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The garden furniture guide

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 will pave the pathway to your perfect partner.

(For more in-depth information and advice on cleaning, just take a look at the individual care guides for each design.)


The stone collections
Hudson, Portland, Monaco, 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:

Composite stone
It feels like stone, it looks like stone, it behaves like stone, but for our Hudson and Portland 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 an incredibly robust partnership. Portland resembles natural dappled and dimpled limestone. Hudson mirrors smooth concrete.

We tried creating Portland using natural stone, but the pedestal base design made it incredibly heavy and impractical. The same applied to Hudson with its thick tabletop. By developing a composite stone, we can get as close to the real thing as possible while making it far easier to live with. Both are still realistically weighty but not so much that you’re unable to relocate them to your chosen spot.

Granite
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 a natural stone was an option.

Living with stone
We seal all our stone to protect them from the elements.

You can leave them outdoors, uncovered, and they’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.

Hudson is more prone to scratching though so requires a bit of care and attention.

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, Asthall, CanterburyHatfield, 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:

Teak
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.

Acacia
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 tables 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. Our benches and bases are left untreated and our Asthall tabletop is also left untreated (the reason being it’s reclaimed teak from old fishing boats so it only gains more character as it weathers).

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
Asthall, Tuscany, Cadiz, Pesaro, Harrington,
Toulston, Murano, 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 formations 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 for this specific material – the darkest colour and smoothest texture being on the Toulston, Tuscany and Harrington chairs, the mid-tone and more rustic texture on Pesaro, Cadiz and Murano.

The only exceptions are Asthall and Chatto – new to our spring/summer 2017 collection. Asthall’s weave is Swiss-made polyethylene whereas Chatto uses the great British craft of Lloyd Loom.

 

Living with weave
Because we’ve chosen a resin wicker over a natural rattan, it makes this collection hardy and reliable. It will 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.

Asthall goes one step further. Its frame is made from hot-dipped galvanised steel, while the weave is Swiss-made polyethylene, which is the same material used on the soles of skis. It’s a combination of materials that means it can be left outside, uncovered, whatever the weather.

Chatto has a more delicate nature in comparison. While it isn’t imperative 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.


Maintenance matrix
If low-maintenance is your main priority, this is a list of the easiest to care for (number one) through to the designs that will require a bit more hand-holding (number eight). Rest assured, the materials we’ve chosen all live quite happily outdoors and so none will ask for too much from you.