The back garden of a new-build property is often a characterless space, just waiting to be transformed. The new owner of this Devon house is an interior designer, and she couldn’t wait to get her hands on the dull plot to make it a special place for herself and her husband, filled with garden ideas inspired by holidays abroad.
They’d lived in a flat for 11 years, so this was their first garden. The builders had left them with a rectangle of lawn, a small patio and some basic fencing. She was determined to make it a more sociable space with an Italian flavour, where they could spend summer days and nights outside, entertaining friends.
‘I designed the garden myself, taking into account the way the sun moves round,’ she says. ‘The bottom end gets lots of sun later in the day, so it definitely had to be two separate relaxing areas: there was no point just having one next to the house, as we’d be missing out.
'It was always the plan to make the garden an outdoor room where we could eat and entertain guests as well as chill out ourselves. However, having done up the house, we were on a tight budget and knew we’d have to do lots of the work ourselves. The patio was the only labour we paid for.’
‘We wanted a patio that went right across the back of the house, plus a gravelled area at the other end. To do that, we had to remove four tons of soil. We did it over a weekend with friends helping, shovelling it into a wheelbarrow and then taking it to bags on the drive. Luckily, we didn’t have to take it through the house.
'Also, we arranged for it to be collected by a farmer who wanted to use it on his land – so at least it was used again. Everything was done in our spare time, so the garden ended up taking six months in total, but it was worth it.’
‘I didn’t want anything too trendy or too modern for the fixtures in the garden, as we’re not moving any time soon. Grey patio tiles were out, so I went for classic cream, which we also used as a path to get to the other end. We’ve been on holiday to Italy several times, and I was keen on a rustic look with hints of earthy colours like brown, orange and cream.
'We had a result with our big outdoor sofa near the house, which was ex-show home and cost just £50. We also invested in a good value sofa and chair set to give us plenty of options for guests.’
‘We’ve put in an awning as a shelter at the patio end, next to the house, which means we can spend time outside, even if it’s raining. Most people think we’ve put it there for the sun, but it’s really just protection from bad weather! I love to sit out there in a downpour with a hot chocolate.
'We also do mini outdoor film nights out there. The projector screen is positioned underneath the awning and just pulls down, so you can see it clearly. We often invite friends round for a film night. We learned that you need to think about where you might need electric points at the planning stage.’
‘I love flowers, but I’ve never had a garden before, so it’s been a steep learning curve to get them to grow. I didn’t want to plant flowers in beds, in case they didn’t work out; instead I’ve got them in pots, which can be moved around if they need more sun or some help. I’ve gone for my favourite colour palette – reds, pinks and purples – for the flowers, but in the beds I’ve stuck to evergreens.
'We added new boxed in beds on both sides, which we did ourselves after measuring the wood carefully, for a bit of interest. Now you can’t keep us out of the garden, whatever the weather.’
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