Most of the time the height of a wall is determined by how much retaining it needs to do. But a seat wall is 18" tall no matter if it's retaining soil or not. So why is it one of my favorite design tricks?
A seat wall hides extreme changes in slope behind the wall.
I designed this patio on a previously unusable side yard with a hefty slope. At the top of the stairs, the wall is retaining soil. At the far end, there is about a 4' drop off. Imagine how different this outdoor room would feel without the seat wall!
The level horizontal line just looks good.
It is visually pleasing for the same reason we like gazing at a horizon.
Creating that strong line with a short wall allows you to go wild with plantings and perhaps even use some plants that might be too rambunctious in a normal garden setting. Alternatively, if the wall is higher than the soil behind it, you can use plants that have ugly bare stems because the bottom of the plant will not be visible.
A seat wall is incredibly functional.
We get tons of extra seating, without looking like extra seating.
I often get requests for patios that will feel cozy when it's just their family but can also accommodate parties of 20 or more. This project shows a seat wall in the background, looking inconspicuous until needed for overflow seating. Behind the wall is a change of grade from one neighbor to the other. The client wasn't ready to tackle the fencing and property lines just yet, but wanted to create usable space in the backyard. The seat wall is a perfect solution.