Choosing Garden Furniture by Katherine Sorrell

We appreciate our outside spaces much more these days and treat them as extensions of our living areas, with lighting, soft furnishings and furniture that suits the way we live. Recent changes in design and technology have brought about great improvements in outdoor furniture quality, making it comfortable to use, good-looking and long-lasting, with plenty of choice.

When picking out new garden furniture, will it be for meals, socialising or relaxing in the sun? How many people is it for and do they have any special requirements? This will help decide what furniture you need, whether a dining set for six or more, a bar set, a small bistro set for two, a sofa and armchairs, or a hammock, swing seat or set of loungers. Larger gardens may have several furniture groupings, with seating placed where there are beautiful views. In a small garden, corner and L-shaped sofas, slim benches and foldaway chairs help make the most of the space or consider a set where the table can be raised for dining, then lowered to act as a coffee table.

Where the furniture will be placed determines the largest sizes you can opt for. You need level ground, near the house, with enough space for the furniture, to pull chairs in and out and to walk around the set-up. Pay attention to the sun’s movement, avoiding particularly exposed areas, and consider whether furniture must be heavy enough not to get blown away or light enough to be easily moved. Scale is important, too – in a small space, chunky pieces may look out of place, while slender furniture can be ‘lost’ in a large garden.

For a good proportion of the year your garden furniture won’t be used but will be visible from the house. Does it look good from all angles? Will it need a cover? Some elements will need winter storage, so ensure there is space available.

You may opt for a traditional look, something modern, or a timeless style somewhere in-between. The natural colours of rattan and timber, in classic, elegantly rounded shapes, work beautifully with country gardens and older properties, while brighter colours and minimal, angular shapes look great with modern properties and urban courtyards. Garden furniture can be a major investment, so research the alternatives online and in person, considering materials, durability, aftercare and any guarantees. Choose pieces that reflect both the interior of the house and your personality – and you will enjoy them immensely for many years to come.

PICTURE CAPTIONS

 This sofa set is hand-woven in synthetic rattan with waterproof cushions. Sussex mocha sofa and lounge armchairs with 113cm coffee table, £2,159, Bridgman.

 Dining set in powder-coated aluminium. Zuiver Vondel small garden table, £849; small garden bench, £439; and pair of garden armchairs, £518; all Cuckooland.

3   A classic foldable dining set in walnut-coloured timber that is practical, good-looking and affordable. Copenhagen four-seat dining set, £599, Dobbies.

STOCKISTS

Bridgman: 020 8804 7474; bridgman.co.uk

Cuckooland: 01305 231 231; cuckooland.com

Dobbies: 0131 5616 406; dobbies.com