Garden makeover reveal

AD | This post is part of a paid partnership with HIPPOWASTE.

Our garden makeover is complete (well, almost)! We started back in March and it’s been a mega slow project as we began just a couple of weeks before full lockdown so getting hold of the materials we have needed along the way has been very tricky and each order took weeks to arrive. I’m sorry that I’ve been banging on about it so much but this is my very first garden, having lived in flats before we moved here, so I’ve been really excited about it. We both feel really proud of what we’ve achieved over what has been a very difficult time balancing jobs and full time childcare. I hope you agree that we have done well with what we have got on a very tight budget; our house is very modest, covered in brown pebbledash with uPVC everything and the garden has no lovely features like brick walls or the like so it’s never going to be my ‘dream space’ but I’ve come to realise that that really doesn’t matter because we are so lucky to have what we have and I really love it here. We’ve done nothing fancy or clever whatsoever – this makeover was purely and simply about making this space feel more like ‘us’ and most importantly making it work for our family on a practical level.

Ta da!

And this is what it looked like in March…

We really didn’t use the garden in the eighteen months that we’ve lived here and you can see why from this picture. The concrete slab was at the heart of the problem as we couldn’t really use the french doors as the step was completely crumbled and it felt as though there was no point in spending time or money until we could get rid of it.

When we first bought the house we really didn’t consider how much there was to do on the outside of the house or how much it would cost. I remember going to a friend’s house who lives locally and she’d had all the fencing re-done, re-turfed and a new patio laid and it cost her £18k and I nearly fainted with shock! I came home and looked at our garden and thought there was just no way we would ever be able to afford to do what was needed to make it a nice space. The concrete was the real mental block for me as I couldn’t see a way around making it work but I also couldn’t figure out who would come and dig it out let alone how we’d dispose of it. When HIPPOWASTE got in touch with me about collaborating on a project of my choosing I wondered if this could be the way to dispose of the concrete and after reading about their different waste bags I realised we could make this happen. We used their MEGABAGS and they worked perfectly for all the hardcore waste we needed to remove. You can see more about the process in this post that I wrote a couple of months ago. I think knowing about how to dispose of waste holds a lot of us back from DIY projects so I’m really pleased to have worked with HIPPO.

We didn’t actually plan to do as much as we’ve done but once we started the wheels in motion by removing the concrete we could see it was going to take more than just a quick patch up to make the garden a nice place to spend time so we rolled with it and this is what we have done:

  1. Removed the concrete (we didn’t do this ourselves as it was a massive amount of labour!)
  2. Cleared the garden of brambles and weeds (we were literally left with not a single plant)
  3. Re-positioned the fence to gain back some of our garden from our neighbour and a side access gate
  4. Built a deck
  5. Laid turf where the concrete had been down the side of the garden
  6. Created a pergola
  7. Did a big garden clear out of junk that was here when we moved in hidden under brambles as well as bits of ours that we dumped at the end of the garden after DIY jobs
  8. Dug out flower beds and planted
  9. Got the house painted (we didn’t do this ourselves either).
Outdoor Lounge Set gifted by Cox & Cox

Mario and Jimi from JA Whitney Building Contractors did brilliant jobs removing the concrete and painting the house respectively. We knew full well that we didn’t have the time, tools or energy for those jobs. However, Jules was very excited about building the raised deck and he’s done a fantastic job – it looks very professional. It cost us a fraction of what it would have done if we’d paid someone to do it for us. It extends our living space so well and I decided it would work well to have an outdoor lounge set on the deck to make it a place to relax. The beautiful furniture was gifted by Cox & Cox and it is SO comfortable as the seats are so deep and the cushions sort of mould to your body (it’s called the Ravello Lounge Set and it’s actually sold out now). It is made of hardwood so will last and last and the deck wood will silver over time so the two will begin the merge into one another. You can often find me lying out on the sofa with a big cushion and I genuinely choose to sit here rather than inside, which says a lot. Mimi loves sitting out here at breakfast time and it’s perfect for socially distanced drinks!

