Backyard Entertaining: How to Create Outdoor Seating To Entertain

Backyard entertaining plans usually start with food and music, but an often-overlooked secret to great entertaining is seating. The right type of seating and placement creates an environment that makes for comfortable dining, flowing conversations and enjoyable mingling.

Here’s what you need to know about furniture, placement and overall design of outdoor seating arrangements that will enhance your hardscape and custom pool design for great backyard entertaining.


Start with the Best Quality

Even though Bay Area pool owners enjoy cooling clouds and fog, you still get plenty of hot, sunny days. Sunlight will break down materials like fabrics, plastic or rubber, protective coatings, and some types of wood. When furniture is exposed to harsh elements, variations in temperatures, and ultra-violet rays, low cost items will only last a couple of seasons. It’s best to start with a high quality material that's designed to be out in the elements.


Consider Custom-Designed Seating

Since our clients are making a considerable investment in their backyard entertaining space, they don’t want to fall short in the final fitting out. To that end, we have on occasion designed outdoor furniture for clients who are looking for something completely unique. For example, we designed furniture for a client in Los Altos Hills as part of a larger artistic design. The customization of her landscape extended to artwork, an outdoor shower and even hand-railings.

We worked with John Lamos, a well-known artist from San Francisco (his work was recently featured in FineGardening magazine), to create the artwork and design the sofas, seats and the firepit. The client worked with her interior decorator to pick out colors and pillows. We then had the seating made with a very high-grade material designed to withstand harsh environments, so it will last for years. As an additional bonus, she doesn’t have to drop what she’s doing to put furniture and cushions away inside or in a protective container when it rains.


Image of artist, custom designed seating and firepit for backyard entertaining.

Choose Your Materials

We like teak if you’re looking to create a resort-style look and feel for your backyard entertaining. Teak has been used on yachts and luxury boats for centuries because of its beautiful look and extreme durability. It adds a warm feel as well as an air of luxury and elegance to any backyard entertaining occasion. 


Create Outdoor Dining Spaces

Bring your indoors outdoors to elevate the comfort level of your backyard entertaining. A complete table and chair set lets you recreate the feel of a living room. Instead of having guests sit around the TV or hang out in the kitchen, create outdoor spaces that draw people poolside or deeper into your backyard. A great pool and landscape design extends the living space of your home so your furniture should support that.

One of our favorite sources for outdoor furniture sets is Restoration Hardware. Their outdoor seating is designed to withstand the weather while creating a luxurious, resort-style feel. Along with durable, composite materials for the seating, they use special fabrics designed to look beautiful and resist fading and cracking.

Benches and Hardscaped Seating

Expand your seating choices with outdoor benches and hardscape seating options such as walls that double as a seating area. Small spaces can especially take advantage of this to create more entertaining options, as we did in a project we call “Grecian Splendor.

Image of a stone spa with a waterfall and seating built in.


If you have a larger estate, benches are a wonderful addition to pathways or gardens. Benches should be placed in strategic locations where they have a useful function. It may be a place that calls you to stop and rest, it could be a spot that has a fabulous view or it invites you to enjoy a focal point in the garden.


Create Destinations for Backyard Entertaining 

People often think their main seating should be right under the patio or outside the door of the house and end up feeling crowded. While it might be convenient to have seating options nearby, we often invite our clients to have us create multiple destinations within their backyards.

We’ll look for spaces that aren't too far from the house, but just far enough to where we can design a separate place to sit, dine, or enjoy a cocktail while you look over a water feature. We’ve designed many hillside pool projects where we’ve leveraged the change in elevation to create unique and distinct destinations within the grounds.

For example, we’ll create a staircase that leads you down to a sunken dining area or a lounge area where you're perhaps three or four feet below the rest of the yard. Add a fire pit with seating and you have a cozy space out of the wind.

Image of custom-designed outdoor seating, perfect for backyard entertaining.


Even if you have a small backyard, it’s possible to create multiple destinations to allow people to move around and join different small groups for conversation and socializing. Strategic seating arrangements of hardscaped elements or outdoor furniture invites your family and guests to make the most out of your estate for backyard entertaining. If you're looking to design or rebuild your pool, work with a design team that will go beyond pool building to consider every aspect of backyard entertaining.


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