Before and after: making good use of an unloved garden space

An awkward suburban outdoor area has been turned into a family garden room fit for chilling out and alfresco entertaining
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  • 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 garden side return to see nothing but weeds and mess,’ explains the owner.

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    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.’

    Garden side return makeover

    suburban side garden with firepit

    They  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

    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.’

    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.

    DIY garden firepit

    mage credit: Colin Poole

    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.

    DIY decking pathway

    garden side return makeover

    Image credit: Colin Poole

    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.’

    Homemade log store

    Garden side return with log store

    Image credit: Colin Poole

    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.

    Upcycled jar planters

    garden makeover potting ideas

    Image credit: Colin Poole

    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.

    Solar powered garden lights

    garden lights

    Image credit: Colin Poole

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

    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.

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


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