Brightly coloured garden bean bag chair in orange patterned fabric contrasing with a black painted fence, green foliage, and bright red geums.

Gaudy or glorious? How to choose colourful garden furniture

Why you should add brightly coloured patio furniture to your outdoor space

Have you seen the Panathlon Joy Garden at the Chelsea Flower ShowDesigned as an uplifting space, it’s evident how colour has been used to full effect in the garden’s structure and decor.

Whilst colour alters aesthetics, it has been scientifically proven to fundamentally impact emotions too.

Image: The Panathlon Joy Garden designed by Penelope Walker for RHS Chelsea 2024 (image credit: RHS)

Post-pandemic the trend of “dopamine dressing” – clothing yourself in bright bold colours for a hit of feel-good hormones – took hold. This spirit has sashayed from the catwalk into our homes, and then out the back door to the garden. It's reflected in the renewed passion for dahlias within the gardening zeitgeist and in the show gardens at RHS Chelsea.

Colour transforms a space and, against the green of a garden, you can be stronger and bolder than you dare indoors.

Image: bold hues contrasting with green, foliage-focused planting at The RHS and Eastern Eye Garden of Unity, designed by Manoj Malde for RHS Chelsea 2023 (image credit: RHS)

Colourful garden furniture: the cheat’s solution to year-round colour

A bold orange and pink garden bean bag under a pergola with a garden sofa accessorised with orange and grey garden cushionsImage: The Armadillo Sun stand at RHS Chelsea 2023 with brightly coloured bean bag chairs and fade-proof outdoor throw cushions

The most asked question on Gardeners’ Question Time is ‘how do I get year-round colour in my garden?’ (*Perhaps not strictly true, but year-round colour certainly features highly on a gardener’s wish list!)

The most reliable route to consistent garden interest is bright-coloured outdoor furniture.

As planting trends lean towards managing the extremes of climate change this concept is less of a light-hearted quip and more of a central design feature. At the Chelsea Flower Show - the vanguard of garden design - the move away from flowers towards foliage-focused planting is gaining momentum. Instead outdoor furniture, decor, and structures are relied upon to provide pops of colour.Image: jewel-coloured bench cushions draw us into the lush green planting of The Flood: Re Garden designed by Naomi Slade & Dr. Ed Barsley for RHS Chelsea 2024 (image credit: RHS).

Colourful garden decor that doesn’t fade

Traditional advice is to choose plain patterns and subdued hues for anything you leave outside - the fear being that months of sun and rain will leave anything else bleached and blotchy.

This is no longer the case with the fantastically durable outdoor fabrics available today.

A brightly coloured blue garden bean bag on a patio opposite an orange and pink outdoor bean bagImage: The Armadillo Sun stand at RHS Chelsea 2023 showing how colourful versatile fabric furniture can be used successfully on a small patio or terrace

At Armadillo Sun, our fabric is woven from acrylic or polyolefin yarn that is solution-dyed rather than piece-dyed. In short, the colour of the thread is true all the way through – like a carrot – rather than sitting as a thin layer on the surface – like a cucumber. The result is colour that does not wear off.

At RHS Chelsea, a customer who bought a bean lounger from me 5 years ago remarked: ‘it looks exactly the same’.

Yes! And it will do for years to come.

As a side note, words like acrylic sound plasticky and a bit too much like Chemistry class. Let me reassure you that these fabrics feel like wool and stay as cool as cotton. Please get in touch for a fabric sample to test it out for yourself.

An image of the cross-section of a cucumber next to the cross-section of a carrot. Text reads traditionally dyed yard VS solution-dyed yarn. Colour sits on the surface of traditionally dyed yarn like a cucumber where it can be rubbed off through wear or UV-damage. In solution-dyed yard the colour is all the way though the thread like a carrot.

How can I embrace colour on my patio without slipping from glorious into gaudy?

Your heart wants all the colour, but your head shouts, what will the neighbours say?

It’s easy to be frightened of strong colours and bold patterns, but I encourage you to be brave and give it a go.

Here's my step-by-step guide to add the colour you want into your garden, without worrying that it’ll take over and scream at you.

Ultimately, to borrow the lesson Alice Vincent learnt from her mother in the book ‘Why Women Grow’: if you want to paint [it] pink, do it and be happy.

An ocean blue garden sofa is decorated with bright orange striped outdoor scatter cushions

Image: Ocean Blue Garden Sofa Set from Armadillo Sun accessorised with Orange Summer Stripe Luxury Outdoor Cushions and a lambswool pumpkin throw

Five steps to choosing colourful garden furniture (without creating an eyesore)

1. What’s the vibe?

We’ve established that colour transmits mood, so what feeling do you want your outdoor space to create?

I like to think about it in terms of how I see myself sitting when I’m there. Will I be curled up on a bean bag with a book? Lounging languorously in the sun? Belly-laughing with friends? Contemplatively admiring the view?

Deciding whether you want to turn the energy up high or dial it down, is the place to start to ensure the colour palette you choose does not jar.

The colour spectrum from the cool violets and blues, through green, to the warm yellows, oranges, and reds.

Image: the colour spectrum with cool hues on the left, moving into the warm hues of yellow, orange, and red.

Warm hues - on the right of the colour spectrum - are lively and vibrant and perfect for injecting joy and bounce.

But adding colour is not always about being loud and bright. For a calm, restful, zen garden space, focus on the cooler hues and keep contrast low.

Find out more about colour and mood from garden designer Ann-Marie Powell.

A cushioned sun lounger in a light grey pattern accessorised with a light green and white patterned cushion which draws out the colours of the white wisteria tree behind it.

