Move Your WFH Situation Outside With the Best Outdoor Sectionals
From L- and U-shaped styles to modular ones.
Updated Oct 12, 2018 1:10 AM
We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs.
Many of us have spent a large chunk of the past year renovating and updating our homes and apartments, but now it’s time to focus on upgrading our outdoor spaces. And first on the list of must-haves—along with a great rug and some planters—is a standout sectional. Similar to the way a sofa anchors a living or family room, an outdoor sectional will set the mood for all of your alfresco activities. But there’s one big difference when it comes to open-air loungers: durability.
“Your outdoor furniture should absolutely last you more than just a couple of seasons,” says Allison Messner, cofounder and CEO of Yardzen, a virtual landscape design company. She says that fabrics should be comfortable enough to lounge on for hours, but also tough enough to withstand the sun’s harsh rays, unforeseen rain showers, and a spill or two of wine.
We’ve handpicked the best outdoor sofas that are both well designed and durable for lounging on all season long (and for years to come). This way you can get back to planning the menu for your next garden gathering—or get a head start on moving your WFH setup to your new backyard escape.
- Best overall: Pottery Barn Malibu Metal 6-Piece Sectional
- Best value: Target Opalhouse Latigo Patio Sectional
- Best modern design: CB2 Rossi 3-Piece Sofa With Metal Frame
- Best all-weather wicker: Serena & Lily Pacifica Corner Sectional
- Best solid wood: West Elm Playa Outdoor Reversible Sectional
- Best wow factor: Crate & Barrel Cerca Sectional With Ottoman
- Best classic design: Amazon Basics Reversible Chaise Sectional
A Few Things to Keep in Mind
Sectionals come in various configurations. The classic L shape features a chaise on either the left or right side to put your feet up on and is “easy to place in just about any outdoor layout,” says Messner. The Y shape, which has two sides of equal length configured at a 90-degree angle, is ideal if you often host large parties. Similarly, a U-shape design is great for big groups or to wrap around a firepit or outdoor coffee table. “It’s a statement piece that pulls a whole yard together,” says Messner. But, she warns, this shape typically works best for the largest of yards, as it can take up a lot of space.
Finally, modular versions are made up of individual seating sections that are entirely movable, allowing for multiple layouts (including any of the shapes listed above). “These are perfect for homeowners who love to rearrange and decorate or renters who may not know the layout of their future outdoor spaces,” explains Messner.
There are a few keywords that you should look for when shopping for outdoor furniture: all-weather, powder-coated, water-repellent, and UV-resistant. These help ensure that the items you’re investing in will stand the test of time—and Mother Nature.
Metal is a popular frame material, but it comes with a caveat. While sturdy and attractive, aluminum and steel can rust over time, so it’s important that they’re powder coated, Gaby Zone, Terrain’s merchandise director of home, previously told Domino.
For wood frames, Zone suggests teak, as it’s “less likely to become brittle thanks to its high natural-oil content.” Eucalyptus and mahogany are also hardy choices, as they’re resistant to rot and decay. Always check that any wood you select is approved by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). “This certifies that products come from responsibly managed forests that ensure environmental, social, and economic benefits,” says Messner.
Wicker, which is actually a weaving technique and not a specific material, is lightweight and therefore easy to move around. Resin, a synthetic material, is popular for outdoor wicker furniture, but make sure to pick an option crafted from a highly durable material, such as high-density polyethylene, for longevity. Powder-coated metals and synthetic rattans also work well, whereas wicker made from natural materials, such as rattan vine, should mainly be used indoors due to its porousness (which means it can easily let in and hold water) and its propensity to fade in the sun.
For fabrics, always look for weather-resistant picks, too. Messner favors Sunbrella designs, as they “withstand various weather conditions, resist fading, clean beautifully, and come in a range of colors and patterns.”
According to Messner, the classic L-shape design is a winning choice. “The 90-degree bend invites conversation and encourages socialization, which everyone is craving now,” she says. Her firm typically recommends neutral hues and transitional styles; this way “your sectional looks great in your ever-evolving home and yard,” she adds. But if you’re into bright colors and expressive prints, don’t be afraid to take that look outside! Your outdoor space should be an extension of your indoor style.
Our Top Picks
Best Overall: Pottery Barn Malibu Metal 6-Piece Sectional
Pottery Barn’s Malibu sectional checks all of our boxes: Not only is it stylish, comfortable, and durable, its Y-shape design allows for ideal open-air socializing.
Featuring a rustproof aluminum frame that’s finished with a weather-resistant powder coating (available in black or white), the six-piece design can be broken up and rearranged to fit your space. The upholstered cushions also come in 30 different colors and patterns and three types of fabrics, including Premium Sunbrella and Premium Quick-Drying Sunbrella Rain, which are both Greenguard- and Oeko-Tex–certified to ensure personal and environmental safety standards. “We love to incorporate recycled, reclaimed, alternative, or responsibly harvested materials that meet high social and environmental standards,” a Pottery Barn representative tells Domino.
And a clever detail: The Malibu features adjustable levers on its feet to provide stability on even the bumpiest terrains, as well as wide armrests that will easily hold your favorite summer cocktails.
