My experience with outdoor furniture had been limited to mismatched items I've found in Baja or random pieces from consignment stores, but I was about to gain some valuable experience. A friend of mine just moved to a tiny apartment with a huge balcony, and he asked me to help him shop for "serious" outdoor furniture.
We started at Hauser's Patio (1180 Morena Blvd.), which is completely devoted to outdoor living. The large store in Morena would become the gold standard of our shopping trip as far as selection was concerned. Every style, color, material and price point is represented, and they do at least half of their business in special order. My coastal taste gravitated toward the aluminum Adirondack-style sling chairs with color frames and dozens of fabric choices while my friend was eyeing the fire-pit selections starting at $1,500.
The next two stops were recommended by friends: Real Deal in Kearny Mesa (8841 Clairemont Mesa Blvd.) and Backyard Xscapes in Sorrento Mesa (10835 Sorrento Valley Road). At Real Deal, I found a brown, rattan-weave round-chair set with a matching mini table for $495 that was both comfortable and durable. If your patio is spacious, you could consider their "Cape Cod" sectional ($1,995); it seats eight and comes in espresso rattan with a choice of cushion colors. At Backyard Xcapes, we found similar seating arrangements in slightly different configurations but at a higher price. What I found impressive at Xcapes was its selection of ceramic containers that stretches for an entire street block. Many can be converted into fountains, and there are plenty of examples for inspiration.
We decided to gas up the car and head north to Carlsbad to a highly recommended store called Skylar's (2840 State St.). It dedicates a whole space to outdoor furniture, and it's chock-full of chic choices. An oversized lounge chair in dark-weave rattan with an adjustable back and thick cushion was attractively priced at $399. We immediately tried to think of how to fit the chair into the car (it didnít happen). Trekking to the back of the store, we found an interesting curved two-sofa sectional with an ottoman for $1,999 and a coordinating four-chair / one-table setting for $699. My thrift-store sensibilities had me considering old painted oil barrels and ceramic toad stools as either side tables or seating.
On our way back to the city, we stopped by Chicweed in Solana Beach (240 S. Cedros Ave.). I was expecting this diminutive shop, which is almost completely outdoors, to be a quick stop for inspiration, but it turned out to be a small but mighty venue. It carries only one brand of furniture: Fermob, manufactured in France. It's geared toward small spaces and made of powder-coated steel and aluminum. Most of the furniture stacks or folds up, and it's all lightweight. Prices start at $99 for a simple chair, climbing to $850 for a love seat. What I'll be returning for are the Mad Mats. Made of recycled polypropylene, they come in tons of colors and patterns and promise to last longer than my last outdoor rug (which didn't make it through summer).
Little Italy's Mixture (2210 Kettner Blvd.) houses probably the coolest interior and exterior furniture I've seen since my last trip to furniture row in Los Angeles. Outside on the patio, huge exterior art installations hung above modern patio sets and long, recycled-wood tables topped with succulents in stark, white bowls. The prices quickened my heart rate slightly, but I focused on one particular item that looked both funky and functional: an Accupuncto Collection chair made with soft rubber cork-shaped pods assembled to hold the body comfortably and hit acupressure points ($680 for the lounger and ottoman). Mixture is a store I'll be returning to after I bank a few more paychecks.