Style Essential The Garden Stool

Enjoying a recent resurgence in popularity, barrel-shaped ceramic stools have been adorning Chinese gardens since the 17th century. Often called Chinese garden stools, these stools are one of the true workhorses of interior design. Functionally, they work as both table and seat and their small, portable size makes them perfect for just about anywhere inside (or outside) your home. From an aesthetic perspective, they can also double as sculpture and are a great way to bring color, texture, pattern or even just a new material into a room. -- It's little wonder you can spot them just about everywhere right now.

I love how the lattice work on this garden stool echoes the bamboo pairs on the opposite corner. If there's one thing I've learned from the professionals is that to create a cohesive design, you have to repeat elements (color, pattern, shape, etc.) across a room.

And, of course, a garden stool is perfectly suited for a garden, patio and other outdoor spaces. They're a great way to bring in color without fabric (because let's face it, dragging in your cushions every time it rains gets to be a pain).

In a smaller space, a pair make a great substitute for a coffee table, and are easily rearranged as extra seating for when guests comes. The cylindrical shape and subtle lattice pattern is also a great choice for more modern interiors like this one.

Their porcelain construction makes these stools the perfect, portable perch for the bathroom. Next to the tub, they're a great spot for a glass of wine and a stack of magazines (or, perhaps less glamorously but more realistically, for you as you bath the kids or dogs). In tight spaces they're also great as a vanity seat.

Tuck a pair underneath a console table. Not only will this play up the sculptural quality of the stools, but it's a nice way to ground a leggy table against a blank wall. This is also a great way to keep a few extra seats (or tables) out of the way when you're not entertaining.

A pair of larger stools is a great way to cap off the ends of an armless sofa (and provide a nice resting spot for your night cap as well, of course). I love the larger scale of these as well.

As with any table, don't be afraid to mix and match garden stools within the same room. Follow Ashley's lead and stick with the same color, while varying the patterns and/or shapes -- it's a great way to create subtle contrast and add texture within a room without going out on a limb.

Windsor Smith did the same thing in her pretty sun room, only this time with mossy green stools, which are a great earthy touch to a very feminine space.

Blue and white is a classic choice. The Chinoiserie small scale pattern is a great contrast to the larger patterns on the striped chairs and the plaid rug. By keeping the palette all blue and white though, this mix of patterns comes off as more tailored and less eclectic.

Another pretty blue and white example from Waterleaf Interiors. Here, the stool's pattern is reminiscent of the toile on the curtains. This medium-sized, more ornate pattern is a great bridge between the larger pattern of the plaid rug and the very small scale trellis pattern on the chairs.

I love how the icy green-blue of this garden stool brings out the same color in the area rug and wall color.

I love the unique pattern and colors of this particular stool. The turquoise and coral look particularly striking against the coral damask of the adjacent chair.

In this hallway decorated by Miles Redd, the deep forest green of the stool is repeated again in the brass and marble table lamps.

A garden stool in black works seamlessly in a more modern interior. In a classic drum shape and paired with the ikat and suzani fabrics in this living room, the stool reads as eclectic and bohemian.

If you're itching to get your hands on your own garden stool(s), I'd strongly suggest taking Camila's advice and hitting up for local Big Lots to snag the basic model on the cheap. Another great place to scout is HomeGoods, where I recently picked up a basic white, "double happiness" stool like the one shown above for under $40. [The above selection are all available at Wisteria for $120 a piece.] However, if you're looking for something a bit more out of the ordinary, here are a number of my favorite styles from the around the web. By and large, if you're looking for a truly stunning, designer-quality example, I'd suggest visiting Clayton Gray Home or Tonic Home (both of which carry many of the same styles). For classic Chinoiserie styles, try Gumps. For more wallet-friendly options, try, where there are a number of fun, colorful styles that cost under $100.

Source list (clockwise, from top left): 1. Dragonfly Ocean Blue Ceramic Garden Stool (; $99.99). A great way to bring a bold pop of color into a room. The dragonfly print is a bit juvenile though so I'd keep this in a kids' space or make sure to pair it with more sophisticated pieces. 2. Vine Stool (white with green vines) (Clayton Gray Home; $240). A great print in several color ways, but I love this green and white for a sunroom. 3. Zebra Ceramic Garden Stool (Tonic Home; $280). Perfect for the animal print lover. 4. Hex Stool in white (Clayton Gray Home; $250). An interesting mix of Moroccan and Chinoiserie makes this a favorite of mine. 5. Celadon Dragon Garden Stool (Gumps; $295). Absolutely adore the intricate relief work on this one. Like the gorgeous celadon color, it's subtle, but so rich. 6. Lattice Garden Tea Stool (Tonic Home; $240). These are nice and high, which makes them ideal for taller seating. 7. Carved Stool (Wisteria; $249). Another classic style in a wonderfully watery, deep blue. 8. Ming Fu Dog Stool (Tonic Home; $185). I absolutely adore the pattern on this one -- it's the perfect choice if you're looking to add a touch of blue and white Chinoiserie. 9. Openwork Garden Seat (Horchow; $195). Made of crushed stone and resin, this one is really built to withstand the great outdoors. 10. Hexagon Garden Seat with Cutwork (Target; $169.99). A very intricate pattern for the price point. Also, Plantation is selling to for over $100 more!

Source list (clockwise, from top left): 1. Cane Round Ocean Ceramic Stool (; $129.99). A unique style for a garden stool, but it's pure Palm Beach. 2. Zodax Modern Japon Garden Stool (Walmart; $159). I seriously can't believe this is from Walmart! The scroll relief reminds me so much of Barbara Barry's signature flourish. 3. Hexagonal Gray Ceramic Stool (; $134.99). The midtone gray is a sophisticated and on-trend choice. 4. Garden Stool with Flower Design (Target; $219.99). I love the delicate pattern and colors on this one. A great starting point for a room's color scheme, I'd pull out the porcelain blues, blush pink and sage greens and carry it throughout a room. 5. Quilted Stool (Clayton Gray Home; $225). A thoroughly modern choice. 6. Celestial Cloud Stool (Clayton Gray Home; $460). A splurge to be sure, but this is pure sculpture. I love it for a dreamy bedroom. 7. Lotus Stool (Clayton Gray Home; $340). I love the antiqued finish on these; they look like they've been left out in the garden for years. 8. Cherry Blossom Garden Stool (Gumps; $295). The ultimate in Chinoiserie chic, cherry blossoms are a classic, pretty motif that will withstand any trend. 9. Square Garden Tea Stool (Tonic Home; $250). In case you're looking for a square, rather than a round shape. The earthy metallic colors are also a great way to perk up a room if you're still looking to keep it neutral. 10. Pierced Garden Stool (Plantation; $575). The chartreuse color and intricate lattice work make this stool worth the splurge.