to touch up the white than a mocha or green set.

Guest's picture

Outdoor furniture does not have the same flame resistance as indoor furniture. As such, it is not a good idea to use outdoor furniture indoors.

It might be a good idea to revise the posting to reflect this fact.

Linsey Knerl's picture

Thanks guest!  While I generally check items for flammability, anyway, this was a good reminder for folks who may be unaware of the potential for buying something that isn't labeled for indoor use.  I made a note at the end of my article, and in the LifeHacker comment thread.

Linsey Knerl

Guest's picture
Melissa S

Oh how I agree with this article. We bought an outdoor 2 person glider a few years back but it just never made it outside -- we love it! It's great for watching TV and gliding back and forth. We put a cushy blanket over it sometimes, but in the summer, it's bare and wonderful. haha

And um... aren't most things in your house flammable? Just saying.

Guest's picture

What a great idea!

It will go nicely with our wooden flooring too.

Thanks for sharing!

Guest's picture

i'm sorry but this sounds incredibly tacky. unless it's a sunroom there is no way this is going to look good. what's next, patio astro-turf instead of carpet because of how easily it cleans?
though i can see why it's a good idea for families because i have seen some horridly disgusting couches at my in-laws houses. the thought of what i'm sitting in is sort of gross (leaky diaper residue).

Linsey Knerl's picture

Totally depends on where you're from.  Since my area of the country relies heavily on sunrooms, and the use of more traditional "sitting rooms" (think parlor) for the adults to converse, drink coffee, and hang out, it is not at all unusual to see these areas of the home set up to be less a comfy place to hang out and spill your beer, and more a tidy area of the home that can be company-ready at a moment's notice.  I love that our sitting room (i.e. living room) is nicely done up with outdoor furniture.  Of course, I have a country look to my home (since we are on a farm)-- a NYC flat, it is not.

If you're looking for something a bit more Seinfeld and a little less Reba, you might want to look at stores like Pottery Barn or IKEA.  They offer a little more in the way of modern and Euro styles.

Of course, you shouldn't take my word for it, alone.  Apartment Therapy (someone with a bit more authority in the design world) has often brought up outdoor pieces as a way to accent indoor rooms:




Thanks for the comments, everyone!

Linsey Knerl

Linsey Knerl's picture

Oh, and I forgot to add that we do have one regular-length sofa in our main room for the few times that someone wants to lay down while watching a movie. The kids, however, are not allowed on the couch... just asking for trouble. (We were going to take it to the Goodwill, but it was too heavy to deal with.) It rarely happens that anyone actually lies down on it (since the urge to eat chips and salsa while taking in a flick always wins out over the desire to be flat-on-back), but the option is there.  Also, since some of the furniture has a weight limit, it may be a good idea to have one indoor or sturdier outdoor piece (aluminum weld, maybe) for any guests who might be too heavy to enjoy an outdoor set.

Linsey Knerl

Guest's picture

I use metal chairs and stone tables in my sunroom, which is basically a converted bedroom. The chairs have very comfortable cushions and allow me to change the decor of the room. Kudos for this inexpensive and creative use of furniture!

Guest's picture

If you purchase pre-owned bamboo, or for that matter, PVC furniture, check it carefully for roaches and other nasties before you cash out the deal.

I love vintage bamboo for a living room. If you find a great deal on a compatible fabric, you can always paraffin or Scotchgard it.

Andrea Karim's picture

Linsey, this is one of my favorite tips ever. I totally did this when I was struggling to find a couch that would fit in my uber-small living room. I got a couch on clearance at Target for $99. It's now in my storage closet, awaiting summer so I can put it out in the garden.

I also love old wicker furniture, partly because I love the way it looks when painted bright, awesome colors and combined with clean, new covers on the cushions.

Linsey Knerl's picture

Clearly, your approval negates 90% of the bad-mouthing my tips have received.  LOL  I am officially worthy.  Thank you!

Linsey Knerl

Andrea Karim's picture

:) I should mention that I used the wicker couch for two years - my comment sort of made it sound like I bought it and stuffed it into storage immediately. I found a usable couch, finally, but the wicker saved me during the in between times.

I've also found that there are some really cool metal pieces that can look incredibly chic if repurposed for indoors. People also give away old lawn furniture all the time on craigslist. If you can swoop and and get your hands on that stuff, it's a great way to outfit parts of the house without spending thousands of bucks.

When I first read the part about cockroaches in the comment above, I was thinking that that was overkill, but then I recalled a free dining room table that I had snagged while living in the Bay Area that was infested with silverfish (:: shudder :: twitch ::). I had to Raid the heck out of that thing, and then leave it outside for a few days before bringing it in. But it was still the best darn dining table ever.

Myscha Theriault's picture

OK, I've clearly been more distracted than I realized, as I totally missed this article the first time around. Great piece!

You know, even though we have a leather couch, I've been wanting to not go with additional chairs and keep the walking / moving space we have in the living room. However, we are short on seating when people come, as the couch sits three and the antique platform rocker is the only additional chair, unless you count the camel saddle.

So. . . I've been thinking of trying to find a sectional that's chic, yet wraps the entire three sides of the room after I finish getting rid of the storage pieces that currently are on the walls. It's a decorating transition in process to be sure, but I've been holding off because the cost I thought I was going to have to pay was nauseating.

Now I feel like I have an option or two. Thanks, Linsey!


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Guest's picture

Dear Linsey,

Thank you for sharing of your tips to furnish indoors cheap, easy and comfortable!

It is an excellent solution especially for somebody like me...first time leaving alone.


Guest's picture

Back in the 1960's my parents decided to use a lovely black wrought iron set for our living room and dining room, we had them through all our military moves. Mom and dad finally used them as porch furniture after dad retired in the mid-70's. I inherited the dining table and chairs in the early 90's, and used them on our deck. It lasted until we moved in 2003!

Guest's picture

Great to see this suggestion - I've been mixing outdoor wooden furniture indoors for years! I have a stunning hardwood 2 seater for extra occasional seating in my living room & have literally just bought two slatted outdoor teak chairs for my kitchen table. I've even got an old slatted, wood garden chair I painted in ice cream pastels in one of my bedrooms! I'd say ignore the 'traditionalists', go for 'quirky' and with a good eye you can make a room look truly original.

Guest's picture

Love this idea! Our furniture, although not looking worn, is very uncomfortable. I was trying patio furniture out today and thinking "hmmmm, this way more comfortable than the couch and loveseat we have now." Just need to find some heavy duty chairs.

Guest's picture

Regarding flame resistance... I think not having toxic flame retardant chemicals in the cushions is actually a plus.