Forest green stripes outlined with light brown zig-zags stretch vertically on the sun-faded couch. Tan wood bows at the bottom of the fabric along the frame. Dusty mosaic diamonds bordered by sand-colored strips break the pattern.
The cushioned sofa, which most likely once graced an indoor living room, now sits outside in a backdrop of fading white paneling and brick-colored shutters on a weathered porch near downtown Temple.
But it’s illegal.
The City of Temple recently enacted a portion of its nuisances ordinance that says that “indoor (non-weather resistant furniture)” cannot be allowed, permitted or maintained outside.
Officials cited health reasons and aesthetics for the ordinance. Indoor upholstery that gets wet from the outdoor elements can breed bacteria and insect infestation, and become an eyesore, they said.
The ordinance states that anyone living within the city limits of Temple cannot use indoor furniture outdoors if it can be seen from any adjacent property, a street or an alley. Disregard of the law can potentially lead to a fine.
Residents have differing opinions about the ordinance, which was passed in the fall. The Telegram has searched for furniture options for residents.
“Personally, I think it’s a good thing,” Temple resident Travis Ruth said of the ordinance. “You don’t want your neighbors to have junky porches, junky yards, because once they do it in the front, the backyard is going to be trash, just not going to be a good sight to see.”
He said placing indoor furniture outside invites theft.
“People riding around and see [the furniture], ‘oh I need a couch, I need a chair,’ well you know what? You’ve furnished an apartment,” he said.
Property owners who violate the code will receive a 10-day notice before they are issued a citation for their first offense. State law classifies public health nuisances as a class C misdemeanor.
Joe Mudd, an employee at Temple’s Code Enforcement Office, said no citations have been issued yet concerning the use of indoor furniture outside.
“Not to my knowledge,” he said. “Law enforcement gets with the city, then the complaint is left to the Code Enforcement Department to handle.”
If this ordinance is violated, there is the chance that it can be reported to the Code Enforcement Office of the city and a letter of complaint and possibly a citation could be issued.
“The first offense is usually dismissed if the furniture is picked up or taken care of, however repeated violations can equal a fine,” Mudd said. “We’re just trying to get people to understand this ordinance for safety reasons. People don’t realize that upholstery carries bacteria and diseases; if they knew, they wouldn’t do it.”
Some residents don’t see the ordinance as a helpful addition.
“I see this ordinance as being both a good and a bad thing,” said Rich McDonald, a resident of Temple. “I think the bad side of it is that you’re being told what to do with your personal property.”
He said property owners should have a choice.
“I mean, I choose not to have any indoor furniture in my yard but it should still remain a choice to those who may want that type of furniture in their yard,” he said. “I also think they [the city] should help those out who are incapable of moving the furniture on their own, and people should get warnings before they get fines.”
Others would rather the ordinance not be in effect.
“People ain’t gonna move their stuff off their porch; nobody gonna move,” said a Temple resident who didn’t want her name used. “I really don’t think it matters whether it’s outside or not.”
She doesn’t believe indoor upholstery poses any health or environmental issues outside.
“I’ve had this chair since I moved here; I think they should leave the ordinance alone. What about handicapped people?” she said, rocking slowly in her blue cushioned chair. “They have to have somewhere comfortable to sit with cushions or somethin’. I sit in this chair ‘cause it’s more comfortable to my arm since I had my stroke.”
However, Brian Fierro, general manager at Bob Mill’s Furniture Store in Temple, backed up the city in its reasonings for the ordinance.
“The fabric of indoor furniture is not made to be in the elements,” he said.
He said the he sun can destroy the texture of the furniture and cause fading. The fabric can go from soft to rigid and material like leather will fade, crack and peel when left outside, he explained.
“I agree with the ordinance,” Fierro said. “They’re trying to help make the consumer smart. People should be wanting to protect an investment like furniture; it will also help keep the city clean and keep out rundown furniture.”
Area stores like Wal-Mart, Lowe’s and Home Depot offer simple options to help Temple residents comply with the ordinance.
“Most of the outdoor furniture we have is easy to care for,” said Darrell Stanke, an employee at Lowe’s in Temple, pointing to simple chairs or small tables, full patio dining sets, bistro sets, wicker and gazebos as options.
“We offer umbrellas and covers for tables and chairs to protect them from the weather, as well as cleaning supplies in our seasonal section,” he said.
Ruth adjusted the metal patio chair on his porch. He said he keeps his upholstered furniture inside.
“I don’t see a problem with outdoor furniture,” he said, “because it can be moved easily and if need be put back to where it was.”
Weather-resistant pillows and cushions can add a splash of color and comfort to outdoor furniture.
“Look for a specific fabric called Sunbrella,” Fierro said. “It is used for outdoor awnings and covers, and it can withstand anything with no consequences.”
McDonald nodded in the direction of a neighboring house with city-approved outdoor patio furniture.
“It looks aesthetically better with outdoor furniture,” he said. “No broken couches or chairs. It looks nice without that.”