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Can This Garden Be Saved: We Have Nowhere to Sit

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Can This Garden Be Saved: We Have Nowhere to Sit

June 29, 2017

“We have nowhere to sit” is a common complaint in the garden because the definition of “outdoor furniture” is too narrow. Is there any reason garden seating has to be completely weatherproof, while weighing a ton? Too often it is lumpy teak or punishing wrought iron. In the time it takes to find the cushions, you could be unfolding a lightweight chair in exactly the right spot, for exactly the right moment.

Problem: We have planned ahead and put proper outdoor furniture where it ought to be.

Solution: Summer is the time for wild abandon.

Photography by Claire Takacs, except where noted.

Foldable Furniture

Above: For more of this garden, see Landscape Architect Visit: Jacqueline Morabito on the French Riviera. Photograph by Clive Nichols.

In a newly designed garden, moveable garden furniture may seem irrelevant. The solid bench at the end of a path provides a focal point; the built-in sofa is a cornerstone of the patio. And yet… the sun is shining just round the corner. This is the place to unfold the portable butterfly chair.

Portable Dining Room

Stone circle, wooden plank trestle table. In Jacqueline Morabito&#8\2\17;s garden on the French Riviera, the eating areas are fluid; it’s more of an adventure to pick up the table and move somewhere different every day. Photograph by Clive Nichols.
Above: Stone circle, wooden plank trestle table. In Jacqueline Morabito’s garden on the French Riviera, the eating areas are fluid; it’s more of an adventure to pick up the table and move somewhere different every day. Photograph by Clive Nichols.

Sitting by the back door is convenient, but convenience isn’t everything. A German beer table is easy to carry and to store at the end of the day; its slightly alarming shade of varnished pine wears down if it’s left out all summer, ditto the benches that come with it.

Shady Setting

Photograph via Tait. See more of Tait&#8\2\17;s outdoor furniture in Shiny Happy Furniture Made in Melbourne. Tait has locations in Melbourne and Sydney; for more information, go to Tait.
Above: Photograph via Tait. See more of Tait’s outdoor furniture in Shiny Happy Furniture Made in Melbourne. Tait has locations in Melbourne and Sydney; for more information, go to Tait.

Ideally, a seating area will have a level surface underfoot and a permanent canopy above: a covered pergola or sun sail (umbrellas are not easy). Trees make a wonderful canopy, though sometimes bugs congregate under them just as you approach with your clinking glass. Another reason to keep a fold up bistro furniture on hand. For barbecues as well, it is good to have the option of moving seating up or down wind.

Sunny Spots

A clearing in the long grass.
Above: A clearing in the long grass.

Since light changes all day, it is important to take note of the sun spots in the garden. First thing in the morning, having breakfast outdoors before work, time will be tight. Ideally though, you will not be stuck in a dark corner just because it is next to the kitchen door. Where is the sun at the end of the day? A patch of mown grass under the dappled light of a tree could be more inviting for half of the year than somewhere closer to the house. Note: If cocktails segue into dinner, choose somewhere closer.

Indoor Chairs, Outdoors

Panton chairs face the dawn. Made in Germany by Vitra, designer Panton Molded Plastic Chairs is available in six colors for \$3\10 apiece from Hive Modern.
Above: Panton chairs face the dawn. Made in Germany by Vitra, designer Panton Molded Plastic Chairs is available in six colors for $310 apiece from Hive Modern.

There is no such thing as indoor furniture and outdoor furniture. My own Eames Eiffel chairs often find themselves on the “wrong” side of the back door, next to the kitchen. These Panton chairs would do very well by a swimming pool or shaded terrace.

Seeing Red

Colors and materials do not have to be neutral and ultra-tasteful. Consider glossy red.
Above: Colors and materials do not have to be neutral and ultra-tasteful. Consider glossy red.

Adirondack chairs (aka Westport chairs) work anywhere, from a Dan Pearson garden in England to just about anywhere in the United States. The arm rests, steady enough for drinks or reading materials, contribute to their appeal.

The Swinging Set

Garden seating, photo Claire Takacs

The less serious the seating, as in a swing or hammock, the more celebratory the garden. This is summer, after all.

For more garden solutions, you can order my new book, My Garden is a Car Park: and Other Design Dilemmas,, for £12.99 from Amazon UK. For US readers, The Problem with My Garden can be ordered for $17.99 from Amazon.com.

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