Mother Earth Living

Best Outdoor Garden Furniture

Pick well-made outdoor furniture that complements your garden.
By Debra Lynn Dadd
March/April 2004
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Fully adjustable for comfortable outdoor lounging, Smith & Hawken’s Steamer Chaise is crafted from weather-defying teak. The company’s entire line of teak furniture is made with environmentally farmed plantation wood from Java, where tree production and replanting are stringently enforced by the government.
Photo Courtesy Smith & Hawken

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“Gardens are not made by sitting in the shade,” wrote Rudyard Kipling in The Glory of the Garden. But when planting, weeding and watering are done, what better place to sit and relax than in your garden?

A good piece of garden furniture is worth the investment. You could certainly sit on an inexpensive plastic chair from your local discount warehouse, but a well-made, beautifully designed chair, chaise, bench, swing, or table will complement the beauty of your garden and bring pleasure for years to come. Decks and patios can be transformed into outdoor rooms with a few well-chosen pieces.

When designing your garden, consider furniture an integral part of the design. If you’re growing vegetables, include room for a table and benches so you can eat right where the food is grown. A shady spot under a favorite tree might be just the place for a chaise or a chair. A lovely bench can be the focal point that pulls a visitor down a garden path.

When choosing the type of furniture to buy, consider its environmental impacts. Wood, for example, is right at home in a garden and can last for years before it biodegrades, making it a sustainable choice. The problem is that much wood is grown and harvested in a way that doesn’t sustain our forests. These days, however, a lot of garden furniture is made from wood that leaves natural forests intact.

To seal, or not to seal?

That is the question when you choose wood furniture. Higher-quality woods such as teak, cedar, redwood, and cypress don’t require sealant, as they are extremely durable and weather beautifully. Softer woods such as pine do require a sealant. When choosing wooden furniture, consider the sealant, or finish, used. If you use sealant, go with a water-based variety.

Some outdoor furniture is finished with teak oil, which contains mineral spirits as a solvent. These products may have an odor when they are delivered but are safe once the solvent outgasses. If you’re chemically sensitive or concerned about chemical outgassing, choose unfinished wood, iron, aluminum, or recycled plastic that has a baked-on finish.

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