A big part of the role of landscape architects comes down to selection - selecting the right plants for the site, selecting the right paving material for the project, etc. And while designers may place a premium on customized furnishings, the reality is that a great deal of the furnishings in any project will come from a third party, which the designer will specify in accord with the client's wishes.
The importance of having a thorough knowledge of materials and styles is paramount, not just for the final selection but for guiding the project and answering the client's questions along the way.
If you have a need to learn more about base materials or even stylistic considerations for accoutrements in your residential design, The Professional Designer’s Guide to Garden Furnishings may be up your alley. Author Vanessa Gardner Nagel brings to the text decades of experience in the design fields, first as an interior designer and then as an outdoor/garden designer. A stickler for detail, she starts the text going into a history if design (stretching back to the ancient world), and then goes onto considerations in light of the associated architecture and various specific design styles (Arts and Crafts, Mediterranean, etc.) before moving onto the materials that make up the bulk of the text.
The types of furnishings she covers include furniture, fabric, lighting, containers, arbors, and heating. This, along with the choice of the word "garden" in the title should tip you off that the emphasis here is on private residential settings and not public, commercial, or institutional ones. As a result, for example, there is no section on masonry for paths or retaining walls. Non residential scenarios get the occasional nod, such as in the section on textiles (the fabric chosen for commercial furniture must be more durable than that chosen for a residential setting), but those distinctions are few and far between.
The materials she covers are wood, metal, textiles, wicker, ceramics, stone, glass, concrete, and synthetics. It may seem that the author is writing a book intended for use by the homeowner or hobbyist. That would be a mistaken notion, however, since she goes into greater depth than what the casual hobbyist would be interested in, and the text as a whole doesn't ply in the "tips and tricks" trade the way a less professional text might.
The section on each material consists of standard information such as histor, basic types, care and maintenance, and sustainability concerns plus sections unique to each material. It is a guide to selection and not a manual on how to work with a given material. For example, the section on stone includes information on how artisans work raw stone into finished pieces, but not enough to instruct the reader how to do so him- or herself. Each chapter, then, is a thorough overview of the material, but not a complete technical manual. It essentially gives you enough information so that you know what to look for and what questions to ask while searching for that right piece, or commissioning someone to produce it for your client.
Some of the sections seem a little overly-brief - the section on synthetics in particular seems to get short shrift- but all in all it is an informative manner which will likely fill in the gaps in some of your knowledge of materials.