We looked at small outdoor spaces in our article What garden furniture is best for a small patio? Much of the principles we discussed there, will also apply to your city garden. So, maybe a better question would be what makes a good city garden?
I live a stone's throw from a city centre and I think my garden is a typical city garden in terms of size, shape, style, design, layout and materials. However, what I consider to be a typical city-style garden, might not be what you consider a typical city garden?
One theme that is common in urban gardens compared to those in a more suburban or countryside setting, is that space is often at a premium. Even your top of the budget London Mews style homes, if they even have outdoor space, it’ll be on the smaller side.
Large city gardens are a rare commodity, and those properties that did have them, have usually seen owners sell off the land for development. Many of the larger central city properties are often converted to flats/apartments too with only balcony space or shared gardens.
However, the key point to make is that no matter how small your outdoor space is, you can (and should) always use it!
Some of the other common themes of gardens in urban areas are they're often rectangular, easily accessed from the kitchen area, and no matter how hard you try, you never have enough space to do what you want to them.
However, we think that small size should be seen as a positive. The bigger the plot the more expensive it is to land/hardscape for a starter. Plus, you have many of the same design ‘issues’ such as scale, etc, so see it as a challenge!
Whilst I would love a bigger plot, I’m happy with my backyard plot. We’ve created our own little oasis, it's a great selling point of the property - And we can all walk to work, school and the shops!
A small urban garden of any size can provide you with the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life. They were our sanctuaries during the lockdowns of the last few years, although I can assure you we held no BYOB garden parties.
But those lockdowns definitely contributed to a boom in home and garden improvement, we were spending more time in them, so we wanted to make those spaces better.
Homeowners took to social media sites such as Instagram keen to showcase what they'd done in their #citygarden and #urbangarden. The hashtag #balconygarden in particular witnessed a real sharp rise as people looked to make the most of any space they had, no matter how small, and a quick scroll will show you that size is no obstacle when it comes to style.
How you can choose garden furniture that's perfect for your city garden
Here at Lazy Susan, we love a city garden, and we feel our garden furniture is the perfect fit for those looking at creating a real harmony with the period features of their property.
It can even work in a more contemporary setting as our pieces have a lightness that never overpowers a space.
Our collection is designed to be timeless, featuring soft organic lines that never go out of style. It’s designed to sit on a patio for many summers to come and not date, and as the old saying goes, a classic never goes out of style.
Now we also fully appreciate that if somebody wants something ultra-modern, then our furniture might not be for them, but hopefully, in this post, we can change a few minds.
Whilst there are a few advantages to working with a small space, such as the aforementioned cost, there’s also a number of things you’ll need to overcome. For example, access can be an issue, even hiring a skip can be a nightmare.
Plus, what little space you do have, has to work twice as hard in order to become a place that is both visually appealing and will function in the way you want, be it entertaining or a little private escape from daily life.
My own garden is surrounded by 4 walls, no views. Now, this is fantastic for privacy and creating a sun trap. Not so good if you’re staring at four brick walls. We had to utilise a host of climbers and shade-loving trees and plants to create green screens and add interest.
We also added a light stone patio and tall planting to create the illusion that the space is bigger than it really is. We kept the planting scheme simple, with mostly shades of green and a few pops of colour from flowering plants, but added texture by using bamboo, etc.
The key to what works in a city garden in terms of design can also be applied to selecting the right garden furniture.
Just like you need the space to look good and function, you need the pieces of garden furniture you choose to do the same. If space is limited, then you can’t fit much in, so that furniture has to work twice as hard.
In terms of how to decide what garden furniture is best for a city garden, then we would suggest you think about the following:
Start with the view from inside your home
At Lazy Susan we always say to customers start off by thinking about what will the furniture look like from the inside of their home? With the UK climate, we’re often looking at our garden more than we’re outside using it.
Ask yourself… Will it stand up to the elements? Will it draw you outside when the sun is shining? Will it fit with the rest of your home and the wider outdoor space? Will it function the way you want? But most importantly, will it look good when you look out of whichever windows or doors have a view of your outdoor space?
Make a list of what you like to do in your outdoor space
Think about how you like to use your outdoor space? Do you like to eat outdoors, maybe a glass of wine on a summer evening? Or are you more of a sit back with a good book and a cup of tea on a Sunday morning?
If you have the space and you like to entertain, then you’ll need a larger dining style set. If you’re just looking to create a peaceful reading space, then maybe a garden bench will suffice? A meal for two on a balcony, then one of our bistro sets might be the best solution?
Think about what you like to do, make a wish list and shop for garden furniture sets/pieces that fit with your lifestyle.
Measure your garden, patio or balcony carefully
Measure how much space you have, how the space is shaped and draw it out on a sheet of graph paper. The most important thing to remember when shopping for new garden furniture is to make sure you leave enough room to comfortably move around the space when it's in situ.
This is a subject we’ve covered a number of times on this blog. If you need a little more help, our article What size garden table should I buy? is a great place to start. The product pages for each of our garden furniture sets/pieces include clear dimensions and the article has a table to show how much you should allow to safely sit and move around when in situ.
