Furniture design turns on questions of cost, materials, comfort, durability and appearance. Since comfort is a key consideration, it is best to try a chair or bench before buying it.
The idea of 'furnishing' a garden, as one does a room, is older than one might think. Roman gardens, at Pompeii and elsewhere, had a similar range of furniture to modern gardens: stone tables, stone seats, statues and fountains. Stone 'sofas' were softened with cushions and fabrics. Illustrations of medieval gardens also show noblewomen, and their lovers, on comfortable turf seats. The modern idea of creating an 'outdoor room' and supplying it with 'garden furniture' dates from the influence of modernism on garden design. Designers took up the principle that 'form follows function' and began to ask 'What is the function of a garden?' Outdoor living was an obvious answer and this led to the making of outdoor rooms and to the publication of catalogues offering garden furniture for sale. With the prosperity of the 1980s, a little help from global warming, and a great deal of hard work by manufacturers, the making of outdoor furniture for use in gardens became a sizable industry. Modern garden furniture is made with modern materials: steel, aluminium, glass, plastic and weather-proof timber.