Last month we took a look at our favourite Gardening Blogs, this month we want to turn the focus on our favourite Outdoor Furniture Books.
We’ll stick to the same format of a Top 20, however, this one will be much more of a challenge me thinks…
Gardening blogs, there are many. In fact, our initial shortlist consisted of over 100 based in the UK alone.
Gardening books, be it plants or design, would also be relatively straightforward one to tackle.
They're incredibly popular subjects.
The Lazy Susan HQ library contains an extensive collection, and new books are being published on pretty much a monthly basis.
Outdoor furniture on the other hand doesn’t seem to get its due in our opinion.
It’s an integral component in any garden, a patio focal point we would argue, yet many garden designers seem to treat it almost as an afterthought, a sub-chapter, lumped in with garden decor maybe.
It, and we say this as a company supplying outdoor furniture, feels secondary to hardscaping, planting, etc.
Surely good garden design means all those (and more) elements/components must work in harmony?
We often talk of the 'outdoor room' on this Blog.
Treating your outdoor space like you would any room inside the house. Thinking about ‘function’ and fitting the ‘form’ around it.
Garden designers are trained to use lines, symmetry, angles, form and function in a way that pleases the eye.
They utilise hardscaping and planting to create a balance between usability and beauty.
But where does/should Outdoor Furniture fit into that?
Ours is an industry that has made significant strides in the last decade or so.
Outdoor furniture has got bigger and better in terms of both design and materials/construction.
It is fit for purpose with designs to rival those created for (or in many cases inspired by) the interior.
That innovation is being driven by greater demand from the homeowner.
As consumers we’re more demanding in what we want and need from an outdoor furniture set.
We want pieces that are easy to maintain, can sit on our patios for many a summer but, most importantly, allow us to use our gardens in a way that suits us, be it dining or relaxing.
They must not only look good but be comfortable and practical to use.
Now, I’m not a garden designer…
Maybe outdoor furniture isn’t integral to the design? But it is integral to the garden?
What we do know is it’s often not mentioned (or only briefly) in many garden design books or articles online that look at the fundamentals of good garden design.
However, read a House Beautiful garden design ideas article for example, and it will be one of, if not the, most discussed and photographed ‘inspiration’.
Any finished garden design or show garden will almost always include outdoor furniture too, but the text will maybe only give it a passing mention.
For me, it is the critical element. The 'thing' in our garden we use the most. And all that said, myself and the team at Lazy Susan also feel things are slowly starting to change.
Maybe indoor sofas and dining table companies have the same criticism of interior designers?
Lazy Susan’s top 20 outdoor furniture books
One thing we definitely do know for sure, is that outdoor furniture books are a difficult find. Good ones are like hens' teeth!
However, they are out there, or it is front and centre in some of the more comprehensive gardening/garden design books.
So, we thought it would be nice to compile some of Lazy Susan’s favourites outdoor furniture books.
List the ones that have inspired us, the ones we feel best promote/appreciate outdoor furniture...
1. Gardenista: The Definitive Guide to Stylish Outdoor Spaces by Michelle Slatalla
The ethos of Gardenista is that:
Our homes' outdoor spaces can and should be as welcoming and carefully considered as our living rooms, when treated as extensions of our homes, these spaces enrich our lives immeasurably.
Written under the direction of New York Times style columnist and Gardinista blog founder, Michelle Slatalla, this book has been a great source of inspiration for the Lazy Susan team and I for a good few years now.
It contains some exquisitely photographed tours of 13 enviable gardens, from London to Cape Cod.
There’s also detailed planting guides for a variety of climates and colour palettes, in-depth case studies on more than a dozen outdoor structures (from yoga studios to chicken coops), do-it-yourself projects and easy-to-implement design idea.
But most importantly… Lots of outdoor furniture!
At Lazy Susan HQ we love the Gardenista 100, a guide to timeless everyday objects for the outdoors, there's so much inspiration in that chapter/section alone.
This whole book is equal parts inspiration and expert advice though. It is both a perfect starting point and an all-in-one manual for basically anybody who loves their garden.
You can buy Gardenista on Amazon.co.uk.
2. Green: Simple Ideas for Small Outdoor Spaces by Ula Maria
Ula Maria says this about her book:
Spending so much time outdoors in my childhood made me think of a garden as a natural extension of my home — an inseparable part of everyday life. It wasn't until I moved into a rented property in the city that I felt an undeniable urge to make the most of the little exterior space that we had and re-evaluate it. In time, creating outdoor spaces that people truly care for, no matter how small or large, became much more rewarding than perfecting any indoor space. Many say that a home is a true reflection of self, but I believe it is the garden, where personalities and relationships with our surroundings truly blossom.
