How to Choose a Custom Garden Bench

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..or 3 Things You Should Know About Wooden Garden Benches

The artists at Franklin Street Furniture have designed and built hundreds of custom fine furniture pieces and have appeared in national woodworking magazines on more than one occasion. Carl Johnson, partner in Franklin Street is an accomplished artist and furniture designer. Here he shares his expertise and experience in what to look for in a custom garden bench.

If your shopping trip for a garden bench will only extend to the local home improvement or garden supply store, you need read no further. The features that will be pointed out, the construction techniques that we recommend, are not available for sub $100 – and the end product that does meet these criteria will last a generation, not just the 2 or 3 years of the big box product lines.

Garden bench designed by Franklin Street furniture

Franklin Street was recently commissioned to build an outdoor garden bench with and Asian motif for a Japanese client. We’ll use that piece as an example below.

The Wood

Creating a custom design is part of every project that we do and the design that you choose, or work with us directly to create, will influence the selection of materials. If you’re having a custom garden bench done, that first thing that must be selected is the type of wood to use.

Most types of wood will not hold up well to continuous exposure to the weather without meticulous maintenance.  However, there are some woods that are very durable and hold up extremely well to the elements.

Our outdoor furniture and even doors and gate projects usually use one of the following; cypress, white cedar, white oak, redwood, teak or a tropical mahogany like Sipo.  To compliment this particular Asian-style bench design we chose cypress.

The Construction

The second thing to consider is the joinery. Joinery refers to the type of connection used  to attach one piece of wood to another. You can learn more about basic joinery here on Wikipedia.

We build 95% of all of our furniture with mortise and tenon joinery regardless of whether it’s indoor or outdoor. Mortise and tenon joints are a traditional method that uses the strength of the woods and adhesives to create a permanent, secure bond. This joint type has a reputation for strength and lasting generations!

joinery for a custom garden bench

The vast majority of the less expensive, mass produced garden furniture uses mechanical joints, such as screws and bolts, which rust and loosen over time.

The Glue

The importance of the adhesive used can be overlooked by even experienced woodworkers and custom furniture makers.  The best joinery in the world will be very short lived if the wrong glue is used to hold it together.

Franklin Street’s policy is to use waterproof adhesive 100% of the time.  Frequently our outdoor furniture, depending on the piece and the location will be made using a 2 part marine grade epoxy.  When mixed in the proper proportions, epoxy has incredible strength and is totally waterproof.

If it can be used in boat construction, how well do you think it will hold together your garden bench?!

Finish with the Finish

Other than the ignition design, you can personally have the most input on the finish. A finish isn’t strictly necessary if you’ve selected the proper wood. Over time and exposure to the elements the furniture piece will gradually turn a beautiful silver-gray color.  Just like the driftwood you see on the beach.

How to choose the finish for a custom garden bench
A natural finish preserves the color

If, however, you want that bench to stay its natural color or want a specific color, then a high quality exterior stain or exterior water repellant will be necessary.  These types of finishes usually need to be reapplied every 2 years but really help keep your outdoor projects looking new and will give them an edge over weather deterioration.

On this project we chose to brush on an Olympic Wood Protector clear coat so the natural color and beauty would show through.  Normally we spray or furniture finishes, but in this case we brushed so we could work the sealant into the seams and pores.

Choosing or Designing a Custom Garden Bench

Of course, this isn’t everything the artists at Franklin Street know about custom garden furniture design! If you’d like to view more of our projects, simply visit . If you’d like to discuss your own custom indoor or outdoor furniture project, please fill out the contact us form here.

10 Reasons to Buy Custom Furniture

posted in: Custom Furniture Choices | 0

Why Buy Custom Furniture?

The top 10 reasons to buy custom furniture vs. off the shelf.

Even though you may pay more for custom furniture, whether it’s through and interior designer or decorator or direct from a company like Franklin Street Furniture in Tampa, the results are worth it!

  1. The first and probably most common reason to buy custom furniture, or bespoke furniture as it’s sometimes called, is physical space. Often people searching the internet, sites like Houzz, Pinterest or crusing local furniture showrooms find a piece they like, but it’s simply not to the right scale. Once you compromise on the size of the furniture you could end up with a dysfunctional space.
  2. Purpose built furniture will literally be exactly what you need. Several of our clients have had us design and build Florida custom furniture makersa custom furniture display piece for specific collections. For example, an antique dollhouse collection has a variety of different sized items to display that just are not done justice in an off the rack storage cabinet. Think of the fine art or family heirlooms that you own – what is the ideal way for them to be displayed?
  3. Custom furniture can be completely unique. It’s not just he perfect scale, it’s the fact that no one will ever have the same piece of furniture. It has been designed with you, your taste, your decor and you home or office in mind. Even if you vary the fabric on a designer sofa the bones and shape will be the same. Franklin Street excels specifically at unique combinations of woods, metals and more that make each piece literally impossible to duplicate.
  4. Real custom furniture is always made by hand. Being hand crafted is different than just choosing from a selection of options in a furniture showroom. Real artists and artisans design and build each piece, selecting from different woods, metals and even lighting features. Hand made furniture.
  5. If you choose the right artists, they’ll produce custom furniture to a higher quality standard than any mass producer. In fact, Kate Swann, one of the Franklin Street Furniture artists is judging a Sate wide competition on furniture making – and the standards used are close to perfection.
  6. Custom furniture can mean more to you and your family. It’s not just built to house those family heirlooms, but can incorporate them into the furniture itself. Custom dining tables can be built from wood off of a family farm, display cases from your first company or business, or even just using an existing piece of your furnitucustom Japanese style entry tablere for inspiration.
  7. Make a legacy with custom furniture. Every family has something passed on from one generation to the next; a dining table, rocking chair, a bassinet. Will you add to that legacy with a store bought piece of furniture? No.
  8. You can add lighting in places you never could from a showroom piece. One of our favorite pieces is a custom entry table name Masamune (shown right). The table itself is an Asian style, and has custom lighting integrated underneath the top with an invisible pressure point to turn on and off in one corner. This feature makes it completely unique and uniquely functional.
  9. Going green with custom furniture is easy, and does make a difference. Many of the pieces created by Franklin Street Furniture are made from found materials. One of our favorite pieces was a conference table created for a local Cigar company from reclaimed wood at their original factory.
  10. You have more freedom to choose. Choose the style and ethic you want expressed. Choose the functionality of the piece. Choose finishing and textures. Choose to work with an artist instead of a factory.


So why buy custom furniture?

Because building custom furniture, or functional works of art, is important work. The end result will fit your life, your lifestyle and your home better than any factory produced item could. If you choose the right artists, it will provide you with a legacy piece that will last your lifetime and beyond.