Decoration, Decorative Features, Garden Design, Garden Furniture, Gardens, Outdoor Living, Scott

Is your garden a space you haven’t had the time to really enjoy before? Perhaps this is the first time you’re wondering how to make outdoor space work for you and your family. Below we have a basic guide to garden furniture for anyone looking to get started with creating a living space outside for the first time.

Finding A Use For Space

The first thing to think about is how your space will be used. Don’t be put off by thinking your garden is too small.  A lot can be done to make a nice spot to relax, dine, play or grow. If you want to be eating outside with the family, for example, invest in a good dining set and some cover like a gazebo or parasol. If space is limited maybe consider a bistro set? You could be enjoying breakfast and coffee surrounded by plants taking in the morning sun; a good start to the day for most of us!

Garden Furniture

Bigger gardens can have multiple functions sitting alongside one another. For smaller spaces, it’s best to pick one main function and create your design around this. Start with the primary function of the space and invest in something that will deliver just that.

Details That Make It Your Own

Look at the rooms that fill your home. What are your favourite things about them? What bits spark happy memories or facilitate something you love doing? Is it a comfy chair in the corner of the living room where you love to settle down with a book? Maybe the crate full of games you dive into with the kids each weekend? Or the kitchen table where you serve up dishes to family and friends?

Garden furniture

Think about the items of furniture which allow these moments of happiness and how they can translate outside. You could create a reading nook for warm summer evenings filled with weather-resistant cushions, or a play area dedicated to mayhem filled games with the kids, or maybe a fire pit where you can take your cooking in new directions. Find the items that will transform your outdoor space into an extension of your home.

Decorative Flair

Final aesthetic details can really make a space feel special and this doesn’t need to be anything expensive. A simple set of solar-powered fairy lights are cheap, hassle-free and can add a new layer of interest. So when looking for accessories for your outdoors try to keep in mind the temperamental weather and shop for items that are weather resistant. Items that can stay outside year-round or quickly packed away are ideal and will make life outside that much easier.

Garden furniture

There are so many things you can add to help inject your personality into your space and make it special to your purpose. Mirrors, lights, wall art, water features, screening and garden ornaments are all things you can consider when setting up outdoor space. When picking anything out, think back to the original function you identified and think about how this accessory elevates that experience.

I hope this quick guide has got you thinking about your outdoor space. Continue to explore the blog for more resources on getting the most from your outdoor space.

Scott at PrimroseScott Roberts is a copywriter currently making content for the Primrose site and blog. When at his desk he’s thinking of new ways to describe a garden bench. Away from his desk he’s either looking at photos of dogs or worrying about the environment. He does nothing else, just those two things.

See all of Scott’s posts.


Garden Furniture

Bistro Table

The bistro has humble beginnings on the streets of France but today its popularity is evident worldwide as a common feature of our gardens and high streets. Bistro tables and dining sets remain one of the easiest ways to bring a touch of Parisian style to your home or garden. Read up on the story of the Bistro and get some ideas to inspire your outdoor space below.

What makes a bistro table set?

Today there are many styles of bistro sets available. They range from the classic decorative metal sets to the more contemporary styles in wooden or rattan. But what makes the bistro style unique? The design stems from its origins on narrow Parisian streets.

Today we often see Bistro sets spilling onto pavements outside restaurants or cafes with people enjoying an alfresco meal or a coffee. The original tables were designed to be small enough for just two people to comfortably share whilst allowing plenty of space for people to pass by on the pavement.

Some common traits are found in the materials of Bistro tables with the original designs having marble tops and metal legs. The onset of the industrial revolution meant the faster production of iron which made it much easier to add decorative legs. Both table and chair design evolved further to be folded away for easy storage; this was ideal as it meant larger restaurants could seat more people, filling their outside spaces as much as possible.

The popularity of bistro’s through history meant that copies of designs sprung up everywhere once their success began to show. It’s hard to trace an “original” design but we can recognise them by these basic features.

History of Bistro

So how did bistro restaurants begin? The original bistros developed in the apartment basements of Paris. Landlords would open up their kitchens as a secondary source of income, selling cheap and hearty foods to the paying public.

