Welcome to our IDEAS & ADVICE pages
There’s nothing quite as lovely as sitting in the garden on a warm summer’s evening. You know what’s not lovely, though? Yup, wading through catalogues without a clue what you’re looking for. We’ve put together this buyer’s guide designed to help you negate the occasionally complex world of garden seating. Enjoy!
First things first. Before you bring out the credit card and unleash hell, you need to retrieve the tape measure from its hovel under the sink. You’d be amazed how many people still charge in and start buying without actually measuring their garden to check everything’s going to fit. If you’re thinking of skipping this, don’t. You might end up with a neighbour-jealousy inducing set of furniture that won’t go through the garden gate. Then where will you be? Crying in the corner, that’s where! (If you’re not confident about your ability to accurately measure things, then get someone to help).
One rule to rule all: if you’re planning to spend a lot of time outside, then you should take your choice of garden seating as seriously as you would buying a sofa. Fortunately, the process is the same: try as many chairs as you can before committing, and make sure everyone else in the family does, too. Everyone wants to be lie-down-for-the-whole-afternoon comfortable in at least one of the chairs. By the way: there’s nothing stopping you purchasing four different seats for four different people. Speaking of which…
Occasionally, it can be nice to go for something a bit different. Whilst classic tables and chairs remain a key part of many gardens, it’s also worth considering some slightly more unorthodox seating. Arbours, for instance, are perfect if you've got a slightly smaller garden but still want somewhere comfy to sit and enjoy a book (or a glass of wine!). A good sun lounger is always worth investing in, too: there’s no better place from which to enjoy the toastier summer weather. Finally, swing seats are also great, especially if you've got a family. They’re fun for the kids and they make relaxing seating for mum and dad.
To finish up with, here are the main types of seating available.
Arbours. You might not have heard of Arbours before. That’s fair enough: they’re not as well-known as other types of seating. Arbours are essentially sheltered benches, usually created using timber. They frequently have trellis side or back panels to allow for climbers to provide a natural and secluded shelter.
Benches. Well, you know what benches are. They come in a wide range of different designs, made from different materials, but are traditionally in wood or metal. The bench world is your oyster!
Bistro Sets. The outdoor version of a dining table and chairs, Bistro Sets usually include two chairs rather than four, so great for smaller spaces or balconies. They’re great for sipping afternoon tea whilst looking out across the garden.
Chairs. Chairs are usually built for one person, but aside from that imitation they can be made of everything from solid oak to timber and foam padding. Every garden should have a good chair or two.
Swing Seats. A great investment if you've got kids, swing seats are almost like a garden version of a rocking chair, except they usually have multiple seats and achieve their motion via above suspension rather than the supports. They’re ideal for relaxing on a hot summer’s day.
Loungers. If ever there was a suitable name for a piece of furniture, this is it. Garden loungers are perfect for lounging around, and can usually be modified so that you can either lie completely flat or sit upwards. Perfect for the beach as well as the garden – or for a bit of luxury camping.
Lounge sets. Not to be confused with loungers, lounge sets take everything you’d have in your living room and move it outdoors! Sofas, armchairs, tables and the perfect excuse to enjoy a family meal outdoors.
If you love to throw garden parties, then you’ll need a lot of seating. What’s more, you’ll need a lot of different types of seating. Your ten year old son might be alright on that hard bench, but it’s not going to do a lot for Grandad’s bad hip! Look to have three or four types of chair in place. A proper pub-style picnic table, a couple of comfy weaved armchairs and a stool or two will be enough to handle most situations, but it’s always worth having a couple of extra stools in place for larger occasions.
As a general rule, garden furniture is usually made from wood, metal, plastic or woven material.
Each material has its own pluses and minuses. Wood looks great, but needs more maintenance than metal. Metal offers a traditional alternative to wood - you can stick it in the rain for months and it’ll still last (best tuck away, especially during winter, if you can). Weaving is extremely comfortable, durable and available in many colours.
Essentially, it’s all down to which characteristics you value the most. If style is your aim, go for solid wood. It’s timeless. If you’re after durability, go for metal or resin weave. If you want to stick the seating in the garden and forget about it, you won’t have to worry about plastic. If you just want to be as comfortable as possible, go for weaving.
It’s worth remembering, though, that the standard of garden furniture now is incredibly high. You’ll get a great build, real comfort and genuine durability whichever one you choose. It’s just that certain materials are better than others at certain things!
If there’s one error that people make more often than you’d think, it’s not considering whether or not their furniture will clash. Even people who plan their interior design like it’s a military operation seem quite prepared to chuck the rulebook out the window when it comes to their garden! Don’t make the same mistake. It’s quite common to have a few different types of chair in a garden (one bench, one sun lounger, a couple of dining chairs, etc.), so be sure to ensure that there’s no clash in colour or design before you splash the cash. Otherwise, your garden might end up looking like a jumble sale!
Consider the practicality of moving everything around
You probably know that garden furniture can be really, really heavy. It’s therefore important to ensure that you plan your space in advance, so you know where it’s going before it arrives. The last thing you want is to be lugging a big piece of furniture around after the removal staff have gone home. The fewer changes you have to make, the better.
What’s your budget?
Needless to say, it’s important to ensure that you plan out your budget carefully. Set a specified amount, and then stubbornly refuse to go over it no matter what. Write out a list of exactly what you think you’ll need to complete the garden and ensure that all the prices match up. Oh, and don’t forget to factor in things such as delivery and assembly costs: these can quickly add up if you’re not careful.