The garden has become an extension of our homes, and never more so than in recent times. We are living outdoors on huge sofas and corner units. But what if space and storage are limited? We look at garden furniture you need this summer that can appear in seconds for some garden magic.
Making the most of your garden or outdoor space is all about seating. To fully enjoy a garden retreat we need to sit down – to eat, drink, relax and socialise. When there is plentiful space, people are recreating a living room outdoors. This has become easier with the arrival of furniture that is comfortable and weather resistant.
Large seating units in PE rattan are all the rage and create an air of luxury in any garden. In addition, they can be left outside all year, so once in place, they need little or no maintenance. Hardwood furniture is an investment but, with only minor yearly touch-ups, can stay outside permanently.
If you have space, large furniture pieces are a great option and will bring life to your garden for years to come. But for those short on space – and storage – what are the options?
These are the warhorses of outdoor eating and drinking. No park or pub garden is complete without a picnic bench, and they are fixtures of many back gardens. They usually fit a parasol, so for instant seating and shade, there’s nothing quicker.
But they are big and bulky and probably won’t fit through the front door of a terraced house. Don’t despair – many are available as simple flatpacks and can be thrown together in no time.
Check the wood is treated to ensure weather resistance. If not, they can be coated with a wood sealant, or decking treatment, then left outside after summer. (Store it at an angle to allow rainwater to run off.) Having a small footprint, they can be moved around the garden to chase the sunshine or the shade.
Furthermore, if a picnic bench is looking a bit tired after a few years’ service, paint it! A coat of vivid exterior wood paint will bring a new lease of life to the bench and the garden.
Like the picnic bench, the garden bench is a classic and looks good in any outdoor setting. These are usually made of durable hardwood, but metal versions are just as popular. Built to last, a garden bench may seem plain, but it will always have a timeless elegance.
Change its appearance by adding waterproof bench cushions in bright, bold or patterned fabrics. Get a cottage feel with florals, or make a statement with block colours or old-school stripes. Outdoor bench cushions will survive a shower, but need to be stored for winter or heavy rain. Luckily, being long and flat, they can be stored under a bed, or behind a sofa.
There was a time when a deckchair was the only garden seating. Its classic design with strong canvas fabric saw the deckchair taken out of the shed year after year before there were any alternatives. Revived versions still have the same design but get a new twist from strong, vivid fabrics.
How about a deckchair made for two? The classic design gets cosy with a double version. Perfect for summer days spent lazing in the sun. Once folded, it takes up practically no room at all.
For lazy afternoons in the shade, nothing beats a hammock. Bright colours and flowing tassels create an inviting bohemian feature in a small garden. Ideally, they are hung between two trees, to get all the dappled shade from the leaves. But many come with fixtures allowing them to be attached to walls or solid garden structures.
Hammocks are also available on a frame – no fixtures needed – so they can set up anywhere and easily move around the space.
Hammocks pose no problems if storage is an issue. Simply take it down, fold it and store it with blankets or bedding over winter.
These dining sets are usually in metal or a combination of metal and wood. Light and portable, they create an instantly chic eating area in a small space. A two-chair set is perfect for a balcony, too. Check for folding options that can be stored in a shed over winter or folded and then covered when not in use.
For something more solid but with the same appeal, cast iron bistro sets are an option. They can be left outdoors all year once in place. Treat them for occasional spots of rust and coat with car wax spray to give them extra life and wear.
Hanging or egg chairs
Seats that hang from tree branches or frames provide an arty aesthetic or a 1960s feel. These chairs are usually a lightweight open design, made from PE rattan or wicker. Use them to a create a magical quiet space among the trees – great for a bookworm or afternoon snoozer.
They often hark back to that decade too, using macrame and wood for a laidback feel.
They are designed to be hung from trees but can often be fixed to an outdoor ceiling. If that isn’t an option, look for one with a frame. Most egg chairs now come with their own integral frames.
These options are great when ground space is limited but they are bulky and will need storing inside over winter. Bear this in mind before buying a cool, but expensive garden feature. That said, they would look just as good inside.
The garden is all set with alternative seating arrangements and fairy lights. Now complement the atmosphere with a fire pit. These are so popular right now — and cast iron versions can be left outside. Tip them for winter storage so they don’t collect rainwater and develop rust.
Portable versions on a stand can be moved into place and even converted into a barbeque. They provide warmth and heat and make a focal point for any evening gathering.
Instant garden magic!
A small space needn’t be a no-go area. Think creatively and optimise the options available. There are plenty of small-scale, folding furniture ideas that can turn a backyard into a lounging experience. And in no time at all, now you see it – and now you don’t.