Spring and summer are seasons when our thoughts turn to the outdoors. Warmer weather means more time to live, play, dine, relax, and spend time enjoying your back yard (and front yard, too!)
It’s also the time when outdoor entertaining kicks into gear, whether it’s a cozy party for two over an evening meal, a sunny weekend brunch with friends, or a large family gathering. While all of these scenes have a different vibe and bring together different people, they all have one thing in common: they need great seating!
You’d be hard pressed to enjoy an outdoor meal without it, or host a birthday party, graduation, reunion, or any collection of family and friends. But what makes seating “great”? And how can you create spaces where you and your guests will feel welcome and comfortable, eager to spend some time?
These are a few of the ways that seating can be integrated into your outdoor space for fun, relaxation, enjoyment and overall appeal.
Shared Spaces And Conversations
One of the most classic forms of seating is borrowed right from your indoor living room: the traditional sofa-and-chair setup. There are so many options for outdoor seating configurations – from sectionals and chaises to armchairs and loungers – that choosing one is entirely up to your taste.
The important thing to keep in mind is comfort and convenience. As many lovely options as there are, there are equally as many that look a lot better than they feel. If you’re going to be spending time relaxing on an outdoor sofa with your book club, it has to be something that won’t result in stiff joints and a sore behind!
Comfort is somewhat subjective, too. What’s comfortable for you may not be for someone else. Whether you prefer soft, plush cushions or firm support, make sure the seating works for you. For guests, you can include multiple types of seating, or add a few pillows for those who need a bit more squish.
If you’re choosing a larger sofa or sectional, consider supplementing seating with several smaller, lighter weight pieces so you can move them around as your entertaining needs change.
Arrange shared seating in a way that’s conducive to conversation, so that guests can face each other over a central point like a coffee table. And on the subject of tables, be sure to add a few so it’s easy for you and your guests to lay down a drink, a phone, a book, or a plate of your delicious brownies.
Al Fresco Dining
Whether you’re dining solo or hosting a block party, seating can make or break the experience. Depending on the size of your space and the type of events you plan to host, there are seating options to accommodate your needs.
From cozy bistro tables, to long, rustic picnic-style dining tables, you can create the right environment to set the stage for your event. Your seating choices will help to set the tone and create ambiance as much as your choice of lighting, décor, plantings and other landscape elements.
Keep in mind that a dining experience is different than your afternoon book club snack. For casually passing around that plate of brownies, cushy rockers may be perfectly suitable. But for enjoying a fork-and-knife meal, you don’t want your guests to be performing a balancing act with plates on their laps.
Benches, pedestals, barstools and upright chairs with tables work best. Don’t be afraid to create multiple dining spaces. If one long, group table doesn’t work for you, try a few smaller tables with two to four chairs each.
It’s a good idea to include shade in your plan, especially for those hot summer days. That can be as simple as a large umbrella, or as elaborate as a full ceiling with overhead fan enclosing a true outdoor room.
Private Spaces And Intimate Exchanges
Group gatherings are nice, but what if you want some one-on-one time, or a cozy space for a few people? The good news is this isn’t an all-or-nothing choice. You can have both!
With the right design, even small yards can encompass multiple spaces. That means you can enjoy a gathering or dining area with a collective table or sectional, and a private space for quieter moments.
Create areas for conversation by enclosing a patio or garden space for a more intimate feel. Choose a structure like a gazebo or small pergola to help create that sense of space, or use natural elements like bamboo and tall grasses to create privacy. For added privacy, include a water feature to mask the sounds of conversation.
Within your private space, choose seating that is inviting and will encourage you and your guests to sit for a while. Arrange seating to suit your style – face to face around a small bistro table, for example, or side by side on a comfortable swing. There’s no rule, as long as it facilitates those quiet moments you’re imagining.
Be sure that however you’re arranging the seating, you can enjoy the best view of your surrounding gardens and landscape. If you’re adding seating near a pond, for example, but your back is to the pond, someone is going to be missing out on that amazing experience!
Respite On A Garden Walk
Even the best parties tend to break up into smaller groups over time. A few people retire to the lounge chairs, a handful continue the conversation over the dining table, and couples break off to stroll or visit with the koi.
Everyone will continue to enjoy the party in their own way, but will you be providing the right seating for them no matter where they are? Of course you will!
It’s easy to overlook seating when you’re not thinking big. So shift your attention from dining tables and sectionals to consider how seating can enhance your experience in unexpected nooks and crannies.
A bench placed strategically beneath a large, old-growth tree offers a resting spot in the shade during summer. A stone bench midway through a wildflower garden can be a lovely surprise to wanderers and give them a place to quite literally stop and smell the roses. A small bench beside a pond is the ideal vantage point for koi-gazing and daydreaming.
No need to park a sofa in the middle of a woodland walk, but small spots to rest and to take in the surroundings for a moment can create delight in simple ways. Tree trunks make great resting spots, as do natural boulders, wrought iron benches, rustic chairs, or whatever suits your style.
Make sure seating spots are clearly defined, with a cleared space, appropriate lighting, ground cover such as mulch or paving stones that are conducive for walking, and a flat surface that just begs someone to stop and sit for a moment.
Lounging And Sunning Poolside
Grab a margarita and get ready for summer pool parties – just be sure you’ve got somewhere to put your glass down before you jump in, and somewhere to sit and sun after you climb out.
Poolside options are as myriad as any other. Depending on the size of the space, you can include everything from sofas to chaises to canopied patio beds. Seating around a pool is great for encouraging interaction between guests who may be swimming and those who simply want to watch.
But pool seating doesn’t necessarily have to be for pool-goers – you can create other seating areas around a pool, too, whether for dining or conversation. Poolside dining areas can be differentiated though the use of patio stone, border plantings, or structural elements like a pergola.
Or create a separate conversation area within sight of the pool where moms and dads can have a bit more space while still keeping an eye on the shenanigans. Cushioned chairs, Adirondack chairs, or sofas and sectionals all come to good use here, offering comfort, ease and convenience.
A Cozy Gathering Spot For All Four Seasons
We’ve talked primarily about spring and summer entertaining but you don’t have to stop using your outdoor space the minute the temperatures drop. The pool may be closed for the season, but you can still dine, entertain, chat, and enjoy time outdoors.
One option is to include outdoor heaters that you can use for chilly days and nights. Whether you choose a freestanding patio unit, or have one installed overhead beneath an outdoor ceiling, you and your guests can pull your chair in close and enjoy the warmth.
Another option that you can enjoy all year is a fire pit. Whether it’s a hot summer night with s’mores, or a chilly October evening over ghost stories, a fire pit is a great gathering spot. Make sure seating is plentiful and comfortable so you and your guests will be drawn to gather around the fire.
Rounded sectionals make a great choice, as do deep Adirondack chairs. Add pillows and blankets for colder weather, and enjoy the cozy intimacy of huddling around a fire with a few of your favorite people.
These are just a few ways that you can incorporate seating into your outdoor space to facilitate entertaining. There are plenty of others, from adding seating to your front porch (the back yard gets a lot of love, but why not the front?), to side yard benches, garden hammocks, and more.
If you’re ready to entertain and want seating that will welcome your guests and enhance their experience, contact us for a consultation. We’ll work with your space, your style, and your budget to come up with a plan that’s tailored just for you.