Before and after: from shabby garden to tropical oasis with tiki bar

A spot for serving drinks completes a sizzling summer look

wooden cottage with garden and pink chair
(Image credit: Simon Whitmore)

When the owner bought this three-bed Thirties house in Surrey back in 2013, it was a total mess. 'It took time to get it looking how I wanted,' she admits. 'I rented out the spare bedroom to a housemate, but it wasn’t until a year ago that I decided it was time to do something with the garden.'

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'It was scruffy, ugly to look at and 
was really in need of a makeover if I was 
going to be able to use the space. The garden is about 80ft long and was going to be a lot of work, but luckily the owner had a few family members who said they’d help, which was a godsend.'

Tropical garden makeover with tiki bar

tropical garden with green plants and grass lawn with pink chairs and table

(Image credit: Simon Whitmore)

'The first step was to landscape the grass area, to get 
it nice and flat,' the owner continues. 'There was an old pond 
and a rockery, which we removed, and 
I thought about laying a new lawn as the grass was really patchy, but I realised that I didn’t want to spend time mowing it. Instead, I opted for artificial grass and it’s a much easier option.'

'I also picked a smaller bistro set 
in bright pink and orange from eBay to give us a bit more seating – it’s a brand new set from George Home and it works perfectly with the vibrant colour scheme.'

wooden cottage with pink chair and green plants

(Image credit: Simon Whitmore)

'Next, I had decking built at the back and front of the garden so that we 
could have an area for seating. It made a huge difference and we stained it with oil rather than painting it as I quite like the colour of wood,' she goes on. 'Then I spotted a picture of a small tiki bar in a magazine, and I just knew I had to have one.'

living room with tree painted black board and wooden pen stand on wooden rack

(Image credit: Simon Whitmore)

'I was at a family barbecue and happened to show it to my uncle, who said he would be able to make me one,' says the owner. '
It only took him a weekend to build, and then I had electrics put in so we can plug in a blender for cocktails, along with some cheerful neon LED lights and optics. It’s always good fun at parties as everyone wants to play bartender!'

Patio seating area

living room with wooden flooring and green plant on pot

(Image credit: Simon Whitmore)

'I knew we needed an outdoor dining set but I wanted a big sofa, too. I found this corner sofa set on Amazon, which is great as it comes with a dining table and stools.'

Painted garage mural

painted garage mural with green and grey walls

(Image credit: Simon Whitmore)

'One thing that didn’t look part of the new garden scheme was the big brick garage, but I couldn’t think how best to disguise it. Then someone suggested getting a bespoke artwork painted on it by Dave Nash of Gnasher Murals. I asked for a secret garden image, so that it looks like another outdoor space.'

wooden wall and copper pineapple shaped lamps hanging with wires

(Image credit: Simon Whitmore)

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'I didn’t go mad with plants but I had some borders made out of sleepers and planted some palms and ferns and hardy bushes. I went to Dobbies and chose a selection to suit the tropical theme – everything from cacti to ferns which really give a lush look. We’ve had lots of fun decorating it with flamingo and pineapple accessories – it’s a totally tropical haven!’

Laurie Davidson

Laurie Davidson is a professional stylist, writer and content creator, who lives and breathes interiors. Having worked for some of the UK’s leading interior magazines, styled homes up and down the country and produced sets for TV shows, adverts and top brands, it’s safe to say Laurie has had a pretty exciting career. Find her on Instagram at @lifeofaninteriorstylist or over at