Après Lutyens

Words: Russell Sage

The original perfect English country garden seat, this scroll-armed bench is modelled on one by Sir Edwin Lutyens, a furniture designer as well as an architect. It was for Little Thakeham, in Sussex, where his regular collaborator Gertrude Jekyll created the garden. The Arts & Crafts symmetry works best not just outside the patio door, but as an accessory to one of Jekyll’s signature garden features: set against a water garden or a herbaceous border as capacious as you can make it.

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This bench is made of teak and there is a naked version as well as this cream-painted one. There is also a four-seater.

Nautical note

Words: Russell Sage

Whether your favourite book is Swallows & Amazons or The Life of Pi, boats mean adventures. And that goes for this boat bench too. It’s for you to make up a story to explain why it’s in your garden. Children will love it, spending hours voyaging across imaginary oceans – or simply having picnics. It makes a garden so much more than just what’s within its boundaries.

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This boat is a fake. It’s made, as a bench, in Northern Thailand from reclaimed teak. As the country modernises, wood from buildings, bridges and more is replacing the supply of new cut off since the 1989 ban on harvesting teak.

Dandy Yankee

Words: Russell Sage

The Adirondack garden chair was designed in 1903 by a man called Thomas Lee for his holiday home… in the Adirondack mountains, would you believe it, in upstate New York. He had them constructed by a local carpenter friend, who cannily patented the design. Now there are a million and one different versions, made all over the world – this one is British. It is a simple, loungey classic.

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There are two models of Adirondack chair. The basic comes just in cedar, which is the light-weight option. The classic is also available in oak and iroko (which both ages like teak and has the best surface for painting).

Folding stuff

Words: Russell Sage

If lime-green plastic can look stylish on a peeling-stuccoed roof terrace in the Veneto (where manufacturer Nardi is based), just imagine how it’d cheer up a more humdrum outside space. The Zic Zac dining set is very practical too: It comes with wall brackets so that you can fold up the table and hang it up out of the way, with both chairs slipped into the gap behind.

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Table and chairs only weigh 10kg combined and make good picnic kit. Nardi’s brochure shows glowing Italian couples taking theirs to the beach. The polypropylene and resin are UV-resistant and very easy to clean.

New wood

Words: Russell Sage

I’d love to have this outdoor dining set in my garden; it’s not often you find teak used in such a sharp contemporary way. But it’s very practical too. With benches instead of chairs (also available) you can always squeeze in one more guest, especially as the table legs are out of the way at the corners. Gloster has taken the Ronseal approach to naming the range: Just ask for “Square”.

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The table comes in three lengths: 158cm, 240cm and a 300cm. Benches are 131cm or 210cm. Gloster sources its plantation-grown teak from Indonesia. If you’re worried about messy diners, give it a coat of specialist sealer.

Do the twist

Words: Russell Sage

It’s clever to take a classic idea, like the tree seat, and give it such a simple and highly practical twist, as Gaze Burvill has done. Essentially, customers design their own Broadwalk Tree Spiral by linking up curved sections with different radii. Instead of a static bit of garden furniture – which the company does too – you can make your bench head off in whatever serpentine direction you want.

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The Boardwalk Collection grew out of a 25ft bench commissioned by the Royal Horticultural Society in 2002 for its garden at Wisley. Made of European oak, the only care it needs is a good wash once a year.

Dangly den

Words: Russell Sage

The Cacoon is fantastic fun – a really intriguing piece. Kids will absolutely love it as a supercharged wigwam while the sculptural shape will appeal to their parents. It is modelled on a weaver bird’s nest spotted by the designers on holiday in Mexico. Their background is in making sails for ocean-going yachts and they use tough marine fabric for the Cacoon too. It’s light, packs up small and goes in the washing machine.

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The hanging kit is included but front door (for camping) and insect net are optional extras. There are two sizes, with the larger one fitting two adults, snugly. Standard colours are leaf green or natural but red, blue and green are available as a special order.

Raw nature

Words: Russell Sage

What a fantastic natural shape. Belgian company Sempre sources raw weathered teak from Indonesia, and is clever enough to leave each piece well alone, apart from sticking a leg on each corner – like a sturdy tripod. This avoids the overglossed naffness of some, driftwood sculpture. Instead, the rustic bench is eye-catching functional art at a reasonable price.

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There are two sizes of bench and every one is different. Make sure you know what yours looks like before you commit. The ancient teak is prized for its silveriness as well as its shape and it needs no maintenance.

Clean slate

Words: Russell Sage

I bet this bench will weather really well. Furniture-maker Paul Bullen sources his materials locally from his farmhouse on the edge of the Snowdonia National Park, where he also has his studio (both are off-grid for power and water). The reclaimed slate, often from pool tables, is used for the dowels in the leg joints as well as the seat. I love this simple, traditional construction.

