Design School: Have a Seat!

Most of us have figured out how to put together an outdoor dining or patio seating — close to the house, crowd-friendly, easy to move around. Seating out in the actual garden or landscape tends to be a bit of an afterthought (hey, here’s a blank spot, let’s add a chair!). It should, however, be one of the key elements considered when designing a landscape that you will not just admire from the patio, but constantly use.

While you should always be open to the feels you get when standing in a spot and thinking “I would love to sit here”, well-planned seating can take a garden from a nice place to look at to one that’s an exciting destination. Of course every landscape, homeowner needs, and budget are different, but hopefully, these ideas will help you to look at your yard with fresh eyes. Here are three things to consider when thinking about creating garden seating.

(Image: Johnson Landscapes & Pools)

3 Common Garden Seating Mistakes:

Choosing the wrong size bench for the area. You want the bench to feel totally integrated–typically larger is better!

Failing to ensure that ground is level beneath seating for comfort and safety.

Not taking cues from the architectural style of the house when selecting seating.

CAPTURE VIEWS

Now, your yard may not look like this at all, but there are lessons here!

(Left): By moving away from the house and into the open, the view seems even larger as it’s not in context with a building.

(Lower left): Do not try to compete with the scale of natural wonders. Instead, choose simple seating that almost disappears.

(Below): And then sometimes the best view of all to capture is your own house and your own backyard. Finding a spot with a bit of elevation adds impact.

CREATE A JOURNEY

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Get off the patio and into the garden by placing seating at a distance with lots to see in between.

(Left): You may not have this exact set-up, but betting there’s a distant corner of your yard that you could transform.

(Below left): Would there be any reason to leave the dining area and wander the garden if not for the inviting bench?

(Below): A meadow-y backyard was mowed to create a simple path, but it’s the blue bench at the far end that seduces.

MAKE "STOP HERE" MOMENTS

Find ways to encourage slowing down by creating places that are so inviting that you cannot help but take a seat.

(Upper left): Yes, this is impressive, but the idea here is to configure a built-in during construction. Betting everyone stops here!

(Below left): The placement of this bench midway says “sit” in the nicest possible way. How easy would this be to replicate?

(Below): Admit it. You’d check out what it feels like to sit under all that wisteria. Genius is the arched top that enhances the vine’s natural shape.

A FEW MISSED OPPORTUNITIES

We are NOT here to judge, we’re here to learn from each other! Here are a few examples where a small change would have made a big impact.

You’re going to say, “What?? These are amazing gardens. If only…” and they are. Each one is super interesting and let’s face it, pretty seductive.

However, look at these four spectacular settings and in your mind add: a larger, brightly colored bench to the shade; a chair on which to perch under that flowering tree; seating that’s in scale with the amazing arched tunnel; and a simple bench at the end of this elegant latticed vista. The placement of seating would change each site into a place one could not help but stop and linger.

What do you think?

Image Credits:

(1) Ocean view, Lankford Associates, Seattle, WA

(2) Mountain view: Tuscon, AZ. Original source unknown

(3) Backyard chairs: Saybrook History, Old Saybrook, CT

(4) Chairs in circle: Olbrich Botanical Gardens, Madison, WI

(5) English garden with bench: Jenny Bloom Garden Design, London, England

(6) Grass path: Todd Haiman Landscape Design, New York, NY

(7) Built-in stone bench: Matthew Cunningham Landscape Design, Boston, MA

(8) Gravel path: Lynne Marcus Garden & Landscape Design, London, England

(9) Wisteria over arched bench: original source unknown

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