Fatherly

Outdoor Furniture Is Awful. Picnic Tables Are Great.

Every single piece of outdoor furniture you’ve ever owned has fallen over. Not picnic tables.

By
May 29 2020, 4:40 PM

I’m sitting at my picnic table as I write this. To my back is the kitchen window. I can hear my daughter’s lilting voice, but I can’t quite make out the words. I hear my wife too. She’s laughing. As far as distractions go, it could be far worse. And I’m feeling chill anyway. I’m working outside and that makes all the difference.

Very specifically, the thing making the difference is my picnic table, the most zen piece of furniture I’ve ever owned.

Having a picnic table in the small side yard right next to my driveway has changed my life. My house is small, with a footprint of just over 700 square feet. It has two bedrooms, one for my daughter and another for me and my wife. My “office” is in the basement, but I come up for air and grumble when there are interruptions, which has created some conflict during the pandemic. Nobody is happy with this work from home arrangement and it gets really weird when I start asking my daughter’s stuffed animals to go out and grab me a latte. Enter the picnic table. Now I can treat my driveway like an office or work in the yard.

I’m wildly grateful for that freedom.

In my experience, the biggest problem with outdoor furniture is that it’s terrible. Outdoor tables wobble and deck chairs either splinter or blow over in the wind. The surfaces are too small or the height is bizarre or the cost is prohibitive. If you’re about to make a case for a better piece of outdoor furniture, that’s fine. You spend your money. But, let me ask you this. When is the last time you went to a bar or a restaurant with outdoor seating and you were disappointed with a picnic table?

Now, to be clear, I’m not talking about metal or plastic or rubber picnic tables, here. I’m talking about wooden ones. The heavy kind that’s really hard to lift and move. Something that you might find at a campground. I know the wood on this sucker will rot in the rain after a long time, but you know what? Wood is shockingly easy to replace. We obtained our picnic table used, and, as such, had to replace a few rotten panels. This wasn’t as hard as I thought. Granted, my brother-in-law insisted on helping me (read: doing all of it) and I mostly watched him while standing six-feet-away sipping a beer, but it wasn’t a struggle by any means. I liked that beer and I’m reasonably sure I could have gotten it done without the assist.

Picnic tables are also just nice. When she’s done in her playhouse, my daughter can easily sit down on this thing and have a snack. As a family, we can decide at the last minute to have dinner outside on it. In the evenings, when my daughter is asleep, my wife and I can have a glass of wine and share a bench. And, guess what we can do on a picnic table, that we can’t do on deck chairs? Look at each other. It’s a bit kinky, but I’m not ashamed.

A picnic table makes a part of your house feel like you’ve gone somewhere else. And, at the point at which we’re not sure when any of us will safely be able to eat outside at a cool brewery or have a date at a nice wine bar, having your own version of that is the next best thing. Actually, it might be better.