For Lazy Susan, we love the fact that Ula takes a completely fresh look at creating a garden, no matter how small or oddly shaped that plot might be.
From roof terraces and balconies to small back yard plots, this book shows what you can still achieve.
It approaches creating a garden as if decorating a room; exploring how to work with scale, colour and texture, to choosing the plants that will thrive in an urban space.
At the heart of the book is 22 genuinely small and innovative gardens with a dazzling range of ideas to inspire.
Using low-maintenance plants and (critically) outdoor furniture, lighting and containers, Green offers simple solutions that don't involve major structural work but will quickly result in a stylish and hugely rewarding urban sanctuary.
Ula’s book Green is available to purchase on Amazon.co.uk.
3. RHS Design Outdoors: Projects & Plans for a Stylish Garden by Matthew Keightley
I suppose it should come of no surprise that the RHS would recognise the role outdoor furniture plays in good garden design. This book even has a stunning outdoor seating set on its front cover…
Gardens Illustrated had the following to say about Matthew’s book:
Designer Matt Keightley's first book is a thing of beauty and a valuable source of design inspiration — a stylish guide to a stylish garden.
Matt Keightley is one of the UK's most exciting garden designers, rising to prominence in 2014 with his breakthrough Help for Heroes garden that won the much-coveted BBC/RHS People’s Choice Award for Best Show Garden.
He followed that up in 2015 with the Duke of Sussex and his charity Sentebale and took the same crown.
This book is another great source of inspiration for all those who want a beautifully designed garden.
Matt has carefully curated a collection of 35 gardens, created either by him or by other leading contemporary designers, that provide a detailed look at how you can totally transform your outdoor space.
For each case study there is a detailed plan, information on the plants and materials used and a wealth of gorgeous photography by leading garden photographer Marianne Majerus.
However, what pleases us the most is Matt’s philosophy of using outdoor furniture as sculpture. Integrating it into the rest of the design scheme to enhance the user experience!
RHS Design Outdoors is available to purchase directly from their Shop.
4. The Art of Outdoor Living: Gardens for Entertaining Family and Friends by Scott Shrader and Lisa Romerein
Gardens should be used not just looked at. If you want to entertain family and friends then outdoor furniture is essential…
This book just exudes California cool. Publishers Weekly had this to say about in their review:
California landscape designer Shrader presents outdoor spaces in his home state, including his own, as lushly verdant rooms where meals, entertaining, and general lounging are all the more luxuriant under ivy and boughs. The book taps into an aspiration, says Rizzoli publisher Charles Miers, to take down the wall between garden and house.
Scott is known for creating coveted outdoor rooms for celebrity clients including Ellen DeGeneres and Patrick Dempsey.
In this, his first book, he looks at the gardens of twelve beautiful properties, all designed to be lived in and enjoyed as extensions of the homes they surround, rich with creature comforts such as that all important outdoor furniture.
This is another book on our list that practices what we preached in our intro, showing us how to best connect the landscape outside with our decor inside.
Scott’s big thing is to encourage us to think of the way our outdoor spaces will be used, and plan ahead for ways to keep our family and guests fed, warm, and entertained in them.
Like we always say with our furniture, purchase pieces based on how you use that outdoor space, be it dining or relaxing, etc.
This book features a selection of stunning, modern, chic gardens and outdoor entertainment spaces that are specifically designed for cooking, entertaining, playing, and relaxing.
You can pick up a copy of The Art of Outdoor Living from Amazon.co.uk.
5. The Outdoor Living Room: Stylish Ideas for Porches, Patios, and Pools by Martha Baker
The concept of the garden as an outdoor living room. And no living room is complete without furniture…
In the summer months (and all year-round for those lucky enough to reside in warmer climes), we all love spending time outdoors.
More and more, we are treating our outdoor spaces as an extension of our homes, turning porches, pools, patios, decks, and gardens into outdoor living rooms that serve the same functions as the living room inside your home.
In this book, acclaimed author Martha Baker offers more than forty-five striking examples of this enlightened approach to outdoor decor.
Divided into six chapters, each representing a specific type of outdoor style: Classic, Rustic, Romantic, Modern, Whimsical, and In Town.
However, what we love (yes, biased, we admit it) about this book is the extensive ‘resources’ section that illustrates and describes in detail outdoor furniture, architectural and landscape elements, and decorative items.
It is jam packed with over 350 beautiful photographs, and together with the resources section, they combine to give you the practical and inspirational.
