A warm sunny WELCOME to everyone joining here as part of the Summer #UKHomeBlogHop. As a rookie blogger, I’ve been hugely inspired in my efforts by the blogging ace Kimberly at Swoon Worthy . So when Kimberly asked me if I’d like to join her and lots of other talented bloggers (listed at the end of this post) in her summer styling blog hop, I was so excited, I was probably slapping stain on my decking before my “yes please!” had hit Kimberly’s inbox.
If the recent tropical spell in the UK has shone some bright light on less than summer-ready corners of your home and garden, don’t worry – the blog hop will have all the inspo and motivation you need to get on your summer game.
I know you’ll have been treated to some fab styling from my blogger buddy Ruthie at Design Soda. Ruthie was my roomie recently when we joined Annie Sloane at her studio in Oxford for a blogger workshop. My boys counselled against the idea of sharing a room when Ruthie and I had only met online, the internet safety message clearly having hit home. Happily Ruthie turned out not to be a psychopath (she’s actually quite lovely and very cool), and I lived to blog another day. (Do as I say boys, not as I do….)
For first time visitors to Around the Houses, what can you expect here? I started the blog when we moved into our current home and I found myself paralysed by design indecision. Unsure of my own style, I was overwhelmed by the prospect of decorating a whole house. I wanted the blog to be a way of connecting with other people who felt the same to share ideas and inspiration. (I didn’t know about Instagram then!)
As well as achieving that aim, I’ve learned that a house-sized mortgage necessitates some seriously budget-savvy styling solutions. With a little ingenuity and/or glue gun, I’ve discovered that high-end designs can often be recreated at a fraction of the cost; you’ll find my DIYs and hacks here too.
So, come on in to Around the Houses, or rather come around the house to the back garden, and make yourself comfortable while I show you around the newly made over outdoor space.
A big factor in buying our current home was for easy access to the garden. We had a lovely garden in our last home but the kitchen was two floors up from it. This was a huge disincentive to eating outdoors which involved negotiating two long steep flights of stairs with an oversized tray piled high with burgers, bangers and buns (inevitably to find you’d left the ketchup at the top). Also one of the flights of stairs was at the side of the house, open to the street. Grabbing a morning coffee in the garden meant either getting fully dressed, or running the gauntlet in an effort to avoid the cringe of making small talk with the postie in our jammies.
But we’ve discovered that the mere fact of having an accessible garden at our disposal has not automatically created a newly improved al fresco lifestyle. The garden has been woefully underused. In the three years we’ve been here we’ve probably had no more than a handful of barbecues and only about twice lit the chimnea to spend an evening out.
Our new garden isn’t massive but Edinburgh’s an expensive city and as family homes with a garden come at a premium, the cost of our garden equates to a large chunk of our large mortgage every month. If we were mathematically minded (we’re not) we would be able to calculate the average cost per use of our garden. It probably equates to an all-inclusive week for 4 in Turkey.
And it’s not just the waste of money that bothers me. The garden has the potential to enhance our lives in ways we’re currently not capitalising on.
Having children means heading out as a couple is infrequent. And while you can attempt to create a date night vibe in your own home, it’s difficult to make it feel special when you’re in the same surroundings as every other night. But sitting around a crackling outdoor fire, with lanterns glowing, fairy lights twinkling and no electronic distractions? Surely romance can only triumph.
Likewise, having friends over for an evening these days is easier to organise than a night out involving a babysitter and taxis. Having an aperitif outside before dinner would be a civilised start to an evening (and keep guests clear of any chaos in the kitchen).
But our garden just hasn’t been seeing any of that action. Part of the underuse of the garden is down to Scottish weather. There’s zero I can do to influence that. The other reason though is that it’s unloved, a bit neglected and unappealing. Now, that I can work with.
With the summer blog hop as the motivation I needed, the garden is about to be transformed. I must point out though, I’m no Charlie Dimmock. This makeover is strictly limited to faffing; no spade required.
The hottest trend in garden styling currently is to a create an outdoor space that feels just like the indoors. I wondered how I could achieve that covetable outdoor room appeal, without significant outlay.
I studied my favourite garden inspo on Pinterest and Instagram and noticed some key elements they share. I distilled these into an 8 step plan which I used to make over my garden, and it will work in your’s too.
Step 1: Spruce up
When I compared my garden with the gorgeous outdoor rooms of Pinterest and Instagram there was one very obvious point of difference. None of them had peeling, bird poo-adorned decking, or flaky, weathered furniture. *Sigh*. Yes, it’s very, very boring. But no amount of clever styling will compensate for a scruffy starting point.
Step 2. Define seating and dining areas
Even the most compact outdoor space should aim to have an eating area with a table for proper meals and a “living” area for lounging, drinks and snacks. Choose the location of these areas carefully.
