The fascinating history of garden furniture

The fascinating history of garden furniture

Everything has a history, and as outdoor furniture specialists, we felt compelled to dig into the interesting backstory of the garden furniture we have come to love and utilise in our outdoor spaces.

Today, we are able to appreciate a wide range of styles, such as modern contemporary garden furniture, through to repurposed quirky designs, and all the way back to collectable antiques. But for us to reach this point of widespread outdoor furniture use, it must have started somewhere, so just where did garden furniture originate? Where are the oldest surviving pieces of garden furniture from? How and why has outdoor furniture evolved through the centuries?

Over the years, garden furniture has changed in unison with garden landscapes and outdoor activities. Today, most of us probably take furniture in all forms for granted, but it has a historical past that has left a fascinating trail. A trail that we’re eager to explore!

The birth of the garden

We can trace the birth of the garden all the way back to AD 43, not long after the Roman conquest of Britain. Gardens back then were designed with hedges, fences, fruitful orchards and verandas with long sequences of typical Roman and Greek columns. These Roman and Greek eras saw the first appearance of garden furniture use, with quite uncomfortable stone benches and seats populating the gardens and outdoor spaces that they had created.

Ancient garden with colonnadeAccording to legacy, the oldest surviving examples of outdoor garden furniture were found in the ancient gardens of Pompeii. Back then, these gardens were an integral part of everyday life for the people of Pompeii, and many of the values associated with a Roman garden has stood the test of time as garden furniture has developed and evolved over the centuries. These Roman gardens were viewed as a place of luxury and a place to relax, as well as being used for entertainment and as a place of worship.

Garden furniture in the Middle Ages

Gardening took a step back during the middle ages as it became less of a concern for people, but that didn't stop the progression of garden furniture. Before this medieval period had come to an end, turf benches had become a prominent aspect of the garden, and they began to feature prominently by the turn of the 15th century. Many images and art pieces depicted medieval gardens containing turf benches, and they would often face inwards so that people could avoid having to face the warring that would be going on beyond the garden walls. Their garden furniture would be surrounded by flowers and herbs, telling us that even though gardening in general wasn't quite as important to people as it had been, they still had the freedom to indulge in a garden environment.

Evolving into the Renaissance

Throughout the 17th century, Europeans began constructing urban gardens that would emphasise a control over nature. An obvious example would be the evolution of French gardens, as fountains,menageries, and aviaries were introduced as a statement of great wealth. As the population began to grow, so did the urban spaces, and in turn the demand for outdoor seating.

Renaissance garden fountainDuring the hot summer months, many people would drag their indoor furniture out into their gardens as they attempted to escape the muggy indoors and enjoy the sunshine.

Naturally, new furniture ideas that were usually confined to inside use began to concentrate on the growing potential for outdoor use, and garden seats were now being designed as not only a comfortable solution for outdoor use, but also to provide a focal point to a private outdoor environment.

Public parks, gardens and piers began to emerge at a fast rate during the 19th century, and this increased the demand for outdoor seating even further. Eventually, the invention of the  park bench came to fruition, as new techniques were found that made large-scale cast iron production a possibility. This would be followed by more adventurous and creative designs,  such as squatter chairs and the rocking chair. 

Modern day garden furniture

In the 21st century, the concept of outdoor living has become an integral part of life across the world, with many people considering the garden space that is offered when purchasing a home, restaurants offering al fresco dining, hotels accommodating guests with outdoor communal areas and even beaches utilising outdoor furniture in the form of sun loungers. Outdoor electricity is allowing people to make use of outdoor living spaces around the clock, and they can customise their gardens with garden furniture, ornaments and accessories to suit their taste.

Choosing the correct piece of garden furniture can not only provide you with an aesthetic focal point, but it can also help you make the most of your garden. At Barbed, we can provide you with a wide range of contemporary outdoor garden furniture and accessories with which to choose from, so we’re sure that there will be something ideal to complement your garden perfectly. Why not browse our collections from quality brands, or pop into one of our London-based showrooms in Barnes and Chiswick?

29th September 2017

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