Conservatory Furniture - Which material and how much should it cost?
Your conservatory can be a lovely place to relax but in order to do so you need to make the right choice of conservatory furniture. The environment in a conservatory is quite harsh for furnishings due to the strong sunlight and high humidity.
However, you may find that anything specifically made for conservatories is priced significantly higher than, for example, the equivalent sofa for your lounge. What you must then decide is whether it would be cheaper to replace a normal sofa every few years due to fading and structural breakdown or buy dedicated conservatory furniture at a higher price.
Conservatory furniture is usually labelled as being made from cane, yet it looks more like bamboo. Actually, its most likely made from a material called rattan. This is what we call cane. The main difference to bamboo being the solid canes rather than hollow ones. This material is very strong and is sometimes used as a structural scaffold in South East Asia. It is grown in the tropics around Asia and Africa and grows very fast. Like bamboo it can be easily split to form flexible sections which can be woven to make items like conservatory furniture.
Rattan is therefore usually a good choice for conservatory furniture as it is resistant to the high humidity and also will not be easily damaged by exposure to strong sunlight. It can be stained or dyed quite easily and so furniture can be obtained in many different colours.
Wicker is derived from the name wickerwork, given to the type of weaving used in the manufacture of some sun room furniture. Wicker woven furniture is usually finer in detail than rattan and as such is more easily damaged and subject to strands coming loose or fraying at the edges.
Wicker doesn't have to be made from rattan or bamboo but is usually made from a plant based material. Though man-made fibres can be used as well. A good example of wicker work can be seen in the film the Wicker Man. Nice happy ending there!
Resin 'Wicker' Furniture
This is an artificial material that can be made to look like wicker but is actually man-made. It is very hard wearing and is often used for outdoor patio furniture.
Instead of buying a specialist furniture for your conservatory you could instead go to a conventional sofa shop and pick up a deal. This will probably work out cheaper but buyer beware as it may degrade in appearance over time. Care has to be taken if one is using conventional wooden home furnishings instead of typical conservatory furniture due to the high humidity and strong light conditions. The strong light in a conservatory can cause the wood and material to fade (the material hasn't typically been treated to be colour fast in the strong light) and the extremes in temperature and humidity can cause the wood to bend out shape.
If you wish to use normal wooden furniture in your conservatory you may want to consider placing it somewhere out of the direct light if possible. One can choose wooden conservatory furniture made out of pine, maple or oak, but teak is particularly well suited to conditions in a conservatory.
You could put plastic chairs in the room, I guess it depends on the style of the conservatory. If it has been designed and furnished as an extension, for example of the lounge, then garden style chairs would look out of place. However, it it has been decorated to bring the garden into to the house (perhaps more like an orangery with plenty of plants) then patio furniture would look good. Of course, it doesn't have to be plastic as you can get wooden or iron furniture. One of the advantages is that you are buying from a bigger market (more people have patios than conservatories) and it has been designed to survive the harsh conditions outdoors (sunlight and wet weather).
Looking After Conservatory Furniture
It is likely that even if the materials have been chosen to withstand high humidity and treated to diminish fading that the strong sunlight in a conservatory will gradually fade your furniture. To try and reduce environmental damage the steps to take are
- Reduce the direct sunlight
- This can be done using blinds or an inexpensive throw - which will be enormously cheaper than the blinds! To stop localised fading, which will be much more noticeable, perhaps occasionally rotate the location and orientation of your furniture in the sunlight and simply turn cushions.
- Keep the room as cool as possible
- This ideally has to be done at the conservatory planning part of build. Conservatory cooling is a whole other issue. Basically though if you build plenty of ventilation into your conservatory and seriously consider how hot it will get in there in the Summer months then you can reduce the effects of extreme heat and humidity on the furniture.
You will also need to clean the furniture. Consult the instructions that came with the items for specific details but you will usually simply wipe a rattan or cane structure down with a slightly damp cloth.
How much could my furniture cost?
Conservatory furniture prices varies hugely with the quality. Lets have a quick look through a few online retailers for a basic suite, consisting of a coffee table, two armchairs and a two seater sofa with cushions and see how much it will cost in different materials and standards.
Prices valid as of April 2008. Range terms are relative only and may not be indicative of actual quality.
When is the best time to furnish my conservatory?
As with other items such as a patio heater and a lawn mower, the best bargains can be had mid-autumn when the DIY stores start having end of season sales. You can save anywhere from 20-50% off a wide variety of furniture. This can realistically represent anywhere up to £750 saving for a top quality suite.
As well as the main DIY stores there are a huge range of independent retailers, many of whom have online presences. Have a look through them.
Conservatory Furniture Conclusions
A mid-range set of conservatory furniture consisting of a suite with a coffee table, 2 single chairs and a two seater sofa should cost you around £500 if bought end of season and maybe up to £1000 if bought in the Spring time. Good quality conservatory furniture can look very stylish and can be enjoyed for many years if the harsher environmental conditions in conservatories are considered when choosing what to buy.
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"a Really good site which fully explains the different types of furniture suitable for conservatories. Very informative and gives me agood idea of what sort of material is best suited."
"very useful information thanks"
"Useful - thanks for this. I've alwayts refused to have rattan or cane furniture in the conservatory, and had never understood the obsession with expensive and not very comfortable seating, when a comfy (albeit old) settee is so much nicer to sit on. At least now I understand it, even though I won't be buying it!! I have realised that probably the best option for us is some sort of cheaper-end, lightish material sofa and chairs, as we mostly use the conservatory for reading, dozing and generally relaxing in!"
"I have recently contracted for a small conservatory and found you information very helpful "
"The details on the different types of product used to construct conservatory furniture was very helpful. It helped focus are likes and more helpfully the best product to meet the need in what for us it our first experience of having a conservatory."