Interior and exterior design are as much about performance as they are aesthetics. We need to consider not just what looks the part, but whether they suit our lifestyles. When it comes to garden furniture, we’re faced with timber, stone and metal (to name but a few). So how do you decide which is ‘the one’?
Our garden furniture guide takes a closer look at the materials behind our core collections, their characteristics, their qualities, and how much maintenance each one asks for. We hope it’ll pave the pathway to your perfect partner.
(For more in-depth information and advice on cleaning, just take a look at our care guides.)
The stone collections
Hudson, Monaco and Provence
Stone has such a natural place in the garden. It complements patios and terraces, it suits shingle and chippings, and it’s wonderfully cool to lean on when the sun is beating down.
We use two types of stone for our outdoor designs:
It feels like stone, it looks like stone, it behaves like stone, but for our Hudson tables we use a glass-reinforced concrete blend. It’s far lighter and far stronger than certain natural stones. Glass lends it strong tension, concrete promises strong compression, and together they’re a robust partnership.
Granite is an incredibly tough natural stone. You can expect to see some variation in appearance because it’s a true stone. Granite is crystalline in structure and will always have tiny pits in its surface. These are simply spaces between the mineral crystals. You might also spot ribbons of colour which are the result of the immense heat and pressure from when it was formed beneath the ground.
For Monaco we use a leathered finish (it feels lightly textured and ever-so-slightly waxy), and for Provence we’ve chosen a polished effect that’s ultra-smooth.
Although heavy, both designs have a much thinner profile, which is why natural stone was an option.
Living with stone
We seal all our stone to protect it from the elements.
You can leave it outdoors, uncovered, and it’ll fare just fine for many years to come. In fact, the composite stone weathers rather beautifully and only becomes more realistic. Should you want to, you can reseal the stone in a few years’ time with your choice of stone sealer product.
You’ll notice that Monaco and Provence feature metal as their base. The metal in question is steel that undergoes a four-step finishing process to reduce the risk of rust. The process below makes these two designs even more able to withstand harsh weather with little to no maintenance:
1. Pre-treatment: an acid bath strips and primes the metal.
2. Galvanise: it is then dipped into a tank of zinc which bonds with the base material to create a protective layer that prevents the air from reaching the metal.
3. Prime: a coating of primer helps the colour to stick.
4. Powder coat: the final layer is a coloured powder coat that’s baked on to further repel any corrosion.
The timber collections
Bordeaux, Tuscany, Canterbury, Hatfield and Lutyens
Timber used in our interiors helps to bring the outside in. Timber used in our outdoor spaces puts them back in touch with the trees that stand nearby.
Just as we use two different stones, we also use two different types of natural, sustainably-sourced timber when it comes to our outdoor collections. Both are known for their durability, longevity and impressive resistance to rot:
This is probably the most favoured timber for outdoor living. A tropical hardwood, it’s a rich honey brown that slowly takes on a silvered patina over time. It can be left untreated because of the naturally-occurring oils present in the wood’s fibres that act as a preservative. The oils also encourage insects to stay away. Teak is often referred to as the king of all hardwoods, and will often keep its form so well that it can be passed on for generations.
We tend to favour acacia when it’s used as a timber base for pieces such as Hudson. This is because it contains fewer natural oils than teak and so we prefer it to be sheltered by the tabletop. You can usually tell the difference between teak and acacia simply by touching it. Acacia is still a tough hardwood (so much so it’s often used in boat construction), but it’s less heavy and less dense than teak. The grain pattern is often described as being ‘flamed’ because of its warm tones and striated structure, unlike teak which has a tighter grain.
Living with timber
Because of their innate sense of strength, both teak and acacia are relatively easy to live with. We’ve treated our wooden pieces with our timber protection oil, IsoGuard®, to give them an extra layer of protection from the weather and from staining. You might wish to reapply this in a few years’ time.
Teak will see a colour change within the first few months. If you want to slow down the silvering of teak, certain teak oils can help to maintain its golden-brown appearance, but will need to be reapplied (the frequency will depend on the brand you use). If you’re content to see it silver, teak needs very little maintenance at all.
Acacia is similar, in that it can be left to the elements, or oiled to prevent it taking on a dark grey tone. Because it’s generally protected by our tabletops and IsoGuard® oil, it asks for very little help.
Cover with care
No matter how hardy, all outdoor furniture will fare better when it’s covered or brought inside to shelter in a shed or conservatory space should you have one. If you do decide to cover your furniture, it’s important to do so with a breathable cover so that your efforts don’t go to waste. Sometimes you can accidentally create a microclimate beneath the tarpaulin where condensation is kept inside, and rust and rot are encouraged – the exact opposite of your intentions.
The weave collections
Tuscany, Cadiz, Pesaro, Tresco, Harrington, Toulston, Murano and Chatto
Wicker is synonymous with garden furniture. It’s perhaps the material we expect to see the most, especially when it comes to seating.
Whenever you see wicker on our interior designs, we use natural rattan or Lloyd Loom. For our outdoor collections though, we prefer to use a material that we call ‘all-weather wicker’. A resin fibre, it’s tougher and more durable than natural rattan and won’t flake or peel over time. We’ve developed two finishes – the darkest colour and smoothest texture being on Toulston, Tuscany, Tresco and Harrington, the mid-tone and more rustic texture on Pesaro, Cadiz and Murano.
The only exception is Chatto, where we’ve used the British craft of Lloyd Loom.
Living with weave
Because we’ve chosen a resin wicker over a natural rattan, it makes these collections hardy and reliable. It’ll withstand sunshine and showers for years and years to come. The weave is done over the top of powder-coated aluminium frames which are lightweight, strong and won’t rust either. Just be sure to bring the cushions in, because they’re weather-resistant rather than weatherproof.
Chatto has a more delicate nature in comparison. While you don’t need to bring in or cover our other outdoor designs during bad weather (they’ll be thankful if you do, and will be better for it, but they can survive if you choose not to), Chatto really does need some protection and shouldn’t be left outdoors all year long.
If low-maintenance is what you’re looking for, this is a list of the easiest to care for (number one) through to the designs that’ll require a bit more hand-holding (number six). Rest assured, the materials we’ve chosen all live quite happily outdoors and so none will ask for too much from you.
3. Cadiz, Pesaro, Harrington, Toulston, Murano, Tuscany (chair only) and Tresco
4. Bordeaux, Tuscany (tables), Canterbury, Hatfield and Lutyens