Q It's time to replace my old wicker garden furniture, and I've seen a lot of wicker-style furniture at the garden stores, but made with a plastic mesh. I'd like something that lasts a long time and won't go out of style. Should I stay with wicker or make a change?

A: Natural wicker has been a long-standing favorite for cottage and sunroom interiors, but it deteriorates quickly outdoors.

For the garden, the coated wicker is more durable, and wicker-like strands made with resin are the most durable of these options. The wood feel of natural wicker is lost when coatings are applied, so you choose which is most important to you.

The option that you have seen promoted in the past few years is a synthetic wicker that is both stylish and durable.

Respected companies such as Hauser have developed a product line using a high-density solid fiber that is not prone to splitting, cracking or corroding. The weave is textured to give a natural look, and the colorants used in the fiber go all the way through the weave.

Hauser's Cottage Collection shown here has that traditional country appeal, comfortable and inviting to sit in, without the worry of having to cover it when it rains. Outdoor fabrics cover cushions designed for easy drainage.

When shopping for outdoor furniture, it's always wise to do some research on how the pieces are constructed and the materials that have been used. Weather will take its toll, so always buy the best that you can afford.

Q: I see that orange is the hot color for the year and would like some ideas on how to mix this into my outdoor entertaining color scheme. Much appreciate your columns and tips.

A: Have you a garden? Your outdoor decor can connect and be enhanced by what is growing. There's a great selection of flowers with robust orange blooms that will present a stunning backdrop.

Orange tiger lilies, dahlias, marigolds, gladiolas and begonias are a few of the showy flowers you can plant. Orange makes a dramatic contrast against shades of blue and purple. For fresh appeal, couple orange with yellow and white.

Choose the mood you want to create, then look for fabrics and accessories that team up with the relevant shades.

Q: We are building a straw bale house. Our plan is to finish the interior side of the straw with a natural clay plaster, and we want to color it using natural pigments or paint it with milk paint. Do you have any recommendations or other options?

A: This sounds like an exciting project. I'd love to see photos when you have finished. Both suggestions are good.

Mix the natural pigment into the clay plaster thoroughly and at a proper ratio so that the color will be even. Do a sample and allow to dry so you can determine the final color. Homesteadhouse.ca has all the information you need on milk paints, including how to mix and apply. Milk paint provides a completely breathable coating and is ideal for painting plaster walls, ceilings, straw bale homes, furniture, etc. It can be used to paint the interior or exterior without peeling. Being slightly alkaline, it also naturally inhibits the growth of mold and mildew.

Debbie Travis' House to Home column is produced by Debbie Travis and Barbara Dingle. Please email your questions to house2home@debbietravis.com. You can follow Debbie on Twitter at www.twitter.com/debbie_travis, and visit Debbie's new website, www.debbietravis.com.