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From the team at Gardeners' World Magazine
A garden featuring seating made from wood-topped, halved and painted oil drums

Nine ideas for garden seating

Published: Friday, 3 January, 2020 at 4:23 pm

Pull up a pew with one of these garden seats – perfect for dining and relaxing.

The furniture in your garden is about more than eating and relaxing, it also helps to set the scene, whether it be rustic or retro.

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The type, size and finish comes into play, and the surrounding hard landscaping and planting has the ability to turn it into a design feature in its own right.

You can spend a lot of money on flashy furniture but you really don't have to. There are many affordable products around, while with a little imagination you could easily 'upcycle' something to make it unique to your garden.

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Check out some of our favourite garden seating ideas to suit different styles, below.

1

Rustic cottage style

Wood is warm and inviting. When bleached by the sun the mellow tones add a sense of maturity to the garden. Here the rustic style works perfectly with cottage-style planting.

Our tip: when placing benches on grass, move them around occasionally to stop the grass dying off in the shade beneath.

Sun-bleached, rustic, wooden bench in a cottage garden
Sun-bleached, rustic, wooden bench in a cottage garden
2

Double up to sit down

When installing any kind of wall in a garden, consider if it can double up as seating. Retaining walls and feature walls form the permanent architecture of the garden and can be good places to perch.

Our tip: aim to finish the wall at around 45-50cm for an ideal seating height.

Stone garden wall topped with seating slabs
Stone garden wall topped with seating slabs
3

Mix and match

The orientation of seating areas is key - from there the gardener can rest and look out on their garden with pride. This lightweight black chair ties in with the black shed and complements the wooden table, too.

Our tip: mix and match styles can look good, and here the lightweight chair can be easily moved if you fancy a change.

Black chairs and wooden table in a garden with a black shed and wooden decking and balustrade
Black chairs and wooden table in a garden with a black shed and wooden decking and balustrade
4

Bags of style

This bean bag makes a statement with its strong overall form and colour and is an eye-catching focal point. This one-seater sets the scene for a spot of solitary, al fresco contemplation.

Our tip: though most outdoor bean bags are showerproof/water resistant, they shouldn't be left out year round.

A striking, red-orange beanbag on decking in a garden
A striking, red-orange beanbag on decking in a garden
5

Built-in boldness

Custom building permanent seating into the garden is usually costly, but it will give an integrated feel and tie the wider style of the garden together. This garden has a strong Moroccan theme, with banquette seating making the ideal spot for entertaining.

Our tip: consider the depth of the bespoke cushions before building the seating, so it doesn't end up too high overall.

Built-in garden seating with blue cushions
Built-in garden seating with blue cushions
6

A clear view

Solid furniture can block out garden views, but this metal table and chair set forms a simple outline, without dominating the space. Placing the seating at the back of the garden offers a different view, looking back at the house.

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Our tip: the lighter the colour of the furniture, the more of its outline you're likely to see against its backdrop.

White, cast-iron table set at the end of a garden
White, cast-iron table set at the end of a garden
7

Easy store

Folding bistro chairs give plenty of flexibility as they can be easily moved around, stored away hung up on hooks when not needed. There are many different types, but a classic metal and wood finish goes with most garden styles.

Our tip: consider personalising your furniture by painting the wooden slats to tie them into the colours of your planting scheme.

Foldable garden chair and table set, placed on gravel
Foldable garden chair and table set, placed on gravel
8

Square deal

Sometimes seating can look at little 'obvious' and overpower a small space when you really want the plants to do the talking. These oak cubes are low key and add a sculptural element to a garden. Rope handles make them easy to move.

Our tip: all wood ages and silvers over time, which adds character, but check if yours needs to be treated with a wood stain and preservative.

Rope-handled, oak-cube seats in a striking, grey-walled, modern garden
Rope-handled, oak-cube seats in a striking, grey-walled, modern garden
9

Bang the drums

Oil drums split in half, topped with wood, make a couple of cool seats for a garden shack. This look is affordable, works nicely alongside other reclaimed materials and can be picked up in the planting colours to create a cohesive design.

Our tip: success in upcycling is all in the finishing. Here, the tops have been made to fit the drum perfectly and sanded down smoothly.

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A garden featuring seating made from wood-topped, halved and painted oil drums
A garden featuring seating made from wood-topped, halved and painted oil drums
Large orange cushion on wooden garden seating
Large orange cushion on wooden garden seating

Dos and don'ts of garden seating

  • Do be generous with space when planning seating areas – you don't want to feel squeezed in
  • Do consider how many people you want to seat. Are you after an intimate two-seater or a family table for six or more? It'll probably dictate the type of furniture you use
  • Do look at ways of incorporating your seating into new elements going into the garden. Low walls could be made wider for seating, as could raised beds
  • Do consider privacy. A well-placed shrub or two could block out a neighbour's view of your seating. Suss out your line of vision when you're sitting, too
  • Do use cushions to turn moderately comfortable chairs, benches and the tops of low walls into more comfy seating for entertaining
  • Do consider the materials you use – wood and stone age beautifully, whereas plastic and dyed fabrics can bleach out in the sun
  • Do think about incorporating deliciously scented plants by seating to draw you in and enhance relaxation
  • Don't pack too much into a small plot; consider seating with built-in storage if you've little room for sheds etc
  • Don't get carried away with bright, white furniture. It can really dominate a garden and distract from other features and planting
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