Best outdoor furniture for the perfect garden set-up, from dining sets to wooden chairs

·8 min read
<p>Hosting gatherings this season just got a whole lot better </p> (iStock/The Independent )

Hosting gatherings this season just got a whole lot better

(iStock/The Independent )

To say that garden furniture has been selling like hot cakes during 2021 would be an understatement. As the pandemic forces people to spend more time socialising outside rather than in, outdoor furniture has been flying off the shelves.

Even this roundup has changed several times since we started it, with some items selling out even before we’d got to the full stop at the end of our review.

Bearing in mind these stock levels, we’ve tried our best to bring you reviews of furniture that remains available, but we still strongly suggest making your purchase quickly – before someone else does.

Check lead times too – while some say they’re in stock, the small print can give a delivery time of 10 or more weeks.

But don’t click to buy before you’ve thought carefully about your space. Will you have room for it? And even if you do, will it overpower your balcony or garden?

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What do you want it for – just eating, or just lounging, or both? Do you want a matching set or do you prefer the idea of mixing and matching?

How long will your furniture last and does it need any or much maintenance? Finally, do you have to store it away or cover it up when it rains or in winter?

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.

Laurie 2 seater rattan conversation set

This curved minimalist rattan set with metal black legs is as chic as they come, and it’s mighty comfy too – ideal for small outside areas like a balcony or courtyard. It needs no maintenance at all and stands the test of time even when exposed to the elements in winter, although you will need to store away the polyester cushions when not in use. It goes with any colour scheme, and we like the glass top coffee table that has just enough room for those all-important G&Ts.

Buy now £399.99,

Cox & Cox outdoor double beanbag

If you’re after a relaxed inside-outside vibe, then this outdoor beanbag is just the ticket for taking it easy on summer days or evenings. We found it instantly transformed our patio into a really inviting space, the only problem being that once you sink into it you really won’t want to get up again. And there’s no worries about it splitting open, as they’ve reinforced the stitching. It’s also shower-proof and can be wiped clean. The outdoor double beanbag is back in stock late May.

Buy now £200.00,

Ikea äpplarö bench

We first tested this over five years ago, and that bench is still going strong. Not only is it great value, but it’s got a pleasingly modern shape that – thanks to the curved backrest – is also really comfy and supportive, easily fitting two people, and three at a stretch.

Colour-wise, it starts life as dark brown thanks to the semi-transparent wood stain pre-treatment, although ours has faded over time and benefits from occasional treatments. It’s quick and simple to put together and suitably sturdy, although not as substantial as more traditional benches made from the likes of oak. This is a very popular item that is going in and out of stock, so check back regularly.

Buy now £70.00,

B&Q akoa metal 4 seat coffee set

This chic, Nordic inspired set comprises four lounging chairs with 10cm thick cushions and a coffee table. It’s a doddle to move around, thanks to the aluminium frame, so you can follow the sun or – conversely – move it into the shade with no hassle.

To maintain it, you just wipe it down with soapy water every now and then. It’s also durable too, although it’s best stored away in winter. No room to do that? A waterproof cover should suffice. The cushion covers can be unzipped and cleaned too.

Buy now £635.00,

Barlow tyrie atom 6 seat teak wood garden dining set

If you can afford it, teak is hands down the best wood for outdoor furniture, as it is so durable, weathers well – slowly changing from golden hue to silver grey wood – and needs very little upkeep. This set incorporates this beautiful wood with a timeless aesthetic, ergonomic chairs with denim seat slings and a roomy table that’s likely to last you a lifetime.

We particularly like the simple lines and attention to detail, while still maintaining a minimalist, unfussy look. It comes from a manufacturer that has been producing top-notch garden furniture since the 1920s – still mainly made from teak, but now also with stainless steel and eucalyptus.

Buy now £2840.00,

Kedel ribble recycled plastic picnic table

No need to feel guilty with this plastic picnic table from award-winning family firm Kedel, as it’s completely recycled from 255 milk cartons. Named after the River Ribble, it’s UV protected for longer lasting colour, and it’s so durable it can last a lifetime without rotting, warping, cracking, chipping or splintering.

It doesn’t need any maintenance – just a wipe clean at the end of use. It’s impervious to water, frost, ice and insects, is low carbon, vandal resistant and – the clincher for many – low carbon. There are two sizes – 1.5m, which seats six, and a larger 2m version for eight people.

Buy now £595.73, copa garden aperitif set, citrus green

This statement set will instantly give your outside area the wow factor. Part of a wider collection that includes a lounge set with sofa, dining chairs, table and hanging garden chair, we love the retro greens and yellows, as well as the way it combines an angular look with softer lines. There’s plenty of space to relax into them, and the poly rattan stays cool even on really hot days. The cushions aren’t weatherproof though, so they need bringing inside at the end of the day.

Buy now £399.00,

Furniture Village ravello 6 seater garden dining set

A great all-weather option, this robust table and chairs set stays looking good even if it’s not covered up during wet or cold weather. The contemporary style features a ceramic table top which looks more like concrete, keeping it right on trend, while the chunky frame is made from rust resistant aluminium.

Only the cushions need to be stored away in colder weather, and even they are covered in Soltex, making them colourfast, stain and water resistant. They are also filled with micro-porous fibres, meaning no mildew if they do happen to get wet. The table is easy to keep clean with soapy water, while the chairs are exceptionally comfy thanks to the deep cushioning, ergonomic design and well positioned arms.

Buy now £3499.00,

Habitat trough 2 seater bistro set

If space is at a premium and you’re not sure how on earth you’re going to squeeze a decent seating area outside, then feast your eyes on this cleverly designed bistro set that not only allows two to sit comfortably but still leaves enough room to plant some of your favourite plants or flowers.

Alternatively, you can just use the trough part for wine, cutlery, napkins, condiments etc. It folds up for easy storage – although it is weather resistant if you prefer to leave it out – and we love the soft sage green colour that gives it a nice camouflage in outside space.

Buy now £150.00,

Dakota Fields dawlish outdoor bar stool, set of 2

Lockdown has led to a surge in DIY garden bars, and if you’ve built one of your own – or are thinking of doing so – you’ll need some decent bar stools to make the most of cocktail hour. Our vote goes to this slat-back, square seated pair made from solid teak that weathers beautifully and needs minimal maintenance.

They are well made and a decent height, with a foot rest for added comfort and stability. Extra brownie points from us on the foldability factor – meaning they can easily be stored away when not in use.

Buy now £265.99,

Made lyra garden hanging chair, charcoal grey

Hanging chairs are all the rage – and with good reason. They provide masses of room on which to sit back, relax and swing, but without the outdated look of the swing chair your granny used to have, and without the danger of falling straight out that you have with a hammock. This one is available in blue or grey, and is made from woven poly rattan and a cushion you can sink into. It’s easy to put together, but be warned, the chairs take up a lot of room so it’s especially important to measure up first.

Buy now £449.00,

The verdict: Garden furniture

The Love Island-esque Laurie 2 seater rattan conversation set gets our top vote – it’s on trend, comfortable and easy to assemble (although don’t muddle the front and back legs like we did – they are different). Plus, it suits a range of settings.

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