The Ultimate Guide to Garden Bistro Sets
A garden bistro set is the perfect place for two to sit outside and watch the flowers – and your conversation – bloom!
Bistro sets typically come with two chairs and a small table, which is ideal for holding your sandwiches, coffee, or something stronger (we prefer a jug of Pimms!)
If you’re looking for a new bistro set to add the finishing touch to your garden, we’ve created this handy guide to answer everything you need to know. So, make yourself a cuppa, get comfortable, and let us ‘bistro’ all our knowledge onto you!
What is a bistro set?
Bistro sets originated in Paris, where compact sets of tables and two chairs would be positioned outside informal ‘bistro’ cafés, to accommodate customers on narrow streets. They were typically made from metal and could sometimes be folded for easy transport and storage. These days, bistro sets are popular around the world and are used in a variety of locations, including in the garden.
Why choose a garden bistro set?
A garden bistro set is the ideal outdoor seating option for a one or two-person household. It can be a useful addition to a small patio or balcony, providing a place to relax, eat and drink outside, in the absence of the space required for larger outdoor furniture. Bistro sets are perfect for enjoying a cup of tea with the morning birds or a glass of vino with a friend!
What to consider when choosing a garden bistro set
Materials for garden bistro sets range from PU rattan with padded cushions, to colourful metal options. Some of the most popular options are:
Poly-rattan reigns supreme in the world of garden furniture, and this is just as much the case with bistro sets. This manmade material has the stylish appearance of natural rattan, with the increased durability of plastic. PU rattan bistro sets are often based around powder-coated metal frames and may have matching weatherproof cushions. They are attractive, lightweight and weather-resistant – check out our Hampstead Bistro Set for a great example!
Metal bistro sets can offer a charming, vintage Parisian look and can come in a range of brightly painted colours. Wrought iron sets are popular for their elaborate, ornate designs. However, many metals are prone to rust if exposed to water (a serious concern if you live in the UK!) For this reason, aluminium is one of the most practical choices for your bistro set – it’s rust-resistant, lightweight and easy to maintain.
Wood is another option for your bistro set. This may be either a hardwood, such as teak or eucalyptus, or a softwood, such as pine. Wooden bistro sets can be stained or painted for a more modern look. You will need to keep on top of oiling and treating the wood to maintain weatherproofing and keep it looking its bistro best!
Since most bistro sets consist of two chairs and a small table, their size is much less varied than with other styles of garden furniture. However, you’ll still want to consider whether you have space for only a slimline bistro set, or if you have room for more luxurious options, with wide padded seats (perfect for snoozing in the sun!) Remember that you’ll need enough space around the chairs for access. If you’re really tight on space, consider a folding design that can be packed away when not in use.
The style of chair available with bistro sets ranges from plush armchairs with cushioned seats and backrests, to bar stools, to basic dining chairs. As well as size and appearance, consider how often you will be using your bistro set – and therefore how important comfort and cushions are to you. You will also find bucket-shaped rattan chair options and chairs with footrests, such as our Oxford Multi-Use Set, which multi-tasks as a day bed, sun loungers, and a bistro set.
Can I leave a garden bistro set outdoors all year round?
This depends on the material of your bistro set, as well as your climate. We always recommend covering outdoor furniture over winter to keep it in the best possible condition. However, most garden furniture is designed to be left outside and is pretty hardwearing. As bistro sets can be smaller and lighter than other furniture, you may need to bring them inside during storms and high winds, to prevent them from making a bid for freedom!
Can I use a garden bistro set indoors?
Garden bistro sets are primarily designed for outdoor use, but there’s no rule to say you can’t use them inside as well! This can be an especially good idea during winter when you want to protect your set from the elements. Unlike bulkier garden furniture, a bistro set can easily slot into a conservatory or living space – just bear in mind that it might not be as comfy as your favourite TV chair!
Are garden bistro sets easy to assemble?
This depends on the bistro set, so if you’re not a fan of DIY, make sure to check the product description for this information before purchasing. Generally speaking, being smaller, bistro sets are one of the easier types of garden furniture to assemble. For example, the chair pieces may arrive assembled, and you will just be required to screw on the legs or put the finishing touches to your set, before you can sit back and enjoy it!
How do I maintain a garden bistro set?
You should always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for caring for your garden bistro set. The maintenance required will depend on the material and construction of your furniture. Generally speaking, PU rattan and metal bistro sets are easy to brush clean but can require covering to prevent rust, weathering and UV damage. Wooden bistro sets may require annual oiling to preserve their weatherproofing and keep them in tip-top condition.