The deck itself is nearly finished – just the bottom board to be attached – and we hope to add a planter on the edge for herbs. You can find out more deck details in this post.

We have trailed my potted Wisteria that I started growing about seven years ago up the back of the house. It was never happy on our sixth floor Bermondsey balcony because of the wind and since moving here it has doubled in size so I hope it will flourish and bush out in this new spot as it gets full sun here until about 2.30pm. As you can see the white paint has made ALL the difference!

Without doubt painting the house white has made an enormous difference but the other thing we are really pleased about is the fact that we managed to re-position our fence to claim back a few feet of garden that had been taken over by the neighbour many years ago. You can see on the left picture above that the fence angled into the garden and so the garden ended up being just the width of the house even though the house is semi detached and has a large side access. However, we pushed the fence back so that we now have more space and a side access gate that we also fitted (think I’ll paint that at some point). Having the extra space is great and it makes the house look bigger too! If we’d had a bigger budget I would have loved to have used nicer fencing but I plan to grow climbing plants all over it so it should vanish under green soon.

We gained all of this extra space by re-positioning the fence and we decided to lay turf here as it makes the garden look and feel wider. We made the corner of the deck curved so that when you come through the side access gate this new path opens up onto the garden.

The other space we have created is a dining area under the Wisteria that comes over from our neighbour’s garden. The half pergola was really cheap and a bit of an emergency buy last autumn as the Wisteria was dragging on the ground after removing an old shed that was here. We now think we may need to erect our own pergola as I’d like to add a rambling rose as there’s a big gap at the end so there’s not enough shade at lunchtime. However, it is the most magical place to eat, especially when the wisteria flowers were in bloom. I will look forward to the month of May for years to come to be able to sit beneath those flowers. The Hogsten dining chairs are from IKEA and are super comfy and the table was a £10 Facebook marketplace job so I just put a tablecloth on it.

We kept as much lawn as possible as Mimi and Otto run riot around here. We need to continue to improve the existing lawn as we couldn’t re-turf all of it at the same time as that would have made the garden out of bounds for four weeks, which considering lockdown was not a good idea. We laid new turf where the concrete had been and that has helped to make the garden feel wider.

The next thing we need to focus on is to deal with the back 4 metres of garden that is sort of hidden under the huge tree at the bottom. We currently have three big outdoor storage boxes there and Mimi’s play kitchen so we have ordered a trellis screen to tuck the storage boxes behind on the left and then we will make a dedicated play space for Mimi on the right with a swing hung from the tree above. Eventually Jules will build himself a workshop in the space which is why we don’t have a shed 9 we removed the one that was here when we bought the house that you can see below).

I focused on making curves in the garden when creating the two beds either side as the garden is so long and rectangular. The two oval shaped lawns make the garden look wider and give a bit more interest than just a long rectangular strip of lawn. The planting I have done will hopefully be tall and floaty with a Lilac, Ceanothus and Acer trees for height. I have also planted a climbing Hydrangea to cover the right fence and come up on to the deck behind the sofa and climbers on the left fence too. My aim is to make all of the fencing disappear under green and the deck to be wrapped up by plants at the front and sides.

We would like to lay cobble style stones here under the pergola and make the pergola bigger and stronger to create a proper shaded spot for lunches. We’re going to take a break from the DIY for a bit as tempers are starting to fray doing DIY at the weekends!

So far we have spent about £3000 having the concrete removed, new fencing and side access gate, building the deck, laying turf, pergola, planting (so expensive!!) and waste disposal. Considering how much we have saved living under lockdown and not having any holidays this year it’s not too much of a hit and what we have gained in return is invaluable.

We are all so happy with the space and the potential to do more in the future. Jules has big plans for a workshop at the bottom of the garden so watch out for that. In the meantime you can find me on my outdoor sofa under the parasol soaking it all up and feeling very grateful.

Katy x

Building a DIY deck

*This post is written in paid collaboration with Bosch Home & Garden (please see a note at the bottom of this post about the paid collaborations I will be taking on in the future).

