Savvy buyers of outdoor furniture should look to invest in wood

Hugo Lamdin with a communion table in ashA rise in sales of rattan-style plastic and metal garden furniture suggests that buyers are opting for lightweight, waterproof items for outside entertaining this season. However, a young Oxfordshire designer argues that well-crafted wooden items will outlast and outshine all competition, acting as a valuable investment – as long as they are made from the right timber and treated properly.

Hugo Lamdin, who crafts unique contemporary furniture from his workshop near Cassington, says people can wrongly assume that wood is high maintenance and unwieldy, and avoid it in preference to metal or plastic alternatives.

“But the weather takes its toll on everything outdoors,” says Hugo. “Treated right, wood can weather beautifully with your garden, whereas alternatives rust or look tatty. People call their garden a room nowadays, so wood can ensure yours is furnished properly.”

He says the best option for those concerned about a ‘hassle factor’ of moving items inside and back out, is to invest in some really good permanent outdoor seats and tables which can stay in situ. “A common mistake when buying this type of garden furniture is to have it made in cheaper American oak, a different oak species that is more porous so does not weather well. I recommend buying native European oak for outdoor use.”

Once in place, Mr Lamdin says the key to keeping your outdoor wooden furniture in good condition is simply to treat it twice a year with natural oil or wax, such as tung oil. “Most people assume that rain causes the most damage; however the sun eats through wood finishes as well, then water can seep in and create rot. Treatments will help retain the wood’s colour and protect it for 50 years or more.

“My advice would be to treat your furniture and leave it where it is in the garden. Don’t think moving it under a tree or bush for cover will necessarily protect it as tree sap and bird droppings can cause damage too.” Alternatively, Mr Lamdin says, suitable covers for permanent outdoor furniture can be made – people should ask for them.

Richard Plowman of the Leisure and Outdoor Furniture Association says that while plastic rattan is a big hit this year, he has recently seen a small but welcome resurgence in wood.

“The garden is now seen as a place for entertaining, so the quality and style of your furniture count!”

Image: Hugo Lamdin with a communion table in ash, commissioned by the Bishop of Oxford.