It’s never too early to start looking for the best garden furniture, and we think planning ahead for spring-time sunshine is the perfect antidote to the end of winter gloom.
Plus, last year’s lockdowns saw outdoor furniture fly out of stock in record time, so there’s even more reason to get your garden seating set-up sorted early, or at least make sure you have your top choice on pre-order so you’re ready to relax and (hopefully) entertain in style when the sunshine hits.
We’ve done the hard work for you by rounding up the Real Homes team’s choices of the best patio sets, most comfortable outdoor loungers, stylish alfresco dining tables and chairs, and balcony-ready bistro sets.
Once you’ve chosen the best garden furniture for your outdoor space the next step is to get your patio, decking, or terrace ready for its arrival; check out our guide to the best patio cleaners to make sure yours is looking its best. Then all that’s left to do is get out the suncream and pour that ice-cold gin and tonic. We. Can’t. Wait.
Best garden furniture; the most stylish outdoor seating for Spring/Summer 2021
There’s no need to compromise on style when it comes to your garden furniture with Barker & Stonehouse's fashion-forward Spring/Summer 2021 outdoor dining collections.
Extend your living space into the garden by choosing design-led outdoor furniture that reflects your interior style, and create a continuous flow from indoors to out during the summer months for a seamless entertaining and relaxing experience.
Available to buy separately, we love Barker and Stonehouse's on-trend black butterfly chairs contrasted against the industrial-look ‘Beach’ garden dining table in solid teak - so much so we’d be happy to have this dining set indoors all year round.
Now, did someone say barbeque?
Classic English design meets Scandinavian cool in Cox & Cox’s new Ravenna garden furniture range. Crafted from whitewashed acacia wood, we love the simplicity of the minimalist slat-back seating which will create a restful retreat in the garden.
Available in a range of styles and sizes, from spacious daybeds to refined bench seats and space-saving foldable outdoor dining sets, we especially like having the ability to mix and match furniture to suit individual outdoor areas.
The lounge set includes a three-seater outdoor sofa, two armchairs and a coffee table, with all seating equipped with comfortable ecru cushions.
We love the timeless look of wooden garden furniture, especially in this contemporary pale wash, but bear in mind it can be heavy to move, and you will need space to store it inside - or undercover at least - during wet weather to prolong its lifespan.
This garden lounge set is due in stock in March 2021 and we think it’ll disappear fast, so pre-order now if you want to be relaxing in style this spring.
Stylish, practical and perfectly designed for small spaces, Habitat’s Trough 2 Seater Bistro set is our top choice for balconies or tiny patio areas where every square inch of space needs to be maximised.
Able to be left outside all year round, the ingenious fold-out table is hinged to a standing trough planter which can be filled with your favourite potted plants, or cocktail-making ingredients… whilst foldable bistro chairs are hidden behind the hinged table when you want to store them out of sight.
We think it’s the perfect place for sharing a glass or two of something refreshing during the long summer evenings ahead.
Graphic white aluminium frames and contemporary pale grey upholstery means the most affordable garden seating on our list still offers resort-worthy modern styling.
The clean-lined structural design is also lightweight, with the rust-resistant aluminium making this 4-seater set easy to pick up and move around the garden - perfect for following the sun!
Included in this set are a toughened glass-topped table, two chairs and compact 2-seater sofa, along with removable cushions for easy rescue during spring showers.
The chairs and sofa are both designed with mesh seat bases - which perhaps may be a little less durable than solid wood or metal - but does make for quick drying after a downpour and adds a little extra bounce for a comfortable lounging.
TODAY'S BEST DEALS: IKEA Brusen Outdoor Sofa
Even if the weather outside is grey you’ll be instantly cheered by Ikea’s bright red Brusen bench awaiting you at the end of the garden; we love the contemporary curves and playful splash of colour.
Made from powder coated steel, this option is strong and durable - although as with most outdoor furniture it’s still recommended to protect it from the worst of the elements.
We would have liked to see it with a bench cushion included, but it does mean there’s no need to find a storage place for an awkward shaped cushion in winter months - just pile it high with your favourite cushions to style it up.
Rattan is still a firm style favourite for 2021, and La Redoute's fashion-forward Calamus garden bench and chairs take the material to the next level with wow-factor design.
Organic swirls and contemporary curves make this a Bohemian idyll; piled high with comfortable cushions we think it will make a dreamy place to curl up with a book on summer days.
Although described as suitable for outdoor use, we'd be a bit reluctant to leave this rattan design out in the rain, but as long as you have space it will be just as enjoyable indoors or out.
Make sure to keep an eye on today's best price as La Redoute offer some brilliant discounts throughout the year.
How to choose garden furniture
Where to start when choosing the right furniture for your garden? Firstly think about how you want to use your outdoor space – do you want to entertain (when we can once more) in which case plenty of seating will be vital, are you a sun worshipper who wants lightweight loungers you can move easily to follow the sun, or is the summer barbeque high on your agenda in which case a comfortable outdoor dining table and chairs will be key.
You'll also need to think about how big your outdoor space is and what storage options you have available; most garden furniture is 'weather-resistant' meaning to prolong its life the manufacturer will recommend storing it inside during inclement weather. If you don't have much garage or shed space then look for options that are a bit more durable and can withstand the British winters, foldable options for space-saving storage, or consider furniture that is multipurpose and can be used indoors and out.
Cushions are another thing to consider; the more the merrier when the sun is shining and you're relaxing in comfort, but they will need somewhere dry to over-winter, so depending on your storage options sometimes using your own indoor cushions over the summer can be a better bet than garden furniture that comes with its own seating pads.
