15 Backyard Sunbathing Ideas to Tan Privately in the Garden

By   | Last Updated :   January 26, 2021 | Filed In :   Garden Furniture Ideas

One of the charms of our great British summer is that it may only last a fortnight. If you’re keen to soak up some sun, having a dedicated garden sunbathing spot is going to be a critical part of your plan.

The garden sunbathing ideas on this list are perfect for every household. Whether you intend to practically live outside or create a private sunbathing spot to catch a little bit of warmth in the afternoons, read on to find out how you can create your own backyard tanning oasis!

Backyard sunbathing ideas: Furniture

When it comes to comfort, style and durability, not all sun loungers are created equal. As you’re choosing the furniture you intend to spend all summer relaxing on, keep in mind the pros and cons of different materials.

Considering the temperamental British weather, your budget might be better off with portable sun loungers. There are lots of different (and inexpensive) styles, like fold-up sun loungers and inflatable sun loungers, which you can whip out or tidy away at a moment’s notice.

alekper reclining double sun lounger

Alekper Reclining Double Sun Lounger, Wayfair

Cabanas offer the sunbathing trifecta: comfort, privacy and optional shade.

You can build a DIY cabana quite easily with a few palettes, a couple of lightweight poles or long pieces of wood, and a large strip of fabric. 

If you love tinkering with pallets here’s a handy list of DIY garden pallet projects.

Plastic furniture is great when you’re looking for garden sunbathing ideas on a budget. It’s easy to move if you’re chasing the sun across your garden, and plastic comes in a bunch of fun colours and styles. Keep in mind though that coloured plastic will eventually fade in bright sunlight, and will need to be stored in windy weather unless you want it being flung around your garden!

Wooden loungers look beautiful in traditional gardens, and it’s a relatively durable material that won’t get too hot in the sun. However, a drawback is having to keep the wood well-treated to prevent rot and splitting, especially if you leave it outdoors most of the time.

This wooden lounge set from Made gives you a living room in the sunshine, with comfy chairs and a snug loveseat to curl up in with a book. Cushions and a throw keep things cosy, while the handy coffee table is perfect for drinks, snacks and books, it’ll also double up as a footrest.

laruna lounge set

Laruna Lounge Set, Made

Similar to wood, synthetic rattan sun loungers are beautiful and durable. If you’re prepared to invest in aluminium-framed styles and make the effort to keep it covered in bad weather, rattan patio furniture can last 15-20 years.

santiago deluxe rattan corner dining set

Santiago Deluxe Rattan Corner Dining Set, Harbour Lifestyle

Metal garden furniture is modern and lightweight, but can get very hot in the sun. You’ll want fabric covers, or to pay a little bit more for aluminium styles. See more garden furniture ideas.

Garden sunbathing ideas: Spread out on a sun deck

A solid floor is pretty essential if you’re going to be sitting out in your garden on a regular basis. Decking is relatively easy to install, looks beautiful and can even add value to your home. It’s also a great way to make difficult areas usable, like sloped or uneven gardens.

Take the time to plan where you’re going to put your sun deck carefully. Consider where the sun moves in relation to your garden, particularly at the time of day (and time of year) you’re going to want to be using your deck the most. It’s not just about sun exposure, either – where will you find shade on really hot days, and how exposed to the wind or rain might you be in spring and autumn?

Also think about how much furniture you want to have on the deck, and how big it will need to be in order to comfortably move around (especially with food or drinks if you’re planning on entertaining, too).

Another key factor when sunbathing is privacy. Whether you picture yourself sunbathing or dining al-fresco on your deck, you can minimise how overlooked you are by adding sail shades, pergolas or a giant parasol.

Remember, wooden decks typically need annual treatments to prevent rot, plus you’ll need to keep them clean to prevent them from becoming slippery. If you want something that’s easier to look after, consider investing in aluminium decking, or even a composite polymer material – although you’ll still need to keep them clean! We’ve got more tips for building a low-maintenance deck, if you’re interested.

Garden sunbathing privacy ideas: Create shade and tan in private

Even when you’re dead-set on topping up your tan, it’s important that your garden sunbathing ideas include a shady spot to retreat to in the heat of the day. Even if not for yourself, giving kids and pets the option of shade is really important if they’re out in the garden with you! Privacy when sunbathing is also key when you’re basking in your bathers. 

