Garden furniture for small gardens: why a bistro set is not the best option - armadillosun

Garden furniture for small gardens: why a bistro set is not the best option

A blue outdoor fabric sofa, covered with orange patterned garden cushions, and a patterned orange and pinnk outdoor bean bag sit cosily on a patio terrace

A small outdoor space can be big on comfort

When seeking furniture for a small garden or tiny patio, your options may feel limited.

Have you crossed outdoor sofas off your list as too big and unwieldy?

Are you resigned to never being able to enjoy your slice of sunshine from a garden lounger?

Furniture for small outdoor spaces is all too quickly narrowed down to a bistro table and chairs. This can of course be lovely (I've nothing against them), but it's definitely not the best - or the only - option.

I’m here to say that it doesn’t matter how slimline your outdoor chairs are, if they are unused and un-sat on, because they're cold and uncomfortable, they're still using up too much of your precious space!

You don’t have to sacrifice comfort and style, or limit your options, when choosing garden furniture for a smaller space.

Instead, look for these essential features to find furniture that is comfortable and versatile - as well as compact - for your small garden or patio.

As a maker of soft fabric outdoor furniture perhaps I’m biased, but I believe comfort and versatility are essential to garden furniture for a small garden. And you won’t be surprised that these are the key characteristics of the outdoor furniture we make at Armadillo Sun.

A photograph of a small tiled patio garden furnished with an ocean blue outdoor fabric sofa, two brightly coloured and patterned garden bean bag chairs, and a waterproof pouffe table. Text down the side of the image reads Armadillo Sun

Image: we created a small terrace within our stand at Chelsea Flower Show 2023. We furnished it with a modular garden sofa, two outdoor bean bag chairs and a multipurpose outdoor pouffe. The dimensions of the patio are 330cm x 250cm (8.25 square metres) and we used Stiled patio tiles.

1. Outdoor furniture that's lightweight

Smaller garden spaces often come with the added challenge of difficult access. Perhaps there’s only a narrow alley down the side of the house, or you’ll need to bring furniture through your home, or maybe the best way to get furniture into the garden is straight over the fence.

Heavy clunky furniture is awkward and tricky to manoeuvre into place. There’s the risk of paint chipped off doors and fingers squashed against walls.

I love that Armadillo Sun garden sofas are filled with airy beans. They are over half the weight of a traditional garden sofa and are easy to lift and shift – even if you are one person carrying them alone.

Choosing garden bean bags, rather than garden chairs, mean they’ll squish down narrow spaces and round tricky corners. They also come with a carry handle so it's simple to sling one over your shoulder.

A photograph of a woman walking carrying an outdoor bean bag over her shoulder by a handle strap sewn into its side. The fabric of the bean bag is grey and white in a palm leaf pattern.

2. Garden furniture that can stay outside all year

When you have limited outdoor space, you can’t waste it on storage solutions for furniture that needs to be put away when it’s wet.

With space at a premium, your garden furniture must cope with all the elements.

The furniture we make at home in Kent, for Armadillo Sun, is made with marine-grade fabric that resists moisture. It has high levels of UV-protection and does not rot.

Even though it’s soft fabric outdoor furniture it really can be left out all-year.

Plus, as it’s easy to move, you can use your outdoor furniture indoors should you want to.

3. Patio furniture sets that are multipurpose and versatile

When your garden is small, your outdoor furniture must work hard for its spot on the patio.

A bistro set is lovely for a coffee catch-up for two, but when you want to lounge in the sunshine, or entertain alfresco, it doesn’t have much to offer.

Bean bag loungers can be sat on for coffee, or lean back and it shifts flat so that you’re lying in the sun. They’re light and easy to re-position to make the most of the sunshine (or shade) in your garden.

If you’d love an outdoor sofa for entertaining guests, it can be tempting, in a small outdoor space, to opt for a built-in option. Instead, consider a modular sofa. If you choose soft bean-filled furniture it will squeeze into tricky spaces but maintains your to ability re-arrange seating when you want to. It’s also much easier to take with you if you move house.

Garden pouffes are the ultimate in multipurpose outdoor furniture. They’re a table, an extra chair, a foot rest – and always a stylish addition to your patio set-up.

A phhotograph of a small garden furnished with outdoor furniture including a modular garden sofa, two garden bean bags and a waterproof pouffe being used as a table. There are two glasses sat on the outdoor pouffe.

