Site Furniture: A Comprehensive Guide

How to choose the right pieces to complete your urban landscape, park, or trail

Site furnishings are an essential element in creating thriving, inviting outdoor social spaces. The right site furnishings, carefully chosen and appropriately installed, will create opportunities for vibrant social landscapes that offer people the chance to connect, build community, and fully enjoy your carefully designed landscape in safety and comfort.

Site furniture includes commercial grade benches, trash cans, bike racks, picnic tables, bollards, and lighting. Site furniture is stationary (not moveable or portable) and durable, and, ideally, should last for years, even under the stress of heavy public use.

a man sits on a bench next to a set of bike racks
Site furnishings are public amenities that invite people to linger and bring life to your landscape, creating a sense of community, supporting local businesses, and enhancing an area’s appeal.

Making the right choice

When selecting your site furnishings, you’ll want to consider three broad categories: functionality, style, and material. Your evaluation of each piece of site furniture will first be determined by its function. Benches, for example, serve a separate and distinct function from trash cans, recycling receptacles, bike racks, or bollards.

When considering benches, for instance, think about what kind of bench you’ll need based on where it will be located and what might best serve the needs of the people who will use it. A bench placed against a wall may not require a backrest, for example.  Waste disposal furnishings will come with a different set of considerations, including bin volume, lid type, and maintenance requirements.  Exciting new smart waste technologies can also be considered, allowing you to monitor how full your bins are remotely!

Next you’ll want to think about style. Thinking again about benches, you’ll want to choose something that blends in with your existing landscape architecture, complementing your space with its shape and design.

Finally, you’ll consider material. An outdoor park bench, for example, will face different environmental factors and volume of use than one placed at a sheltered bus stop or in a commercial plaza.

a garbage can
Consider functionality, style, and material when selecting the right site furnishings for your project.


When choosing site furniture, the first thing to consider is the site environment and climate. Choosing the wrong material for the site environment will adversely impact the durability and longevity of your site furniture. Think about where the site furniture will be installed. Will the site furniture be installed indoors or outdoors? What kind of weather will the furniture have to endure? Will the area be hot, or cold? Wet or dry?

Typical site furniture materials include wood, steel, wrought or cast iron, and aluminum or plastic. Each offers advantages and disadvantages.

Wood is a classic material for outdoor benches and picnic tables. Sustainable and durable, wood has the added benefit of being 100% biodegradable. When selecting the right wood consider how much weathering (and therefore maintenance) the furnishing will endure. Rainy climates can be tough on wood, which can make wood susceptible to mold and rot, but so can hot, dryer climates, which can lead to cracking.

Steel, an alloy of carbon and iron, is a durable, elegant material for site furnishing. Carbon steel, which includes the addition of carbon, is a great choice for furniture that needs to resist dents and retain its shape. Stainless steel, which includes the addition of chromium, is rust resistant and low maintenance, making it an ideal choice for harsh environments.

Cast iron is both tough and ideal for decorative site furniture, offering a touch of charming old-world aesthetic to any space. Because it can be poured into detailed molds, cast iron is ideal for creating intricate designs and shapes.

Aluminum is lightweight, durable, and corrosion resistant. Aluminum is perfect for outdoor bike racks, bollards, and benches, as it’s easy to move and install, and works well in poor weather conditions. 

Plastic site furnishings typically include plastic wood composite or plastic lumber, which can be created from recycled plastics. It’s flexible, low-maintenance and splinter-free, making it a great substitute for wood.

a modern park bench
Typical site furniture materials include wood, steel, wrought or cast iron, and aluminum or plastic.

Design and finish

Different materials offer various design options and will require distinct finishes, depending on the environment they will be placed in. The type of wood selected for benches, for example, should be chosen with a mind for durability as well as style. Wood is typically oil brushed to last longer in outdoor environments. Oil should be reapplied to wood furnishings periodically as part of a regular maintenance regime.

Steel and iron furnishings require coatings to prevent rust. Bollards, for example, are typically powder coated for long term outdoor service, prolonging the life of the fixture, and reducing the need for maintenance and replacement. Powder coating employs an electrostatic charge to coat the furnishing, which is then cured, creating a strong, hardened protective shell. Powder coating finishes are long-lasting and cost-effective, ensuring the longevity of your site furnishing. Stainless steel resists corrosion but can be powder coated to add color. Powder coating is thicker and more durable than paint, which is more prone to environmental damage, including chipping and flaking.

a man powder coating a metal surface
Site furnishings can be powder coated to prevent rust, reduce maintenance, and prolong the life of the product. Unlike paint, powder coating doesn’t chip or flake, requiring less maintenance and reducing costs over time.


The theft of site furnishings is typically prevented by securing the product to a clear, cement surface either with a drop-in concrete insert or expansion screws.

These three considerations: functionality, style, and material are a great place to start to evaluate what types of site furnishing will best suit your space and users’ needs. Each can branch out to wider considerations: the layout of your space, any accessibility requirements, the amount of traffic you expect, and so on. All of this information can be compiled to choose the right pieces to complete your urban landscape, park, or trail.