I really love a garden with informal places to sit, in addition to the main garden patio furniture. It is lovely to be able to wander around a garden with a cup of coffee or glass of wine and find a seat where the sun is or with a good view of the garden, a place just to sit and pause to enjoy the garden and fresh air.
So in our gardens we try and have informal seating built into the design, providing a choice of places to sit wherever the sun is at different times of the day.
An east facing spot for the morning sun, west for the evening sun and south for the sun most of the day, when it comes out that is!
In the photo below the walls around the upper terrace in Glasgow all double as comfortable 300mm wide places to sit and there’s an additional bench on the lower level as an alternative choice.
In the example below in Newlands in Glasgow, this garden has a wall retaining a raised bed which doubles as a seat around the patio. We used old brick (from Glasgow Brick Yard) to match the surrounding old brick walls and the patio paving (by Pavestone) as the wall copes, to give visual coherence to the garden. The client was in the process of planting the garden up themselves when this photo was taken. Raised beds are also more comfortable to look after and maintain.
Seats can include free standing walls as well as seating around a patio retaining raised beds. If they are designed at the right height and width that will make sure that they are comfortable to sit on.
So often we see walls around patios built at a width of 200mm which to me seems like a missed opportunity, as 200mm isn’t a very comfortable width to sit on for very long.
The height would ideally be around 500mm (no less than 250mm and no more than 600mm) and the width no less than 300mm, and a little wider for even more comfort if you want to put cushions on the wall or seat.
We often use paving as the copes of its a sandstone wall and these come in 600x300mm sizes which are ideal. If its a sleeper wall, then the 200mm wide sleepers can be doubled up to provide a width of 400mm.
An example of some built in sleeper seating combined with sandstone as a trim at the edges In Dumbreck, Glasgow.
Retaining walls are also an opportunity to provide informal places to sit. If you are levelling your garden and you need a wall higher than 500mm, then its a good idea to split it into 2 walls with a planting bed in between. The lower wall can then double up as a seat, and the planting softens the upper wall. The whole effect is less imposing than if it was one high wall.
Here’s an example below in Pollokshields in Glasgow.
Good quality garden benches are inexpensive and last for years. They can also give a focal point to a garden as well as an informal place to sit all year round. We often position them where they will catch the morning sun where you can enjoy a morning coffee. The photo below is of a Lutyens bench with a couple of pots to frame it.
Raised ponds are another opportunity to create a place to sit, and it is lovely to be near enough to the water to see it properly. Again the walls have to be wide enough to be comfortable to sit on, at least 300mm wide.
Here’s one we did in a Kirklee Courtyard, in Glasgow.
Steps too are another opportunity for informal seating, especially if they have wide treads and face the sun. Here is an example in Bothwell of steps that can be used to sit on as well as the raised beds.
Curved seating is very attractive and also creates a pleasant social space as people are facing towards each other. They also lend themselves well to having a fire-pit or table in the middle too. These can be made from natural stone or brick. Here’s one in a Glasgow garden.
This one is in a small Paisley garden.