Back in March we decided to get rid of the concrete ‘patio’ (ha!) in an attempt to spruce up our garden. I have to say that I wasn’t sold on Jules’s idea to build our own deck but having spent the last couple of weeks enjoying it I do think it was the right decision. It definitely wasn’t an easy or quick process but we were lucky enough to team up with Bosch Home & Garden so we had the right tools and as it turned out being in lockdown we had the time to get it done.

We knew having the right tools for this big DIY was going to be crucial so it was great to partner with Bosch Home & Garden.

I would like to tell you a bit about how we went about building the deck and the issues that were raised along the way as I have had so many questions about it from others wanting to build their own as well. I have also had a lot of people messaging me saying we were making a big mistake going with decking so I will try to address all of those issues too. So, before all of that let me remind you where we started in March…

Not ideal, I think we can all agree. The concrete in front of the house was crumbling, cracking, ugly and even worse it was massively sloped and shallow so we couldn’t even put a chair on it.

What size have we made the deck?

We decided to make our deck 3.6m deep. That does equate to about a third of the garden but a small deck runs the risk of not being useful as you can’t fit furniture on it, for example. We didn’t want that annoying scenario of not being able to pull your chair out properly for fear of falling off the deck or having to shuffle round each other. It felt to us that unless we made it big there wasn’t really much point in doing it.

As you can see above we planned a large deck that would take up about a third of the garden. In reality it feels exactly the right size at 3.6m as there is plenty of space for a table and chairs as well as extra space for Mimi to play or friends to mingle (or socially distance!).

How long did it take?

Getting the frame built was definitely the longest bit of the process. There were thirty 40cm deep holes to make for the posts – I’m not going to lie when I say that Jules nearly gave up at several points during that hole digging. Jules took a week off work and with the weekend I’d say it was about ten days to build the frame. We then had a big pause as the deck boards were delayed and we suddenly realised this would be the best time to get the house painted as scaffolding on top of the deck would not have been ideal. Once the deck boards arrived it took another three days to lay the boards and build the step down from the deck into the garden.

Knee pads were a must for this bit as well as a really good combi drill as there were about 600 screws needed! Bosch loaned us the Bosch AdvancedImpact 18 combi drill, which was ideal for the job as the battery lasts for ages and it was very easy to switch from drill bit to screwdriver bit. This was essential because when you’re screwing in over 600 screws being able to drill a hole and then switch to driving in the screw is so convenient. It’s also very light and manageable.

The Bosch Advanced Impact 18 combi drill was ideal for the job.

Why choose a raised deck?

My reasons for not wanting a deck were mainly aesthetic as I just love cottage gardens with lots of planting and pea shingle rather than big hard structures. However, with a big dog and young child Jules’s argument that a raised deck would give us more ‘living’ space won me over. The idea was for the deck to be an extension of the floorboards in our kitchen and living room to give the illusion of more space as well as being very practical because with no steps there is absolutely no obstacle to coming and going, taking out and bringing in toys or furniture. It’s really quite a revelation.

Above left you can see what the view out of the kitchen door was like when the concrete was removed. Whilst the concrete was coming up we used an old door to get in and out of the garden as it’s quite a big step down from the house. The new view from the kitchen door on the right is quite a lot better! With no step out it is such an easy space to use. We decided on a curved edge on this side to make the path to the side access less restricted.

Considering we have no budget to change the uPVC doors that we inherited to swanky bifolds or the like I think we’ve done a really good job of making the best of them with this raised deck as the floorboards from inside just run out onto the deck and vice versa making it feel like an extension of the living space

I don’t love the fact there is now a big raised structure when you look back at the house from the garden and I don’t love the fact that the garden is now divided into two very separate parts as a result but I hope to plant as much as possible around the base of the deck and on the fences and back wall of the house to make the divide far less obvious.

This is the completed frame before the deck boards went on and before we had the back of the house painted.

What wood did we choose?

