What Size Outdoor Umbrella Should I Get?

03 July 2024
Determining how big an umbrella you need get can seem daunting, but we have some handy tips for choosing the best sized umbrella for your space.

Although the ‘kiwi quarter-acre’ is no longer the norm, for many New Zealanders, an outdoor entertaining space is part of a happy home-life, regardless of size. But with burn times of our NZ sun at an all-time high, the need for UV protection as well as cooling shade in our beloved outdoor living spaces is imperative. Family time, hosting friends or business functions, and even enjoying peaceful solitude are all so much better when everyone is safe and comfortable.

Outdoor umbrellas are the easiest, and often best, means of providing shade for our loved ones during the hottest months. But with friends visiting, extended families, and the forced proximity of city living, what size umbrella is best to keep everyone comfortable and safe this summer? With considerations such as balconies, little ones playing on the patio, get-togethers, or separate furniture arrangements such as outdoor dining and lounge suites, getting umbrella size right is important.

Shelter: The best place to start is to assess how the space will be used. There may be more than one place that needs shade as the sun moves across the sky. Whilst the beauty of a freestanding umbrella is the freedom to move it, the bigger the sheltering umbrella canopy, the less you will need to move it, or yourself, over the day. Some of those seeking better cover joke about ending up sitting far away from their too-small umbrella through trying to stay in the small, ever-moving shadow. Bigger canopies go a long way to mitigating this problem. And when even big is not big enough, two or three umbrellas is often a visually stunning and practical solution.

So, how do you choose the best size? What things should you consider? A handy tape-measure will be your best ally. In most instances, the simple rule is to make sure the canopy size is bigger than the seating area. Here are a few examples to help determine the best scale for your space.

One or two people in lounge chairs or at a small patio table (1m or less) will find a 2.2m square or 2.6m octagonal canopy comfortable, such as the Venice patio umbrella. As the sun travels, something a little bigger would allow the umbrella to cast shade over the same place for longer, for example, the Venice 3.1 octagonal or Milan 2.5 square umbrella.

Outdoor dining tables come in many sizes, and seat a varying number of people. Shade7’s general recommendation is to allow half a metre for each person in addition to the table size. For example, a 6-seater table of around 1.8m long with someone sitting each end would benefit from a canopy at least 2.8m diametre. A 3.5m octagonal umbrella, whether through the table or cantilevering from the side, is ideal for a table of up to 2.4m long and can close without hitting the table.

A cantilever is perfect for shading lounge suites as well as tables, keeping the open space where guests face each other clear. An ‘L’ shaped lounge suite seating arrangement with 4-5 seats would benefit from a large, moveable canopy, for example, a cantilever umbrella that rotates, such as the Riviera 3.5m octagonal or 4m octagonal, depending on the scale of the furniture. You can learn more about pairing furniture with umbrellas in greater depth here.

The Riviera cantilever umbrella canopy can be rotated to follow the sun, and tilted when the sun gets low behind it during those late afternoon gatherings. The smaller Stellar cantilever umbrella can tilt from side to side, making it perfect for smaller areas that don’t need such a big overhead canopy, and suffer from low westerly sun.

A common question about umbrellas is “do you get more shade from a square umbrella than a round umbrella?”. The answer is that with comparative sizes, a square umbrella will give more shade than an octagonal umbrella. Square cantilever umbrellas are a fantastic option, but can be less versatile in small areas. Octagonal umbrellas can often end up being more useful due to their versatility. For further exploration on the benefits of square umbrellas compared to round or octagonal umbrella, see this article.

Sunshine is not the only element you may need to be sheltered from. In New Zealand’s ‘four seasons in one day’, if the wind isn’t driving rain sideways, wet weather can also be kept at bay by a Shade7 umbrella. Shade7’s highly water-resistant canvas will keep rain out for many hours at a time. Drizzling grey sky is common NZ Christmas Day weather. When the table is set for an alfresco meal and rain starts to fall, a premium Shade7 umbrella canopy will keep everyone dry. No need to abandon the banquet or relocate indoors. This is another perfect example of the bigger the canopy, the more protection, rain or shine.

Outdoor umbrellas offer fantastic versatility and comfort when it comes to screening weather, especially the glare and burn of summer heat. For help determining the best sized umbrella for your outdoor space, you can contact the friendly, experienced team at Shade7. And here in New Zealand, the bigger the umbrella, the more important strength becomes. To learn more about the importance of a strong outdoor umbrella read the next article in this series.


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