Outdoor Chairs occupy an odd place in the gardener’s universe. Intended for the simple act of sitting and relaxing, they seldom get used for that purpose, sitting and relaxing being something that active gardeners rarely get to do. It makes sense, therefore, to look at outdoor chairs almost the way you would look at a piece of sculpture. First, consider your garden’s overall style. Is it flowery and traditional, or minimalist and modern? Does your house have a strong architectural presence that should be reflected in your outdoor furniture? Do you favor bold shapes and colors or discreet understatement?
Second, consider materials. What speaks to you most directly—the warmth of wood, the cool sheen of metal, or the rainbow-hued free-for-all of synthetic materials like plastic? Keep in mind that each material lends itself to a variety of styles. Wood can take on the essence of tradition in the form of a Lutyens bench or Adirondack chair, or embody the latest stylistic innovations. Metal can be as ornate as a Victorian cast-iron piece or as sleekly elegant as a Mies van der Rohe classic.
Don’t disregard comfort and convenience altogether. Maybe, between bouts of weeding, watering, dividing, digging, and deadheading, you actually do get to sit in your chairs occasionally, or perhaps you like to entertain outdoors when the weather’s nice. So, if possible, try out the pieces you’re interested in to see whether you can stand sitting in them longer than five minutes. Sometimes a piece that appeals to you stylistically or that’s historically appropriate has a comfort rating of about zero. Consider carefully whether that’s a sacrifice you’re willing to make.
The chairs shown here struck us as being either good representatives of a particular style or as embodying the skillful use of a particular material. They certainly don’t exhaust the possibilities, however, and you’ll find many other appealing examples by doing your own browsing, either in stores or on the Web.
Finished with marine enamel paint in a range of vibrant colors, Archie’s Island Furniture cheerfully holds up through every season. Pictured here, the Round Back Chair puts a new spin on the traditional Adirondack Subtle? Maybe not. Fun? Definitely. $385; 800-486-1183; www.outdoormodern.com.
With its high back, deep seat, and colorful weave, the Al Fresco Tub Chair offers both comfort and easy-going style. $398, by Palecek; 800-274-7730 or www.palecek.com for retailers near you.
For maximum relaxation, take your break in this adjustable teak-and-sling Riviera Deck Chair, which lets you kick back in three positions. The chair’s elegant lines are at home in any garden setting. $460, by Gloster; 888-GLOSTER orwww.gloster.com for retailers near you.
The artful cut-out patterns of the aluminum Topiary Stacking Chair make it a fun addition to the contemporary garden. $333, by Richard Schultz; 215-679-2222; www.richardschultz.com.
The lightweight, stackable Aero Chair’s slim frame and curved metal ribs offer a streamlined, practical elegance that makes it easy to pair with tables in many different styles. $125, from Design Within Reach; 800-944-2233; www.dwr.com.
John Danzer’s Taconic chair won the prestigious Roscoe award from Interior Design magazine in 1993. It is just one of many excellent pieces from this self-described “exterior designer.” $900, by Munder-Skiles; 212-717-0150.