Image: our fully weatherproof garden pouffe on our small patio in our RHS Chelsea 2023 stand. It's lightweight (only 4kg) and very stable so it can be easily moved around and fills a number of roles in a small garden. It's perfect as a table, an extra chair, or a foot stool. We made this outdoor pouffe out of our most popular ocean blue palm fabric, but it's available in all our fabric colours and patterns. 

4. Garden chairs & tables that won’t wobble on uneven surfaces

In a small space, you can’t be fussy about creating the perfect surface for your garden furniture. You might need garden chairs that can be used on a flagstone patio, but also on gravel or a scrap of lawn.

Seating that is not going to wobble on uneven ground is essential so you're not worrying about finding that one perfectly flat spot.

I love garden bean bags for solving this problem. They won’t have you sitting at an uncomfortable angle if the ground is bumpy and will never tip you over. They are perfect for using on gravel with the tough fabric being resistant to wear and scratching. Plus, if the best space in your small garden is the lawn, then you can use bean bag furniture to sit on grass without leaving behind a trail of chair leg holes.

A photograph of a large outdoor bean bag lounger sat on grass in the sunshine. The fabric of the garden lounger is navy and white in a palm-leaf pattern.

Image: swapping a traditional sunlounger for an outdoor bean bag lounger means you can make use of any grass you have in your small garden - without worrying about damaging your lawn, the legs on your lounger rotting, or that it'll collapse and tip you out. Image credit: JP from JP's Life and Loves 

Being sturdy and stable, your outdoor bean bag doubles up as a wonderfully comfortable beach lounger too.

Bean bag coffee tables make fantastic small outdoor tables for uneven ground. With a broad base they’ll hold your cup of tea, or glass of wine, safely upright – and you won’t be sticking tiles, or pieces of cardboard, under a table leg trying to get it level!

A photograph of a low, small, rectangular bean bag coffee table. A cup of tea and vase of flowers are sat on the hard top of the table. The table is ocean blue with trim in a palm-leaf pattern.

Image: bean bag tables are practical and versatile coffee tables for small gardens. Image credit: Stiled

5. Comfortable garden furniture that you want to sit on

In your precious outdoor space, make your garden furniture something you absolutely love and really want to spend time on. It should be as inviting as your living room sofa, otherwise, however compact the furniture you choose, it’s still a waste of space!

Armadillo Sun’s modular garden sofa chairs are soft, with just the right amount of squish. They might look too big for a small patio, but they don’t have arms, giving you more sitting space for their size. They are fantastic for squeezing seating into tight-fitting spots.

The garden sofa corner chair is magical for transforming an awkward corner into a cosy, comfortable spot to lounge. Or we can also make furniture to size if you prefer.

A soft fabric garden sofa corner chair is accessorised with orange and white patterned cushions and a lambswool throw.

Image: the Armadillo Sun corner garden sofa chair makes a comfortable and cosy sitting spot out of an awkward corner in a small outdoor space. It can also be pulled together with a modular garden chair to make a larger sofa.

6. Garden seating that sits you low

When you’re small everything seems bigger doesn’t it? Sit low on a garden bean bag and your outdoor space feels larger.

A bean bag lounger encourages you to lie back so you can see your patch of sky, rather than sitting straight and upright and focusing on your surrounding fence or wall.

7. Colourful garden furniture

In a small outdoor space, there's little point trying to make your garden furniture blend into the background. The common wisdom is to choose light plain colours so as not to dominate a smaller space. I’d gently suggest opting for the opposite: make your garden furniture a feature of your small garden or patio and ensure it reflects your personality. Choose colours and patterns you love.

If you’d like tips for a colourful garden and choosing bright coloured garden furniture, you'll find my advice and recommendations here.

A photograph of a brightly coloured garden bean bag made from orange and white outdoor fabric. In the background is a zesty lime green outdoor bean bag.

8. Garden seating to accessorise with outdoor throw cushions

Layering different colours and patterns can make a space look bigger and give the eye more to take in. A small garden is transformed into a cosy sanctuary with outdoor cushions in an array of colours, textures and patterns.

The new designer outdoor cushions from Armadillo Sun have a tactile woven feel that brings the indoors out for a homely vibe.

A photograph of four coloured and patterned outdoor throw cushions on a blue fabric garden sofa. The cushions are orange and white striped, a textured deep red, and a woven blue and aquamarine

All-in-all a bistro set is certainly not the only option for a garden furniture for a small garden (not that I have anything against them of course!)

If you’d like to talk specifically about your garden space and how we can help you create the outdoor sanctuary you deserve please give me a call. We can also custom-make our bean bag furniture to best maximise your outdoor space.