Sunday, July 2, 2017

Price Check: Outdoor furniture for (a lot) less

I was planning to write this week's post about how we created a trellis for our raspberry canes, and how well it's been working out for us. I still plan to post about that eventually, but it will have to wait a little longer, because right now I have another bee I need to shoo out of my bonnet. It's yet another example of something that really annoys me: so-called bargains that are really anything but.

This example comes from the New Brunswick Star-Ledger insert that comes with our weekly coupon circulars. It's just a single sheet filled mostly with ads, along with a few short articles taken from the paid edition of the paper. This week, the feature article is one picked up from the Washington Post on choosing stylish outdoor furniture for your "backyard oasis." It includes several suggestions from a hoity-toity designer for different items, including sofas, rugs, shade umbrellas, and lanterns. There are two picks in each category, one marked "splurge" and a similar-looking one marked "save," to show how you can create a stylish space no matter what your budget is.

So what's the problem with this? All the "save" pieces are priced between $129 and $1,774. That's significantly less than the "splurge" pieces, but it's not what I consider budget-friendly.

So I promptly hit the IKEA website and a couple of others, looking for comparable pieces at real bargain prices. Here's how my finds stack up against the designer's picks:

Outdoor Sofa
"Splurge": Cliffside teak sofa with white cushions from Seren & Lily, $2,498
"Save": Regatta sofa with white Sunbrella cushions from Crate & Barrel, $1,794 (currently marked down to $1,618)
Really save: KLöVEN loveseat, $140, with two KUNGSö cushions in white, $70, from IKEA. Bonus: the frame is made from sustainably harvested eucalyptus wood, not endangered teak.

Shade Umbrella
"Splurge": Tuuci Ocean Master hexagonal Aluma-Teak umbrella in natural with Java finish, from Restoration Hardware, $2,150 (currently marked down to $1,612)
"Save": Vista umbrella by Porta Forma, rectangular in natural, from Frontgate, $1,115 (currently marked down to $669)
Really save: LÅNGHOLMEN umbrella from IKEA, $148.99

Outdoor Rug
"Splurge": 8-by-11-foot Catamaran stripe indoor/outdoor rug in black and ivory, from Dash & Albert, $574
"Save": 8-by-8-foot Trans Ocean Sorrento rugby stripe area rug in black from The Mine, $297.50 (currently marked down to $267.75). Note that this is significantly smaller than the "Splurge" rug; the same rug in a comparable 8'3"-by-11'6" size would cost $441.
Really save: 8-by-10 foot Safavieh Mati flatweave rug in black and white from Target, $221.99 (currently marked down to $177.59). Note that this same rug is also available at for $175.99.

Outdoor Chair
"Splurge": 1966 lounge chair by Richard Schultz for Knoll in white with white mesh and strap, from Knoll, $1,427
"Save": Kingsley-Bate Tivoli club chair in cream from authenTEAK, $820 (currently marked down to $738). Note that the article appears to have the "splurge" and "save" picks mixed up, but I checked the prices and the Tivoli chair is cheaper.
Really save: LACKO outdoor armchair in gray from IKEA, $45. (If you object that this chair isn't white like the others, the VÅDDö outdoor chair in white is only $25, but it doesn't have arms.)

Outdoor Candle Lantern
"Splurge": Teak stainless rope lantern from homenature, $350
"Save": Wood-and-rope lantern, tall, from West Elm, $129
Really save: Burgess indoor or outdoor wood lantern from Pebble Lane Living (via Amazon Marketplace), $49.99. If you don't mind a smaller wooden lantern without the rope, you could get the Zings & Thingz weathered wood lantern from Wayfair for $19.99; if you don't particularly need it to be wood, you can get the BORRBY lantern in black from IKEA for just $7.99.

The juxtaposition of the "splurge" and "save" picks in the article is an example of the anchoring bias (covered in my article on cognitive biases for Money Crashers). Basically, when the first price you see for an outdoor umbrella is $2,150, an umbrella priced at a mere $1,115 suddenly looks like a really good deal. But if you saw the $1,115 umbrella on its own, your reaction would more likely be, "Over a grand for an umbrella?"

So I hope the addition of my picks, which are not just cheaper but much cheaper, helps counter the anchoring bias for you and shows what a stylish room on a reasonable budget can look like.
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