A simple and very stylish bench made from ordinary 2x4s.

A Bench with a View

Last week’s blog prompted so many responses that I’m writing about benches again. Kathy Purdy, a friend, regular reader and blogger extraordinaire (you can read her blog here) made the excellent comment that the view from a bench is as important as — more important than? — the design itself. I also have photos of many interesting bench designs that I didn’t include last week. So location as well as design is the focus for this post.

I’ve positioned benches at Glen Villa with the view very much in mind.  A Victorian-style metal frame bench offers a place to look out onto the circular stone wall that stood in front of the early 19th century Glen Villa Inn.

 

No image of the bench, instead an image of what you see sitting on it.
The Yin/Yang at Glen Villa uses contrasting colours, textures, heights and materials to suggest how opposites create a balance in nature, an idea that comes from Chinese philosophy.

 

This very simple bench sitting on the bank above Lake Massawippi draws no attention to itself, leaving that to the view onto the lake.

My husband and his old friend David share a bench on the bank overlooking Lake Massawippi.
The bench almost disappears, allowing the view its full force.

 

Anyone sitting on the bench at the Sundial Clearing looks straight at the tall dead pine tree whose shadow acts as the gnomon, or pointer, to indicate the hour and to suggest the relentless passage of time.

 

I came across this dead pine tree when marking out a new trail through the woods. As soon as I saw it, I knew it would become an important feature.
I came across this dead pine tree when marking out a new trail through the woods. As soon as I saw it, I knew it would become an important feature.

 

The view from the bench above the Skating Pond shows the pond and the surrounding fields and hills.

 

The bench is barely visible in the foreground, taking nothing away from the pond and its surroundings.
The bench is barely visible in the foreground, taking nothing away from the pond and its surroundings.

 

Which is more important in a public garden — the view or the spacing between one place to sit and another? They aren’t mutually exclusive, of course, but sometimes people need to sit and rest. A bench at the botanical garden in Edinburgh looked out on a view that held only moderate interest, but it appeared just when I was ready to take a break, making it perfectly located.

A simple and very stylish bench made from ordinary 2x4s.
This fabulous bench shows how ordinary 2x4s can create elegant and stylish seating. Its design enables people both to see the view and to see each other, thereby encouraging conversation and the sharing of views. The paving underneath adds to the impact.

 

The bench also demonstrates how inventiveness can turn a simple construction into a work of art, using nothing more than 2×4 boards.

 

The same 2x4s, this time without a back.
I saw this fine backless bench at RHS Wisley.

More 2x4s create another very simple bench at Hannah Peschar’s Sculpture Garden. Yet see how effective it is!

Boards laid on end and set on clunky legs make another stylish statement.
Boards laid on end and set on clunky legs make another stylish statement.

Wooden planks that rise up to a climax creative an impressive bench that is a work of art at Pensthorpe Natural Reserve in Norfolk.

The angled back gives this bench its flair.
The angled back and curved seat give this bench its flair.

Wood left in its original form can also create original and effective benches.

 

A bench at Olana, the New York state home of the artist Thomas Church, uses curved branches to create an appealing bench.
A bench at Olana, the New York state home of the artist Thomas Church, uses curved branches to create an appealing bench. I didn’t sit on it so I don’t know how comfortable it is.

 

 

With thought and a desire to construct something special, wood left in its natural form can create wonderful benches. That’s why one of my autumn projects is to convert this tree trunk into a bench.

 

The old maple tree trunk is the right height for a bench and its natural shape is interesting.
The old maple tree trunk is the right height for a bench and its natural shape is interesting.

 

The height is right for a bench and the natural shape of the maple tree trunk is interesting.

 

Another view of the maple tree trunk.
A view of the maple tree trunk from a different angle.

 

But best of all, the view is great.

 

Bridge Ascending, 2011, by Doucet-Saito
Bridge Ascending, 2011, by Doucet-Saito

 

That’s what I call a win/win.

 

 

  • Abbie Jury

    I have photos on file of seats that are placed as features or focal points themselves, rather than being in places where one wants to sit or to take in a view or aspect of the garden. That always worries me because it seems to lack any logic and I like an underpinning logic in gardens. Sure, make a focal point but seats are for sitting upon, not for decoration (though they can be both).

    • siteandinsight

      I agree, seats are for sitting and they need to be comfortable. Like you, I have photos of seats that are the end point of allées. They serve as focal points and as destinations — but I think it’s best they also have good views back down the allée.

  • Benches are great but the willow tree caught my eye as my summer daydreams of siesta underneath come to an end!

    • siteandinsight

      Yes, that willow makes you want to stretch out and dream. Summer will come again… not soon enough, though.

  • Thank you for the shout out–wasn’t expecting that! I agree that placing benches for the practical need for rest should also be a consideration in a garden of significant size, public or not. And when a bench doesn’t have a particularly good view but is needed for rest, it’s nice to see the immediate area around the bench made more interesting, as with the sunburst paving. I’m glad you pointed out that bench design should consider whether the bench is the focal point, or should recede in importance in deference to a spectacular view.

    • siteandinsight

      Kathy, I always value your comments. You have so much experience and your ideas almost always resonate.

      • That is high praise, coming from you. I haven’t seen nearly as many gardens as you have–not in person, at least.

  • Lisa Wagner

    Benches and seating — so nice, whether they’re focal points or used. It’s a lovely thing to think about!

  • I have a great photo collection of benches, too. I’ve shared them, but only in the old days of Facebook. Perhaps I need do a post. Looking at those two-by-fours now and thinking: Hmmmmmm. Thanks!

    • siteandinsight

      The more benches, the better! I was amazed to learn that one of the English bloggers has posted photos of benches every Friday for years.