Enhance the outdoor experience

Go-to ideas for the finest in patios around the pool

By Dean Rowland

Comfort and luxury on the patio around the pool greet the eye of even the most casual observer of fine furnishings. They are marks of distinction and signature elements of Lowcountry style.

For color, look at your patio and picture the coastal surroundings and imagine nautical blues, sea oat and curly grass beige, beach grass greens, cordgrass browns in the fall, angel grass lavender and white pampas grass plumes. 

As the rain swoons, the wind and hard breezes scuttle face-first, and the salt air clings to arm rests, lounge slats and tabletops. The durability of fine furnishings must withstand nature’s seasonal moods.

Steve Steele, owner of Coastal Home by Marco Polo in Bluffton, touts vinyl as a go-to patio material for its durability and versatility.

“The majority of companies now do vinyl,” Steele said. “It’s a high-grade vinyl and underneath is high-cut aluminum. It needs a powder coat aluminum free, or your frame will fall apart.”

It’s resistant to corrosion, wear, chipping and is environmentally friendly and aesthetically pleasing.

From Brazil comes the warm, rich, hardwood ipe, which is stronger than teak and can be found in the furniture outside at the Coast restaurant in Sea Pines that Coastal furnished, Steele said.

Maintenance-free outdoor poly furniture provides high-end pieces that look like textured wood.

“Down here it’s a year-round event,” said Craig Bright, owner of Casual Living in Bluffton. “There’s multiple different types of products…there’s aluminum, woven, teak…there’s lots of different styles. 

“You can provide an environment with the technology available now in the furniture that frankly will last as long if not longer than indoor products,” he said. “It’s not just furniture; there’s artwork, outside heaters, accessories, dining, swings, grills. A lot of our products have 10- to-20-year warranties. They don’t just go bad.”

Other tried-and-true materials are:

  • Wicker. Today’s wicker can be natural or synthetic or combined into benches, sofas, chairs, stools and tables.
  • Rattan. Unlike wicker, which is a process and style of weave, rattan is a wild plant material that is made into furniture, canes, woven mats and other handicrafts.
  • Teak. This tropical hardwood contains a high oil and natural resin content, high tensile strength and tight grain. Its natural color is golden-honey brown and ages into patina gray if untreated.
  • Metals. Popular cast aluminum, steel and iron-alloy wrought iron can be used with or without cushions.
  • Synthetic resin. This all-weather product typically is woven into a wicker-style for a classic look.
  • Upholstry. Synthetic fibers like vinyl, polyester and acrylic make this comfortable and water resistant.

There are nearly as many furnishing options as there are grains of sand for intimate conversations and party gatherings.

With an outdoor table and chairs, you can dine, work and relax on your patio with barely a fuss. If shade is a concern, tables can provide a state-of-the-art built-in umbrella.

Once your 30-inch bistro table and chairs are set up, you can expand your outdoor living space with a daybed, one-, two-, or three-piece sectionals with a table and chairs or lounge chairs, a multi-use table and chairs, conversation sets, dining sets, sofas, love seats, end tables, cocktail or coffee tables, rugs, fire pits or fire tables, pavilions, and accessories.

The glistening water in the swimming pool often occupies center stage in outdoor living space. Enhance the refreshing experience with sling, strap and cushion chair sets, dining and chaise lounge sets. Add a daybed, some Adirondack chairs, and a bar or cabinet to complete the ensemble.


“Everybody thinks that patio furniture and outdoor living is restricted to around the pool,” said Bright, who purchased Casual Living in Bluffton in 2015. 

It’s not.

“There are so many different places that the furniture goes down here because of the climate,” he said. “A good number of homeowners don’t have a pool.”

Spread out under a covered porch, sun deck and lanai to create outdoor living retreats.

Steele said the “biggest growing market right now is outdoors because residents want outdoor versions of what they have indoors.”