A comprehensive guide to buying garden furniture

Cassie Pryce

Get your outdoor space summer-ready with tables, chairs and loungers to make the most of the warm weather

Take your pick

Depending on the size and primary use of your garden, the type of furniture you will need will vary. Think about how many people the furniture will be used by—if you regularly host large family BBQs, opt for a generous dining table with chairs, or benches as a more informal alternative. On the other hand, if you have a balcony or small courtyard, a more compact bistro or bar set might be a better, space-saving solution. 

If you’re after a relaxed setting to unwind with a drink in hand in the evenings, a sofa set with a coffee table will create a comfortable outdoor living space. Look out for clever adjustable pieces if you need your furniture to double-up for dual use—for example, a sofa and low coffee set with a height-adjustable table that can be raised to function as a dining table when needed, or an outdoor sofa that can flip into a sun-lounger by lowering the arms. 

For a bit of me-time, a hammock or hanging egg chair will make a stylish addition to your garden and provide a secluded spot to relax in with a book or opt for a lavish day bed with a canopy or cover to provide shade for an afternoon snooze.

Denia six-seater extendable dining table, £150, B&Q

 

Sizing up

Before purchasing any new piece of furniture, indoors or out, it’s important to carefully measure your space to figure out what will fit comfortably within the available area. 

If you plan on positioning a dining set on a patio or decking outside the back door, for example, don’t forget to leave plenty of room for the doors to open fully and space to walk around the table in all directions. 

Using strips of masking tape on the ground can help with visualising the layout if you’re struggling to envisage the size of the piece in-situ.

Tarno outdoor table and two chairs, £54, IKEA

 

Smart storage

In smaller gardens, you’ll need to consider where your outdoor furniture can be kept over the winter months. Folding bistro sets are ideal for smaller spaces, as they can be tucked neatly into a shed or garage with very little bulk.

Some table designs come with smart chairs or stools that slot neatly beneath the table top, so the whole set can be stored together to minimise wasted space. It’s worth investing in a weather-proof cover to protect tables and chairs from the elements when not in use.

Ascot curved casual lounge dining set (including height-adjustable table, curved corner sofa with back and seat cushions and two bench-style stools with cushions, plus four matching scatter cushions), £1,999, Wyevale Garden Centres

 

Good wood

Chester four-seat set with season-proof cushions and parasol with granite base, £1,299, Dobbies

The material of garden furniture you choose depends primarily on the look you prefer, but it’s also worth taking into account the practicalities of various finishes, too. Wood is one of the most popular choices for outdoor furniture, with species including teak, acacia and eucalyptus being some of the best suited to outdoor environments. These are hardy woods that can withstand the elements better than others. 

All wooden finishes, however, require annual maintenance to keep them in good condition. Teak oil is often used to apply a protective coating and shield the wood from damp and discolouring. It’s best to avoid positioning wooden furniture on grassy areas for long periods of time, as the moist surface can damage the wood through rot.

 

Heavy metal

Metal is a sturdy material for garden furniture and can offer either a modern or more rustic appeal, depending on the style you choose. Wrought iron is a classic, although often expensive, choice if you want to introduce a Parisian-chic bistro feel to your outside space but be wary that this particular metal is very heavy to move around and is prone to rust when exposed to the elements.

For a lower maintenance alternative that is still extremely durable, aluminium is a popular material as it has a protective anti-rust coating and is lightweight.

Palma hanging egg chair, £250, Wilko

 

Plastic fantastic

All-weather weaves are becoming increasingly sophisticated and their ability to imitate the look of rattan means you can benefit from the natural appearance as well as the weather-resistant properties. 

This man-made material is not susceptible to mould, unlike natural fibres, and requires very little maintenance - it can be cleaned down easily with a sponge, warm water and washing-up liquid.