You can order a copy from Abe Books in the UK.
6. Wooden Furniture Hacks by Hester van Overbeek
However, these can still be inspiring too…
In Wooden Furniture Hacks you can discover how to update and repurpose wooden furniture and homeware for an effortlessly chic home.
Nowadays, it is easy to find affordable furniture for your home from the large DIY/high street stores, however, for me personally, those pieces can lack a little character.
This is where Hester van Overbeek’s concept of ‘Furniture Hacking’ comes in to play.
In this book she shows you how to update, repurpose and personalise to create stylish, unique masterpieces.
Projects range from simpler ideas, such as a table made from stacked old magazines, to larger pieces like the window shutters, which you can create for a fraction of the price it would cost to buy them new.
You can even read about how to make your own four-poster bed by combining a budget bed base and pieces of reclaimed wood.
Even if you don’t want to tackle any of the projects (but I would implore that you try at least one), this book is still a fascinating read and incredibly inspiring.
Wooden Furniture Hacks is available to buy from The Works.
7. Hand-Built Outdoor Furniture: 20 Step-by-Step Projects Anyone Can Build by Katie Jackson and Ellen Blackmar
I guess what a lot of these project/case study type books all have in common is stunning photography.
Don’t get me wrong, they’re all a great read too, they wouldn’t have made our list if at least one of us hadn't read them cover to cover (the sign of a good book) but the photography is often what first grabs the attention…
Digging summed up this book in their review as follows:
Will inspire you to break out the miter saw, drill, and sander. With an appealing mix of contemporary and traditional-style projects.
Katie and Ellen’s book covers twenty step-by-step, fully illustrated projects with hundreds of clear and easy-to-follow photographs.
Finished pieces include simple items such as a trellis, a flower box, and plant stand, to more complicated projects like a chaise lounge, sectional seating with built-in storage, and a slat bench.
The projects are simple, clean, and timeless and work well within a wide variety of garden styles.
As Katie says:
Hand-Built outdoor furniture is the perfect primer for people new to woodworking, DIYers, and homeowners looking for a simple and affordable way to decorate their space.
Hand-Built Outdoor Furniture is available to buy on Amazon.co.uk.
8. The Atlas of Furniture Design
Forbes described this book as:
An A-Z compendium of the most iconic 1,700 plus objects designed by 550 designers.
The basis for the Atlas of Furniture Design is the furniture collection held by the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein, Germany.
Here they have one of, if not the, largest collection of its kind, with more than 7000 pieces of furniture.
This book presents selected pieces by the most important designers of the last 230 years and documents key periods in furniture design history.
The Atlas of Furniture Design employed a team of more than 70 experts and features over 550 detailed texts about key objects.
And whilst not outdoor furniture as such, you can see where many of the styles still popular today take their inspiration…
The Atlas of Furniture Design is also available to purchase on Amazon for £100, which sounds a lot, however, for those serious about furniture, it is required reading!
9. Garden Furniture by John Bowler
They’d used it to build a bench/love seat for the front of their property
Its basically a concise step-by-step guide to building accessories for every corner of your garden.
The book features a range of original projects, ranging from a stunning barbecue table to stylish arbour seat.
John has a number of woodworking books that tackle everything from outdoor living projects to building decking
What we like is that he takes complicated carpentry techniques and makes them simple, easy to follow with clear illustrations and accessible text.
You can pick up a copy of Garden Furniture by John Bowler from World of Books.
10. Outdoor Design: Projects and Plans for a Stylish Garden by Matt Keightley and Marianne Majerus
Just like Matt’s book above, you know a book is going to be good when he’s put another beautiful outdoor furniture sofa set on the cover…
Each case study in Outdoor Design looks at the goal or inspiration for each design project and Matt pairs it with a detailed plan, design checklist, and information on the materials and plants used to complete the look.
The book is divided into four sections: Showstoppers, Family Friendly, Minimalist and Plants Lovers.
All types of outdoor space are covered from a minimalist urban terrace to a suburban family garden.
The book is well written and the photos by Marianne Majerus are just stunning.
This, for us, is a must read for any aspiring garden designer. It really emphasises the importance outdoor furniture plays in good outdoor design.
Outdoor Design is available on Amazon for £13.
11. Garden Design Review by Ralph Lauren
And whilst this is a garden design book, the photography showcases some of the most stunning outdoor furniture.
This book is beautifully compiled. Pop it on a coffee table and people can’t help but pick up and thumb. Mr Lauren clearly has a passion for gardens.
The book itself showcases some of the most outstanding projects and products in garden planning and landscape architecture around the world.
