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How to Create an Inviting Outdoor Seating Area

Author: May

Mar. 07, 2024

55 0

Tags: Furniture

Houzz UK. I'm a journalist and editor, previously for the Independent, Guardian and various magazines. I'm now excited to part of the editorial team at Houzz UK & Ireland, bringing the best of British and Irish design, interiors and architecture to Houzz.com

What’s on your outdoor seating wish list? Are you thinking it would be nice to have a cozy corner where you can lounge after dark or get comfy with a book? What about a fabulous dining area, some spots where you can perch and think, or somewhere for a relaxing morning coffee or evening drink?

Even in the teeniest of yards, a good designer will help you to carve out a place outdoors where you can sit, sprawl, chat or eat. Read on to get the experts’ advice on where to start when planning your garden seating.

The garden has become an extra room all of its own and is just as important as any room in the home. Garden seating ideas can turn your outdoors into a space just as essential as your living room and create a cosy haven that will make you want to relax outdoors all year round. 

There are plenty of seating solutions which will take your garden ideas to the next level, from plush sofas to sink into to a more compact bistro set.

When considering your garden seating ideas, think about how you use your outdoor space. Do you want the seating to be the hub of a lively entertaining zone, or a quiet nook to relax in? The size of your outdoor space will also impact the type of seating you go for, a terrace or balcony won’t be able to hold the same sized furniture as a 70ft garden. Garden seating is no longer a fold-up plastic deck chair, but can be as extravagant as the seating within your home to make it a special place you want to spend time in.

‘When it comes to finding the right seating for your garden, like your living room, you want to create an outdoor living space that is the ultimate in style and comfort. Rather than just placing a random array of furniture pieces anywhere, it's really important to decide where you want your outdoor living room to be and what the best type of lounge furniture will maximise the potential,’ says Reilly Gray, Co-Founder of Suns Lifestyle.

‘Be sure to take accurate measurements so you know how much space is available too, after all, you want to make sure your new furniture fits comfortably and doesn't look too big or too small in the space. In terms of materials, always invest in furniture pieces that are built to last. Designs made from FSC-certified teak or aluminium will not only stand the test of time but they're also designed for a life outdoors, meaning they will withstand all weather conditions - just make sure you use the right care systems to protect, clean and maintain your furniture.’

Garden seating ideas

The main factor to consider before investing in garden seating ideas as part of your outdoor furniture is to choose a style that is comfortable and isn’t purely trend led. Choosing seating that has a strong frame and is weather resistant is also important because you want your garden seating ideas to last and stand the test of time. 

Arit Anderson, garden designer and National Garden Scheme Trustee says, ‘If the space allows, have multiple places to relax. An area that is social and allows seated dining is always fun, and another for a little more solitude, if only a patch to put a deckchair. Seats in the garden allow us to be a human ‘being’ instead of a human doing!’

Take these garden seating ideas to elevate your garden to the next level.  

1. Create bespoke industrial seating with metal

(Image credit: Future PLC / Lizzie Orme)

For a very modern form of seating that will provide a focal point for your garden, metal seating works really well. ‘Using tubes and clamps made from galvanised steel is the perfect material for strong and resistant outdoor seating, whilst also giving it a cool industrial feel,’ says Leigh Start, operations director at The Metal Store. 

‘The benefit of using metal tubing for garden furniture is that it can easily be cut to size and built with clamps to create a bespoke, made-to-measure piece that fits your garden perfectly. Make use of scaffolding boards to create the seats of your furniture and don’t forget to treat them with outdoor varnish to protect the wood from the elements.’ 

This allows you to create seating that perfectly fits your urban garden and how you use it. Metal seating can also be a comfortable option by using foam seating pads and waterproof fabric to make it specifically suited for the outdoors. 

2. Perch on a bar stool

(Image credit: Future PLC)

If entertaining in your garden is important to you then finding an area in your garden for a garden bar idea is the perfect way to bring people together. No matter if you go for a garden shed bar, or a tiki hut, the seating could make or break if people are staying at the bar until their last orders. Bar stools provide you with lots of different options, with adjustable and half-height options, high or low backs and narrow ones perfect for small garden ideas. 

For a modern boho style, go for a wicker stool which you can match with other outdoor furniture such as plant pots or a coffee table. You can now get bar stools which are UV and water-resistant so can withstand long summers of sitting, socialising and getting the drinks in.  

3. Upcycle wooden seating

(Image credit: Future PLC)

If you have garden furniture which needs a new lease of life, upcycling wood is a low-cost option to fit in with your budget garden ideas. Wood is a perfect material for the garden because it provides a rustic style which works great with the natural and rugged nature of a garden. Breathe new life into an old bench you have in the garage or head to a second-hand furniture store to find an old gem.

