Outer Sofa Review: The Future We Want To Be Sitting In...Now

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The global pandemic has caused major shifts in consumer sentiment and behavior (Zoom is now a verb and a reliable sourdough starter is now in vogue), perhaps most dramatically in people’s re-prioritization of their homes. Highest on this list is highly coveted outdoor space -- even a modest patio is providing much needed respite to stay-at-home life. With spending and time-spent habits shifting in 2020, there is no better time to consider investing in quality furniture and products for your outdoor space. 

‘Quality’ was the resounding word that came to mind when we test-drove The Outer Sofa at their offices last weekend in Santa Monica. And let’s be clear -- this is a value-driven product with a price point that reflects that. The team has painstakingly thought deeply about every aspect of their product, from materials and design to longevity and environmental impact. And with some very clever innovation solving real pain points, we think Outer is primed to be the outdoor furniture brand, a huge category lacking a clear market leader. 

Design Pedigree 

As seen on Shark Tank, Entrepreneur Mag, Brit+Co, and Curbed, Outer was co-founded by Jiake Liu and Terry Lin, and we were struck by Terry’s pedigree in particular. A Rhode Island School of Design grad with a focus on Industrial Design, Terry spent time at famed global design firm IDEO before leading furniture design at Pottery Barn and Calvin Klein. If you want to disrupt the outdoor furniture marketplace, Terry is the guy to do it. But credentials and accolades only take you so far -- and the product has to deliver. With The Outer Sofa, it did from the second we sat down on it.

Outer’s new backyard seating is a summer game-changer

Luxurious Comfort You’d Expect From Your Bed 

The most noticeable thing about the Sofa is its comfortable cushions. I’m talking best-in-class comfort for outdoor furniture that rivals the nicest indoor couches I’ve sat on. The secret is under the hood, so-to-speak. Firm yet conforming, the sofa has a multi-layer foam cushion system:

  • Starting with their proprietary stain-resistant & fade-resistant fabric, the cushion covers are incredibly comfortable to the touch with a cotton-like texture.
  • Below that is a waterproof protective barrier, locking out any moisture concerns other outdoor furniture cushions are notoriously bad at.
  • And for those looking to nerd out: each chair has 2 different types of foam cushioning: Visco elastic memory foam for luxurious comfort and high resiliency foam for support 

On the cushions, Liu shares, “How do you make it as stylish as indoor furniture, as comfortable as a mattress, and as durable as camping equipment?” The resulting ‘sit experience’ is extraordinarily comfortable; we were immediate fans the moment we sat down. 

Neighborhood Showrooms

Potential buyers can book an appointment with an Outer host, and browse not in a showroom, but in a backyard. Photo credit: Outer

One thing I never understood about online shopping, especially for big ticket investments like furniture, was not being able to see and experience the product in person. That’s particularly the case for seasonal products like outdoor furniture, where brick-and-mortar stores would rarely present their full online assortment on the showroom floor. 

This is yet another area Outer is looking to disrupt with their ‘Neighborhood Showroom’ model. Real customers (and passionate fans of the product) open their backyards to prospective clientele, allowing shoppers a uniquely intimate hands-on experience with the product.

Founder Jiake helped explain their approach in a recent Curbed article:

The concept of opening up your home to strangers isn’t new. Airbnb has made it common to have strangers in your space. Casper would have problems turning a bedroom into a showroom. But the backyard is a public/private place, a place of gathering

Hosts get paid per showing, but our sense is they’re more interested in evangelizing their experience and connecting with new people then making a quick buck. Say goodbye to pushy salespeople working on commission; this could just be the future of e-comm!

Clever and Convenient OuterShell™ System

If you’re like me, your previous outdoor furniture purchase may go something like this: In May, you shop, purchase, and set up your perfect patio vibe for the summer months. Two weeks later you’re hit with wet May showers and immediately jump on Amazon to buy a cover ASAP. From then on you track the forecast like the local weatherman, trying to remember to cover up when clouds start forming. Outdoor furniture covers are a pain in the ass at best and may cause unnecessary infighting with your significant other at worst.

Which is why we were so enamored with the OuterShell™ -- the clear ‘wow’ feature of the sofa. The OuterShell™ cover is an integrated cover that quickly rolls out and over the cushions on each chair. It’s stupid-easy and convenient, protecting your cushions from everyday dirt, debris, and morning dew. And because it’s built-in at the individual cushion level, it makes covering up a quick and easy habit each time you use the sofa. And if a large storm is heading your way, the system converts into a cushion carrying case to bring them indoors.

The Final Sitdown

I think by now it’s clear where we stand on The Outer Sofa. Thoughtfully designed with quality construction combined with a customer-first experience at every touchpoint with the brand, Jiake and Terry are clearly onto something. We’re excited to see where they expand next -- we got a glimpse of some prototype side tables and rug designs that we were also big fans of. While Outer isn’t going to ‘win’ on discount pricing, we do believe in paying for things that provide value for the long term. If you’re looking to invest in your outdoor space to both survive quarantine and enjoy long into the future, The Outer Sofa is worth a serious look.

5 More Reasons We Love The Outer Sofa:

  • Commitment to sustainability: 30% of each chair is made of recycled materials, including handwoven wicker made from 99+ recycled plastic bottles and is 100% recyclable. 
  • Rust Proof stainless steel legs have real weight to them -- you’ll feel secure sitting on top of them for years 
  • The furniture can be left outside all year. It is designed to take whatever nature throws at it: scorching temperatures, burning sun, wilting humidity, heavy rain, sub-freezing temperatures, and snow.
  • Their factory is owned by their CEO's family, so they have a personal relationship with the people that so carefully craft their products. They work together to ensure fair wages, safe work environments, and benefits for families and their children.
  • Hundreds of five-star reviews like this one: “Yes, it’s expensive...but you get what you pay for and you won’t regret the investment. It was easy to set up...quality tools provided and it took about 30 min from start to finish. Super comfortable, modern and it will clearly last for years.

New customers can use exclusive discount code Quality100 at checkout for $100 off their first Outer purchase of $2,300+ here.

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