How the heatwave helped us fall in love with the garden day bed

 The garden bed has become the must-have summer style item of 2018
 The garden bed has become the must-have summer style item of 2018

When it comes to heatwaves, Britain typically reacts with the rash euphoria of a nation that knows this to be a fleeting state of affairs, and an imperative to absorb what little sunshine is thrown its way, while it can. Hence the annual run on charcoal, gin and ice – and, no doubt, the current halloumi crisis. 

But with what some have predicted to be the longest, hottest summer in years on the cards, it seems more of us are investing in even longer-term ways of enjoying the rays. 

It’s in this context that the garden bed has become the must-have summer style item of 2018. No, not the bed in which you plant your perennials, but one in which you can plant yourself – feet up, book in one hand, Negroni in the other – dreaming you’re by a pool in some sunny foreign clime, rather than a patio in the ‘shires.

“More so than ever, we Brits are seeing our outdoor space as a true extension of our homes,” says Vicky Angell, outdoor living buyer at John Lewis, where sales of outdoor beds have risen by more than 120 per cent in the last two weeks.. “The current sunny spell has driven an increased interest from customers to upgrade their gardens to enjoy the longer evenings, investing particularly in day beds and garden accessories such as outdoor rugs, cushions, throws and lanterns to create the perfect outdoor space for entertaining.”

It is the unadulterated decadence of a full-length day bed, though, that truly evokes memories of Moroccan holidays past and lazy afternoons spent on sunsoaked terraces. 

The current spell of good weather allows to forge a different relationship with our outdoor spaces Credit: http://www.gapinteriors.com

Raj Tent Club, which sells and rents out luxury marquees, pavilions, Indian wedding tents and outdoor furnishings is among those reporting a spike this month in interest in its metal day beds, which it attributes to the spell of unusually good weather. 

“It’s something we’ve had for years but the popularity has shot up,” says a spokesman, adding that the boom applies more to day beds to hire rather than purchase. Its Palm Springs day bed costs £1,000 to buy, but can be hired if you are throwing a particularly laid-back garden party.

John Lewis’s own Leia cosy daybed, crafted from FSC-certified Eucalyptus, retails at £529, but prices elsewhere can climb into the thousands for styles fashioned from rattan, metal or wood. Oka’s offering even comes with wheels. 

Charlie Napier, who with his fellow Cornwall-based artist wife created the bespoke Sunbeam Jackie day bed for a client (priced at an eye-watering £15,000), suggests financially-motivated staycations mean we’re spending more time at home over summer and are therefore keen to make the most of what we’ve got.

Our embrace of the garden day bed suggests an altogether different type of outdoor living: one that sees us lounging for hours

“I think people are taking more interest in their gardens as an extra room,” he says. “The interior has been done and done and done,” he adds, linking our fondness for luxuriating outdoors to the relatively recent boom in glamping and even growing our own food.

But the role of the weather is impossible to ignore: the day bed allows the kind of deep relaxation only possible outdoors when the prospect of a thundercloud breaking suddenly overhead doesn’t threaten. Where once we might have perched on the edge of our fold-up garden chair, poised to run inside when the weather turned, our embrace of the garden day bed suggests an altogether different type of outdoor living: one that sees us lounging for hours, as we might when on holiday in some foreign sunspot.

No surprise then that some of them include such locales in their names. Witness the £1,049.00 maze rattan Tuscany Toronto daybed from Robert Dyas (presumably it’s specifically the Tuscan vibes we’re after here, rather than the Canadian), the Venice rattan garden day bed from Rattan Direct (£599), or the Marrakesh daybed set from Direct Outdoor Living (£799.99). 

With the lifestyle of any society undoubtedly influenced by the climate in which it exists, perhaps it’s natural to expect we should adapt ours to our changing weather patterns.

I think people are taking more interest in their gardens as an extra room

Countries such as Spain, long accustomed to hot weather, have famously made the afternoon siesta a fixed part of their routine, and while we’re unlikely to see British office workers downing tools during the week any time soon, the current abundance of sunshine give us every reason to expect a rise in siesta living in British leisure time. Into which space, of course, comes the day bed.

Sarah Morgan, chair of the Society of Garden Designers, says: “Nomadic cultures are perhaps some of the most creative and economical in the style of the outdoor bed. The benefits of sleeping outside in the shade, particularly amongst plants, lowers the blood pressure, restores energy and boosts productivity for the rest of the day.

A simple hammock strung between two trees is all it need take if room for a permanent day bed is restricted. A whole new perspective is opened up of the sky, tree canopy and sleeping to birdsong.”

Summer time, and the living is easy: we're no longer perching on the edge of our fold-up garden chair, waiting for rain Credit: www.gapinteriors.com

There is also the undeniable influence of social media: the outdoor buying team at John Lewis says it is seeing “customers purchasing that one special item that will provide a talking point when entertaining friends, or make their gardens more Instagram-worthy.” A quick scroll through #gardendaybeds on the photo-sharing platform shows one enterprising soul has even set up a four-poster outside, complete with billowing drapes.

Meanwhile, the evident popularity of Moroccan design styles – boosted last year by the opening of the Musée Yves Saint Laurent Marrakech – is only fuelling our desire to throw colour, cushions and patterns at the problem. Just make sure you have enough room to do the dash-and-stash with them, indoors. Sod’s law says that as soon as you’ve achieved the perfect outdoor set-up, the heavens will open.

Check out our guide to the best garden chairs, loungers and day beds for a laid-back summer for further inspiration.