Everything You Need to Know About Garden Furniture

Garden Furniture

The History of Garden Furniture

In this country, it is fair to say that we get limited time to use our garden furniture. With the cold months and endless rain, quality time in the garden tends to come a few months a year. This endurance of the cold and rain makes us crave the time in our garden when the sun shines. We Brits like to make the most of it, don’t we?

As soon as the sun comes out and the temperature rises above 10 degrees, the smell of BBQs fills the air, and kids play in their gardens. Once again, everything seems right with the world. But we couldn’t do this without our precious garden furniture, which brings comfort and style to our gardens. This allows us to sit together and socialise.

So, where did our love affair with outdoor furniture start? As much as we love our garden furniture, I’m afraid it did not start in Britain. It began in much warmer climates, where people spent much of the year outdoors. We have to go back to the Romans for the first evidence of garden furniture as we know it.

The Gardens of Pompeii

Archaeologists found stone benches and seats dating back to 43 A.D. during excavations of Pompeii. The Roman Empire considered these furniture pieces an essential part of its lives, and the same holds for Italy and the Mediterranean today.

Garden Furniture Pompeii

However, people believe that the Egyptians and the Ancient Greeks predated these. However, these are the oldest known specimens of garden furniture. Egyptian archaeologists have discovered furniture made from reeds and grasses, which people would have used indoors and outdoors.

Examples of Egyptian furniture include chairs, tables, chests, and baskets. Wood is easy to style and fashion, so the Ancient Greeks made much furniture out of wood. Artisans crafted outdoor furniture, including benches and stools, from stone or metal. Historians believe that the Romans copied this trend.

Medieval Garden Furniture

During medieval times, people first introduced Britain to garden furniture as we know it. Gardens and courtyards started to spring up in monasteries, churches, and castles to provide food and medicine.

Garden Furniture Medieval

As gardens developed and became more popular, turf seats became common. These provided people with a base to sit and enjoy the outdoor space. Turf benches came in different shapes and sizes, sometimes the length of the garden.

Artisans constructed them with a frame of wood, brick, stone, or wattle, filling them with soil and turf laid on top. Turf benches can be pretty basic, but they are still trendy today. They are a fantastic way of “being at one with nature” and comfortable at the same time.

The Birth of Garden Furniture As We Know It

The Victorians brought garden furniture into the modern era, creating many advancements we love. The 1800s saw a rapid development of parks, gardens, and seaside resorts, all needing outdoor seating.

Garden Furniture Victorian

This coincided with the development of cast-iron large-scale production, and the rest, as they say, is history! They crafted the first park bench, turning it into the de facto item in every park and garden country. The garden bench industry originated and continued to grow with the introduction of new and unique styles.

Modern Garden Furniture

After World War II, outdoor and garden spaces became popular again, with people meeting, eating, and congregating outside. Although not the best design, plastic garden furniture has become the default item in almost every British garden. This is due to its low cost and minimal maintenance.

In the decades leading up to the 21st century, we have seen many developments in garden furniture. Cast iron, aluminium, steel, and weave all take pride in their place in outdoor furniture manufacturing.

Modern Garden Furniture

Today, there are so many distinctive styles and designs to choose from. There is something available to suit every taste. Creating a comfortable and stylish outdoor space has become paramount as we spend more time outside. Such outdoor spaces help us to socialise, relax, and spend quality time with loved ones.

Who knows what developments in garden furniture will bring in the next 50 years? We can’t wait to find out!


The Types of Garden Furniture

We are fortunate to live in the 21st Century. So many garden furniture options are available that we are spoilt for choice. We’ve described the different types and how they benefit you.

Garden Chairs

Chairs are a requisite for any garden. Sitting on the grass is an option, but Britain’s infamy for its wet weather means nobody likes a damp patch on their trousers! If you want to sit out in your garden and enjoy the outdoors, a chair or two is your first port of call.

