Over the past few years, Chinese garden stools have started to become a common sight in American decor. These petite, decorative ceramic pieces have been used in China for more than a thousand years, and are both beautiful and extremely versatile. With highly detailed designs and vivid, colorful glazes, these stools are eye catching and elegant, and are just the right shape to be used in a variety of different ways, both indoors and out.
Originally Chinese garden stools were designed to be an organic part of very well groomed gardens. Typically made of wood and designed to blend in to the landscape, they were very much designed to allow people to sit a little closer to nature. Contemporary garden stools are now typically made of colorfully glazed ceramic, but while this makes them a tad less natural looking, it makes them very hardy and durable for use as outdoor furniture. These stools can be placed on deck or patio or directly in a garden on dirt, grass, or gravel without any problem. The glossy finish stands up well to weathering, so the stools can be left outside year round in most climates, adding a nice little pop of color when placed out in the garden.
That said, contemporary Chinese garden stools are starting to show up a lot more indoors, too. Particularly when used as sculpture or accent tables rather than seating, these gorgeously detailed, brightly colored tables make fantastic statement pieces and have started to become a popular choice for adding a little exotic touch to a room’s decor. Chinese dragons and elegant, lacy cutouts or nail holes are particularly common designs, but some stools have a more distinctly Chinese flair than others.
The most obvious use for a Chinese garden stool is, of course, for sitting on. These compact stools offer comfortable, portable seating in a very small footprint. While you wouldn’t want to use them to build an outdoor seating area, they are a great way to add one extra seat without taking up the space of a full sized chair. Because they’re so durable they can be placed directly in a garden, for a great natural ambiance without the cost or space requirements of a large, permanent bench. Plus, they’re relatively small and lightweight, which makes them easy to relocate as needed.
Because of their unique barrel or drum-like design, Chinese garden stools are also just the right size, shape, and height to be used as small accent tables, with a flat round table-like top and a small enough footprint that they can be placed close to another piece of furniture without taking up too much space. As and added bonus, their often highly intricate designs and bright colored finishes make these stools beautiful, eye-catching pieces that can help set an assertive color scheme for the room.
Chinese garden stools also make fantastic plant stands. The small round top is flat, stable, and just the right size for a potted plant, while the weatherproof (and often hole-filled) ceramic construction can stand up to spills and draining water. They’re just tall enough to put a plant at a good displaying height, and attractive enough to help dress up a simple green plant, like a succulent or fresh herbs.
All that said, many Chinese garden stools are attractive enough to be used as sculptures all on their own. These are particularly lovely when placed out of doors, as they can be used to add a little pop of color and texture (or even a more modern sculptural touch) to any part of your garden, but also make a nice accent piece inside, too. And the best part is, even if you only intend the stool to be used decoratively, it can easily be picked up, moved, and used temporarily as a seat when needed.
What do you think of these classic Chinese garden stools? What would you use one for, and where would you put it? Let me know in the comments!