Buying garden furniture is one of life’s great delights, akin to conjuring up a private oasis or fairy dell. And a few practical considerations will ensure success.
What do you want most from your garden or outdoor area? A place to dine? An intimate nook for soirees with nibbles and wine? A place to lounge and snooze? Or just a simple bench from which to admire your garden. All, any, or just some of the above? Select your first and foremost reason, and start from there.
Take a seat
The most essential part of outdoor furniture is the seats. Whether it’s dining chairs or outdoor lounges, they must be comfortable. Outdoor seats should be big enough to accommodate a full-size adult with ease. If shopping in-store, try every seat without its cushions first. Check that the backrest is high enough to support you, and the seat wide and deep enough to accommodate an average adult without overhang. Dining chairs should have contoured backs. If shopping online, check the specifications of the chairs you like, then compare those measurements against your most comfortable chairs at home.
Outdoor furniture cushions should cover the whole seat area and be at least 75 mm deep. If shopping in-store, test the foam by sitting on it. It should be firm, but not so hard it has no give. And it should be soft, but not so squishy it collapses and fails to resume its shape. The fabric cover needs to be pliable enough to stretch, but should resume its unstretched shape shortly after you rise. And that fabric needs to be UV resistant, stain resistant, and resistant to mildew and mould. That’s a long list of requirements, but bear in mind that cushions for your outdoor furniture have to take the heat, sun and rain day after day, after day! Cheap cushions, alas, will look shabby in no time at all, and make your precious, outdoor living area look the same.
The size of your outdoor table depends on the area it will occupy. Measure the space and make plenty of allowance for guests to sit comfortably back from the table, and for yourself to pass behind as the host. Round tables are best suited to small gardens or patios, in particular, round tables with pedestal bases. They prove seriously useful when extra chairs need to be added. Rectangular tables are the most accommodating. Square dining tables, as a rule need more space, but have one special advantage. At a square table, everyone is facing everyone else. No one is out of sight.
Your garden and its furniture are meant for relaxation. Not for weekends spent cleaning and repairing furniture. You want furniture that is durable enough to look after itself. This puts metal and stone furniture in a category all their own. High quality, moulded stone tables and galvanised steel chairs can withstand anything the elements can throw at them. Their colours won’t fade. Their limbs won’t crack. A gust of wind won’t carry them away. They need minimal cleaning. A quick hose down will make them fresh again. And they’ll last for decades, if not for a lifetime with proper care!
‘You get what you pay for’ is more true of outdoor furniture than anything else. And by putting together your private oasis or fairy dell a few pieces at a time, you’ll have the on-going delight of adorning your garden year after year.