Are you sitting comfortably? The latest outdoor seating designs 

Posted 22 June 2015 by Keith Osborne

Make no mistake, outdoor seating just gets more and more cutting edge, says Richenda Oldham, with top industrial designers such as Ron Arad and Rashid Karim creating striking pieces that are functional yet highly collectible in their own right. Their designs demonstrate that it is possible to fuse efficiency and appeal in a single item.

The days of plastic chairs and wooden “pub” benches are long-since gone – replaced instead with a sophisticated choice of materials and eye-catching designs. Sofas and loungers, capacious armchairs with deep seats and wide arms, pouffes, mini gazebos and swinging chairs all help bring interior living space into the garden.

Fruit-shaped or dome-topped wicker gazebos, offer a cosy retreat either as a day bed, with plenty of scatter cushions, or as a mini outdoor “bedroom”, complete with curtains, to create a shady boudoir.

Hanging seats offer a casual, but distinctive form of fun seating that will add to the variety of the look being created. They can be hung from trees or come with their own hanging frame, which means they can be placed anywhere – from the lawn to the terrace.

This explosion of style is a result of industrial design and art becoming synonymous with each other, which has opened up many exciting and sometimes provocative possibilities with furniture acquiring a sculptural identity. An assortment of materials and textures are being used, with the emphasis on hardwearing weather-resistant textiles that look like interior fabrics.


Wicker is a hugely popular choice and refers to the technique of weaving materials such as rattan, willow, bamboo, straw, rush and synthetic resin. Rattan is a type of vine, which is very durable, eco-friendly, lightweight and easy to maintain – perfect for outdoor use. Synthetic wicker furniture is weatherproof and exceptionally hardwearing. Make sure that furniture is UV stabilised, which protects it from cracking or snapping.


A number of different metals are used to make garden furniture. Aluminium is a favourite, as it is light, but strong and durable. Patinated zinc has industrial appeal and ages well, but is also long lasting. Wrought iron furniture is a heavyweight option, so it’s unlikely to blow away, which means it can be safely left out. However, it can rust if not treated with a preventative coating. Steel furniture can also rust, but is not as heavy as wrought iron.


The perfect wood for outdoor use, and therefore a top choice, is teak. It contains natural oils and chemicals that prevent it from rotting. Other choices include keruing and eucalyptus. All these woods are easy to maintain – they can either be allowed to acquire a silvery patina or sanded and re-oiled.


1 Citric acid: Lime green retro garden chair, £45,

2 All-rounder: Luxurious outdoor seat finished in Gmelina wood, £13,800,

3 In the black: Polyethylene Raviolo armchair designed by Ron Arad in collaboration with Magis, £396,

4 Sunny side up: Ergonomic metal sunbed designed by Rashid Karim, £930,

5 Swing low...: Aluminium and copper outdoor swing with ‘floating’ sofa, £5,500,

6 Coco cabana: Rattan domed roof gazebo with removable beds and table, £5,355,

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