Make a plan (and stick to it)
Before purchasing any new garden furniture, it is crucial you incorporate it into the wider design scheme for your outdoor space. Make the decision an informed one, do a little research before you buy.
Many of us, even here at Lazy Susan HQ, are guilty of making an impulse purchase. You usually end up regretting it and then replacing it. That’s wasted money but we’ve all purchased some boxy rattan sofa set that looks good in a photo but is uncomfortable and just does not work on your patio (or is that just me?).
Take what you’ve jotted down in the previous 3 steps and apply it. Think about how you use the space, the actual space you have available and what style and types of garden furniture will tick all the boxes.
Think of the space as a room
As we’ve touched on in the first pointer, your outdoor space should always be seen as an extension of your home. Many of the best city gardens blur the lines. The garden, patio or balcony should feel part of the whole.
We would take it a step further than that even. Decorate the space exactly how you would any room inside the home. Think carefully about the colour scheme, how you position your garden furniture, focal points, etc.
You want that space to invite you outside, to function the way you want to use it. Add outdoor soft furnishings such as cushions, throws and rugs. Accessorise with patio heaters, garden lighting and outdoor cooking to make that space your own little outdoor slice of heaven.
Design the garden around the garden furniture you want
Another way to approach is to actually design your city garden around the furniture you want to buy. We would argue that garden furniture is the most important element of any outdoor space. You can’t use it without a place to sit.
If you know that you want a 4 Seater Garden Table in your city garden, then start with that and work out. This will ensure that no matter how small the space, you can use it in the way you want to use it. You can fit in the other elements around it and use the garden furniture as the focal point.
Invest in quality
Cheap or off-season sale garden furniture could up costing you more in the long run. The old adage "you get what you pay for" is generally true when it comes to garden furniture.
That’s not to say you can't get a bargain, just that 8 times out of ten if it’s cheap it is constructed from inferior materials, and if it's at an end of season sale, then maybe there’s a reason nobody bought it?
Plastic/synthetic resin rattan, for example, look great in a photograph, but in time the weave will become brittle and split. Good quality timber pieces will last a lifetime, if regularly maintained, however, there’s also a host of inferior woods used that just don’t cut the mustard.
We’re not saying don’t buy them, there's some beautiful garden furniture constructed from those materials. We are obviously biased to cast aluminium. However, what we are saying is to do a little research before you purchase.
I appreciate we are an online business, and even with our showroom shut due to Covid if you want to try before you buy, order our Free Sample Kit. Combine that with the reviews and photos, and you can purchase in confidence.
And if you’re still not happy, we have a Returns policy in place for total peace of mind.
Know your garden furniture materials
Some outdoor furniture materials might even be wrong for your outdoor space? We looked at this in our What garden furniture is best for the UK climate? article.
Manufacturers across our industry use a wide variety of durable materials to construct their garden furniture. The reason we opted for cast aluminium is best explained in that post.
Our range is designed to sit on the patio all year round with minimal maintenance and is protected by a painted finish that’ll keep it looking like new for many years to come.
Others use materials such as wood, which are designed to weather. They develop a patina that helps to further protect it from mother nature. If you want to keep the fresh new look, then that’ll require regular sanding and an application of a protective coating such as a stain or varnish.
Just because it says outdoor on the label, doesn’t mean it’s the right type of furniture for your city garden. Do a little homework and make sure the material is right.
If I take my own garden as an example, it is enclosed so wind is rarely an issue, therefore I could go for lighter weight pieces if I wanted. On the other hand, It does receive a lot of direct sunlight in the summer, so I need pieces that won’t fade in the sun.
What about protection from the elements?
Leading nicely on from knowing the different material options available, is to think about how easy it is to protect the type of garden furniture pieces you buy.
If we take the Lazy Susan collection, it is heavy enough to stand up to a stiff breeze but not so heavy that you can’t pick it up and move it if a storm is brewing. And whilst it can definitely be left out in all weather (see the photo above), you might want to cover it or store it during the winter months just to keep it clean more than anything else.
Outdoor furniture can be left out all year round but some people prefer just to leave it in place or they have no option. If your city garden is sheltered like mine, then it's not an issue. When we recently had Storm Arwen, I just stacked it in a corner, covered it and weighed it down with some old weights.
However, whilst the furniture itself is OK in the rain and snow, garden cushions are a definite no-no. They must be stored.
The Lazy Susan Garden Cushion range is both durable and water-repellent but it is not fully waterproof. You can read more about caring for our cushions in our Are outdoor furniture cushions waterproof? article from last summer.
Stick to your budget
In the end, your budget will ultimately determine what garden furniture you can afford. Our advice is to research and purchase the best you can. Pieces that are built to last for a number of years. Be sure any bargain is really a bargain. However, if you have a budget, stick to it. Don’t be tempted to overspend.
So, to answer the question, what garden furniture is best for a city garden? Our advice is to go through the steps above, do your research, shop around, and you’ll know when you see the right pieces for your outdoor space!