‘We Made good use of dead space’
Heather turned an awkward outdoor area into a garden room fit for chilling out or partying
Heather revived an unloved area at the side of her 1970s home
Before we moved into our 1970s house six years ago, it had only had one owner – the whole house was in desperate need of updating,’ says Heather. ‘so that’s what we focused on first, which meant that the garden was largely forgotten. We knocked through the kitchen and dining room to make one large open-plan kitchen-diner, which I love, but it was depressing to look out of the patio doors on to the side return and see weeds and mess.
The main back garden was already full of large, mature shrubs when we bought the house, so it was low maintenance and we didn’t want to make any big changes. But the side return was an awkward space – you walk through it to get to our side gate – and it was really uninspiring, with discoloured old paving slabs and an ugly 1970s patterned concrete wall.
I’d seen some gorgeous fencing made from roofing battens, and we thought about doing something similar to cover up the concrete wall, as we couldn’t remove it completely. I was really drawn to fences painted in dark shades, possibly as we have a black feature wall in our living room. I thought it would be great to have a black surface outside, too.
Another idea from inside our house that we decided to include in the new garden was built-in bench seating. My husband Ben is really handy when it comes to DIY – he’d built us an L-shaped bench in the dining area, and we thought a similar design would work outside.
Choosing a focal point
Once we’d fixed the position of the bench, we designed the rest of the space around it. The fire pit was the next thing on our list. We’re keen campers, and we all love gathering around the campfire to cook or toast marshmallows, so Ben was really keen on the idea of a fire pit at
home. He found a steel fire bowl on Amazon, and built a brick surround.
For access to the side gate, we needed to put in a path, so we worked out a route that winds its way around the bench and the fire pit and out to the lawn at the back. I liked the idea of creating a seaside-inspired boardwalk style path, which Ben built using decking planks.
Progress was quite slow because we did all the work ourselves. After a final big push last autumn, we finally got the space finished. We used it for a few round-thefire evenings over the winter, but we’ve been really looking forward to enjoying our new garden in the summer. Ben’s put together a long list of recipes he wants to cook on the fire, so we’ll be doing lots of entertaining. As long as the British weather plays ball of course!’
TRICKY SPACE ‘This side return area is an awkward, triangular shape, but it makes the perfect hang out spot’
SOLAR POWER ‘I’m a sucker for vintage design, and loved the shape of these Edison-style solar lights’
IDEA TO STEAL ‘Painting fences a dark colour creates impact, and makes the space feel cosier and more intimateõ
BOARD WALK ‘We gave the path a boardwalk feel with decking planks, filling the spaces between them with pebbles’
LOG LOCK-UP ‘Ben’s always wanted a log pile, so he built himself one to store the firewood’
MIX ’N’ MATCH ‘I like to use all sorts of containers as planters’