Image: a green patterned garden cushion, against the soft blended colours of Armadillo Sun's Ripple Ocean outdoor throw cushion, make for a calming comfortable spot to relax on a Luxury Cushioned Sun Lounger

2. Take inspiration

I’m a visual person and need to see an idea to decide whether I like it and to ignite my own creativity. Here are some people I follow who’d I’d recommend to give you courage to use colour in your home and garden.

  • Tricia Guild - an established lover of colour, her videos and moodboards are great inspiration.

  • Rachael Jackson at Banyan Bridges – Rachael’s murals are just WOW. Not everyone can create the things she does, but she’ll get you thinking differently about colour, how to use it, and how to combine it.

  • Wil from John Lewisa new follow for me but his use of colour, especially in small spaces, is bold, and brilliant for ideas on how to break with tradition.

3. Choose ONE colour first

You’ve got a cornucopia of colours to choose from; it’s overwhelming. Be strict and choose just one colour first. Think about the vibe; about the amount of light your outdoor space receives; about the colour of existing unchangeable features (like the bricks of your house, your patio tiles, and the interior of the nearest room to your outdoor space); but ultimately choose something that makes your heart sing.

If the exterior of your house is a particularly dominant colour, and the patio you will be furnishing sits alongside it, it can be useful to pick this colour. If it's a particularly stark red brick you're not that keen on, the garden designer Pollyanna Wilkinson suggests working from the mortar instead which tends to be more of an amenable buff. However, if your house is a neutral hue, then choose a colour you love.

Browse the wall of paint sample cards in a DIY store; or go old-school and cut pictures out of magazines. Many a joyous hour can be spent searching Pinterest for inspiration.

If you're creating an indoor-outdoor space consider pulling the core palette of your interior outside. However, you can go brighter and bolder in natural light, so I would counsel against being restricted by your indoor colour scheme. Use it as a starting point and build from it.

A solid garden chair with a single yellow cushion sits in front of dark wood decking with a yellow painted edging. The chair is surrounded by green foliage and yellow and white flowers.

Image: 'Hurtigruten: The Relation-Ship Garden' at Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival 2023. I love how the use of a single colour - yellow - makes the whole space pop. The garden cushion drawing out the edge of the decking, and reflecting the yellow daylilies and frothy Achillea. 

To add a note of practicality, do be aware of your outdoor environment in terms of trees and birds - some of the cool linen colours, that are so wonderfully Mediterranean, look dirty quickly. 

Avoid jumping on trends. Outdoor furniture and décor is an investment so you want something that you'll love long after what's 'in' has gone out of style.

4. Build a simple colour palette

A dark grey-blue wall, with a soft blue striped outdoor rug and neon yellow chair and plant pot

Image: on this outdoor decking, a deep inky blue is used as a base colour on the background wall, planters, and bistro table. The brighter blue and turquoise undertones of the outdoor rug lift the muted base colour. The nearly neon yellow is the perfect accent colour, drawing the eye and delivering energy to the whole scheme. Image Credit: Little Greene Paint Company

When you've made the decision to get colourful, the temptation can be to use all the colours in all the places. Unfortunately, this doesn't create a riot of chromatic joy. Instead the impact you're after will be diluted, or lost all together, in the maelstrom.

Keep your overall colour palette simple; it creates space for statement.

There is a lot of theory and science you can explore in choosing a colour scheme and palette. I tend to go by gut and eye, rather than theory, but I do love exploring the colour wheel. This design tool represents the relationship between different colours and was first created by Sir Isaac Newton in 1666 when he bent the colour spectrum into a circle!

I recommend starting with three colours in a simple scheme:

1. a dominant base colour

2. a similar supporting colour that will give depth and richness to your base. If you like to understand the theory, this colour sits next to, or close to, your chosen base on the colour wheel. This analogous colour combination has a lower contrast and tends to be easy on the eye

3. an accent colour that contrasts wonderfully with your chosen base. It sits on the opposite side of the colour wheel and is described as complementary. This colour pairing is high contrast and full of energy and pop - but beware, overuse of this dynamic twosome creates visual fatigue and can feel garish. 

You decide whether you apply your number one colour as the base or your accent.

It's useful to borrow the interior design rule of 60:30:10 to create a balanced, visually appealing, outdoor space.

Use your base colour for 60% of the features (a garden sofa, or perhaps fencing and other large outdoor structures); 30% with the supporting colour (tables, large patio pots, etc); and 10% (usually accessories like outdoor scatter cushions or wall decorations) in your chosen accent. 

However, being outdoors - with blocks of green foliage from planting or a background provided by the exterior of your house - don't feel hamstrung by sticking too closely to ratios!

Image of the colour wheel with an analogous or supporting colour and complementary or accent colour labelled.
Image: the colour wheel with an example base, supporting, and accent colour.

5. Break the rules with bridging textiles

Saying all that, don't be afraid to mix things up. 

I use texture and pattern in fabrics to bring different colour combinations together. Armadillo Sun's range of designer outdoor cushions is made with this purpose in mind. The Wave fabric cushion, for example, connects our ocean blue and pumice furniture beautifully and combines fabulously with both navy and turquoise.

A luxury fabric cushioned sun lounger is made extra inviting with a turquoise patterned outdoor cushion

Image: Luxury Sun Lounger from Armadillo Sun accessorised with Outdoor Cushions in Ripple Ocean and Sigma Turquoise.

The final step to colourful garden furniture is my favourite... GO SHOPPING! For buying inspiration indulge in my kaleidoscope of garden decor picks.

What colourful furniture or decor have you added to your garden or your patio? Please do let me know in a comment below.

Once you've created a colourful outdoor space that makes your heart sing, you'll want to show it off to friends and family! Take note of our expert recommendations on creating a garden perfect for entertaining.