The day Outer’s five-piece wicker furniture set, a sofa with armchairs, was delivered, there were clouds that suggested rain. I was secretly hoping the sky would drop enough water to see how this patio furniture would handle a bit of inclement weather. Summer may be when outdoor seating gets its most use, but fall, winter and spring are likely when it’s put to its greatest tests.
Outer produces expensive outdoor furniture that it says is made to last across all seasons, year after year. To accomplish this longevity, the company has gone out of its way to control every aspect of its products and infuse a tech startup mindset, despite patio furniture possibly seeming a solved problem.
Outer’s incorporation of technology doesn’t involve batteries or circuitry built into its wicker furniture. Instead the company is touting its materials, finishes and technological advancements around their sustainability. I went hands-on with one of Outer’s wicker furniture sets to get a sense of how it handled and if it was as impressive in person as it seemed on its website.
- Very little assembly needed
- Included OuterShell covers help keep cushions extra protected
- Comfortable and stain-resistant cushions
Buy at Outer.
High price tags for (primarily) online merchandise can be scary. For prospective buyers, it might be the single thing keeping them from tapping the buy button. But, according to the Outer, its prices are offset by their aiming to create “future-proof designs” that can last and still be used 15 years from now. The value proposition changes with enough use.
The most obvious innovation for Outer’s seating is the OuterShell cover. Included as part of its chairs and sofas is a rolled-up cover behind each back cushion. The OuterShell comes attached and just needs to be rolled up to be hidden from sight. Whenever you think a dedicated cover is needed, it can be unrolled and connected with Velcro under the front seat. The covered cushions can then be left in place or carried somewhere else using the integrated handle.
The OuterShell cover was intriguing to me the moment I saw it. In person, it functions as intended. I have come across plenty of clever product features while reviewing gadgets, but not all of them have actually been useful—this one was. It took me about 45 seconds to cover five seats and about 90 seconds to uncover them and roll the cover up behind the back cushion.
While the OuterShell is neat and useful, the most important part of outdoor furniture is how it feels to sit and lie on. To this end, the company developed its own OuterWeave all-weather fabric.
“Outer is a materials science company disguised as an outdoor living company,” Terry Lin, co-founder and chief design officer at Outer, told me over email. “We’ve spent years developing our own proprietary fabric, that is fade, mold and stain resistant—and eco-friendlier than the industry standard. From coffee and red wine to black paint, our fabric will resist even the toughest stains.”
Within a few days of delivery, I got to test the fabric’s stain resistance with melted chocolate. S’mores with the kids at night led to discovering a chocolate spot on the gray cushions the next morning. Even after 12-plus hours of the chocolate’s sitting there, all it took to remove the mark was a little soapy water on a hand towel. When I went back later to try to find the spot, I couldn’t.
A smear of chocolate isn’t exactly coffee or red wine, but it was an unmanufactured test I got to witness firsthand. Plus I know from past experience that when outdoor furniture appears dirty, it can keep you from using it as much as you would otherwise.
On the comfort front, I can confirm the cushions and their exterior fabric are instantly ready for your caboose. They didn’t sink in too much, but they also weren’t as rock-hard as some patio furniture I’ve tried over the years. I’ve not quite made up my mind if I would trade my living room couch for an Outer one, but it’s a close decision. The chairs and sofa were easy to relax on without any forethought.
Style and Daily Living
The five-piece patio set was delivered in five large boxes, but assembly wasn’t as burdensome as I thought it might be. I was even able to lift the seats out of the boxes on my own because they were lighter than they looked. The wicker chairs and sofa only needed four metal legs screwed in each one before they were ready for use. Each box came with its own ratcheting tool, making the process less physical than it might have otherwise been.
Style is subjective but I’ve been very pleased with the look of Outer’s wicker, as well as its finish. Cheap wicker can be a disaster in form and function, but the set I tried had straight weaving and didn’t break when I pressed on it hard. The underside of the furniture has a metal frame, which also eased my mind when my kids incorporated the seating into their outdoor play. The cushions shifted around some but never became disheveled.
The one complaint I have about the OuterShell covers is how they can sometimes slide behind the seat cushion in the back. When this happens, it pushes the seat cushion out a little bit from its normal position. This only occurred occasionally; perhaps adding a small Velcro square where it sits rolled up could prevent this.
All of the seating is wide and accommodating. In anecdotal terms, the three-piece couch is long enough for a 6-foot-tall person to nap on comfortably. The armchairs aren’t quite large enough to fit two people, but close enough that you may be tempted to try. All of this should be clear from pictures and measurements on Outer’s website, but it’s worth noting that this five-piece set is substantial and will work best with plenty of patio space.
Should You Buy an Outer Wicker Furniture Set?
Overall, there’s nothing magical about Outer’s outdoor furniture. The equation the company uses is straightforward: Build a well-executed product and then charge a premium price for it. That seems reasonable to me. The concern for online shoppers willing to make room in their budget for a high-priced product is to ensure the value is actually there. I can confirm that Outer furniture is thoughtfully designed to address daily living needs—that extend into outside spaces.
Across all kinds of products I’ve tested, I found the small details make the biggest impact over time. Here I noticed that Outer’s sofa and chairs didn’t rock back and forth, even when on uneven pavers, thanks to rubber tips on the legs that didn’t come off while the furniture was being scooted around. There was no squeaking from the wicker weaving when the chairs were shifted. The cushions were soft enough to nap on while still being stain-resistant.
While the big, noticeable features like the OuterShell covers came as advertised, it was really the smaller details that fully delivered a great experience. That makes me think that years from now the seating will still be as desirable as it is today.
Buy at Outer from $6,950.
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