Of all the materials, it's probably plastic that is the most utilitarian as the majority of chairs and benches also offer integral storage space that can be used for cushions or other small items found around the garden that need tidying away or protecting from bad weather. Chair and table bistro sets are also available which boast retro charm and are perfect to enjoy breakfast or lunch on the patio with friends.
The various types of materials used for this furniture are technologically advanced, very robust and UV resistant, so it won't crack and the colour will not fade. Moulded pieces have an outward appearance of timber panelling or rattan weave, and plastic is very simple to maintain and can be quickly wiped clean.
Rattan garden furniture has always been a popular choice for outdoor use, and there's a huge range from which to choose. Benches, chairs, tables and day beds from several respected makers all take advantage of man-made wicker's weatherproof qualities and an iconic style that's reminiscent of a Mediterranean resort in high summer.
Whether you are looking for furniture on which to simply relax or to enjoy dining with friends, there are contemporary and traditionally designed pieces and sets that benefit from UV resistant rattan's durable and versatile characteristics as well as its time-honoured good looks that never fail to please.
With a number of notable exceptions, metal garden furniture is the preferred choice for contemporarily styled garden furniture and this is exemplified by the Westminster Seattle range. Stainless steel that gleams in the sun and aluminium with a tough powder coating both feature extensively, they are perfect choices as the furniture will be lightweight and sturdy with rust and corrosion-free appearance.
There is a tremendously eclectic range of metal furniture, including 'pick and mix' modular furniture that fits perfectly into a modern landscape and cute bistro sets to convey you to a Parisian boulevard. Wrought iron is used to craft the latter and other ornate 'period' pieces, while aluminium is employed for the striking Butterfly Bench from Home and Garden.
Coffee and dining tables can have metal, ceramic or timber tops while several weatherproof, easy to clean, fabrics in colours of your choice are used for cushions and upholstery that complement a powder-coated frame or contrast with shining stainless steel to complete furniture that's able to enhance any location.
Timber is perhaps the classic outdoor furniture material, ideal for many different styles from rustic to contemporary, its versatility varies from wonderfully crafted traditional benches to value for money picnic sets in a range that features both sustainably sourced soft and hardwoods.
Wood's natural appearance will blend effortlessly into your garden landscape, close-grained hardwoods from South America and Asia such as teak, roble and cornis are crafted into elegant dining sets and other high-end furniture, while pine and other softwoods are widely used for everyday furniture and pre-treated to ensure a long life free from rot.
Wooden furniture does need more attention than metal or plastic. If, as an example, you want teak to keep its natural colour rather than weathering to silvery grey, a specialist preservative will need to be applied, and it may also need protection from wasp damage. Although hardwoods have a natural resistance to decay, for softwoods you may well be required to use paint or a preservative intermittently.
Finally, ornate stone benches and tables such as those produced by Haddonstone can introduce classical interest wherever they are located with designs that replicate those seen at Versailles and British stately homes, and, if you prefer more modern stone furniture, this is produced by Eastern Connections that make full use of the rainbow colours and smooth texture of sandstone.