With more than 50 contemporary garden projects from some of the most internationally renowned landscape architects and garden designers worldwide, ranging from prestigious park designs to small and innovative terraces and urban and rooftop gardens.
Throughout, the book catalogues the leading garden suppliers in the international scene whose products, including of course outdoor furniture, help to transform a simple plot of land into a carefully curated environment and experience.
You can purchase a copy of the Garden Design Review direct from www.ralphlauren.co.uk.
12. Pallet Wood Projects for Outdoor Spaces: 35 contemporary projects for garden furniture & accessories by Hester van Overbeek
Not just the idea of taking this inexpensive item and repurposing/recycling but also the quality and ingenuity of some of the pieces (see below for a few examples)…
With this book you can create some cool and contemporary garden furniture and accessories with 35 simple projects, all using nothing more than the humble shipping pallet.
Hester's tutorials are easy to follow and carefully explain how you can make a huge variety of innovative items, from stylish and functional benches and tables, shelving units for plants, side tables, a work bench for a shed, storage ideas and much more.
I’ve only tackled the on-trend hanging succulent holders so far but it already has me on the hunt for another pallet.
The book itself really helps you to develop useful DIY skills including sawing, sanding, drilling and various techniques for treating wood, so even complete beginners can take on these projects with confidence.
I think the big thing for me with these DIY style books is they inspire us to look at how we use our outdoor spaces. Outdoor Furniture is such an integral component in getting that space working for us.
If we look at ways to improve our patios by adding better seating or an outdoor food prep bench for example, then we can better use those spaces, spend more quality time in them.
Pallet Wood Projects for Outdoor Spaces is also available on Amazon.
13. The Complete Practical Guide to Patio, Terrace, Backyard and Courtyard Gardening by Joan Clifton and Jenny Hendy
An introductory section gives practical advice on assessing a site, freshening up existing tired elements and basic planting techniques.
Successive chapters focus on specific styles each look at flooring, walls and screens, plants and containers, ornament and water features, and lighting.
Each chapter also includes a case study with a detailed colour plan explaining the dynamics of the designed spaces, and how specific elements were achieved.
The plant directory then gives a comprehensive listing of planting options, each entry complete with propagation, growth patterns, and ideal conditions.
The final section on maintenance shows how to keep your courtyard looking its best, including deadheading, watering techniques and repainting fencing and trellis.
However, the winner for me with this one is that it places outdoor furniture front and centre. Most case studies feature some form of seating or other.
Unfortunately, it is currently out of stock on Amazon, but they do have a few used copies for sale for around the £11/13 mark.
14. RHS How to Create your Garden: Ideas and Advice for Transforming your Outdoor Space by Adam Frost
Adam looks at design from the perspective of who is your garden for and what is your garden for? If you want to enjoy your outdoor space, then good furniture is essential.
The Telegraph had the following to say about it
Frost, a Chelsea gold-medal winner, and regular Gardeners' World presenter, is a hand-holding guide, presenting his advice in bite-sized chunks.This practical, well illustrated book is mostly likely to appeal to the neophyte starting from scratch. But there is plenty the more experienced can learn from Frost's detailed designs and planting plans.
This really is a garden design book for all, regardless of experience or budget, you can create your dream garden.
Adam’s practical, no-nonsense approach strips away complex garden design concepts and focuses on what you need and want from your outdoor space.
How to Create your Garden is simply about designing an outside space that is real, achievable, and right for you.
15. Urban Garden Design Hardcover by Kate Gould
Kate’s blog featured in our recent Top 20 Gardening Bloggers article, so I suppose it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that her book would make this list.
However, Kate, for the Lazy Susan team and I, is one of the few designers (a leading designer at that I may add) who appreciates the importance of outdoor furniture in good garden design. It features heavily in this book.
We all love Kate’s gardens, and we love her book. It is a great guide for any gardeners who’re keen to transform small and awkward outdoor spaces into beautiful and practical escapes.
From courtyards to rooftops, Kate draws on all her experience as an award-winning garden designer to provide tailored solutions and inspirational ideas.
Covering topics such as how to design and measure the perfect garden, choose and use the best materials and maintain a lush garden all year round, Urban Garden Design includes detailed advice for those undeterred by limited space.
However, what we all love is that Kate understands how important it is that any good design connects to the inside of your home, and that elements such as outdoor furniture enable you to extend the use of your garden.
Urban Garden Design is available on Amazon for £14.99.
16. Modern Garden Design by Simone Schleifer
She’s edited numerous architectural books, and is well placed to reinforce the importance of good outdoor furniture in modern garden design.