Garden Chairs

Loads of different types are available, from foldaway plastic chairs to swinging cocoon chairs and everything in between. Your budget and the size of your garden will dictate what is the best option for you. See below for an idea of what is available:

  • Stacking chairs
  • Folding chairs
  • Lounge set chairs
  • Recliners
  • Sofa sets
  • Swing seats
  • Cocoon chairs

The humble garden chair now comes in so many different styles and options that there is something to suit all gardens and tastes.

Dining Sets

Nothing quite like eating and drinking outside, enjoying the balmy summer evenings with loved ones. But unless you fancy sitting on the floor or eating standing up, you’ll need an outdoor dining set. Loads of different dining sets are available to suit all garden sizes and tastes.

For those who prefer tradition, you may opt for a round dining table with a wrought iron or cast aluminium frame. These provide an authentic and traditional Victorian feel. Are you at one with nature? Maybe a wooden dining chair set made from natural materials would be for you, enhancing the organic garden style.

If you have more modern tastes, you can go with the modular dining sets that are now available. These practical sets offer comfort and style for your outdoor space. Some even come with a fire pit to keep you warm on a cool evening or provide ambient lighting.

Garden Dining Sets

No matter your garden style and tastes, there is a dining set out there waiting to become a centrepiece for your outdoor space.

Bistro Sets

Bistro sets are perfect for smaller gardens, patios, or balconies. They offer much the same as a dining set, albeit more petit. There’s something stylish and romantic about a bistro set. It helps conjure images of warm summer evenings or relaxing on a balcony.

Garden Bistro Sets

There are some stylish sets available, too. There are styles to suit all tastes, whether you are looking for a natural wooden or synthetic rattan set. There’s a wide choice to suit your garden furniture needs.

Garden Benches

The garden bench we are familiar with first became commonplace in Britain during Victorian times. During the 1800s, public parks and seaside resort developments led to the mass installation of public benches. Well, we all need somewhere to sit, right?

Garden Benches

Garden benches are associated with cultural nostalgia. Memories of visiting parks as a child or seeing Victorian benches in movies convey that feeling.

Benches have marked their place in British culture, minds, and hearts. Over the years, they have remained an essential part of our heritage. It is now widespread to see benches in gardens up and down the country.

So, which bench is suitable for your garden? It depends on the style of your garden, and also your taste. Many different styles of benches are available, ranging from traditional wooden, aluminium, and even weave benches.

Are you looking for something a little bit different? How about a planter bench? It provides comfort, somewhere to sit, and an area to keep your green fingers busy!

Gazebos and Pergolas

Gazebos and pergolas are a fantastic addition to any garden. They provide shelter and shade from the weather, whether rain or sunshine. They also provide a stylish focal point for your garden and are great for several different purposes, including:

  • Relaxing space for some ‘me time’
  • Dining and socialising
  • Shade and privacy for your hot tub
  • Somewhere for the kids to play
  • Picnics
  • Sports days

Gazebos and pergolas come in all different styles. From contemporary wooden gazebos and Victorian pavilions to popup gazebos for days out. There is a style to suit everyone. Another great reason to get a gazebo or a pergola is that they are easy to maintain.

Designed for outdoor use, manufacturers treat them and ensure they withstand all weather conditions.

Garden Gazebos & Pergolas

So, start looking for your perfect gazebo or pergola and organise dinner parties and social gatherings with loved ones. Or start planning that much-needed relaxing ‘me time’ you’ve been waiting for. You won’t regret it!

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Garden Furniture Materials

There are many outdoor furniture materials, each with specific benefits and drawbacks. Some common features include weather resistance, ease of maintenance, and durability, but these vary with each material. We have included below the different materials used to make garden furniture and their benefits and drawbacks.

Wrought Iron

Wrought-Iron Garden Furniture

Wrought iron was prevalent during the Victorian era due to increased production within the iron industry. Artisans used it to craft tables, chairs, and benches. These embody the classical Victorian style we have all come to love. It is solid and durable but cumbersome and challenging to move. It is also prone to rust and requires painting when cracks appear.

