Quality counts

01:21, Sep 04 2012

Custom built garden furniture is one of the new garden trends. Down here in New Zealand we are offered very limited choice of quality, hard wearing and attractive garden furniture.

There are so few decent off-the-shelf products available in Blenheim.

The outdoor furniture on offer here is typically poorly designed (if at all), made from cheap rust-prone materials and not very comfortable. So what is the alternative?

It is sometimes hard to accept, but you must always buy quality fittings, as in the long run they will pay for themselves.

Cheap outdoor furniture that is exposed to our harsh level of UV lasts only one season or two at the most before it starts to deteriorate and then it falls apart quickly.

So what turns out to be cheap is not good and after you buy a few sets of these you have paid more than you would have for a quality set that would last 20 years.


There are several local builders who could construct a gorgeous site-specific outdoor furniture suite for you, but make sure you have the designs right. As part of my services I design outdoor furniture and have contractors build it for my clients. This is not a cheap exercise initially, but it is cheaper than purchasing an expensive high-quality alternative from Auckland and it will last longer.

Best of all it will look better, be more functional and comfortable and it will be unique to you.

Garden furniture needs to suit its purpose. A day bed, for example, needs to be so comfortable that you don't want to get up.

A dining table needs to be big enough to place summer platters crammed full of barbecued cajun chicken, honey soy ribs, snags, juicy steaks and salads on. But that is not all – you also need to sit 8-10 around it comfortably to avoid elbow wrestling with your neighbour. Each piece should be site specific – custom built to your requirements.

If it is built in it can be a really good investment in your garden and on sold with the house.

Going back to the courtyard, from previous columns, we see here that the bar area is very social, but above all it is practical. The bar can be used aid the whole BBQ experience as well as being a place to socialise.

The bar stools in this image are replica Xavier Pauchard bar stools and are galvanized to prevent corrosion.

The details of the barbecue area need to play second fiddle to safety. The heat from the barbecue must be able to dissipate and fire proof materials should be used around the barbecue. There are many materials available from our local hardware stores.

As with all my designs I incorporate lighting. Garden lighting is essential in outdoor rooms like these as you can double its usable time with little extra cost.

Here I have 4 12V 1W LED down lights that cast a "moon light" effect on the concrete slab bar top – it looks amazing!

I have 200W floodlights amongst the tropical plantings that really show off the large-leafed specimens with jostling shadows acting on the concrete wall behind.

There is so much more pleasure available from the satisfaction of creating something original and unique.

If you are to build the furniture yourself you can save on the labour costs so you can spend more on quality fittings that will look better and last much longer.

Stainless steel is probably the best and most expensive but galvanized fixings look good and cost a fraction of the stainless.

This bar area comes alive with music from the outdoor speakers and the sloshing water from the water fall behind.

This tropical paradise was created with a good budget but not nearly as much as you might think – having time, knowledge and some decent tools can save you thousands and increase the value of your property.

Although summer 2012 never really materialised I am quite certain that there will be plenty of good summers to come so start preparing your winter project now in anticipation and hope of a great summer for 2013.

The Marlborough Express