Furnishing our outside space gives us licence to go bolder than we usually would when buying indoor pieces.
With a focus on fun and relaxation, we can go wild with design-led lounge sets, day beds, hanging chairs and inviting floor cushions made specifically for garden use.
When it comes to alfresco eating, contemporary outdoor tables and chairs put sociability at the fore, allowing us to sit out comfortably over a bite to eat with friends and family, whether we invest in a substantial dining set complete with cosy armchairs, or a compact bistro set made for two.
If you want to replicate that holiday feeling in your garden, look out for luxury pieces in natural rattan – nothing transports you back to that Tuscan villa quite like it.
You’ll find most neutral-hued rattan pieces come in traditionally boxy shapes but designers are being increasingly playful with the synthetic version of the material, allowing for creative shaping and bright bursts of colour.
Synthetic rattan holds up better than its natural counterpart when exposed to the elements, and some pieces can even be left outside year-round.
When investing in any garden furniture it’s wise to check if materials are shower-proof, and to ensure you have adequate storage space in the garage, or else you’ll be bringing them indoors. (In certain cases, this is no bad thing!)
We tested a variety of outdoor furniture pieces to see how they performed in our own backyard, keeping in mind form and functionality but above all, durability when put through their paces in the great outdoors.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers , but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.
Envirobuild Forrester brown 8 seater rattan cube dining table and chair set: £899, Envirobuild
This stylish alfresco dining set comes from a brand that promises sustainable solutions across all its offerings. The rattan weave is made from 100 per cent recycled plastic – inspiring stuff. But equally impressive is its shrewd design. The set transforms from a luxurious eight-seater into a perfectly neat cube, with four stools that tuck into its four armchairs, that in turn, tuck into the table. Stow the seating away when not in use for all-important space saving. Compact and ever so clever.
TiiPii 1.8m Nester hanging daybed: £349, TiiPii
Luxury lounging doesn’t come much better than this: the playful hanging bed is large enough to comfortably hold three to five adults (who says kids should have all the fun?), and feels perfectly secure and durable, despite weighing in at just 7kg. We loved that it folds down into a neat carry bag, making it ideal for transporting. And we loved the social element, too. Hang it from a weight-carrying branch, or team it with its own sturdy triangular frame, and you have an idyllic relaxation spot.
Thornback & Peel lobster deckchair: £145, Thornback & Peel
The humble deckchair ups its game thanks to queens of quirky screen printed homewares, Juliet Thornback and Delia Peel. Far from flimsy, this proved to be a sturdy garden chair in which to relax with its solid frame crafted from sustainably sourced Merpauh hardwood, and its heavy duty cotton canvas sling that’s easily removable for washing. Fans of the brand’s distinctive illustrations in repeat patterns will love this funky lobster design. As an added bonus, it reminded us to slap on the factor 50, else we’d turn into one.
Hayes Garden World Cambridge bistro set: £299, Hayes Garden World
Most bistro sets are either ornate metal affairs, or collapsible wooden numbers – neither of which offers much in terms of comfort. For a more luxurious option we tested this tea for two garden set, featuring cosy high-backed cushioned armchairs and a round, glass-topped table. The hand-woven grey resin weave added instant elegance to our patio space, while the table was ideal for drinks, or a light casual lunch. The extra wide arms allowed us to sit back and laze away the afternoon – precisely what was needed on a sunny Sunday.
We Love Cushions large outdoor cushion, mouths blue: £99.99, We Love Cushions
This was such a hit with our little testers that we barely got a look-in, but when we did, we found it to be super soft and bouncy – ideal for frolicking around in the garden, or curling up with a good book on a warm summer’s day. Covered in durable, waterproof fabric and tangibly good quality, ours withstood quite a bashing. But that’s the point: this outdoor piece is designed for fun all the way. The oversized outdoor cushion would make a great pet lounger for pampered pooches enjoying the sun, too.
Norden Home Briana hanging chair: £82.99, Wayfair
While the TiiPii is for sharing, this bohemian hanging chair is designed for indulgent me-time, strictly solo. Adding a laid-back Scandi feel to our garden, we hung this lightweight cotton chair from a sturdy branch, and made it even cosier with the addition of a sheepskin rug. The chair is cup-shaped to give a bit of back support, allowing us to properly recline as we were gently rocked in the summer breeze. An affordable alternative to most hanging garden chairs, and a really pretty one at that. We’ll be bringing ours indoors come autumn.
Out There Interiors teak garden bench: £660, Out There Interiors
Blurring the boundaries between indoor and outdoor furniture, this beautiful piece from Out There Interiors is as much at home complementing the kitchen table as it is sitting pretty at the bottom of the garden. Crafted from solid teak, its smooth Nordic lines are only interrupted by the natural patina of the wood. We loved its continuous enveloping back rest and its literally laid-back, angled legs. No ordinary garden bench, this is undoubtedly the design lover’s choice.
National Trust Cliveden modular sofa set E: £4,199, Bridgman
Cliveden’s outdoor furniture pieces are crafted under special licence by the National Trust – and trust us, they’re top quality. High-end in price, too, but as we discovered with this sprawling outdoor lounge set, you get what you pay for, and then some. Modular pieces are linked together with stainless steel clips, while waterproof acrylic cushions and tables with high pressure laminate tops mean this set is reliably waterproof. Ideal for the British temperament, although you’d be forgiven for thinking you’re at a five-star hotel in Bermuda.
Made Yuri garden lounge chair, multi woven pink: £159, Made
Made’s outdoor furniture collection continues to inspire, bringing bold design into the realms of the tantalisingly accessible. This mid-century inspired lounge chair is just one example of its wholly covetable garden-ready range. We loved its inviting form: low, angled legs and a semi-conical body make it an ideal patio piece, adding a daring dash of colour to the traditional rattan. You’ll want to leave this beauty out year-round, which, incidentally, you can.
Danetti Porto grey round 4 to 6 seater dining table: £379, Danetti
This contemporary garden table looks great whether teamed with similarly designled dining chairs in a contrasting colour, or centred within a curved outdoor sofa unit for the ultimate in alfresco comfort. Designed by Danetti’s creative in-house team, its geometric base is crafted from powder-coated aluminium tubing, making it surprisingly lightweight and easy to transport. Cleverly, the table top is finished in frosted glass to prevent any reflections and glare from the sun. We wouldn’t want anything to spoil our patio lunch.
The verdict: Garden furniture
Envirobuild’s Forrester cube is a design triumph. When opened out it becomes a luxurious dining set for eight, allowing family and friends to spread out in style. Yet when folded in it makes for a striking and compact patio piece. Where it earns our further admiration is its impressive eco credentials. Guests won’t know they’re relaxing in 100 per cent recycled plastic, but how’s that for an alfresco dinner party conversation starter? Top marks for sustainability.
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