If there’s one feature that can make or break your outdoor experience it’s seating. Without it, a back yard barbecue would be difficult to host, a party would be rather awkward, and you certainly couldn’t relax with a friend, a book, or a cold glass of lemonade!
Seating is essential for enjoying your space, but the *right* seating is even more important. It’s tempting to choose a nice patio set from a catalog or big box store and call it a day. But there’s more to choosing seating than finding something that looks good.
Here are some other considerations that will affect how well your outdoor seating serves your needs – and ultimately enhances your enjoyment.
Seating is only as good as the length of time you can stay seated! If your gorgeous stone bench is only tolerable for a few minutes before you’ve got to stretch out aching body parts, perhaps that bench would make a better accent piece or bit or artwork than a true seating area.
Comfort doesn’t have to mean soft and squishy, either. Deep, plush sofas are an excellent choice for some, but can be difficult to get into and out of for others. An Adirondack chair is a great fireside companion, but if you’ve got a bad back then you may prefer a cushioned armchair.
There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to comfort, so it’s a good idea to know your preferences.
Keep in mind that you don’t need to sit in one spot forever. If the stone bench is sufficient for a few minutes of koi watching beside a pond, then by all means place one there. But when it comes to hosting friends and chatting over cocktails or coffee, you’ll be better served with a sofa or a couple of armchairs.
Comfortable seating depends on your preferences for seat height, firmness, back support, and other options. Give some thought to what works best for you and the people who you’ll be sharing your space with most.
We hinted at this when we talked about comfort, but how you *use* your seating is as important as how it *feels*. And how you use your seating will depend entirely on your lifestyle.
If you love to cook and entertain outdoors, then a dining table with firm benches or straight-backed chairs will make it easy for you to serve and easy for your guests to eat. Plan to host large parties? Choose a more formal seating arrangement around a long dining table. Prefer one-on-ones? A bistro table and a pair of chairs might be just what you need.
For hosting small groups, a collection of armchairs, a few Adirondacks, or a sectional sofa will create a conversation space where you can enjoy the company of family and friends. Supplement with additional smaller, lighter chairs that you can move around to accommodate extra guests easily.
Seating can be solitary, too. A special lounger, a hammock, or a swing is a great place to relax with your own thoughts.
And yes, that stone bench can come in handy, too. If you have a larger space with gardens, a pond, and other features, a well-placed bench can provide a spot of respite during a sunny stroll.
By no means do you need to limit yourself to one type of seating! A dining table for dinner, with a conversation area for casual company, plus a bistro table for intimate exchanges can make for a very functional and enjoyable outdoor space.
Once you know how you want to use your seating areas, you can choose where to place them. And while it may seem obvious to put the patio furniture on the patio, there’s more to it than meets the eye!
Consider your dining table. The last thing you want is to place it too close to the back door so your guests have a hard time navigating around it to get into and out of the house. Nor do you want to place it too near a plant that attracts a large quantity of bees.
Without consideration of its placement, you risk blowing cooking smoke into the middle of a dining experience, subjecting guests to too much direct sun, or losing more than a few napkins to a gusty breeze around the corner of the house.
As for other types of seating, it’s just as important to consider the ideal placement for best use and enjoyment. A bench placed beside a pond should afford you a view of fish, waterfalls, flowers and other features that you may enjoy.
A garden bench should be a convenient place to stop and rest while you enjoy the bounty surrounding you. Be careful of setting it too far back off a pathway, or in a location that tends to be muddy, soggy, or difficult to navigate.
And be mindful of ensuring that seating areas are well-lit. A few garden bulbs, lanterns, or pathway lights can help you safely access and use seating areas wherever they may be.
However you choose to use your seating and wherever you choose to place it, it’s important to have *enough* of it. You may not be able to plan for every eventuality, but if you know that you’ll be hosting large parties with some frequency, then choose seating options that accommodate your lifestyle.
Be sure to include multiple seating areas for multiple purposes, so your guests will have a place to dine, chat, or just sit quietly and enjoy a moment in your garden. And be mindful that everyone has a different comfort level, so vary your selections with some firmer seating and some softer, some higher seats and some lower. You can’t plan for everyone’s needs but knowing your lifestyle and the people you most spend time with will help you choose seating wisely.
Likewise, if you spend most of your time outdoors alone or with a partner, then cozy spaces, bistro tables and chairs, a swing for two, or a comfortable sofa may be exactly what you need. Sure, one day you may finally host that family reunion, but that’s a bridge you can cross if you have to. Design seating for how you use your space now and you’ll be far more likely to enjoy your time outdoors.
These were a few ideas for designing more effective, useful, and enjoyable seating. If you’d like to know more about seating and want to talk about seating for your lifestyle, contact us for a consultation. We’ll learn about your needs and listen to your dreams so we can plan a space that works for you.