A built-in bench in your landscape/outdoor space can add significant value to the overall design.
First and foremost it can be used to define the design. As pictured below, you can see that the bench has been designed on an angle to break up the rectangular shape. It eliminates having all elements at 90 degrees and pushed to the perimeter. The horizontal surface of wood visually breaks up the stone components and adds more textural layers. Notice the length of the bench as well; it runs through the terrace. While there are appropriate times to divide outdoor space into separate “rooms,” when we were working with this small space the solution was to connect the whole space with the bench while still allowing plenty of room for movement and having the bench perform multiple functions as seating and storage.
In the second photo, the bench shows its storage space. Initially having storage space within a bench sounds like a great idea. Unfortunately the reality of outdoor storage isn’t as positive. Without the large space as pictured below, storage in a bench is typically designed to be under the seat. Due to the interior structural elements of the bench there is not a lot of extra room for storage. It is also impossible to make outdoor bench storage water proof. This particular design does allow for more storage space due to the fact that that is behind the seat and our client is fine with the kids’ toys getting wet.
Benches designed into an outdoor space can also provide planting space. As seen below, the bench is used for table seating, but it also has space to have Boxwood shrubs planted. Regardless of the chosen plant material, having the plants here provides a wonderful visual break in all the wood used in this design
Benches can also be used as a structural device. The pergola in the picture below is a free-standing structure on a garage roof. This means it was designed not to attach to the parapet walls or the roof. The success of this design is due to the bracing in the pergola which is achieved through the use of containers/planters, privacy screening and the bench.
Benches can also be added for the simple fact that they provide additional seating. The roof top design below includes a TV for any and all sport games. But, when the TV is off, the space below isn’t wasted.
Benches also can be used to solve problems.
In this very small back yard, seen below, that has a grown tree and lots of seemingly unusable space, a bench with a planting area takes advantage of the situation. It adds more planting space and increases seating. In the midst of all the paving, adding the raised beds makes planting easier and adds additional life and color. The height of the raised bed helps the structure of the bench back, but because the tree trunk/root flare cannot be buried, the plants and up-lights will be planted lower than the top of the boards. The bench now situated in front of all the planting cleans up the back yard to have a more logical layout for the placing of furniture.
So when a built-in bench is suggested as part of the design, make sure it adds what you need in your outdoor space. Benches that are thoughtfully incorporated will be a show-stopper element that pulls the whole space together.