Cast Aluminium

Cast Aluminium provides a similar look to wrought iron and is a good alternative. It offers a similar style but at a lower price. Nowadays, it is much more common to have garden furniture made from cast aluminium than wrought iron. It is the most popular material used for metal garden furniture. There are some excellent benefits, too. It is much lighter than wrought iron, allowing you to place it on your lawn without causing damage. It is rust-resistant and requires little maintenance.

Stainless Steel

Stainless Steel Garden Furniture

Stainless steel has become popular in the production of garden furniture. However, it is less common than wrought iron or cast aluminium. Due to its bright and shiny appearance, stainless steel is more popular contemporary garden furniture. It is also durable, rust- and mould-resistant.

Wood

Wooden Garden Furniture

Wood is one of the most traditional materials used for garden furniture. Its use as a building material and furniture dates back to 3000 BC. It’s obvious why hardwood furniture is so popular. It’s strong, stylish, easy to manipulate, and beautiful.

Wooden furniture looks natural outside with its organic style and patterns. It will add style to any garden or outdoor space.

A word of warning, though. Wood requires a lot of maintenance to keep it as good as new. The British weather can age wooden furniture. It needs sanding and varnishing once a year to keep it in shape.

Plus, you can turn old, tired-looking furniture into something stylish and unique. It can look as good as new by sanding, painting, and varnishing.

Rattan

Rattan Garden Furniture

Weave or rattan garden furniture has become one of the most popular materials in recent years. But did you know it has been around for a long time and is one of the oldest furniture-making forms? The Ancient Egyptians are the earliest known to have created weaved furniture. Archaeologists found some examples buried in Pharaoh’s tombs.

The Romans then took the baton and integrated woven furniture into their culture. During the 17th and 18th centuries, people in Northern Europe and Asia used wicker furniture. However, it was in the Victorian era that it made its way to the shores of Britain.

Rattan garden furniture comes with several benefits which have helped to make it so popular, including:

  • It looks stylish
  • Durable and weatherproof
  • It’s comfortable
  • It’s lightweight and easy to move
  • Affordable

Whichever material you choose, make sure it fits your style and personality. Each type of material has pros and cons and will be perfect for different situations. Get hunting, and good luck!

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Garden Furniture Brands

There are some fantastic choices on the market today. This is all thanks to impressive companies pushing the boundaries and exciting us furniture lovers. So, who are the leading garden furniture brands?

AFK Garden

AFK Garden is a company based in Lincolnshire that specialises in designing and manufacturing high-quality wooden garden furniture. Their range includes arbours, swing seats, planters, bridges, and log stores.

AFK Garden Furniture

Anchor Fast

Anchor Fast has been around for over 25 years. They design and manufacture a range of wooden garden furniture for consumers. Anchor Fast also manufactures for the education and leisure markets, including schools, universities, pubs, and parks.

Anchor Fast Garden Furniture

Garden Furniture Global

For 75 years, Garden Furniture Global has been designing and manufacturing luxury garden furniture. They specialise in aluminium and resin weave furniture, including seats, tables, and sofa sets. They also produce parasols, gazebos, and gardening accessories.

Garden Furniture Global

Glencrest Seatex

Glencrest formed as a cushion manufacturer in 1981. They now design and manufacture a range of garden furniture, including bistro sets, dining sets, and sofa sets. Glencrest also manufactures accessories, such as cushions and parasols. They are well-known for their luxury dining sets, including the Sandringham, Seville, Balmoral, and Buckingham sets.

Glencrest Garden Furniture

Innovators International

Innovators International is a world-renowned brand that started in 1988. Since then, they have been designing and manufacturing high-quality garden furniture, including rattan, teak, oak, iron, and resin. Their product range includes dining sets, sun loungers, benches, sofa sets, bistro sets, gazebos, parasols, and more.