So many of the messages that I got against having a deck were based on the fact that they become slippery and start rotting. We did a lot of research about this and the first thing we found out is that having smooth boards is much better than grooved deck boards. I know it feels counter intuitive as the grooves should provide grip but actually it is in the grooves that the water and dirt and slime collects and that is what makes them slippery and rot faster. Also the grooves are just not nice underfoot or to sit on or to look at in my opinion.

We chose these smooth deck boards made from English Larch/Douglas Fir. It is untreated wood and we’re going to keep it that way as it doesn’t technically need treatment as it is a very resinous wood. It was quite pink when it first arrived straight off the saw as it comes from the heart of the tree, which is good as that means it is strong wood, but we don’t really want to seal that colour in at this point. We would prefer to let the wood weather for a year or so by which point it will be a lot more silver and then oil it. The very last thing we want is that awful peeling seal that can happen to decks.

The second thing is that you really do need to look after a deck and the most important part of that is keeping it clean with a proper jet wash each year. I got to try out one of Bosch’s high pressure washers and not only was it very fun to use but it will be essential after the first winter when dirt has built up on the deck.

One of Bosch’s many pressure washers, the Bosch UniversalAquatak 135 was really easy to
use and very effective. I could very easily become addicted to using one of these all over the
garden for the pots, the furniture, the mud kitchen – everything!

This is the deck after a good wash down all set for furniture. We chose to do a curved edge on the left side as that is next to the path from the side access gate and having a sweeping curve opens up onto the garden.

How much did it cost?

It definitely wasn’t a cheap DIY! But, doing all the labour ourselves made it affordable for us and it really does feel like we have just created a new room for our house during the warmer months of the year so when you look at it in those terms it is a bargain. Here’ a quick run down of what we spent on the materials:

Deck boards – £680 (this included £100 delivery charge)

Timber for frame – £320

Screws – £30

Postcrete – £130

Weed matting – £30

Don’t forget to account for the tools that are needed the most important being a combi driver and mitre saw and you will need a high pressure washer to maintain the deck.

What do we still need to do?

I will show you so much more this weekend as I have now added furniture, plants, shade and of course I need to show you the painted house! It’s going to be an ongoing process to make this space as we want it and to make it fit with the garden. But for now I am thrilled with how seamlessly it fits with the interior…

Katy x

Paid collaborations on Apartment Apothecary:

In light of what I’ve learnt about systemic racism and the lack of diversity in the interiors industry going forward I want to work with companies who are committed to including black people and other people of colour on their campaigns as well as paying them equally. This is crucial if progress is to be made.

I am publishing a blog post today that is a paid collaboration with Bosch that was supposed to go live a couple of weeks ago but we delayed it. Bosch is one of the companies for which diversity is very important.

There are so many brilliant black-owned blogs and content creators and I’m keen to support and highlight these people to my followers and the brands I work with. I will also be making it clear in my media kit, which is the first thing I send to brands when they contact me, that I will only work on inclusive campaigns and go to inclusive events from this point onwards.

Diversity in the Interior Design Industry

The last few days have been extraordinary. The Black Lives Matter movement that began in 2013 has been brought back to the fore by the death of George Floyd and for some of us, including me, it is the first real awakening about what it means to be anti-racist. A huge amount of discussion and sharing of resources has been going on over on Instagram but I want to use my platform here to share what I have learnt and my intention to continue to learn in the hope that we can work together to bring about change.

What does this all have to do with Interior Design? Everything is the answer. For real change to happen every single facet of life has to be addressed as well as every industry. There is a very real lack of diversity in the interiors industry, especially in the UK as far as I can see based on my research over the last few days, from Interior Designers, to stylists, to influencers. Michelle Ogundehin, former Editor-in-Chief of ELLE Decoration UK, wrote a piece yesterday Let’s Talk About Diversity… and her insights on the topic are fascinating. I am very ashamed to say that I haven’t questioned it until now. That is white privilege. The drip feed effect of the lack of diversity is extremely harmful. I looked around my home at the beginning of the week when I started writing this piece and I made some shocking realisations. All my artwork is done by white artists and represents white people, most of the coffee table books are written by white people, the majority of the ornaments and one off pieces are made by white people, the textiles are designed by white people. Not only have I not supported black people and other people of colour in their work and spent my money on their products and services but I have also sent out very strong messages to friends, family and my daughter through what I share in my home. Yes, I’d challenge any one of them if they shared a racist joke or made a racist remark without hesitation but that’s not enough. We need to be reaching further than that and going deeper.