Choosing the right garden furniture material
Choosing the right material is essential. There are four main choices: wood; rattan; metal; and man-made materials. If you have a shed or conservatory, you needn’t worry about your furniture getting wet or damaged. If not, you will need to choose garden furniture that can withstand the elements.
How to choose wooden garden furniture
Wooden garden furniture is a classic, natural choice that will complement most gardens. Rustic or modern, light or dark – there are lots of options. If your garden has decking, choose a wood type and colour for your furniture to harmonise with it, which doesn’t mean you need an exact match, just enough similarity to avoid clashing colours and textures.
For outdoor use, go with a tough hardwood that can be left in the garden year-round. Teak, an ever-popular choice for garden furniture, is exceptionally durable thanks to its very high oil content. Almost completely rain-proof, it rarely rots, dents or warps, so makes for a good investment. Keep it in good condition with an annual coating of sealer.
Other good, tough timber garden furniture options include oak, eucalyptus and acacia. They are all hardwoods that can hold their own against the weather, although they are not quite as hardy as teak, so will benefit from oiling once a year.
The downside of wooden furniture? Some larger pieces can be heavy; this means they won't get tipped over in the wind, but they won't be easy to move around the garden regularly either.
Choose the best wooden outdoor furniture with the help of our guide.
Rattan garden furniture and wicker
Rattan furniture is the ideal buy for recreating the relaxed look of a traditional country cottage garden (whether you live in the country or city). Lightweight, it's generally easy to shift around the garden – handy if you like to follow the sun with your lounger.
What's the difference between rattan and wicker? Rattan is a strong and durable natural material (made from a vine) that can stand up to the British weather; a tell-tale sign of high-quality rattan is that it should be consistent in texture and colour. You might find that the rattan you're considering is synthetic (see faux rattan below), which is where wicker comes in...
Wicker relates not to a separate material, but to a weaving style (think rattan furniture), and while it can be made from natural materials, such as bamboo, it is usually crafted from a sturdy, weather-proof synthetic, typically resin.
Ready to choose a rattan garden set? Consult out guide to the best rattan garden furniture.
Metal garden furniture: aluminium, steel and wrought iron
Metal garden furniture is perhaps the most versatile of all materials for garden furniture. It can be traditional in style – think intricate wrought iron pieces – to modern and industrial. Metal integrates easily into every kind of garden, from country cottage to rooftop terrace, and can be powder-coated for a colour finish.
Cast aluminium is strong, durable, does rust or flake if left out in wet weather, and is generally very low-maintenance. Despite being hardy, it is a very light material, making it portable – perfect if you like rearranging your garden furniture, or simply want to move into the shade when it gets too hot. There is a slight disadvantage to its light quality, however: if it’s windy, it is likely to blow over. Aluminium also absorbs heat, so chairs will be more comfortable topped with soft padding.
Take a look at our pick of the best metal garden furniture.
Steel garden furniture, powder-coated to protect it from rust, is heavier than aluminium furniture, making it a more suitable material for garden benches or dining tables that will seldom be moved. If the coating begins to chip, it should be restored immediately or the furniture will rust.
Find out how to revive metal garden furniture in our guide.
Wrought iron has a traditional, intricate look especially suitable for a period property. Garden furniture made from wrought iron is heavy, which makes it more appropriate for benches or tables that will not be moved often. The heavy weight also makes it unsuitable for lawns, which it will sink into. Wrought iron can rust and will benefit from an anti-rust treatment, for example powder-coating.
Metal garden furniture requires about as much maintenance as wooden pieces. A dry brushing followed by a wash with warm water and a mild detergent will keep it as good as new. If you make sure to take care of any chips in the coating, it can remain outside all year round, but, as with any other type of garden furniture, over-wintering in an outhouse or garage will increase its longevity.
Plastic garden furniture: what to look for
Yes, plastic garden furniture can look great! Offering the durability and weatherproof qualities to rival that of its natural counterparts, plastic is light and extremely easy to clean, making it a great option if you have kids, for instance. Not all plastics are made equal; look for a hardy compound resin, or low density polyethylene, which is very durable.
How to choose a garden table
If you mainly spend your outdoors time doing gardening and only sit down to rest with a cup of tea, a small table, perhaps one that comes as part of a bistro set, may well do the trick. For lovers of al fresco dining, a more substantial option will be necessary. And if you plan on using your garden table for a variety of purposes, including doing computer work, choose something that will be easy to clean.
If you are choosing a table as part of creating an outdoor living space, take a look at our outdoor living space design ideas gallery.
Consider the size of your deck or patio, too, to get a good fit. Your table choice needs to allow for at least a metre all round on top of the table's measurements so that chairs can be pulled comfortably and safely back. In a small garden, on a tight terrace or balcony, a round table will allow you to seat more people, yet will take up less space.
We have more small balcony ideas.
Choosing deck chairs and sun loungers
Have a balcony, a decking area – or, perhaps, even a pool – and love a bit of garden lounging, but don't want to invest in large pieces of furniture? You need decking furniture – more specifically, a deck chair. Choosing one will be dictated mainly by how much space you’ve got as they're quite deep when folded out, but if you have sufficient garden storage to fold your deck chairs away while you’re not using them, they're a brilliantly comfortable budget buy.
More to spend? Invest in a garden recliner chair. Make sure to try it out before you buy as not all shapes and configurations will suit everyone's posture. And, for ultimate comfort, buy deep cushions, too. Ensure they're water-resistant so that they can take a shower, and choose a foldable chair if both need to go away when summer ends.
Storing garden furniture
Where will you put your furniture when the long summer days are over? While some materials can sit happily outdoors all year round, investing in covers extends the life of garden furniture and if you can store it in the garage, all the better – folding chairs have an advantage. Cushions must be brought in. To keep them fresh, check the instructions for cleaning them and make sure they’re completely dry before storing to avoid mildew.