Choosing the right furniture for your garden can be tricky, especially if you want something to fit a particular space or something a little out of the ordinary. It can also be crazily expensive.
Sometimes, the best way is to get creative, roll up your sleeves and design and build your own. It may seem like a daunting task but we’ve put together some handy tips to help get you started. From transforming reclaimed scaffold planks and wooden pallets to building benches from bed frames, making rustic garden furniture may be easier than you think..!
The best tools for the job
Before you start, you’ll need to gather some basic tools together. Depending on the material you’re working with, you may need to pick up a few extras. Here’s a list of essentials that no DIYer should be without:
- A hand or circular saw and a mitre box if you’ll be cutting and joining corners
- Tape measure
- Speed square
- Spirit level
- Screwdriver (a ratchet one makes life easier and if you have an electric one, you won’t look back!)
- A drill
- Hammer and nails
- Sandpaper, varnish and paint brushes
- A workbench
What materials should I use?
Now you’ve got the tools, you’ll need to choose your raw materials.
If you’re making rustic wooden furniture, you may want to incorporate reclaimed scaffold boards or pallets. Scaffold boards are usually made from European whitewood, they’ve been created to bear heavy loads, live an outside life and are a solid option for DIY furniture.
Pallets can be made from oak or pine, hard and softwoods. Oak is much harder than pine, it’s a slower growing tree and is usually preferred for long-lasting furniture.
For an environmentally friendly option, choose locally grown hardwood, such as oak, sweet chestnut and fir. Alternatively, you can salvage a piece of old furniture, from bed frames to chairs, even ladders, it’s possible to make rustic garden furniture from pre-loved items and give them a new lease of life.
Simple wooden bench
This simple, rustic garden bench is constructed from just two wooden planks, glue and a few screws. Ideal for a first project, it can be built in a couple of hours and is a great way to ease yourself into the world of furniture making. Find out how to build it here. You can stain or varnish it, or choose colourful wood paint for a statement piece.
DIY fence panel/pallet sofa
You’ve probably seen pictures of incredible seating areas fashioned from humble fence panels or pallets. You can even buy pallets especially for the job. How easy are they to make? Surprisingly so!
With a saw, an electric screwdriver and a little patience, you too can have an enviable, insta-worthy sofa. Endlessly customisable, you can make it fit any sized space. Check out this simple tutorial and get sawing! You can make cushions to match using cut to size foam and whip up cushion covers from cotton sheets.
Claire from @life_at_no53 created this stunning sofa and matching coffee table from 2 wooden fence panels and steel legs.
She explains, “having a jigsaw and a mitre saw was really helpful and made it so much easier. I had an idea in my head and tried to put it on paper so I could explain what I wanted to achieve, thankfully my partner could understand the very basic drawings and we ended up with a pretty good finished project.”
Wooden bed frame bench
Spare bed frame? Lack of garden seating? Why not convert the bed into a lasting piece of furniture that will give you many years of use. It’s a great way to turn once cherished furniture into something special and makes a striking focal point for your garden or patio.
This bed frame bench from Mak & Jill looks incredible. You can find out how they made it here. Essentially the headboard forms the backrest, the footboard has been halved and used for the arms and the side rails hold everything together, simple and stunningly effective.
Crate storage ottoman
Simple to make, comfy to sit on and so useful for storing everything from garden tools to picnicware, old wooden crates are perfect for creating rustic furniture.
You can pick up old wine and fruit crates from places like Etsy and gumtree, or from antique and thrift shops. Take care to sand back any splinters and remove any residue before you begin.
There’s a great tutorial for making a storage ottoman here, you’ll just need some plywood, foam, material and a staple gun to create the seat. You can even add wheels!
Cable spool side table
An empty wooden cable spool is basically a side table waiting to happen. With a little care, you’ll be able to transform one into the perfect rustic accessory for your garden.
You may be lucky enough to find an old cable reel by scouring the local ads, if not, asking local utility companies and electricians may be your best bet. Easy to upcycle, you can just sand and leave as it is, sand and paint or add hairpin legs for a more industrial look.
There are some great ideas at Upcycled Wonders.
Chest of drawers planter
With a little imagination, it’s easy to convert an old chest of drawers into a beautiful rustic garden planter or raised bed.
After a good sand, paint the inside and outside of the drawers with garden paint, it’ll protect the wood and offer a waterproof layer. If you like bare wood, choose a good quality varnish, yacht varnish would be ideal. Next, line the drawers with heavy-duty plastic and top with a layer of gravel for drainage.
Fill the drawers with potting compost, I like to use John Innes No3, it doesn’t dry out anywhere near as much as regular compost and your plants will love it. It’s especially good if the compost will be in place for some time as it’s rich in nutrients.
Now add the plants! Think about mixing different colours, put taller plants and flowers in the top drawers and fill lower drawers with plants like ivy and trailing rosemary.
Reclaimed plank table
Rustic-looking outdoor tables are hot right now, they also come with a hefty price tag. You can create your own for a fraction of the price using reclaimed scaffold planks and either pressure treated timber or metal for the legs.
This step-by-step tutorial guides you through the stages of making your very own table.
The beauty of making your own rustic furniture is that you can create bespoke pieces to perfectly fit your space. You’ll also feel super proud once you’ve made it (and all your friends will be commissioning you to make theirs). It’s a great eco-friendly option if you’re upcycling and repurposing furniture that would otherwise be destined for landfill.
We’d love to see your DIY makes, comment below and let us know what you’ve salvaged, upcycled or built from scratch.