Choosing Garden Furniture
When garden designers commence the process of designing an outdoor space, the most important consideration will be how the client wants to use their garden. Generally, clients want a place where they can relax, a place for entertainment and maybe a secluded place for quiet contemplation. All these areas require outdoor furniture to make them usable, practical spaces to be enjoyed.
What sort of furniture should I get?
The answer to this question lies in the look and theme of your garden. Garden designers will often have a good snoop around the clients home taking note of any theme, materials or colours that are being used indoors. Some of these would then be used in the design for the outdoor space.
Select furniture that suits the look and feel of your garden. There is no point in putting vintage style furniture into a contemporary garden. Do not clutter your garden with too much furniture. You do not want it looking like a furniture showroom. If you have a small garden, you will need to make some important decisions. Do you choose a dining table and chairs or a comfy sofa? Choose what you will make the most use of. In a small garden you may also be short of storage space. In a situation like this a bench with storage become more useful and practical. Buy furniture that is in proportion with the size of your garden. If it is too big, it will look uncomfortable, out of place and dominate the garden.
There is garden furniture to suit all types of gardens and budgets. If you are on a budget buy your garden furniture at the end of the season. Retailers will have mark downs to clear stock. You will be able to pick up a bargain. I bought my bench, table, and chairs for £300 at the end of the season.
Photo Credit: Manoj Malde – Design Credit: Alan Williams
Timber furniture with seats woven in natural string. Timber is such an adaptable material. It will lend itself to furniture for contemporary style gardens and historical looking gardens that have stepped back in time.
What materials does garden furniture come in?
Rattan – these days comes as plastic strips. Traditionally it comes as wicker which is still available. Rattan is tough, durable, and weatherproof. It is light enough to move around in your garden. It is available as outdoor sofas, loungers, and dining sets. Rattan furniture is designed to fit in most traditional styles of gardens.
Metal – used to traditionally be in wrought iron and designed in vintage or classical styles to suit an English country cottage look. However, more modern styles are now available. Wrought iron is tough and durable. It can be painted in different colours. If left outside, it can be prone to rust. Another option in metal is powder coated steel or aluminum. These are designed in simple contemporary style. However, dependent on colour can blend in easily with a more rural or cottage style garden. Furniture in this material is less cumbersome to move around and low maintenance. Available as benches, bistro, and dining sets.
Wood – is a wonderful material for garden furniture. Wood can be designed into modern as well as classical pieces of furniture. It therefore fits in with so many garden design styles. Wood can be styled into furniture using its natural form and characteristics. It can also be used in the form of oak blocks. It is advisable to cover your wooden furniture in winter. It is also worth oiling your wooden furniture. This will make it last longer. All wood fades to a silver tone.
Plastic – is strong durable and lightweight. It can be moulded into different designs of furniture and available in different colours. It is suited to a contemporary style of garden. Plastic furniture is easy to maintain, stackable and more cost-effective.
Photo Credit: Manoj Malde – Design Credit: Nick Bailey
Love this floating bench in timber with the copper back rest on. Notice how the copper back rest follows through in the design line of the copper banister rail of the timber steps. The orange tones in the timber work beautifully with the orangey tones in the copper which are also picked up in the planting through the bearded iris and the geums.
Concrete – suits a modern style of garden. Not as popular as other materials. It is either formed out of fiber cement or moulded. It is available as stools, tables, and chairs but the colour option is limited to a couple of shades of grey.
Stone – can be used in various styles of garden. Kept in its natural form with a flat face it can provide a very sculptural form in the garden. It is heavy. Once placed you really do not want to move it so make sure you get the position exactly right.
Rope – this furniture is often constructed from an aluminium framework with a thick rope woven through. It is available in some beautiful colours.
Aluminium powder coated furniture is a great way to introduce colour into the garden as it is available in some beautiful designs and colours. It is works well for a modern garden, but it is light enough to carry upstairs onto a roof terrace. If you have a balcony a bistro set with two chairs and a small table would work perfectly.
Can I be sustainable with garden furniture?
Sustainability is at the top of the agenda. Garden designers are all looking at being more and more sustainable with the gardens they design. There are certainly alternatives. If you choose to have timber furniture, then make sure the timber has been sourced from sustainably managed forests. Source furniture that is produced locally or at the very least within your country to try and cut down on the carbon footprint. You may want to look at second hand furniture and upcycle it. This is a great way of being sustainable and you may even save few pounds. Keep an eye out on some of the freecycle sites. Old scaffold boards can be cleaned up, sanded, and brought back to life as benches or tabletops. You may even find old table legs that can be recycled or how about using the legs of an old singer sewing machine?
If you choose plastic moulded furniture opt for items that have been produced out of recycled plastics. Ask suppliers for proof of this. Traditional wicker is made from plastic. It is non-biodegradable so will end up sitting in landfill for a very long time. Instead purchase furniture made from polyethylene wicker. It is non-toxic to the environment and at the end of its life it is recyclable. Make sure the cushions for your seats are made to stand up to the outdoors. By this I mean it must be waterproof not just water resistant. Colours of fabrics can fade in sunlight, so you also want to be sure that the fabrics are UV resistant. This way your soft furnishings will last longer. Lastly, no matter what materials your furniture is made from, it is always a good idea to cover it in winter. It will keep it clean and prolong its life.
Egg chairs have become very popular. There are so many different styles available, and some are also reasonable in price. Egg chairs are perfect for a balcony or if you just have a quite space in your garden where you like to sit and relax in the comfort of your own company
You can also be sustainable with garden furniture. You can buy second hand furniture and upcycle or like this image shows you could recycle wooden pallets. This would work well with a shabby chic look in the garden or even a coastal garden. If the pallets are painted it will help to extend the life of the furniture.
Cane furniture can be long lasting and durable. A tropical style garden makes the perfect setting for this type of furniture. It would also sit well in a Moroccan garden
Positioning Garden Furniture
It may seem obvious where you want to position garden furniture. However sometimes it is worth thinking outside the box. The most obvious place to put an outdoor dining table and chairs is next to the house as it is easier to bring food from the kitchen straight onto the table. But what if your patio is constantly in shade? You may then want to consider positioning your outdoor dining area in a sunnier position. This is more important if you have wooden furniture. As we know, timber that remains wet, will eventually rot. You want you’re your wooden furniture to dry quickly after a rainfall. Oiling timber with a good quality teak oil will also help preserve it.
You may want a quiet moment for yourself. Maybe think about seating away from the house. This could be a bench, a single armchair or even an egg chair which have become very popular these days. Position one of these at the other end of the garden. This creates a journey through the garden to another seating area. You could even use a stone boulder with a sawn surface as a seat. This could be surrounded by tall planting giving you privacy. There is nothing better than being. An alternative to the stone boulder could be an oak block or all fallen tree trunk.
Rattan furniture is also very popular. Here we have a love seat made in rattan, but you can also get loungers, sofas, armchairs and dining table and chairs. The rattan is available in mimicked in many natural shades. The good thing about rattan is that it is weatherproof. It advisable to store the cushions away for winter.
Photo Credit: Manoj Malde – Design Credit: Tayshan Hayden-Smith & Danny Clark
There is something that I love about natural stone boulders as furniture. Not only do they work naturalistic gardens, but they also suit modern gardens. However, when they are not being used as seats they have such a sculptural form that they never seem to look out of place.