17 inspiring and practical ideas for garden seats and benches

August 30th, 2015
Posted In: Garden style & living

Benches and garden seating are at the heart of your garden.

Seating creates focal points, helps you enjoy your garden with friends and offers a place to ‘sit and stare’.

Even the smallest garden usually has several different kinds of seating, so as I’ve been going round gardens this year, I’ve picked out some of my favourite looks and ideas.

1) Modern rustic

Dan Pearson's Chatsworth garden bench

A magnificent hunk of hewn wood, seen at RHS Chelsea in May 2015 in Dan Pearson’s Chatsworth garden. It’s a very contemporary look – clean lines and simplicity.  A thing of beauty rather than a thing of comfort…

Railway sleeper bench

And Hugo and Anna Campbell’s own magnificent hunk of wood bench – a railway sleeper offcut leftover from making their railway sleeper deck. There’s a mirror with a gate over it behind.  A good place to sit with a drink or a cup of tea and contemplate the world.

2) The retro look

Buy odd chairs with a theme, such as these retro pink and red chairs.

Buy odd chairs with a theme – garden maker Posy Gentles has collected various wicker and 1960s garden chairs in shades of red and pink from car boot fairs and charity shops. The vintage cushions also have a loose theme of pink and floral.

Paint mis-matched garden furniture the same shade.

Paint mis-matched furniture in the same shade: I’ve painted these wrought iron chairs and sewing-machine base table from France the same shade of Farrow & Ball Hardwick White.

3) Frame your bench with plants

Contrast strong lines with frothy planting.

Contrast strong lines with frothy planting: The cloud of airy white behind this Lutyens bench at Goodnestone Park Gardens looks gorgeous.

A contrast of frothy, airy planting and strong lines of wood, stone and copper.

I also love this contrast of airy, frothy planting – erigeron and grasses – with hard materials like stone, wood and copper. This is the private terrace at Doddington Place Gardens.

Use a simple bench in front of complex planting.

I think a simple style works best near exuberant planting. Our Haddonstone bench doesn’t interfere with the mid-summer colour explosion in the bed behind.

4) Combine seating and storage when space is tight

There is a valuable storage space under benches.

When space is tight, there’s valuable storage under the bench. Garden designer Charlotte Rowe‘s built-in bench has a log store beneath it. For more about Charlotte’s lovely small town garden, see here.

Use the space under tables and chairs for storage.

And there’s more storage under tables – Hugo and Anna Campbell combine a vintage table and wooden bench with storage space.

5) Seating is part of the garden’s colour scheme…

Think how colour works in seating areas.

Think about how seating works with the colour scheme – here Hilary Talbot’s teak bench echoes the pale greys of the stone terrace and the garden door.

Use colour to echo the planting.

Or use dramatic colour with the planting – this is my favourite bench at Sussex Prairie Gardens (a great source of inspiration for bench positioning and style!) It’s a stunning garden to visit in late summer and early autumn.

Make garden furniture part of your colour scheme

Pretty blue-painted metal chairs and table at Goodnestone Park Gardens

Think about how the colour of your garden furniture works with the planting

Brown garden seating at Bruton Art gallery Hauser & Wirth works well with the colours of the grasses, sculpture and gravel.

6) Use seating as a focal point

Use benches as a focal point.

This pretty bench at Doddington Place Gardens frames the view, and is part of it, as well as being a place for garden visitors to rest.

7) Or as a sculpture…

Benches can be works of art for the garden

This garden seat is a piece of sculpture – yet still a comfortable place to perch with a glass of champagne in hand…

8) Transform a lost corner of your garden with seating

Is there a 'lost corner' of your garden where you could make seating work?

Posy Gentles turned this side alleyway in her house from a lost area where ‘stuff’ accumulated into a delightful little seating area.

9) Somewhere to read or sleep…

Anne Wareham of the ThinkinGardens blog reminds me (see comments below) of the importance of somewhere to read a book in the garden. Because I’m quite pale, I don’t often sit outside to read, and there aren’t many garden chairs as comfortable as indoor sofas. But this Edwardian chair of my mother’s, bought at auction in the 1970s, is perfect for reading or sleeping, as it’s quite low, with a high back.

Choose at least one chair in your garden for comfort

Blissfully comfortable – and in need of renovation, but I love the faded and worn fabric and can’t bear to lose the sense of its history.

What are your favourite seats and benches? Do pin them to The Middlesized Garden Group board on Pinterest – leave a comment on this piece with your email (I won’t publish it) and I’ll send you an invitation to pin to it.

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6 comments on "17 inspiring and practical ideas for garden seats and benches"

  1. Emily says:

    Oh, I love the retro look! Something in the way of combining different chairs and totally unmatching table brings me to the days when I was a kid and went to visit my grandparents.

  2. Great post – if only we had the Bank Holiday weather to sit outside! Obviously, as a gardener, I rarely get to sit on our garden chairs, but when I do, the squishy weatherproof sofas win every time.

    1. I have longed for squishy weatherproof sofas – do the cushions get wet and then give you a wet bottom when you sit on them?

  3. rusty duck says:

    Nice choice of seating in your garden. I love the painted wirework and the Haddonstone bench.
    Maybe a bit kitsch but I do love a seat surrounded by scented planting. My favourite place to sit in June is a bench surrounded by philadelphus. It’s not too strong, I just get a whiff on the breeze every now and then. I’ll pin it.

    1. Yes, I’d love to do more in the way of scented – there are some stunning honeysuckles, although honeysuckle has never done particularly well here.

  4. I love the form and shapes that benches make possible – but a garden seat is never really comfortable without a back. And thinking comfort – one of the reasons I have had most of our garden seats made for us is that real comfort is a low seat for shortish legs and seat depth front to back (rare).

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