Garden furniture for your mid-century home

With the creation of our garden underway, we have come upon a bit of a stumbling block — What to do for outdoor furniture?

The old timber table and bench seats from our previous home were weathered and worn (but gladly found a new owner through roadside hard rubbish!) so we have spent the last few months with nothing.  This hasn’t been an issue however, as we haven’t had a decent area outside to locate any furniture!

A mid-century home is all about the perfect mix of indoors and outdoors.  Wide expanses of window walls bring natural light and views of the garden flooding in.  Paved terraces extend out from living areas, inviting residents and guests alike to relax outdoors.

The Kaufmann House 'Poolside Gossip' Palm Springs 1970, Photo Slim Aarons, Architect Richard Neutra
The Kaufmann House ‘Poolside Gossip’ Palm Springs 1970, Photo Slim Aarons, Architect Richard Neutra

This need to entertain outdoors is not only part of a modernist lifestyle.  It is an Australian tradition to sit around outside and enjoy a bbq with friends and family, even in Melbourne or Hobart where the temperature is not always suitable!

The quitessential Aussie outdoor meal!  (According to www.realaustraliatravel.com that is)
The quintessential Aussie outdoor meal! (According to http://www.realaustraliatravel.com that is)

So what could be more important to an Australian mid-century modern garden than something to sit on, eat off and entertain around?

The recent jaw-dropping images from Modernism Week in Palm Springs have provided plenty of inspiration, such as the classic shot from Richard Neutra’s Kaufmann House shown previously.

An amazing house, stunning pool, beautiful clean lines of paving and a backdrop that memorizes.  However, the furniture appears to consist only of sun lounges and side tables.

What happens when you are feeding a party of eight?

(Via plastolux.com)

Again in this example of  a mid-century home in Perth, the setting is amazing.  The design is timeless and a perfect match to the architecture of the home.  However, there doesn’t seem to be a large dining table where the whole family can sit around to enjoy burnt sausages or Christmas roast.

This trend continues as you try to find that perfect furniture set for your modernist terrace.

Jil Table designed by Justin Hutchinson for Tait (Source: madebytait.com.au)

Lovely wire chairs and side table to enjoy a lively debate with a friend and/or share a drink.

An unidentified residence, photographed by Michael Wells Photography (Source: mwellsphoto.com)

A stunning lounge to kick back and read your novel / magazine of choice.

(Via modernistaustralia.com)

The perfect match to your coastal beach shack – weathered cane furniture that has been handed down from your grandmother and easily (or creakily) absorbs your weary bones after an afternoon at the beach.

Modern Exterior by Allen Construction (Source: houzz.com.au)

Strikingly modern lounges that reflect your choice of furniture inside (however I would always worry about the cushions getting wet……)

Stones, Ellis, 1971, Australian Garden Design, South Melbourne

And from the timeless work of Ellis Stones, perfectly selected wire chairs to complement a secluded courtyard (and fruit bowl).

Stones, Ellis, 1971, Australian Garden Design, South Melbourne cp10

Or even the eternal favorite – A painted cast iron setting (with or without rickety legs).

Harry Bertoia’s Diamond Lounge chair (Source: http://www.skandium.com

Wire outdoor furniture is quite an iconic image of modernism and always seems to go hand-in-hand with an enticing swimming pool.

(Via desiretoinspire.net)

Clearly my favorite piece of outdoor furniture is the Butterfly Chair or BKF Chair.  It works well above in a collection of furniture that also includes Acapulco Chairs.

B.K.F Chair by Austral Group, Buenos Aires c.1938
(Source: Australian Modern)

The Butterfly chair is more often seen as a single piece of furniture in the corner of a balcony or courtyard however, and doesn’t lend itself to be used around a dining table.

Each and every one of these chairs would look great outside our home, however what we really want is a practical table and chair setting.

This was proving to be a difficult search.  Do we go with the reliable, but a little plain, timber setting?

(Via Modernist Australia)

Or maybe something a little more contemporary?

(Via vuurtafelspecialist.nl)

In the right location I’m sure such a setting could work, however it’s a little too chunky for my liking.

Finally I stumbled up some examples of authentic mid-century outdoor dining tables.  This slim lined metal setting looks great and works so well on this wide expanse of timber decking.

The iconic Richard Schultaz 1966 range- triple powdercoated furniture designed for Florence Knoll (Source: spacefurniture.com.au)

And amoungst the many forms of outdoor furniture (including trampoline!) you can make out a trestle and bench table in the background.

California mid-century modern house with backyard pool, 1955 (Source: Remarkably Retro)

What can be taken from this rambling search and analysis is that there are many forms of seating to suit your mid-century terrace, however it can be hard to find the right table.

While an online image search can reveal many amazing options, in reality it has been hard to find a suitable setting (for a suitable price).

So what is your favorite mid-century outdoor piece (and where can it be found)?!

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4 thoughts on “Garden furniture for your mid-century home

    1. Thanks Steph! If only all the beautiful midcentury indoor tables could work outside! Thankfully there are plenty of simple modern tables (such as the one you suggested) and I am sure we can come up with a good combination. At the end of the day if we go for a simple and practical table, then the garden can be the feature and not the furniture!

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  1. I’ve found this elusive search a bit frustrating too. I’m thinking modern glass metal combo plus stackable chairs that can be used inside too Try cafe suppliers

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    1. Thanks Jane! Quite often we have come back to a cafe seating style. You just have to make sure it doens’t look too much like McDonalds outdoor seating! We have found some interesting things at places such as Recollections / Early Settler. I guess Ikea is always an option too!

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