carlyn yandle/for metro vancouver


A simple black metal table with glass top can make it in the living room now and the patio years later.

You know it’s well and truly spring when the Ikea flyer arrives with patio furniture galore.

But if you’re like that chunk of graduating students at this time of year who can barely afford to live on their own, let alone own furniture, the idea of suiting up an outdoor room is sheer fantasy.

For many, the reality is scary student loans and ridiculously high rent, leaving no choice but to resume tolerating the typical student decor: the saggy futon, whatever appears in the alley or local thrift store, a couple of floor cushions or novelty blow-up chairs, and the ol’ milk crates-draped-with-scarves table/shelving system.

This is the first of a lifetime of cycles of consuming and discarding furniture: first it’s the temporary junk that serves you between your travels, school, and various living situations in your early twenties; then it’s the cast-offs from older siblings or parents for your first basement suite or shared accommodation in your mid-twenties. As you approach your late-twenties you show enough commitment (and funds) to purchase some cheap and cheerful Ikea knock-together furniture, and finally, when you hit your thirties, you will one day announce that you’ve had it with the flimsy fads and kick it all down to your poorer/younger/less settled friends and family, and start acquiring a few quality items for your by-now stable living situation (or as stable as it’s ever going to be).

By now, decor disposal has become a lifetime habit, and the cycle continues.

Gross generalization, I know, but I keep seeing this trend playing itself out. Sadly, it all makes for a lot of landfill as we increasingly view couches and tables as future throw-aways. The only way to break the consume-discard cycle is to buy quality, multipurpose items.

Which brings me back to the Ikea patio flyer. Solid-wood or metal outdoor tables and matching chairs or benches are a good buy for the great indoors.

They’re durable and stowable, making them a smart alternative to those bargain dinette suites you’ll tire of a decade later. Pump up the patio dining sets with tablecloths and placemats, and add seat and throw cushions for comfort. Hard-wearing openwork metal side tables also serve well in the living room.

The best part is that when you finally decide one day that you need grown-up furniture in your grown-up home, you’ll already have a collection for that outdoor room you’ve always dreamed about.

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