I make no assumptions but my guess would be that that pattern, of white buying and supporting white, must be repeated throughout a lot of homes. A bit like high street fashion being influenced top down from the catwalk, if the majority of the interiors industry is white the drip feed on normal every day homes will be that they are not filled with a diverse range of designers, makers and artists. This is where I can make some change as someone in the interiors industry, as someone who recommends products, showcases art in my home, shares other blogs, designs other people’s homes. I commit to diversifying my feed, my choices, what I present to you here, what I buy for my own home. Awareness is the start, doing it today is something but making it a structural change long term and forever is what is needed.

I want to share a few of the black interior designers and stylists, blogs and Instagram feeds that I have followed for years or have only just discovered in the last few days to make a small start on diversifying the influences around us. As well as following these designers if you would like to donate to support black designers you can do so through the Black Artists and Designers Guild: DONATE HERE.

Clare Gaskin: A London based interior designer that is very close to home. This commissioned piece representing Wimbledon Common is just amazing.
Hill House Vintage: I have no idea how Paula and her wonderful English country style has not been on my radar until now!
Curate and Display: Tiff is a wonderful stylist and her own home is beautiful.
Ishka Designs: A Brooklyn based design firm specialising in vacation properties around the world.
Justina Blakeney: Justina was one of the first designers I started following when I began my blog in 2013. Justina put some of her own artwork up for sale yesterday – it sold out really quickly but keep an eye out for more.
Romanek Design Studio: A hugely successful US based design studio founded by Brigette Romanek.
Grillo Designs: Medina is a DIY genius with loads of inventive and stylish interior hacks and ideas on her blog.
Nest Twenty Eight: Lucinda’s interiors and DIY blog is new to me and I look forward to exploring further.

There is a wealth of interiors inspiration on Instagram too. I found Africa’s account because her kids’ room is so beautiful and I have also been following the play area she’s been making in their garden with very keen interest as I want to do something similar for Mimi. Isa’s account is new to me and that garden is amazing! Ash, Jaz and Alison are also new to me – be sure to check out Jaz’s online art gallery too.

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Going forward with new awareness I hope I can do better. This is just a very small start.

Katy x

Children’s bedroom inspiration

As I said last week I am making some changes to Mimi’s room to make it work better for her age and I wanted to show you some of my favourite children’s bedrooms that I will use for inspiration. The only real change we need to make is the colour of the walls to pull the room together as we have already made changes to the storage and play space. Have a look at these rooms and I’d love to know which colour scheme you prefer…

Image via Alice in Scandiland

Mimi has been saying she wants a pink room since she was two – ha! I’m not completely sold on the idea as I love the current colour of the woodwork in her room but it won’t work with pink walls. However, if we were to make that change I just love these examples of soft pinks above and below.

Image via Mini Und Stil

Kerry has used Cinder Rose in her daughter’s room and I think that the darker pink in combination with the jute rug is really lovely.

Image via Kerry Villers

I just love this clever set up that integrates an IKEA Trofast unit and desk space using the wall colour.

Image via My Scandinavian Home

The other idea that I have is to keep the woodwork Light Blue and paint the walls Slipper Satin to make the room feel warmer and cosier. I imagine having a neutral base will have more longevity and I could pick out her wardrobe and paint that a bold colour – maybe the Cinder Rose from above. It would be a very similar feel to Siobhan’s daughter’s gorgeous room.

Image via Homestead

I’ve wanted to add wallpaper to the room since the beginning as I had wallpaper in my childhood bedroom and I just loved all the little characters and tracing the patterns with my finger. However, it is very expensive to buy and I’m not sure I’d be able to hang it myself very well. I do love this Farrow & Ball paper that would at least grow with the child.

