Before and after: making good use of a garden’s dead space

An awkward suburban outdoor area has been turned into a family garden room fit for chilling out and alfresco entertaining

Before the owners moved into their 1970s house, it was in desperate need of updating. They focused on the interior first, meaning that the garden was largely forgotten. ‘We knocked through the kitchen and dining room to make one large open-plan kitchen-diner, but it was depressing to look out of the patio doors onto the side return and see nothing but weeds and mess.’ explains the owner.

Love your garden? Visit the Ideal Home garden shop and check out our curated collection of flowers and shrubs.

The main back garden was already full of large mature shrubs when the owners bought the property, so it was low maintenance and no big changes were needed. But the side return was an awkward space. ‘You walk through it to get to our side gate. It was really uninspiring, with discoloured old paving slabs and an ugly 1970s patterned concrete wall.’

suburban side garden with firepit

The owner had seen some gorgeous fencing made from roofing battens, and so thought about doing something similar to cover up the concrete wall as they couldn’t remove it completely. ‘I was really drawn to fences painted in dark shades and thought it would be great to have a black shade outside.’

They also decided to include built-in bench seating. ‘My husband is really handy when it comes to DIY. He’d build us an L-shaped bench in the dining area of our kitchen-diner, and we thought a similar design would work outside too,’ says the owner.

Heather Young garden fence

Once the position of the bench had been fixed the rest of the space was designed around it. The firepit was the next project on the list. Being keen campers, the family love gathering around the campfire, so they were very excited about recreating this with a firepit in their own garden at home.

The simple yet effective design has been made with a steel fire bowl from Amazon, with a brick-built surround.

Heather Young garden fire pit

For access to the side gate, the owners needed to put in a path. ‘We worked out a route that winds its way around the bench and the firepit and then out to the lawn at the back,’ the owner explains. ‘I liked the idea of creating a seaside-inspired, boardwalk-style path, which my husband built using deck planks.’

The owners always wanted a log pile so they built themselves one to store logs. Painted in the same grey shade at the fence, it really pops out against the natural tones of the logs and the garden’s white stones.

Heather young garden log pile Style at Home magazine

An assortment of rich coloured ferns and fashionable succulents frame the garden’s edge. ‘I like to use all sorts of containers and planters’ says the owner.

Heather young garden Style at Home

Edison-style solar lights hang amongst the trees, giving the garden space a vintage feel.

Heather young garden Style at Home

Progress was quite slow because the owner did the entire garden landscaping themselves. After a final big push, the garden makeover was finally finished in the autumn which gave the owners and their children a few last ‘round the fire evenings’ before the winter drew in.

Get the look

Buy now: Geo print cushions, £13 each, B&Q

Buy now: White pebbles, £8.08 per 22.5kg bag; white cobbles, £10.12 per 22kg bag, B&Q

Buy now: Fence painted in Nevermore, £24 per 2.5ltr, Valspar Garden Colours at B&Q

Buy now: Steel fire bowl, £77, Amazon

Buy now: 20 LED clear cap warm white festoon lights, £31.99  Lights4fun

Buy now: 3 bulb solar light set, £12.99, Noma Garden Art

This garden originally appeared in Style at Home, August 2017.

Image credits: Colin Poole

Visit the Ideal Home garden shop

Love your garden? Take advantage of our special offers on plants at the Ideal Home garden shop. Our curated collection of beautiful flowers and shrubs is guaranteed to add colour and charm to your outdoor space.

Ideal Home loves...