Horticulture Magazine

15 Innovative Garden Seating Solutions

stone bench in a garden with various coloured cushions

Combine creativity, charisma and comfort with these unusual but effective garden seating ideas.

One of life’s finest pleasures is heading out to your back garden on a sunny day, iced beverage of choice in hand, and taking a load off among Mother Nature. Whether you want to use your garden’s seating to curl up with a good book, entertain your friends and family or enjoy an indulgent afternoon snooze, there are plenty of imaginative options to suit all tastes and applications.

That’s also true when it comes to the dimensions you have to play with. It doesn’t matter if your back garden has the space and expansiveness of a country manor grounds or the cosy quarters of a mere terrace – with a little bit of ingenuity, you can find a practical solution to satisfy your needs. The same goes with regard to budget; bespoke seating arrangements can look incredible and be well worth the outlay, but if the purse-strings are a little tighter, there are a range of DIY or upcycling alternatives that can achieve just as impressive an overall aesthetic with the right amount of elbow grease.

With all that in mind, here is a selection of innovative and unorthodox (but invariably stylish and practical) garden seating solutions to inspire your own backyard furniture choice. They should serve as an excellent jumping-off point to let your imagination run wild and your sense of feng shui have free rein.

1) Hanging around

two rattan hanging egg chairs in a modern garden
Mid-air musings

There’s nothing like a sense of weightlessness for creating peace and tranquillity in your back yard. Hammocks and swing chairs are perfect for stringing up underneath a mighty old oak and kicking back to relax, but the increasingly popular egg-style basket chair pictured above is great for adding a touch of Scandinavian flair to your garden’s design. There’s no need to worry if you don’t have any sturdy boughs in your back yard to hang from either – many models with free-standing capabilities are now available. Ideal for literary escapism, mindful meditation or simply sitting back and watching the world go by.

2) Under arbour

vine covered archway with a path and garden bench
A trellis time-out

Who could resist the temptation to slip away for a moment’s private contemplation in this delightful bench underneath a covered archway? Such a grand arrangement might not be possible in your own garden, but positioning any kind of seating underneath an arbour offers a plethora of practical and aesthetic advantages. Not only will you benefit from some shade from the sun’s rays in good weather and the rain’s ravages in bad, but you’ll enjoy some seclusion away from the prying eyes of neighbours. Plus, the feeling of being completed surrounded by nature is one that will intoxicate all of your senses.

3) Garden gazebo

a garden gazebo with furniture and pink roses growing up the outside
An enclosed environment for extra solitude

Taking the above idea of privacy and seclusion one step further, a seating arrangement that’s situated inside a gazebo or other enclosed structure is ideal for enhancing your sense of privacy. The option pictured above utilises timber throughout to create an affinity with nature, while the adornment of colourful roses adds a splash of vibrancy and perfume to the setup. When placed as a respectful remove from the main property of your home, it will offer an enticing place to steal away and enjoy a contemplative moment alone or an intimate environment to share a memory with that special someone. Plus, younger members of the family will also appreciate the detachment it offers to catch up on gossip with their schoolfriends.

4) Bespoke breakfast nook

light blue furniture in the garden with a continental breakfast
Do you take milk, sugar and sunshine with your morning tea?

There are few better ways to kick start your day than with a steaming cup of your favourite beverage among the flowerbeds. A simple but elegant bistro set like the one featured above is an inexpensive solution for where to partake of your morning croissants and coffee outdoors. Furniture like this is heavy enough to stay put in inclement weather (and withstand it without becoming damaged) but lightweight enough to allow for easy repositioning to capture the sun’s rays or make way for garden maintenance. The best way to guarantee you get out of bed on the right side each day is to nail down your breakfast routine – and an outdoor nook dedicated to the mealtime is a sure-fire way of doing so.

5) Dine in style

an outdoor dining table and chairs setup with string lights hung on trees overhead
 Illumination and embellishment add je ne sais quoi to a simple setup

For many people, eating outdoors is their preferred method of managing mealtimes (when the Great British climate allows, of course). To turn your back yard into a dining space that’s fit for accommodating an entire family or entertaining friends, all you need is a little forethought and vision. The table and chairs themselves don’t actually matter that much – though choosing furniture which balances comfort with longevity is an advisable course of action – but how they’re presented will make all the difference. String lights overhead and decorate the arrangement with a tablecloth, cushions and candlesticks for a truly refined aesthetic.

6) Al fresco office

working outdoors on a desk with laptop and coffee
Peaceful productivity

In today’s world, working from home is only likely to become more and more popular as the years advance. With that in mind, it’s a good idea to arrange an al fresco space where you can put your thinking cap on and knuckle down among the flowers and foliage. After all, a recent study demonstrated that a green office can enhance cognition by 26%, reduce work-related stress and sickness by 30% and even improve sleep quality by 6%. What better way to bolster the green credentials of your workspace than by transplanting the whole shebang outdoors? Nothing fancy is needed here – just a humble desk and a comfy chair where you can flex your thinking muscles are all you require.