This is a book that does just what its says on the jacket. It not only presents all kinds of green spaces in private and public areas, it also gives tips for the design and planning of a garden or a planted space outdoors.
However, it also places much importance on the inclusion of outdoor furniture to bring key aspects of interior design to your garden or patio.
You can’t do that without a place to sit, relax with a drink, enjoy a meal!
Modern Garden Design is available to purchase from Blackwells.co.uk
17. Outdoor Kitchens: Ideas for Planning, Designing, and Entertaining by Joseph Provey and Owen Lockwood
- A kitchen is not furniture.
- The climate in the UK makes an outdoor kitchen pointless.
However, we would fully disagree with both those points…
Of course, outdoor furniture is integral to creating an outdoor kitchen, so maybe we're a little bias at Lazy Susan. But trust us, they’re becoming incredibly popular in the UK.
As a nation we love too cook outside. Yes, it will probably be best if covered, but with COVID highlighting the importance of our gardens, then I only expect the popularity to dramatically rise in the coming years.
You just have to look at the rise of items such as the outdoor pizza oven, or watch recent TV shows with the likes of Jamie Oliver, Tom Kerridge and James Martin!
Start your journey into the world of outdoor cooking and get your copy from Amazon.co.uk.
18. Yard and Garden Furniture by Bill Hylton
Bill is the author of many woodworking/cabinet making books of this type, and he appears at woodworking seminars and demonstrations across the USA.
He’s an expert on routers, power tools, and furniture building, so you know you’re in safe hands with this one.
With 20 projects ranging from elegant deck chairs and recliners to porch swings, picnic tables, and traditional Adirondack chairs (pictured above), there’s something to inspire all.
The book itself features over 390 photographs and easy-to-read text that detail step-by-step how you can make furniture that’ll be built to last.
There’s also extensive advice on how to choose and use the correct tools, and on finding the best timbers for your own build.
As far as DIY outdoor furniture books go, this is one of the best we’ve read. It has a very US focus/feel but there’s some great projects and at some point soon I know myself and few others here at Lazy Susan HQ definitely plan on making the wheeled planter
You can grab a copy on Amazon in both Kindle and Paperback.
19. The Book of Garden Furniture by Charles Thonger
Many of the books on this list are garden design or self build but this one is a little different…
Originally published in 1903 this shows that our gardens and outdoor furniture have long been popular.
Charles Thonger’s book details various garden structures such as Seating, Summerhouses, Arbours, Pergolas, Bridges and Fencing of various descriptions.
Extensively illustrated it details the history of all types of garden furniture in various countries.
Many of the earliest books, particularly those dating back to 1900s and before, are now extremely scarce and increasingly expensive.
Not sure what a first edition of this would cost but fortunately this classic work has been republished so it’s easy to get and affordable,
This high quality, modern edition, uses all the original artwork and text, making for a fascinating read.
You can purchase The Book of Garden Furniture from Amazon for only £16.95 in Hardcover or £14.99 in paperback format.
20. Colour Concrete Garden Projects: Making Your Own Planters, Furniture and Firepits Using Creative Techniques by Nathan Smith and Michael Snyder
I wasn’t 100% sure about including this one but in the end my colleague persuaded me to put it in. Why? Simply because it is a little different to every other book on this list.
It’s another build-your-own but with a difference. It shows what you can do in your garden with coloured concrete.
Now me personally, I'm a big fan of concrete. Even inside the home with my concrete kitchen countertop and dining table.
This much maligned material is often seen as dull, cold and drab but that couldn’t be father from the truth.
It can be both tactile and beautiful to look at, and as this book demonstrates, you can create some wonderful DIY garden furniture with it…
This book shows you that incorporating concrete design into a garden can now be easily achieved by any adventurous DIY enthusiast.
One look at this book and there’s no doubting that concrete outdoor furniture and planters can add some serious style and personality to your garden.
Add in the use of coloured concrete and it makes these objects even more eye-catching.
In this hands-on guide, concrete artisans Nathan Smith and Michael Snyder offer basic information on how to mix concrete and add colour dyes, paints, and inlaid materials.
With 20 step-by-step projects ranging from small items, like a candle holder, to larger pieces, like a bike rack and fire pit, you can start small and work your way up to the more ambitious.
And again Colour Concrete Garden Projects is available on Amazon and most other online book shops.
So, that’s Lazy Susan’s favourite outdoor furniture books (as of March 2021)...
If there’s any we’ve missed that you think we’d enjoy, then please get in touch and let us know!