The History of Garden Furniture
The purpose and way in which garden furniture is utilised by society has evolved emphatically over the course of the last few centuries. In this article, we will take a look at how the change in garden landscapes and outdoor activities have transformed the use of outdoor furniture.
Romans and Greek Eras
The birth of the garden took place in this period after the Claudian invasion in 43CE with designs combining the likes of hedges and fences with orchards and colonnaded verandas.
The first appearances of some form of outdoor furniture can be traced back to the Greek and Roman eras where uncomfortable stone benches and seats used to populate gardens and outdoor spaces. Apparently the oldest surviving examples of garden furniture were found in the gardens of Pompeii.
The garden played a pivotal role in the lives of Pompeii’s people and many of the values that a Roman garden stood for in this era have stood the test of time as garden furniture has evolved. Both private and public gardens were seen as a place of relaxation and luxury as well as for entertainment and worship.
Garden seats also formed part of the outdoor garden seating favoured by 18th century America. The seats were hollowed out of old trees and then supported by either a green arbor, pergola or vine-clad summer house.
Viridarium garden in House of the Vettii, Pompeii
Despite gardening not being seen as a primary concern for people in this era, there was still some progress in creating new furniture as turf benches became one of the most distinctive aspects of a medieval garden. This type of furniture rose to prominence through featuring in various images and art pieces at the beginning of the 15th century.
These images depicted gardens, containing these turf benches, that tended to look inwards in order to avoid the warring beyond the walls. In order to avoid the warring amongst the walls. This type of garden furniture was surrounded by herbs and flowers meaning that people had the freedom to indulge in their outdoor environment.
The 17th century saw urban planning become more common in Europe with many gardens constructed to emphasise the control over nature. This theme was prominent in many French gardens, with aviaries, menageries and fountains used as a statement of wealth.
As these urban spaces grew along with the population, so did the demand for seating that would stay outdoors permanently as people previously dragged their furniture from indoors to escape from the heat. This led to the invension of the light weight Windsor chair, seen as a very exciting idea at the time, which was later moved indoors.
The landscape movement that took place during this era saw gardens starting to look outwards towards the landscape with seats being used to promote the switch from active to contemplative. Not only were garden seats viewed as a place of comfort but also to provide a focal point to a private outdoor environment.
Civic spaces such as parks, gardens and piers that emerged in the 19th century only added to the demand for outdoor seating. This led to the emergence of the ‘park bench’ as new techniques were uncovered for large-scale cast iron production.
Other examples of outdoor garden furniture from this era include the rocking chair from America and the squatter chairs from Australia.
Blossoming 21st century
The concept of outdoor living has truly blossomed in the 21st century, with outdoor electricity allowing people to customise their gardens to suit their needs through carefully selected furniture and ornaments. Remember that choosing the right piece of garden furniture can not only provide an aesthetic focal point but also help make the most of your garden.
We have come a long way since the uncomfortable benches of 43CE with contemporary garden furniture now being of the highest quality and available with a multitude of furniture accessories.