Sales of garden furniture have boomed, growing by 120 per cent in the first three months of 2021 alone, as many of us continue to socialise outdoors amid the coronavirus and long summer evenings beckon. In fact, its so popular that several retailers have warned that supplies could be low with Brexit also contributing to the shortage with import delays.
But because we’re now spending more time in our gardens than ever before, it’s important to find comfortable, durable and stylish outdoor seating.
Benches are perhaps the most versatile option and their smaller footprint makes them ideal for more modest outdoor spaces.
Materials matter when it comes to choosing the right bench for you and wood looks naturally appropriate outdoors. Although it’s heavy and may need protecting from the elements, it does develop an attractive weathered finish over time. Look for Forest Stewardship Council certification, which shows that it comes from responsibly managed forests that provide environmental, social and economic benefits. Teak can also be left outdoors all year round and is super-durable but expensive, while eucalyptus is cheaper and has similar durability.
Metal is lightweight but at risk of rust and may need repainting. For all materials, check the manufacturer’s advice on winter storage and make sure you have space inside.
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 us to fund journalism across The Independent.
The best garden benches for 2021 are:
Best for minimalists – Forest garden double sleeper bench: £105, Wilko.com
Best for graceful good looks – Oban bench: £239.99, Crocus.co.uk
Best for laidback lazing – Charles Taylor traditional two-seater: £195.99, Primrose.co.uk
Best for smart use of space – Dobbies planter box bench: £99, Dobbies.com
Best for arts and crafts aficionados – Bramblecrest Lutyens-style bench: £420, Danielstores.co.uk
Best for contemporary exteriors – Garden Vida slatted garden bench: £79.95, Amazon.co.uk
Best for back yards on a budget – Homebase steel bench in black: £70, Homebase.co.uk
Best for withdrawing from the world – AFK Garden Furniture cottage arbour in sage and cream: £499, Duxburyshomeandgarden.co.uk
Best for park-life nostalgia – Notcutts Windsor eucalyptus bench: £199.99, Notcutts.co.uk
Best for the loved-up – Vernon metal bench in sea pine: £67, Diy.com
Forest garden double sleeper bench
Best: For minimalists
Dimensions: H45cm x W120cm x D35cm
Add useful extra seating unobtrusively, without taking up precious space, with the clean lines of this chunky two-seater (also available in a 180cm width), which can happily double up as a plant stand. With a 15-year guarantee against rot and fungal decay, this online exclusive is smooth-planed and solidly built of pressure-treated FSC-certified timber.
Buy now £105.00, Wilko.com
Crocus oban bench
Best: For graceful good looks
Dimensions: H82.2cm x W135cm x D54.4cm
Its water-resistant weathered finish, with a tactile graininess, has a subtlety that suggests it’s been in the garden for ages. And that simple design, with circular cut-out detailing along the backrest, makes it equally at home in traditional and contemporary gardens. Made from FSC-certified eucalyptus, it’s naturally moisture- and insect-resistant, and comes with a two-year manufacturer’s warranty.
Buy now £239.99, Crocus.co.uk
Charles Taylor wooden garden 2 seater bench
Best: For laidback lazing
Dimensions: H98cm x W118cm x D74cm
Made in the UK, this sturdy slatted two-seater’s curvaceous shape encourages you to sit back and take it easy. Built from FSC Scandinavian redwood, it’s treated with an oil-based preservative and guaranteed against rot for 20 years. Self-assembly is straightforward with the supplied long-lasting galvanised zinc bolts. The range also includes a three-seater, a single-seater and several other seating combinations, some with attached tray tables.
Buy now £195.99, Primrose.co.uk
Dobbies planter box bench
Best: For smart use of space
Bench dimensions: H40cm x W170cm x D35cm.
Planter dimensions: H40cm x W35cm x D35cm each
Elegantly slatted, this pared-back Scandi style is made from extremely durable, pressure-treated acacia wood, and comes with a one-year warranty. Ideal for a contemporary courtyard, patio or balcony, with built-in planters at both ends offering handy extra growing space. The planters aren’t lined, so fill with ready-potted plants – choose scented specimens and you’ll create a fragrant oasis. This one is now available in store, and stock for buying online is arriving soon.
Buy now £99.00, Dobbies.com
Bramblecrest lutyens-style bench
Best: For arts and crafts aficionados
Dimensions: H104cm x W165cm x D60cm
With its ornately shaped back and rolled armrests, this is a design classic that has graced gardens for over 100 years. The original, called the “Thakeham bench”, was designed by architect Edwin Lutyens at the turn of the 20th century. This three-seater version in teak is a natural focal point and best appreciated from afar, which makes it good for larger gardens.
Buy now £420.00, Danielstores.co.uk
Garden Vida slatted garden bench
Best: For contemporary exteriors
Dimensions: H82cm x W120cm x D62cm
We think there’s something endearing about the simplicity of this design: traditional with a twist. The striking black powder-coated steel frame curves down to form the legs as well as the armrests, and the slatted hardwood seat has room for two. Needing only a spanner and screwdriver, it’s easy to assemble.
Buy now £79.95, Amazon.co.uk
Homebase steel bench in black
Best: For back yards on a budget
Dimensions: H75cm x W119cm x D50cm
Sleek and sophisticated in a smart matt black finish, this steel two-seater’s trellis-effect textured backrest is made of PVC, so it flexes a little for a comfier seating position. That dark finish would really pop against a bright background. Supplied in just four pieces, it’s lightweight, meaning it’s easy to manoeuvre into position.
Buy now £70.00, Homebase.co.uk
AFK Garden Furniture cottage arbour
Best: For withdrawing from the world
Dimensions: H210cm x W136cm x D81cm
For a touch of rustic luxe, snuggle up inside where the roof and side panels shelter you from chilly breezes and passing showers, and the curved back supports your spine in comfort. It’s available in several colourways (annual repainting is recommended), but we reckon this soft green is super-soothing with an air of country charm. Our spendiest selection, this relaxing retreat suits bigger plots where it won’t dominate the scene. Go grand with matching square planters (£54.99, Duxburyshomeandgarden), available separately.
Buy now £499.00, Duxburyshomeandgarden.co.uk
Notcutts Windsor eucalyptus bench
Best: For park-life nostalgia
Resembling a quintessential park bench, this twin-seater won’t look out of place in any outdoor setting. Made of hardwearing eucalyptus, it boasts a gently curved backrest and broad armrests that invite you to settle back and watch the world go by. It shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes to assemble single-handedly.
Buy now £199.99, Notcutts.co.uk
Vernon metal bench in sea pine
Best: For the loved-up
Dimensions: H87cm x D55cm
Decidedly romantic with its twin hearts, we think this has a hint of a loveseat. But that’s not to say it’s impractical. It’s so light we could lift it with one hand for rapid repositioning and the seat features little holes to drain away raindrops. Its soothing shade will blend in with any planting plan and its open appearance allows you to see through to the glory of the garden beyond. Need more seats? Matching chairs are available (£29, Diy.com). Need more softness? How about a bench cushion, (£13, Diy.com).
Buy now £67.00, Diy.com
The verdict: Garden benches
The neat design of Wilko’s great-value sleeper bench makes it versatile enough to complement any other furniture and tuck into any corner, and its solid build quality and 15-year guarantee means it will withstand years of use. For a design classic with impact that’s a garden feature in its own right, go for the Bramblecrest lutyens-style bench.
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