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How to choose new garden furniture

If you want to sit outside and enjoy the beautiful spring and summer months ahead, you might be considering grabbing some new garden furniture. Whether you’re trying to build your very own garden of Eden or simply want somewhere to sit in the sun with a cuppa, choosing new garden furniture can be a tricky process. From decadent loungers and diners to rustic seating and budget buys, here are a few pointers to get you started in your quest for the perfect garden furniture.

Sam Jeans
· 7 min read

Garden furniture ranges from sizeable outdoor lounge and dining sets to benches, loungers, hammocks and plastic chairs and tables.

There’s plenty of designs, formats, styles and materials on offer, so no matter how big or small your garden is and whether you have a patio, lawn or both, you’ll always be able to find something that works for you.

Can you restore your current garden furniture?

Garden furniture has to bear the brunt of the elements, and for most of us in the UK, that’s a big ask throughout some winters.

Furniture that isn’t adequately covered, treated or stored can quickly become worn and shabby. Still, restoration is usually possible and breathing new life into older garden furniture can be great fun.

If you have existing garden furniture starting to look a little worse for wear, read our guide on how to restore garden furniture.

What will you use your furniture for?

You can use garden furniture for anything; lounging around, sitting, working and reading or BBQs, outside functions and family events.

Choosing the number of actual seats you need should be the first port of call in selecting garden furniture.

Smaller sets include garden bistro sets (usually two chairs and table) or individual chairs (sometimes known as ‘accent chairs’), loungers and hammocks. 

For larger groups, it’s possible to grab complete dining sets with 5, 6, 8 or even 10 or more seats. This elegant 12 seater set contains everything you need to sit and dine 12 people outside, including a vast glass-topped table.

It’s a real investment, but if you’re a BBQ enthusiast with ample patio space, then there’s no better way to bring the inside out and enjoy the true pleasure of al-fresco dining.

Patio or garden furniture?

You’ll need to consider whether you’re placing your furniture on your patio or elsewhere in your garden, e.g. on your lawn.

Patio furniture is designed for placement on non-porous, hard surfaces and usually consists of much larger lounge and dining-style furniture sets, such as the 12-seater set mentioned above.

Lounge sets often come with a pair of sofas, an armchair and a short coffee table. Dining sets have taller, upright chairs and a dining room-style table.

Patio furniture is usually weather-proof, but since these garden furniture sets tend to be pricey, it’s sensible to protect them with waterproof covers (which sometimes come with the set - always check first).

Contrastingly, garden furniture suitable for use on the lawn or elsewhere in the garden includes benches, chairs and even hammocks - anything that doesn’t need ample, flat, solid floor space.

Even if you have a very flat garden, you should keep most patio garden furniture sets away from soil and grass; this could rot the furniture or kill the grass.

Choosing materials

There are four main types of materials used in garden furniture: 

  • Rattan
  • Metal 
  • Wood
  • Plastic

Rattan

Rattan is the weave-like material (traditionally wicker vine but often plastic) found in most lounge, dining and sofa sets.

Rattan is tough and generally very weatherproof. It’s lightweight, rugged, looks great and can usually be stained or painted in different colours.

Rattan garden furniture is usually earth-toned; grey, brown, dark green or beige, but you can sometimes find brighter pieces.

  • Usually found in dining and lounge sets
  • Durable and hard-wearing
  • Robust and natural-looking
  • Usually needs to be covered in winter

Metal

Metal furniture ranges from classic wrought iron to modern steel and glass furniture.

Wrought iron is a firm favourite for all sorts of garden decor and combines tremendous durability with a vintage, classic, or rustic aesthetic. 

  • Very tough with low maintenance 
  • You can paint it any colour 
  • Rustic and vintage-style 
  • It doesn’t need to be stored/moved in winter (but may rust)

Wood

Wood’s beautiful colour and hard-wearing characteristics will always be a natural fit for garden furniture.

Modern wood preservatives are long-lasting and make wooden furniture relatively low maintenance and straightforward to care for. 

  • Natural tone and style 
  • Generally weather-proof 
  • Does often need to be covered in winter
  • Will need to periodically re-coat with wood preservatives

Plastic

Plastic garden furniture is strong, straightforward, lightweight and often cheaper than most other materials.

You don’t usually need to store plastic furniture, either; just stack it up when you’re not using it. 

  • Cost-effective 
  • Durable and weatherproof
  • Lightweight 
  • Plenty of selection

Style and aesthetics

You might be familiar with interior design styles, e.g. Scandinavian, Japanese (or Feng-Shui), rustic, industrial, modern, contemporary, Bauhaus, art deco, art nouveau, and such, but many of these design styles apply to garden furniture as well.

For rustic cottage gardens, you might be looking for something tastefully rough-around-the-edges. This reclaimed wood garden and coffee table from Nkuku ticks that box and would sync perfectly with any rustic outdoor space.

Design company Made have some fabulous garden pieces, including these colourful Bauhaus garden chairs. This unique bright green bistro set also shows that garden furniture can make a statement. 

For classic or otherwise contemporary gardens, it’s tough to beat natural wood. This acacia lounge set by Cox and Cox is elegant but simple and functional for families or larger parties of people.

Eco-friendly reclaimed wood sets

It’s fitting for garden furniture to take advantage of recycled or reclaimed wood.

You can find a vast range of reclaimed wood outdoor and garden furniture sets, some branded, others custom-made by craftspeople.

Etsy is a great place to start if you’re in the market for reclaimed wood furniture, and you can find all sorts of pieces ranging from benches made from railway sleepers to tables crafted from eco-resin and driftwood.

Consider storage

Lastly, it’s wise to consider storage during the winter months. You won’t need to store all garden furniture, and most should withstand a mild winter so long as you adequately cover up wooden or rattan furniture.

However, you should store most garden furniture made from natural materials during snow and frost for maximum longevity.

You’ll find storage recommendations in the manufacturer's guidance, so always check that first if storage is at a premium and you’re determined to find furniture that you can leave out all year.

If you will leave furniture outside, make sure you fit covers properly so they won’t come loose in high winds.

Finally, you should always remove soft furnishings for storage inside, or you might find creatures taking up residence inside of them over the colder months!

Sam Jeans

Sam Jeans

Sam is an experienced writer and audio producer with a passion for health, science, music and playing the drums. When he's not writing, he can often be found digging through history textbooks, scientific journals and boxes of vinyl records.