7) Upcycle to impress

pallets turned into garden seating
Repurpose pallets to give them a new lease of life

There’s a lot to be said for the merits of upcycling. Not only can it offer those on a tight budget a creative way to kit their garden out with unique and quirky furniture, but it also lends a helping hand to the environment by reducing unnecessary waste and consumption. Pallets are a hugely versatile tool to work with and are available from all good garden centres (sometimes for free!), while adequate cushioning can make them comfortable as well as convenient. Other innovative upcycling ideas include repurposing tyres as footrests and pouffes, wrapping plastic containers in bamboo as makeshift seats or repurposing barrels as laid-back loungers.

8) Carved armchairs

an outdoor armchair carved in the shape of an owl
Turn a stump into a solution

Commissioning a wood sculptor to create a bespoke piece of backyard furniture might entail an expensive outlay, but the results can be quite incredible. Carved masterpieces like the elaborate bench picture above will have all-comers to your home cooing over its timeless charm and fighting over who gets to enjoy pride of place in its timber embrace. The most impressive results will be achieved by sculpting a tree that’s already planted in your garden, but that’s simply not within reach for many homeowners. A pre-carved piece that’s moved into position is a supremely satisfying alternative, as well.

9) Go au naturale

a carved stone bench
Wood, stone or even hay makes a wonderfully natural furniture material

A more affordable alternative to a carved commission piece could be to simply use raw materials in their natural state. That means positioning tree stumps in a setup conducive to informal dining, creating a stone circle that’s ideal for exchanging stories or even just accumulating haybales and arranging them artfully in your back yard. What these options lack in polished panache, they make up for in their rustic charm and raw energy, meaning they’ll work particularly well for households which are already geared towards promoting a natural or traditional aesthetic.

10) Fiery focal point

a fire pit in the centre of wooden garden furniture
Dancing flames are a striking centrepiece of any seating area

As alluded to in previous suggestions, sometimes the furniture itself plays second fiddle to the arrangement it’s positioned in or the accessories that accentuate the environment. Nothing does this as effectively or as effortlessly as a firepit, since the mesmeric movement of the flames draw the eye and warm the bones all at the same time. Ideal for creating a focal point and making the space usable even as the mercury begins to drop, firepits and chimeneas can even serve as DIY barbecues for marshmallows, hotdogs and other campfire treats – all in the comfort of your own home.

11) Inhabit the environment

a wooden bench in an overgrown garden
Lose yourself in Mother Nature’s Narnia

Perhaps the best way to enhance any existing seating setup is to overwhelm its environs with all that nature has to offer. This means surrounding the seat with shrubberies, ferns or grasses that will waft indolently in the breeze and planting plenty of aromatic flowers to scent the area with a feast for the nostrils. The rose garden bench pictured above is a perfect example of how you can create an oasis of calm and contemplation in your back garden through artful arrangement of the seating and the surrounding display.

12) Borders as benches

small seating area with colourful flowers in a garden bed
Multi-functional modernity

Another way to maximise the space available to you and utilise the natural contours and features of your garden is to turn borders into benches. By choosing wide enough margins for the borders of your flower beds and sanding wooden edges (or else topping stone ones with cushions), you can turn an area of dead space into the perfect perch for taking a breather between horticultural exploits. For an even nattier finish, choose bold colours that complement the flowers in the beds behind for a stylish aesthetic that really pops against its backdrop.

13) Coordinate (or contrast!) your colours

two blue chairs in a tropical garden
A vibrant palette draws the eye and sharpens the focus

Speaking of colour coordination, getting the palette of your patio furniture just right is crucial to achieving the aesthetic that you want. You can go one of two ways here: the first involves selecting tones that complement the plant life surrounding the furniture, such as dark green against lush foliage and pastel hues amongst a floral display. Alternatively, you could choose to place faith in the strength of the colours on their own merit and paint your chairs in striking shades of blue, yellow or pink for a really dynamic end product. Whichever way you jump will largely depend upon your own personality and the design scheme you’re looking to follow, but careful consideration of your colours is imperative for all gardens.

14) Capitalise on corners

stylish outdoor garden furniture with string lights
Maximise your dimensions by using all available nooks and crannies

Corners in a garden can be tricky propositions. How do you stop them from becoming a repository for shovels, rakes and other tools that haven’t been properly put away? By turning them into a functional space all of their own. That can be achieved simply but effectively with the installation of a corner sofa setup, similar to the one you might have in your lounge. Of course, it’s necessary to ensure that the materials used are weather resistant, since they’re likely to be exposed to all the elements across the year. Choosing a suitable model can create a homely hidey-hole in an otherwise unused area of your back yard, as well as maximising the space in smaller properties.

15) Style AND substance

a beautiful vintage wooden Egyptian bench
Why compromise for one over the other?

Received wisdom says that you should never opt for style over substance – but when it comes to backyard landscaping, there’s no need to choose between the two. The pictured bench above is the perfect illustration of a highly attractive piece of furniture that combines both functionality and finesse in one neat package. Plus, its comfort levels can always be enhanced with the addition of a well-placed and colour-matched cushion or two. Remember that tip when selecting a stylish addition to your alfresco furniture selection, since pizzazz is infinitely harder to achieve than practicality. Don’t lose sight of the former in preference of the latter.

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