Best Value: Target Opalhouse Latigo Patio Sectional
Target’s all-weather, rust-resistant, steel-wicker Latigo is functional and on-trend—all at a very friendly price point (it’s on sale for just $595). The L shape fits neatly into the smallest of spaces, like narrow decks and balconies, while the chaise longue invites reclining with a good book or glass of rosé. The neutral cushions and frame allow you to make it your own with bright pillows or an eclectic throw.
Best Modern Design: CB2 Rossi 3-Piece Sofa With Metal Frame
If sleek and sophisticated is what you’re after, this three-piece sectional inspired by French industrial style is for you. The matte black frame is finished with rope detailing for a stylish flourish, and the thin hairpin legs offer a certain je ne sais quoi. Performance, however, is not sacrificed: The steel is powder-coated, and all-weather polyester upholstery means you don’t have to worry when a few scattered showers hit. Plus the covers can be removed for easy cleaning.
You can also purchase extra armless chairs to extend the Rossi into a Y- or U-shape lounge for extra seating—which you’ll need when word gets out that you have the most stylish yard on the block.
Best All-Weather Wicker: Serena & Lily Pacifica Corner Sectional
Yes, it’s an investment, but this wicker sectional is worth it if you’ve recently settled into your forever home or are looking for a serious outdoor living upgrade. The woven resin provides an exceptionally hard-wearing, long-lasting update to the classic wicker look. The cushions feature an all-weather foam and polyester fill, and the removable covers come in the brand’s performance fabrics, which resist mildew, repel water, and hold up against all sorts of sun and storms without fading. Plus the cushions attach to the frame with Velcro to prevent slippage. Trust us: Once you sit down, you’re not going to want to get up.
Best Solid Wood: West Elm Playa Outdoor Reversible Sectional
Another great option for smaller areas, this West Elm find is exactly what Messner means when she says to look for transitional styles in hardy materials. The solid eucalyptus and mahogany frame is sustainably sourced, rich in weather-resistant oils, hand-brushed, FSC-certified, and kiln dried to prevent warping. The ottoman can easily be moved to either side to suit your needs, and the water-resistant fabric means you don’t have to sweat it when spills inevitably happen.
Best Wow Factor: Crate & Barrel Cerca Sectional With Ottoman
Bold in design and big on comfort, this pick is the statement piece your yard has been waiting for. From the attention-grabbing black and white stripes to the oversize bolster cushions and armrests, this retro, cabana-inspired style will transport you back to a 1950s resort. (You know how to make a Tom Collins, right?)
But this sofa doesn’t just look good. The solution-dyed acrylic fabric is stain- and fade-resistant, and because the four individual pieces can be moved around to your liking, it will work in almost any space. As one reviewer says, “In terms of quality, look, and comfort, it’s worth every dollar.”
Best Classic Design: Amazon Basics Reversible Chaise Sectional
Nothing quite signals summer like a timeless wicker design. Lightweight and effortlessly chic, this classic option from Amazon Basics will complement just about any outdoor space. Composed of synthetic polyethylene wicker rattan over a steel frame for strength combined with style, this pick also allows multiple ways to arrange your open-air seating. The ottoman, for example, can be moved to either side of the sectional or placed in front of it to double as a coffee table.
Pro Tips for Styling Sectional Furniture
- Keep in mind how you’ll use your sectional and your space to get the best return on your investment. If you have a large yard and entertain a lot, go for a U-shape model. If you have a small deck or balcony, an L-shape design is likely your best bet.
- “Pillows are the quickest and easiest way to style your sectional,” says Messner, and a good outdoor rug will anchor the space. And don’t forget outdoor lights! Just as candles and dim lighting can set the mood indoors, the same is true for the right lighting outdoors. “It’s transformative,” says Messner. “In just a few hours, you can hang some bistro lighting for magical after-sundown gatherings.”
- An outdoor sofa is just one part—albeit a big one—of creating an entertaining space. Don’t forget to add an ottoman or coffee table for holding drinks and canapés.
Q: What is the difference between a sectional and patio set?
While modular styles offer flexibility, a sectional is meant to be used as one piece of furniture. A patio set, on the other hand, typically consists of an outdoor sofa or sectional; chairs; and a coffee table, side table, or both for a complete and matching set.
Q: How can I prolong the life of my patio furniture?
It’s always a good idea to invest in a high-quality cover to protect your outdoor furniture when inclement weather strikes or when it’s not in use for a stretch of time. Wood designs can also benefit from seasonal treatment with a penetrating oil, which will help keep moisture out and remove unwanted stains. Keep your patio furniture clean and dry, and store it in a garage or basement, if possible, during the colder months. Always read and follow the care instructions for any piece of furniture you purchase.
How We Vetted These Products
Every product in a Domino guide meets these criteria:
- They blend form and function. We believe the best-designed products reflect your personal style and are a joy to use.
- They’re expert approved. In addition to our team of editors, we tap a range of designers, makers, renovators, and all-around knowledgeable people to share their intel.
- They’re endorsed by people who actually own them. We pay close attention to real reviews from both our creative community and third-party websites to know that they pass the test IRL.