By Charles Hopkins Published 05/7/2006 | Home Improvement

As the warm summer days descend upon us, most of us are looking ahead to more than a few hours of leisure, and where better to enjoy that leisure than on the cozy patio that you spent all of spring doing up? However, did you make sure to choose the perfect patio furniture? Because if not, you can be sure that those leisure hours will not be as leisurely as you would want them to be.

What would you look for in the perfect patio furniture? Comfort and repose, we would assume. So if you were cutting corners with your patio chairs, you have most likely invested in cheap wood or plastic that will not only fade and discolor in the strong summer sun, but also develop cracks and fissures that will ensure that you cannot use the furniture for more than one season.

So the first thing to consider when you choose the perfect patio furniture is the material. Obviously, you would want to be all your patio furniture items of the same material, or at any rate, for the materials to be as similar as possible.

What are the common materials for patio furniture? One of the most popular, certainly, is wicker. Variations of this would be cane or rattan furniture. For years, wicker has been the material of choice for outdoors furniture, primarily because of lightweight, airy quality, as also for its elegance and durability. These days, one has more options in the form of synthetic wicker, which is often used alongside tougher material like aluminum to produce the wicker effect with added strength.

Of course, there is always wood, a material that will never go out of fashion in furniture. Ultimately, wood provides that stamp of class that no other material can, so wooden patio furniture will always be in. The best patio furniture is typically made of high-quality woods like teak and oak. However, since these are fairly expensive materials, a cheaper alternative is western red cedar, particularly when it comes to a substitute for teak.

The third most popular patio furniture material is resin, which has several qualities that make it a favorite with patio furniture manufacturers. The greatest advantages of resin furniture are that it is durable, easy to maintain, and hardy, not to mention good-looking. Best of all, it is less expensive than either cane or wood. 

Now comes the question of the type of patio furniture that you need. To a large extent, that depends on how you plan to use your patio. If all you want to do is lie there and soak in the sun, you wont need much more than a couple of armchairs or a chaise lounge. However, summer is the time when a lot of folks like to have their meals out on the patio, or just generally hang out there. So you would probably consider investing in a dining table and chairs, as well as a few comfortable chairs for general seating in case your patio is large enough to accommodate informal evening gatherings. Once you have the essential items in place, think about utility accessories like heaters and umbrellas, and dont forget the potted plants!

Finally, dont go over the top with your budget, but dont scrimp either. When you choose the perfect patio furniture, remember that a few appropriate items can do far more for your patio than a hundred cheap knick-knacks.