Retrospective: A short history of outdoor furniture

10 Nov 2014

Seating has long been a part of garden design.

Indeed, both the Romans and Greeks incorporated stone seating into their outdoor spaces.

But our modern concept of outdoor furniture more likely has its roots in the formal gardens of England where the gentry first took household chairs and tables outdoors, as many 16th and 17th century English paintings depict.

And by the latter stages of the 17th century, the popularity of outdoor seating had extended to garden design.

In 1669, English agriculturist John Worlidge wrote in his Systima Agriculture publication that furniture be strategically placed to take in the full view of the garden.

A century later, renowned London cabinet maker Thomas Chippendale began to design furniture specifically for the outdoors.

According to The Chippendale Society, the plate above was created by Chippendale and features in The Gentleman and Cabinet Marker’s Director, Third Edition 1762 and depicts two designs for garden chairs, as well as a long seat.

“That marked A is proper for Arbours, or Summer-Houses, and C proper for Grottos; the Seat marked B, may be placed in Walks, or at the Ends of Avenues. The Backs may be cut out of solid Board, and fixed to the Back Edges of the Seats. The length of Seat B is seven Feet.”

Chippendale’s work marked the beginnings of an industry that has endured to present day.