Glen Peskett, DIY expert and owner of tool supplier Saxton Blades recommends following the steps to create the perfect wooden seating that looks good and is easy to create. 

‘Prep the surface of your furniture by cleaning it and lightly sanding it to make sure the surface is level and free of any weather damage, sand by following the grain of the wood to avoid any marks or scratches. If painting the wood, check if you need a primer. Depending on the paint you use, you may also need to add a layer of primer before you begin.

‘Use a sealant if you're leaving the wood bare to protect the wood from UV and weather damage. If you're staining the wood, consider light, colour and wood type. Stain colours can look different in natural light than in shop lighting so do a test on your furniture in sunlight before making your final decision.'

4. Curl up on a corner sofa

(Image credit: Future PLC/Colin Poole)

If you’re looking to make your garden feel a little more luxurious and want seating where you can stretch out or have the whole family cosy up together, a corner sofa works great. A corner sofa is traditionally used in a living room, but placed in a garden it can be a clever way to zone that section of your garden for sitting down and spending time taking it slow. 

A garden corner sofa works best in a larger space so that you can go really big without making the garden feel cluttered or smaller than it is. People are taking the expansion of the living space into the garden seriously with it becoming a full lounging area, complete with outdoor rugs and blankets. 

‘Corner sofas make the ideal garden hub for socialising with friends and family outside in the sun. Using the rule of three, I’d recommend using cushions designed to be used outdoors and opt for one large square cushion, two small square cushions and two bolster cushions scattered on the sofa,’ recommends James Rotheram M&S insider and visual merchandiser at M&S Home. 

5. Take yourself on holiday with a retro sun lounger

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Summers in the UK are getting just as hot as if you were on the French Riviera, so a lot of gardens become an amazing sun trap. A sun lounger is a garden seating idea that forces you to stop and lie back and really relax and enjoy the sight and sounds of your garden. If you’re a real sun worshipper and want to follow the sun around your garden, choose a lightweight lounger like plastic or aluminium over wood.

James Rotheram from M&S Home says, ‘The sun lounger is a popular garden feature that’s perfect for soaking up the sunshine and enjoying the buzz of nature. Style the recliner with one square cushion that you can rearrange depending on whether you want to prop up your head when lying down or place it behind your back when sitting up. Complete the sunny look with a perfectly placed striped beach towel.’ For extra style points, go for a retro-inspired look with candy stripes and bold colourful prints.  

6. Hang swinging seating

(Image credit: Future PLC/JOANNA HENDERSON)

A swing seat is a fun way to add seating into your garden that people both old and young will love. Your swing seat can be a single seater for something more private, or a whole bench if you want to bring together more people. There are plenty of options from rustic, traditional-looking swing seats to something more contemporary with a UV-resistant roof. Plus, many now come with added extras like shelves for your drinks and built-in cushions that make the experience even more relaxing.

Rian Habergham, garden expert at Leisure Bench says, ‘Swinging seating includes everything from seating that hangs from trees to classic swinging garden benches, swinging seating makes your garden that little bit more exciting, and can be used alongside static seating to encourage different seating options. 

When placing your seat, make sure it has at least three feet of space behind the swing and 14 inches on either side, so you can swing freely without hitting anything. 

7. Integrate seating with raised beds

(Image credit: Future PLC/Claire Lloyd-Davies)

Save space with garden storage ideas while simultaneously creating good-looking garden ideas. Make your raised beds work harder by building on benches, providing you with seats without using up much extra square footage.

You can take things a step further by working in waterproofed storage underneath the seating, perfect for tidying away cushions and blankets. Make sure to plant sweet-smelling flowers or herbs in the beds so you have an atmospheric aroma, or on-the-go drink garnishes.

8. Create a cohesive scheme

(Image credit: Future PLC/Claire Lloyd-Davies)

Stylish schemes aren't just for interiors, so make sure your garden has a theme, too. Learn how to choose outdoor furniture to work out what you need and where. Then link together different seating types or areas by limiting to a restrained colour palette and using the same materials throughout. For added impact, you could even plant using these same colourways.

9. Take it low

(Image credit: Future PLC/Anna Stathaki)

Not every space needs, or responds well to, a dramatic seating moment. Low stone walls and garden borders are perfect for adding a simple wooden bench. This type of design works well with narrow or small garden ideas, but can also offer additional seating zones in larger spaces. 

Benches also allow you to have extra room to host more people. It's cosy, yes, but definitely more fun. Allan Jeffrey CCO at Ultra Decking recommends. 'using leftover boards to create low-cost benches which match your garden design.'