The social aspect of bistros meant that places like the Cafe Procope in Paris (which still operates today) became integral meeting points for the artistic and literary figures of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Imagine Rousseau thinking on his social contract or Diderot compiling his Encyclopédie.

Often these set-ups would be organised outside buildings in the streets, facilitating the need for a smaller style of dining set to allow people to still pass by. This close proximity with the street made bistro’s synonymous with “people watching” as you couldn’t help but notice the rush of city life as it all passed by your table!

We’re not completely certain of where the word bistro comes from, but there are some stories which offer possible explanations. The most popular idea is that the word originated during the 1815 Russian Occupation of Paris, where Russian cossacks would cry “Bystra! Bystra!” to the restaurateurs. This roughly translates as “Hurry! Hurry!” which fits in with the developing style of the bistro as serving “fast food”. Whether this is true or not, we do know that the word Bistro entered both the French and Russian languages with the same meaning.

Another explanation is that the word originates from the French term “Bistreau” which translates as an innkeeper – more believable maybe, but certainly less romantic than Russian Cossacks in a hurry for their lunch.

What’s for Lunch?

Historically the food served at bistros reflected what was available locally or left over from landlords after serving their primary tenants. Menus were often made up with simple foods like soups, sandwiches, salads and crepes, served alongside coffee and wine and would likely change day to day depending on availability of ingredients.

Bistro Table With Coffee

This focus on food that’s simple, fast and relatively cheap has continued to the present day, though perhaps with a gentrified twist and a price tag to match in some chain stores…

How can I use a bistro set in my garden?

A bistro set is perfect for creating a dining space within a smaller section of your garden. If your outdoor space is a patio or balcony then these sets are ideal for adding a touch of style whilst saving on important floor space. Fold away chairs are perfect for dining on your own whilst having that extra seat available for guests and you can create a cosy space for yourself that’s perfect for morning breakfasts. What could be better than warm coffee and breakfast on the balcony, Parisian style.

Why not use a bistro set as an excuse to partition off a part of your garden and create a cosy dining area? To recreate that feeling of on-the-street closeness with life you could add interest around your table set. Perhaps a series of potted plants to add interest at differing heights? Or maybe position your set near some bird feeders so you can dine with the sound of birds singing each day and enjoy being closer to the wildlife in your garden. Maybe add some candles to the table and you’ve got a pleasant spot to spend a summer evening dining out or wrapped up with a good book.

From the streets of sixteenth-century Paris to your own back garden – a bistro set offers the perfect spot for hearty food and a good cup of coffee. With a style that’s made its way around the world bistro sets are an easy way to add a little Parisian style to your outdoor space.

Garden Furniture, Will

There is a great appeal to using natural materials to make the items we use, especially in garden spaces.  Rattan is one of the more familiar materials – traditionally used for lightweight furniture – but what actually is it, and where does it come from?

Rattan Climber Plant
A rattan cane growing in India. Picture credit: Dinesh Valke (2011) licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Rattan refers to around 600 species of vine-like palm climbers found growing in tropical regions across the world, although commercial rattan production is centred on Southeast Asia. The plant is formed of a spine-covered woody stem, which in the right circumstances can grow up to 100m long. Once the cane’s outer layer has been removed and the core dried or cured it becomes immensely strong, flexible and lightweight, and can be used for many purposes – Italian scientists are currently on the verge of releasing a working rattan bone graft!  

Rattan has long been an important resource in the lives of local populations, but its many desirable qualities mean it is now a globally-coveted commodity, with the rattan industry worth over US$4 billion annually. The industry is a vital source of income for many rural communities and is held as a shining example of sustainable, eco-friendly development – it grows reliably quickly, and is easy to harvest and process in a village setting. Given that rattan is dependent on trees to grow, its production also helps protect against destructive deforestation. In countries such as Indonesia rattan is now a valuable tool for protecting areas that would otherwise be under threat, although there are concerns about overexploitation.