If you have the space, putting up a pergola is worth the effort. It gives you a permanent spot for cooling off, plus it can provide much-needed shelter for using your garden in cooler months. Add trellis, screens, plants or fabric to provide additional cover and privacy.

traditional pergola

Traditional Pergola, Original Organics

Arbours provide somewhere comfortable to sit in the shade, and make for a lovely garden feature. This corner arbour from You Garden includes a trellis, perfect for integrating it into the garden with climbing plants. Add some cosy bench cushions and you’re good to go!

brighton corner arbour

Brighton Corner Arbour, You Garden

Being able to put a parasol up and down makes them ideal for small spaces. Plus, they’re easy to move as the sun crosses the sky and take up relatively little space in winter storage. This good-sized cantilever parasol from Leekes is perfect for any contemporary garden or patio. Parasols are also a quick and easy way to create privacy if you’re overlooked from the neighbour’s upstairs windows.

hartman pacific square cantilever parasol

Hartman Pacific Square Cantilever Parasol, Leekes

A gazebo is a practical and beautiful way to create shade and privacy in your garden for summer and shelter during the cooler months. Some gazebos have an option for varying degrees of shade, with mesh curtains and solid ones but you can easily create shade with decorative screen panels or gazebo curtains.

quadra timber gazebo

Quadra Timber Gazebo, BillyOh

Garden screens are a really effective way to create privacy. These vertical slat panels from Original Organics come in a set of 4 and can be used to section off parts of your garden and create the perfect, private sunbathing haven. If you don’t intend to move the screens, you can plant climbing roses or honeysuckle in pots and allow them to clamber over the screens, providing additional screening and a heavenly scent.

vertical slat panels

Vertical Slat Panels, Original Organics

If you’re serious about sunbathing, consider investing in a daybed, as well as looking great, they’re perfect for providing privacy and shade whilst sunbathing and some even double up as dining areas. This set from First Furniture comes with handy side tables, perfect for a relaxing day in the sun.

maze winchester rattan daybed

Maze Winchester Rattan Daybed, First Furniture

Garden sunbathing ideas: Bring the beach to you

It’s not that hard to bring the beach vibe to your garden at home, but it will require a total transformation. Luckily, we’ve already got a whole article dedicated to beach garden ideas to help you!

The features that will add the most impact include:

beach-themed sanctuary

Make your own beach-themed sanctuary. Image credit: @sharon_cycles_and_walks

Garden sunbathing ideas: Cool off in a private pool

Okay, having a pool in your garden isn’t the most practical choice in the UK – but there are lots of low-cost alternatives to building a swimming pool in your garden.

Installing a water feature is one way to bring the calming ambience of water into your garden. The sound of even the smallest fountain can soothe you on a hot day and – providing you have the space – offer somewhere to cool your feet.

Inflatable paddling pools aren’t just for kids! Choose a child-sized one if you just need somewhere to splash some cool water on you, or invest in an adult-sized one to have a proper dip with friends. Paddling pools are great if you have children or pets that need to stay cool too!

Natural pools are gradually becoming more popular in the UK, too. Instead of relying on chemicals (like chlorine) to stay clean, natural pools use a combination of biological matter (like plants) and UV light to filter out bacteria.

The result essentially looks like a very clean pond that is totally safe to swim in. Although they still need to be professionally installed and carefully maintained, they’re generally easier to look after and kinder to the environment than a conventional pool.

Or, you could install a hot tub! Although not technically the best option for staying cool in the heat, hot tubs are the ultimate garden luxury and will give you just one more reason to stay outside later into the evening. Check out our post on garden hot tub ideas for inspiration!

Try a chic, minimalist layout

Less time weeding is more time chilling. Think about how your garden is set up at the moment – could you reduce how much maintenance it needs?

Compared to busy flower beds that need pruning and lawns that need mowing, minimalist gardens generally need less work. A pared-back aesthetic also feels like a modern hotel or high-end spa – and if that doesn’t feel relaxing, what does?!

Here are some simple swaps you can make for a more low-maintenance garden layout:

Plants that fit this style include ornamental grasses, and succulents like sedums and sempervivums – all of which fare pretty well in UK weather. Plant them in pots with good drainage, and place them in reasonable sheltered areas with lots of sunlight. Just remember that one or two big planters will need much less attention than lots of smaller pots that will dry out quicker!

Check out our post about low-maintenance garden ideas for more ways of keeping gardening to a minimum.

Have you got the perfect sunbathing spot in your garden? We’d love to hear about your favourite ways to relax outdoors!

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By Kirsteen Mackay

Kirsteen is a professional writer who traded a tiny garden for an even smaller balcony when she moved to Brighton in 2015. Her interest in gardening stems from a keen desire to turn her simple slab of concrete into a lush urban oasis, complete with cosy-but-practical garden furniture and delicious edible plants.

View All Posts By Kirsteen Mackay »

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