10. Create a flexible space

(Image credit: Future PLC/ David Giles)

When choosing your garden seating ideas it can feel like a toss-up between fitting everything in and still leaving room outdoors. If you have a shed or garage for storage, you can get more flexible with your plans. An in-built bench works wonders year round. Then, when you're ready to host summer soirees, add a table and outdoor dining chairs. You'll get everything you want, whenever you need it.

11. Mix and match

(Image credit: Future PLC)

For a fun and eclectic vibe, enjoy mixing and matching different colours and materials. Metal chairs, wooden benches, and raffia pouffes can all sit together to create a relaxed space. Ensure they don't seem too disparate from one another by linking with similar soft furnishings, like cushions and throws.

If you're a little nervous about this style of garden seating idea, perhaps simply mix colour or material to dip your toe in the trend.

12. Create a border with your seating

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Double up your outdoor seating with garden edging ideas. This will visually separate different zones in the garden, while also providing a place to rest. Choose or build a bench to match the shape of your borders to make this addition feel organic.

If you do decide to create your own seating, Angela Slater, gardening expert at Hayes Garden World recommends getting comfortable with DIY and making it part of your DIY outdoor furniture ideas. 'Get handy with a saw and a drill and construct some seating out of old pallets. They will need sanding down as they are full of splinters. Make some large cushions for the base and the back and you have a new set of furniture.'

13. Choose informal dining furniture

(Image credit: Next)

Let your furniture choices dictate how you use the garden, by choosing a more informal and laid-back dining table with a corner sofa sets the scene for casual dining. A comfy corner sofa at the dining tables helps to make the area feel more inviting at alternative times of the day – not such while you're serving lunch or dinner.

To make your informal seating cosier, 'Cushions and throws will add an extra layer of comfort, while an outdoor rug will give the illusion of being indoors and provide a warming texture underfoot,' says Helena Davies, head of buying at Barker and Stonehouse

14. Make multipurpose seating work for your outdoor space

(Image credit: Future PLC/Dominic Blackmore)

If you have a small garden or are looking for budget garden ideas, opt for multipurpose seating solutions such as pouffes and floor cushions. They can be used as extra seating when required but remain useful as alternative accessories - a footstool is the perfect accompaniment to a garden armchair, to pop feet up and enjoy a snooze in the sunshine.

‘If you only have space for one seating area, go for a set that acts as a chameleon, adapting to all occasions. For example, a casual dining set with a corner sofa and an adjustable table that can be moved up for meal times and made lower for the morning coffee moments. Make it cosy and welcoming with festoon lighting and a firepit,' advises Kris Manalo, design lead at Atkin and Thyme.

15. Swing in style with a fashionable egg chair

(Image credit: Future PLC/Tim Young)

Hanging chairs are the dream for achieving a feeling of complete relaxation. When you take a seat in a suspended chair you are quite literally taking the weight off, creating a sense of floating – and when you close your eyes that sense can be heightened. In a garden, this calming feeling is enhanced by the sounds and sights of being surrounded by nature.

A smart idea, as seen here, is to conceal the frame within a planted border to add to the visual effect of the chair freely floating in the space. Great for small gardens, as the free-flowing space beneath the chair helps to make it feel less imposing.

16. Build a brick banquette

(Image credit: Robert Sanderson)

One good way to incorporate seating into grassless garden ideas without it taking up a lot of space is to make it part of a retaining fence or wall. If it's a fence, you could build a simple bench in a matching wood stain. And if it's brick, you can build a more substantial banquette, topped with stone slabs and cushions for comfort.

17. Build seating around a fire pit

(Image credit: Future PLC/ Colin Poole)

Build a seating area around a fire pit, and you'll be able to lounge around for longer on summer nights. Build a central fire pit a safe distance from where you wish to place your seating, whether that be a built-in pallet corner sofa (like the one above) or existing outdoor furniture which can be placed against the wall.

Patio seating is best for placing around the fire pit because it encourages outdoor dining and entertaining, turning your garden into a sociable hub.

18. Share the same principles of indoor furniture layouts

(Image credit: Future PLC/Alasdair McIntosh)

The easiest way to make your patio space feel like an outdoor living room is to mirror the layout of an indoor living room. Choose a central point of focus, using the fire pit instead of a fireplace, to place a sofa and a matching armchair opposite each other.

Keep things simple with a set of sleek grey garden furniture. However, grey doesn't have to mean boring. Add a pop of colour with accent cushions in neon yellow and navy blue, and pair with a woven orange blanket for those chilly evenings.