Rattan being prepared for use

In the UK rattan is often used for garden accessories, where its natural appearance and touch helps blend with the greenery of the garden space – a good example being this hand woven planter with inbuilt drainage system. However, rattan is now rarely used for outdoor furniture. Although it is immensely durable, rattan will eventually suffer from prolonged contact with the elements after a number of years. There is consequently a great demand for synthetic rattan garden furniture, which aims to replicate the benefits of the plant while better serving in long-term outdoor use.

Synthetic rattan (or ‘rattan effect’) furniture is generally made from either Polyethylene (PE) or Polyurethane (PU), which both share the key characteristics of being weather, mould and UV proof. Despite this, PE rattan is widely considered to be the superior material, given that it’s notably more durable, as well as being environmentally friendly to manufacture and completely recyclable. Synthetic rattan garden furniture also come in several different weaves – full-round, half-round and flat – all offering different aesthetic effects and tactile experiences.

Primrose offers a range of high quality synthetic rattan garden furniture ideal for outdoor entertaining and alfresco dining: this 6 Seater Set is made using PE rattan with a full-round weave, and comes in a natural colouring, while this 12 Seater Round Sofa also uses PE rattan, but comes in flat-weave and a chocolatey brown colouring.

Rattan, whether natural or synthetic, has a great deal to offer any outdoor space. The natural product is a wonderful material for certain garden accessories despite its limitations, while the synthetic equivalent makes for some truly lovable furniture – perfect for any outdoor entertainer.

Will at PrimroseWill is a Copywriter at Primrose, and spends his days rattling out words for the website. In his spare time he treads the boards with an Am-Dram group, reads books about terrible, terrible wars, and rambles the countryside looking wistful.

See all of Will’s posts.

Charlie, Garden Furniture

While corten steel may be in fashion, rust is generally not a feature you want associated with your garden, let alone your garden furniture. Unfortunately, all materials with iron in are prone to rust to some extent, even stainless steel is stainless not because the steel itself is rust-proof but because it is coated in chromium which reacts with the oxygen and moisture in the air to produce a microscopic layer that protects the underlying iron in the steel from rusting. So how to make sure that your garden furniture set doesn’t rust? Especially as garden furniture, unlike the indoor variety, is left exposed to the elements all year round?

rusting furniture

While simply making garden furniture out of stainless steel might appear to be a good option, generally this is not done by the vast majority of manufacturers – as this puts up the price of the raw material by up to 500% as well as creating additional construction costs due to stainless steel not being as malleable as other kinds of steel or iron.

Just making your garden dining set out of stainless steel might be a bit pricey however there are many other alternatives suitable for outdoor use. At Primrose our Hectare ranges are made from powder coated steel. This provides significant durability even if left outdoors all year round, and the powder coating ensures there will be no visible rusting on the surface, meaning you will be able to enjoy your furniture year after year. As this type of steel comes with powder coating, it also means that there is no need to paint it to protect it from the elements, which is often necessary after a time to keep other types of metal garden furniture looking its best. While powder coating doesn’t guarantee no rust will occur, powder coated steel is valued as one of the best trade offs between durability, weatherability and price.

Another popular alternative is Aluminium. This material when exposed to the elements develops a thin oxide layer on the outside which protects the material from further damage. However, as with many materials, if this protective coating is scratched or dented, it does leave a space for rust to occur in the damaged area. Additionally cast aluminium, due to its lightweight construction, is often unsuitable to be kept outside as it can be blown about in strong winds, thus making damage to the furniture even more likely.

Cast iron is another popular material for garden furniture, partly because it is so heavy, as this means it is not prone to being knocked over by the wind. However of the three materials discussed here it is the most prone to rust. Being made from iron, it has a high chance of rusting if left uncovered in the elements, however much cast iron furniture is now treated with a protective spray which helps reduce this risk, and if it is painted this also helps prolong its life.

Whichever type of metal you choose for your garden furniture, it is always wise to be wary of the risk of rust occurring and look after your furniture by packing it away when not in use or covering it if this is not feasible. Stay tuned for more information on looking after metal garden furniture next week.


CharlieCharlie works in the Primrose marketing team, mainly on online marketing.

When not writing for the Primrose Blog, Charlie likes nothing more than a good book and a cool cider.

See all of Charlie’s posts.