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The bench is made of Welsh oak and slate that is polished then oiled so that it is less likely to stain if dive-bombed by garden birds. Paul makes a straight-sided version and garden tables too.

Stretch model

Words: Russell Sage

The Cortica Chaise Longue is one of those pieces that just makes you want to lie down and laze. Or stand back and admire the lines. Or poke around a bit to discover how it’s put together. Designer Daniel Michalik hand-makes each one in his New York studio out of recycled cork. It’s a remarkable material, light and very pliable, flexing in both directions with your movement so that lying on the chaise longue feels just like floating. Plus, it’s sustainable so you can feel good on the inside too.

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Daniel Michalik sources his recycled cork from the bottle-stopper industry. It is waterproof and impervious to rot.

Pretty perch

Words: Russell Sage

Were it painted gold, this Fermob 1900 hanging armchair would look like the prop for a smoky-voiced Parisian cabaret singer to have been lowered down in on to the stage. Yet, as garden furniture, lack of stage presence is one of its best qualities. Despite the hand-forged curlicued romance, it is unobtrusive and won’t clutter a natural view – as long as you don’t dress it up with cushions.

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The steel frame and seat have a protective anti-UV coating and are guaranteed for three years. Choose from 23 colours, ranging from super-brights to the quietly smart. Sadly, gold isn’t one of them.

On your rocker

Words: Russell Sage

Odd’s rockers are the classic garden accessory. Brigette Buchanan and husband Robin were inspired by a 1930s upholstered swing seat inherited from her great aunt. They designed the frame and the fabrics, and the chairs are made entirely in England. Protected from the British climate – on rare too-sunny days and the familiarly chilly – all you need is a butler to bring out the drinks.

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There are now several versions – Old, New and, of course, Mod Rockers – and almost limitless permutations of fabric and decoration. You can even dress your seat up with matching cushions, rugs and verandas to look like a cottagey Bedouin encampment. Which is why there’s no online ordering.

Groovy revival

Words: Russell Sage

This armchair is home-spun and ergonomic and surprisingly sophisticated, all at once. French company Fermob has revived the hammock-chair idea – crocheted string slung across a metal frame – from the 1960s and produced it in four contemporary colours that are equally at home indoors or out. The only thing you’ll have to worry about is the grid pattern it’ll leave on your nether regions if you’re wearing shorts.

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The Fermob Sixties armchair carries a three-year guarantee. The seat is made of woven resin and the frame of aluminium tubing. It comes in paprika, aubergine, storm grey and savanna (a pale sage green, as seen).

Bag o' beans

Words: Russell Sage

I love simple furniture that looks like the job it does. What could be more perfect than a slouchy B-bag for lazing in the sun…or lake fishing at night from the end of a dock, or chilling round a beach campfire. The maker’s web site has lots of suggestions, on how to sit down (slouchily, of course) as well as where, and there’s a handy loop so that you can sling the beanbag over your shoulder and go.

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The two-way stretch fabric comes in 10 colours and is water-resistant rather than British summer-proof so you will have to bring your beanbag inside. There are three sizes – children’s, big and bigger – as well as a cube-shaped stool and a side table.

Ancient and modern

Words: Russell Sage

This single-back bench is big enough for two. It feels monolithic, as though it was made for a pagan congregation at Stonehenge. Furniture designer Marnie Moyle works with traditional tools and green oak, which she keeps untamed by scrubbing to reveal the grain, rather than planing and sanding to a sophisticated finish. Make this an even more significant piece for your garden by commissioning Marnie to hand-carve your choice of words, usually along the front edge of the seat.

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Marnie’s furniture (the single-back bench works well with her equally “substantial” tables) is designed to age gracefully. The green oak needs no maintenance and can be left out in all weathers.

Wish you were here?

Words: Russell Sage

This German design by Weishäupl is quirky and fun, with its candy stripes and curvy rockers. It tickles my fancy for nostalgia. How much more comfortable to relax in one of these to read the Sunday papers than to be overly reclined in a primitive seaside deckchair. It looks every bit as good on the terrace.

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The Rockingham Rocking Chair is made of teak and weatherproof acrylic and comes in three colours; the alternatives are shades of green or blue. Only weighing 7kg, it’s a doddle to move to the best newspaper-reading spot in the garden, unlike a solid wood garden chair.

Hot seat

Words: Russell Sage

This high-back shape is familiar from Medieval settles, designed to shield the person sitting on the from the draught whipping through the manorial hall. So it’s intriguing to see a witty metal version used like this in the (draughty) outdoors. Being see-through, the bench would work well in a small garden or secluded garden room.

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Artist-blacksmith Andrew Findlay works in an 18th-century forge at Eastnor Castle. The iron is dipped in zinc, then sprayed with acid, which gives it the look of antique lead. The bench is 1100cm wide by 1200cm high and 470cm deep.