This is a very beautiful example of using a neutral colour as a base and layering it with tonal pinks to give it just enough colour to make it interesting for a child.

Image via Blogga i Bagis

I’m not going to make any changes at this stage as we’re so busy with the garden and having Mimi at home full time doesn’t leave much time or energy for decorating jobs! I’ve got a quick fix planned just to make it look less of a muddle as we went into lockdown just as I’d started making changes. I’ll show you what I do on the blog soon!

Katy x

Garden design

I’ve come to realise that garden design is incredibly difficult! Unlike interior design where I find it easy to visualise the end result and how to get to that point, I could not for the life of me figure out what we should do with the space that we have let alone how to get there. I know in vague terms what type of gardens I like as well as the type of planting, materials and colours. However, translating that to a real garden is very difficult!

In an ideal world we would commission a garden designer as I think that’s a very worthwhile investment and can potentially save money in the long run but it just very simply isn’t within our budget. We also don’t have the money to fill the garden with plants immediately; it’s going to be an ongoing project for years and hopefully a very satisfying one.

Instead, I have turned to some really great inspiration from Houzz, which is a really useful resource for both interior and garden design ideas. I got it into my head that an oval lawn would be a good idea as our garden is rectangular and the idea of a rectangular strip of lawn with two beds running up the sides does not appeal to me at all. Therefore, I typed ‘oval lawn’ into the search box and I found two really lovely examples of rectangular gardens that have been transformed using this shape. Our garden is quite a bit smaller than these examples and with our new deck there is no where near as much lawn as there was but using images like these is all about identifying what you like and making it work with the space that you have.

I really love the way the oval lawn gives this rectangular ‘London Country Garden’ a whole new shape and the beautiful natural planting is gorgeous. Perfectly manicured gardens with lots of structured planting and built in planters is not my bag so I will definitely aspire to create something more similar to this. I think it’s really clever the way the shape of the lawn leads your eye around the space and then off into the distance and instead of making it look smaller, which would be the assumption when making a lawn smaller, it actually creates so much more interest that the space feels and looks larger.

This next London garden is much more similar to our space in terms of length and narrowness. The double oval is a such a brilliant way of softening the edges of the rectangular garden and introducing lots of beautiful planting. I think this is a really good example of making a very basic space a real beauty without the expense of things like swanky new fencing but real attention on planting that can be done over years to come.

Yesterday I started the process of creating beds on the right hand side of the garden (the left can’t be done yet as the turf was only laid a week ago). I want to try to create the figure eight lawn of the above garden, which will hopefully soften the rectangular shape of the garden and detract attention away from the ugly stark fencing. I want to plant as much as possible over time to cover all of those horrid gravel boards and add as much height and texture to the beds of the garden as possible. We really do want to keep as much lawn as possible, especially whilst Mimi is so young as she loves the space so I hope this design will strike a good balance.

So this is where we started eight weeks ago.
This is where we’d got to a couple of weeks ago when we found out the deck boards were delayed so we got the house painted in the mean time.
Last week we laid some turf over the patch where the concrete had been. In an ideal world we would have re-turfed the whole garden but we just couldn’t make the garden a no-go zone for up to four weeks whilst the turf beds in. Hopefully we’ll be able to do that at some other point when not in lockdown. I’m focusing on the right hand side of the garden for now whilst the patch of turf takes root so I laid out some bits of wood to roughly mark out the beds I want to create..
My wood markers helped a lot actually!
A lot of digging later…
I’m really pleased with the shape it’s already given the garden just digging those beds on the right side! Mimi says it looks like a heart and Jules says I’ve made a bum in the garden so they’re both pleased… (sorry about the terrible photos but the scaffolding for the house painting is still up).

What do you think? I’ve ordered some evergreens that we can put in this year, as well as a few perennials for some colour over the summer. We’ll patch up the lawn as best we can with grass seed and we’ve decided to lay stone under the pergola but we won’t do that now as the last eight weeks under lockdown with all this upheaval has been a bit trying at times and we’d quite like some time to just sit and enjoy the garden for a while once the deck is finished.

Katy x