Garden stools have long been a decorator favorite for their versatility, functionality, and beauty. These drum or barrel-shaped stools have been a part of Chinese tradition for over 1000 years, have been imported to the West for over 300 years, and continue to be a useful, attractive addition to homes today. The humble garden stool is just as at ease in a student’s studio apartment as it is in a vast, vaulted-ceilinged room, can be easily moved around within a home or from apartment to apartment, and adds style and color wherever it’s placed.
Photo: In a small bathroom with little storage, a garden stool provides a splash-proof spot for toiletries or stacked towels.
Though in glossy shelter magazines, you’ll often see garden stools used as purely decorative pieces tucked under a console table, decorators like to think of them as the perfect solution for anywhere you could use a little extra table space or pop of color. They make lovely drinks tables when placed next to a chair, bench, windowseat, or any other place you find yourself looking to set down a book or cup of tea. Two or three garden stools clustered together make a charming small-scale alternative to a coffee table for a diminutive loveseat or settee and will allow for more maneuverability in a tight space than a single, solid cocktail table.
Garden stools are also right at home in the bathroom! If you’ve run out of shelf space in a shower or lack a bench, a garden stool is an attractive alternative to a teak bench, and you can place it right in the shower stall. They’re also the perfect-sized table, impervious to splashes, to place next to a standalone tub and can hold stacked towels, bath salts, and other toiletries. If you have a pedestal sink or limited counterspace, a garden stool makes a sturdy perch for a makeup bag or blowdrying tools, and I love the idea of using one to hold a basket of toiletries for overnight guests.
These artful mini-tables can also preserve a perfectly arranged tablescape. Perhaps you’ve created a much-loved display of family pictures and a fresh bouquet on your foyer table, leaving no place to drop your handbag when you walk in. Or does the mere thought of potentially spilling a mug full of coffee on your laptop and paperwork-covered desk give you heart palpitations? A garden stool placed within arm’s reach will work beautifully in both scenarios, without making a space look cluttered up with tabletops. I also love using garden stools next to the bed; they’re just right for stacking all your nighttime reads while leaving ample room on a bedside table for a lamp, clock, and other bedtime essentials.
Decorators also know that garden stools are an easy way to add symmetry and play up a pre-existent focal point. To use them to this effect in your own home, try flanking a doorway, fireplace, or large piece of furniture – like a dining buffet or tall chest of drawers — with two matching or similar garden stools. Top them with a lush potted plant for extra oomph. Or leave them empty and enjoy having some new book-stacking spots, handbag holders, drinks tables, and moveable party-guest perches at the ready!
Kitty Burruss is a decorator, wife, and mother with quite a collection of garden stools that she uses both indoors and out.