Innovators Garden Furniture

Kaemingk

Kaemingk offers a range of beautiful, original, and creative items for your home—inside and out. Their outdoor living collection includes sofas, garden benches, cushions, fountains, and lighting. Kaemingk’s products are well worth a look if you’re looking for something stylish and different.

Kaemingk Garden Furniture

Masters Outdoor Leisure

Masters Outdoor Leisure is a company based in Cradley Heath, West Midlands. They specialise in designing and manufacturing stylish gazebos for all occasions. They also provide gazebo accessories, including casual chairs, swing hammocks, and cushions.

Masters Garden Furniture

Mercer Agencies

Mercer Agencies, based in Northern Ireland, has sold various products for over 26 years. These include garden furniture, Christmas accessories, LED pull lights, and click-clack tiles. Their garden furniture consists of the popular and stylish Amalfi range.

Mercer Garden Furniture

Supremo Leisure

Supremo Leisure is a popular and stylish brand that provides a range of weave, aluminium, and fabric garden furniture. A variety of furniture sets are available for formal dining or relaxation. Their range includes dining sets, patio furniture, sofa sets, duo sets, and parasols.

Supremo Garden Furniture

Zest 4 Leisure

Zest 4 Leisure formed in 2005 to bring high-quality timber products to retailers and garden centres. Their products look fantastic and can add style to any outdoor space. They provide timber products, including tables, chairs, benches, companion seats, arbours, pergolas, fences, storage boxes and plant climbing support. If you like wood, visit these guys!

Zest 4 Leisure Garden Furniture

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Garden Furniture Maintenance

Keeping your garden furniture looking great is a challenging task. Caring for your outdoor furniture is essential if you want it to get years of enjoyment. Nobody wants to invest in stylish garden furniture to replace it after a few years. So, here are some tips on keeping your furniture looking great and working as it should.

Cast Iron Garden Furniture

Cast iron is a beautiful material that provides a traditional, authentic Victorian style for your outdoor space. The compromise you face when purchasing this type of furniture is that it requires a lot of maintenance to keep it looking great.

Wrought-Iron Furniture Maintenance

The biggest problem with cast iron is that it is prone to rust. This requires regular cleaning and touching up with specialised metal paint. Covering with a waterproof cover during the wet and cold months can help. It also needs cleaning every 6 – 12 months to remove dirt, dust, mould, and algae, which will prolong the life of the paint.

Aluminium Garden Furniture

Unlike cast iron, aluminium garden furniture is rust-proof, making it easier to maintain. It requires a wipe-down with soapy water once a year to remove dirt. It is also much lighter than cast iron, so moving it into your shed or outhouse during winter is much easier.

When outside, we recommend covering it with a waterproof garden furniture cover. This helps prolong its life and retain its original colour. As with all painted furniture, chipping and cracking can occur. If this happens, clean the area and use metal paint to touch it up.

Stainless Steel Garden Furniture

Stainless steel garden furniture is becoming popular, and with good reason. It requires little maintenance to keep it looking great. Direct sunlight will not damage stainless steel, as it is rust- and mould-resistant.

Wipe it with water and soap every few weeks to keep it looking great all year round. Then, polish it with a dry cloth to keep it nice and shiny. Again, always keep it covered when not in use. Invest in a decent waterproof cover, or put it in your shed or outhouse.

Wooden Garden Furniture

It’s tough to beat wooden garden furniture in terms of style. It has an authentic, natural, and organic look that looks great in any garden and fits the outdoor world. The compromise is that looking after it requires more work than furniture made using other materials.

Nothing feels the weather quite like wood. That’s why it’s essential to keep up with cleaning and varnishing to keep it in the best possible shape. To preserve the wood, use natural oils, such as teak oil.

Wooden Furniture Maintenance

We recommend cleaning with soap and water once a month to prevent mould and mildew. We also recommend varnishing six times a month to keep it looking fresh. The wonderful thing about wooden furniture is that you can always restore it to its former glory, no matter how old. You can restore wooden furniture by sanding, varnishing, and painting.

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