19. Use a quite corner to carve out a reading nook

(Image credit: Future PLC/Lizzie Orme)

An arbour placed in the corner of a garden creates the perfect place to escape and loose yourself in a good book. Choose a design where you can encourage climbing plants and scented plants such as lavender and rosemary to grow around the frame, to enhance the feeling of being immersed within the garden. Paint the structure an on-trend dark shade to make the surrounding greenery really standout. 

20. Make the most of every available space

(Image credit: Future PLC/ Colin Poole)

Make the most out of every alcove in your garden by building in a bench between two flower beds. Surround the little bench with gorgeous scented plants to make this the perfect place to hide away with a good book, stimulated by nature.

A few lanterns won't go amiss, either, allowing you to enjoy the space as dusk settles. If you have a small garden with any awkward nooks this still allows you to sit down and relax and become nestled within your garden. 

21. Cleverly use courtyard corners

(Image credit: Future PLC/Colin Poole)

Use every inch of outdoor space to its full potential with clever seating ideas. A courtyard area has the potential to feel quite enclosed, simply by the nature of surrounding brick walls. Using clever corner seating will not only use the space most effectively, but the high-back design will also hide a large portion of the imposing walls.

22. Furnish your decking

(Image credit: Future PLC/Dominic Blackmore)

We all love a garden deck, but unless there's some carefully placed garden furniture on it, the chances are we're not actually going to spend too much time on it. Cue a humble wooden garden bench, a few choice homeware accessories and the addition of some day-to-night lighting. And voilà, you've got a usable outdoor seating space that you can truly call your own.

23. Build your own pallet sofa

(Image credit: Future PLC/Joanna Henderson)

If you're always humming that DIY ditty 'If I Had a Hammer', this could be the way to go. It's surprisingly easy to learn how to build palette furniture and it also costs very little compared to off-the-shelf solutions. Plus, it can be configured to seat as many – or as few – as you and your space dictate.

DIY stores like Homebase and B&Q will sell everything you need to get going – including those all-important seat pads. Our top tips? Sand carefully to prevent splintering and always coat your finished seats in a protective stain so they'll look just as good next summer.

24. Relax in style on a modern lounger

(Image credit: Future PLC/Colin Poole)

Faded yellow plastic loungers? No thank you. Sophisticated dark wood teamed with dark grey upholstery and a hooked-up pillow that won't move out of position for an all-together classier and more comfortable recliner. Surround yourself with potted plants so you can truly immerse yourself in the lush greenery of your garden... and relax!

25. Commandeer a corner with a quaint bench

(Image credit: Future PLC/ Polly Eltes)

Thoughtfully use every corner of your garden, such an otherwise wasted space in a corner by popping in a bench and plenty of potted shrubs to add colour and foliage.

The combination of trailing plants and pretty blooms helps to create a secluded, tranquil corner. Adding a small coffee table creates a welcome space to sit and take five minutes with a cup of tea, appreciating a view of garden beyond. Dress the bench with cushions, to add a decorative touch as well as comfort.

26. Set up a breakfast nook with a bistro set

(Image credit: Future PLC/Colin Poole)

We think it's a good idea to set up a few different seating areas around a larger garden, so you can enjoy different aspects of your space throughout the day. Take advantage of the sun first thing in the morning and pick a bright spot where you can place a bistro table and chairs. OJ and avocado on toast, coming right up.

27. Make outdoor dining the focus

(Image credit: Future PLC/ Lizzie Orme)

In a long, thin plot, accommodating a dining table can be tricky. But if you love to host with garden party ideas, there's an argument to make your table the focal point of the garden. Here, raised beds enclose the area for a cosier feel. It's a good idea to plant scented flowers nearby, alongside herbs that can be picked fresh to use as garnishes.

28. Set up a casual garden office

(Image credit: Future PLC/Brent Darby)

You might not want to go the whole hog and use your office as a shed – we need somewhere to store her tools and lawnmower, after all. But you could set up a small table and chair on the patio for impromptu studying. Keep your back to a busy plot so you're not distracted by gardening jobs to do.

29. Fill the floor with cushions

(Image credit: Future PLC/ Lizzie Orme)

You don't need lots of space or lots of money to incorporate more garden seating. Here, a garden shed idea has been commandeered as a bohemian sitting room, with cushions and stools scattered around so that there are multiple spots to settle down in and relax, in both the sun and the shade.

'Large floor cushions can be used if you only have a small area and, if you are fit and able, they can double up as extra seating indoors,' says Angela Slater from Hayes Garden World.

30. Use seating to add colour

(Image credit: Future PLC/Simon Whitmore)

Enjoy an evening drink a deux in armchairs that pop as brightly as your most colourful flowers. Clash if you can – either with a contrasting coffee table or cushions and throws – for more fun and drama.

