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Once you become aware of garden stools, you’ll start to see them everywhere.

The ceramic, barrel-shaped stools are sprinkled throughout the interiors of designers’ homes and on the pages of glossy home magazines. They are used as side tables, occasional seating and garden or room accents.

Their popularity might cause you to think they are a trend getting their moment of fame right now in the United States. Actually, they’ve been imported for more than 300 years.

Originating in China during the Song dynasty (960-1279), garden stools are thought by many to have evolved from the Buddhist gardening tradition in which natural elements, such as rocks and tree stumps, were used as seating and places to stop and reflect on the beauty of the surroundings.

Many of the earliest garden stools were carved out of stone. Influenced by the Ming dynasty’s aesthetic during the 17th century, garden stools evolved to become more delicate and decorative.

Many were designed with nailheads to resemble Chinese drums. Others started to have ornate carvings and colorful glazes with representations of different scenes, animals and symbols.

Today, garden stools are available in a wide variety of price ranges, in almost every color imaginable and in a new assortment of shapes. They are a practical designer tool to add texture, color and sophistication to a room, an almost immediate character enhancer.

Annie Bjorkland, who works at the Santa Barbara Design Center, 410 Olive St., which carries a wide variety of garden stools, described their versatility.

“Garden stools are a designer’s solution for all kinds of dilemmas,” she told Noozhawk. “They add a pop of color and pattern to any decor.

“Inside, they can be used as a side table, footrest or for extra seating. They are fun in the bathroom by the tub to hold towels or in a large shower. Outside, they can be grouped in a set of three or four with a large piece of glass on top to make a great looking outdoor cocktail table.”

They are also small scale and can replace larger surfaces that tend to collect clutter. Their weather-proof construction ensures that they can endure the seasons outdoors.

In American homes and gardens, their instant style boost and appeal is also proving to be enduring.

Noozhawk contributing writer Hilary Doubleday can be reached at hdoubleday@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.