contemporary garden seating


Seating in a garden always initiates an instinctive response in us all and we try and personalise how we rest ourselves amongst the shrubs and trees. But what looks nice may not be comfortable and what is easy on the back is not necessarily candy for the eye. One of the first things we ask a new client is where they would like to sit and follow that with an appraisal of the site’s sun and shade patterns, views and privacy prospects. A lot of designs take their direction from the seating hub and expand out to serve this pivotal position. Whether formal, casual, built-in or free standing, contemporary garden seating forms a major part of the urban garden.

1. Position 2. Seclusion 3. View 4. Shelter 5. Gadgets 6. Planting 7. Benches 8. Chairs & tables 9. Lounging 10. Built-in

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In the urban environment one seeks the most private position possible. This can sometimes be tricky when there are windows overlooking from every direction and extending the boundary’s height is not allowed. If a certain position has a great view but is compromised by other factors we will try and compensate for that and create eye level focal points else where. Another important factor is whether the house architecture is outstanding and the seating will benefit a view of it.

position of contemporary garden seating

Regent's Park garden


Who doesn’t like privacy? There are two chief concerns here: real screening, and the feeling of privacy. In an urban situation most physical screens are limited in height and cast heavy shade, therefore quite a lot is done with plants. If possible, we will try and shield at the destination (i.e. where one is seating) as the sight lines are shortened particularly at seating height. Otherwise screening at the source is useful (i.e. close to the observing feature or at the boundary) though it may take a little while for the plants to establish and have full impact. The feeling of privacy is what we are more interested in because it has to do with the garden’s owner precise feelings about the ownership of their space. Sometimes it’s enough to orientate the seating with its back to the exposed area and divert the eye along to it with focal points.

privacy and contemporary garden seating

Hampstead garden

  3. VIEW.

We all know that the view is everything. This is what inspires where we live, or choose our holiday destinations. In a garden or roof terrace it's about identifying the potential in a panorama in every spatial situation – to be able to combine the simple tools of observation, emotion and necessity in order to determine the orientation of a design. There is such a polarity between the kind of views one finds in a small urban garden compared to a roof terrace, a country garden or a rural mountain view. Each type of garden is set into a different landscape; each requires a different treatment in the design of the seating.

contemporary garden seating with a view

Grosvenor Waterside roof garden


Now that we have a secluded position, with a view, we need shelter from the sun, wind and rain. Electrical awnings are becoming more advanced in Northern Europe with some great rotating blade canopies from Emsdetten and Hull. While it is relatively easier to use a modern parasol for shade, things get more complicated with wind – particularly on roof terraces. We find that a combination of wooden cladding and robust evergreen hedging can considerably reduce wind in seating areas.   

contemporary garden seating and shelter  
Parsons Green residence


Now that we’ve managed seclusion and shelter with a great view, we're staying put. We need music, Wi-Fi, a remote for lighting, water feature and heating, a cold drinks cabinet, perhaps a built-in bar. Here in London, apart from the right weather we can just about have everything set up on our patios in preparation for a perfect weather day.

contemporary garden seating and gadgets

Milan country garden


Inasmuch as you would understandably want to shy away from planting a Mulberry tree over you seating area, the right kind of foliage is vital. Tactility, scent, texture, swishing branches and reflection give the all-healing, sanctifying feeling of well-being..

contemporary garden seating and planting

Fulham residence


There is no garden feature more reproduced, imitated or reincarnated than a bench. Aside from ergonomic benefits, benches have the capacity to appear highly architectural as linear objects in a contemporary garden.

contemporary garden seating with benches

Highbury garden


At times the clients may already own a fantastic set of table and chairs, forming the inspiration for new designs for the project. In other instances the furniture is considered as part of the design if it is a unique object that would need an allocated space such as a large bar, table or hammock. On roof terraces where the wind factor can be an undermining one, we try and work with heavy furniture to minimise movement. Larger gardens benefit from extended sets of furniture to respond in scale to the surroundings.

chairs and tables in contemporary garden seating

Kings Chelsea roof terrace


A lounger is perhaps the ultimate horizontal piece of furniture, as it allows one to choose and change a location, have a vantage view of the sky and be as comfortable as possible. Loungers are associated with sun and it is no wonder that some of best designs originate in Spain and Italy.

loungers in contemporary garden seating

Regent's Park garden


Built-in seating in a contemporary garden allows extending the design vocabulary and creating something personal, unique and meaningful. A fixed bench attached to a wall or a raised planting bed creates a draw and a space to surround with a table and chairs in a designated area. Foliage in raised beds needs to be carefully considered to avoid unwanted low level sharp or pointed leaves. Seat material on benches needs to be selected for warmth and cleanliness so timber is advantageous. Leaving a void under benches creates an opportunity for some interesting ambient lighting, where LED strips or low voltage fittings can provide a warm glow and increase the feeling of space.

built-in contemporary garden seating

Battersea roof garden

Every ledge we can perch on, a set of steps we sprawl across, or even an old tree log we can have a sandwich on, are all permanent forms of seating. A contemporary garden should provide those planned and improvised mediums for seating so that the user is led naturally through the scheme.

amir   Written, photographed (unless indicated) and posted by Amir Schlezinger.

contemporary garden seating

Regent's Park garden

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