Francesca Hadland, styling expert at Bridgman suggests, 'Use similar colours and materials to your indoor spaces to create a cohesive flow out into your garden.'

31. Pop a bench in a narrow spot

(Image credit: Future PLC /Lizzie Orme)

Go old school with a bench, especially handy in small outdoor spaces. You never know when you might need a quick five-minute break after a strenuous gardening session, so a bench offers a convenient spot where you can take a breather.

Pop it in shade – under a tree or against an external wall – so that you can stay cool. The table next to this bench doubles as a drinks cooler, handy for keeping some thirst quenchers ready and waiting, too. A bench is a minimalist way to add seating to a narrow garden without taking up too much space.

32. Install a sheltered seating area

(Image credit: Future PLC/Lizzie Orme)

Take advantage of a neglected part of your garden by installing a gazebo for gossiping with the girls (or boys), away from the main house – it will provide shelter from showers or bright sunlight, making it a useful garden shade idea too. Teenagers might also appreciate a spot where they can chat with friends without Mum, Dad, or younger siblings interrupting.  

'In the crisper winter months, we know to expect rain, sleet, snow, heavy winds, or even storms – it is the Great British unpredictable way. Firstly, consider how you will shelter your space from the rain. Whether you choose a simple gazebo or a pergola - sheltering your outdoor space will ensure your visitors, and your furniture, remains dry,’ says Joel Garthwaite, chief marketing officer at Harbour Lifestyle. 

33. Set the scene for a snooze with a day bed

(Image credit: Future PLC/Spike Powell)

Place a traditional day bed in a secluded spot in the garden for the ideal place outdoors to take an afternoon siesta. Line the iron bed frame with comfy cushions, showerproof fabrics would be ideal, to make it irresistible for spending an afternoon relaxing in the garden. Store it in a shelter during prolonged rainy spells, to prevent the frame from rusting.

How do I make my outdoor seating more comfortable? 

To make your garden seating ideas an enjoyable experience, they need to not only look good but feel comfortable too. When planning a garden and thinking about where to put your garden seating, check that it is somewhere you could sit and watch the world go by for hours without risking a bad back. Cushions are a great way to add more soft padding to your garden seating ideas so they are gentle on your body and hug you when you sit down. 

Rian Habergham from Leisure Bench says, ‘As long as you have somewhere inside to store the cushions when the weather is bad, then you can add as many as you like to your outdoor seating. As well as this, you can also get plenty of waterproof cushions that don't need to be taken inside.’

Focus on where in the garden you place your seating, you don’t want to be sitting in a spot overlooked by all your neighbours so that you’re constantly on show. Plus think about how the sunlight moves around your garden, if you’re only ever in direct sunlight that could be too intense during the summer. Rian Habergham from Leisure Bench says ‘Install awnings or umbrellas to create a nice shady space, or at least have the option to place these items when it gets hot and sunny.’ When it’s colder outside, placing your seating near fire pits or electric heaters will keep you from catching a chill and allow you to enjoy your garden seating ideas even in the winter.

How do I create a garden seating area? 

When planning your perfect spot for garden seating as well as thinking about fun things like colours and material choices. There are more practical and slightly boring things to consider, such as is the ground even enough for garden seating? Could an electricity cable reach you if you wanted to plug in a laptop or electric heater? Rian Habergham from Leisure Bench advises, ‘If the ground is lumpy and uneven, it's likely that it's not suitable for seating. Flooring such as decking and patio is ideal for the majority of seating, while flat grass and other terrain are great for others.’

When asking yourself the question, how do I create a garden seating area? Deciding how you’re going to use the space will help you answer it. 

‘From a quiet reading nook to a lively entertainment area, you need to understand what you're wanting to use your space for. This will determine whether you include tables in your seating area and where you place your seating area. Quiet reading nooks are great in the back of your garden away from your property, while entertaining areas are generally preferred to be closer to the home, making it easier to bring out food and drinks,’ says Rian Habergham from Leisure Bench.

Simon Glanville, managing director at A Place for Everything says, 'Creating that relaxing summer vibe is not just about comfy seating though and it's the little accents that often finish the look. If you love sitting outside on long summer evenings then a fire pit is essential. If you like a late-night tipple then why not pop an outdoor drinks cabinet on the wall or use an outdoor drinks trolley that can be popped back inside overnight. Festoon poles are also great for adding atmospherics as the sun goes down and can be finished off with any outdoor lights.'

How to Create an Inviting Outdoor Seating Area

Garden seating ideas that will make any garden feel like a stylish oasis

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