‘We Made good use of dead space’

Heather turned an awk­ward out­door area into a gar­den room fit for chill­ing out or par­ty­ing

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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.

Start­ing point

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.

Tak­ing time

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’

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