There are two main factors to consider here. Firstly, unless you’re reading this from somewhere other than the UK, you’re probably in the business of maximising exposure to sun. So you need to consider where the sun hits your garden at different times of the day (smug south facers excepted.) and what you’re most likely to be doing at that time.
Secondly, to encourage as much use as possible, you want your dining area to be as close to your kitchen as possible. Ideally, it should be as easy to set up a meal on your outdoor table as on your indoor one.
In our garden we’ve plumped for three zones: the dining area on the decking nearest the house. In our East facing garden this gets the sun until around 2pm, making sunny breakfasts and lunch a possibility. The sun stays in the middle of the garden for the rest of the afternoon so we’ve moved our newly smartened-up bench to a spot at the side edge of the lawn, perfect for afternoon feet-ups. Finally, at the bottom of the garden – the last corner to get the sun – we’ve set up our rattan suite.
Outdoor rugs are quite simply the best thing to happen in garden design since the electric lawnmower. Without them, garden furniture floats unappealingly on bare paving or decking. Pop down a rug, instantly you have clearly defined your zone and grounded your furniture, providing that covetable outdoor room feel.
Outdoor rugs come in all shapes, colours, and designs. Quality and price vary but I think it would be difficult to beat the range and value offered by the iconic Swedish brand Pappelina, who continue a decades-old tradition of weaving their eye-catching plastic rugs on traditional looms. My black/vanilla honey Pappelina runner is reversible so I can ring the changes. Although it’s durable enough for outdoor use, it’s good looks will guarantee my rug a place inside for the winter after a quick machine wash. Cloudberry Living stock a huge Pappelina range as well as a feast of other goodies that scandiphiles will love.
Just as an indoor room without furniture would be a soulless shell, so it is with outdoor spaces. The difference is that even if shabby chic is anathema to your indoor style, outside, this looks all nordic and cool; excellent news for the skint.
I revamped my decade old dining table and benches with a lick of off-black furniture paint, which I loved so much I did my old teak bench and side table too. It totally transformed them from neglected suburban naff to smart scandi-chic.
I scored a rattan sofa and armchair from Gumtree which I’m planning to weather-proof with some clear varnish. It’s conservatory furniture so may not last the winter, but for £30 I can live with that.
Gumtree also came up trumps with some vintage fruit crates and I stacked them to make shelves (below). If you can’t get hold of vintage ones, Wayfair stock a great value selection. I also chose this rustic wooden crate to use as a coffee table beside my rattan suite.
4. Decorate your walls
You wouldn’t leave all your walls bare inside your house, so for an authentic outdoor room feel, you should add your style and personality to the outdoor “walls” too, whether they are literally walls – of your house or around your garden – fences, sheds, or other vertical surfaces that mark out your space.
It’s a good idea to use a mix of things you can leave outdoors full time, with some special favourites which you can quickly hang out for big impact when you’re spending the day outside or having friends round. I chose my hanging deer head from Sweetpea and Willow which looks brilliant in my hall but which can easily be borrowed for my outdoor room.
I added a couple of mirrors – my large circular convex mirror, also borrowed from the hall. It’s designed for outdoor use so is perfect though too lovely not have in the house most of the time. (Maybe I should get another…) But as a permanent outdoor fixture I chose an acrylic mirror from Wayfair – easy to hang and no risk of breakage.
5. Use plants to enclose your room
Creating a sense of an enclosed space will add a cocooning, welcoming feel to your outdoor room, and in the absence of architectural structures like pergolas, creating boundaries with containers can be effective. To keep the look cohesive stick to a limited palette and style of planters. Terracotta planters are great value and look fantasic with verdant foliage spilling out.
Varying the height of your planters adds interest. As well as a couple of junk yard bamboo side tables and stands, I chose the Ferm living plant stand as an elegant retro accent piece. Again this is an accessory which is too good to leave outdoors and works wonders creating an urban jungle look inside.
6. Add comfort and textures
When it comes to transforming your garden into an outdoor room, the ability to recline in comfort and keep cosy as night falls is the game changer. No one wants to linger on a hard, chilly bench. As the only outdoor sitting option in our garden, it wasn’t surprising that even on beautiful summer evenings we usually found ourselves back in the cozy comfort of our living room before sun set.
My shibori cushions and the stunning gold embroidered Bohemian cushion from Sweetpea and Willow add an on trend boho vibe. Snuggling up on the sofa around the chimnea is as stylish as it is comfortable.
It’s the finishing touches that really make the difference between a garden and an outdoor room. Like with wall decor I think the trick here is to aim for a mix between items you’re happy to leave in the garden permanently with a few bits you can borrow from the house. My outdoor-proof accessories include a resin antler and silver star. My favourite though is a vintage French wine crate which looks fab as an improvised candelabra, to make a stylish flower display, or even, traditionally and very usefully, as a means of ferrying copious quantities of prosecco from the fridge.
When dusk falls, lighting is just as critical for creating ambiance outdoors as it is in your interior. And just like indoors, layers of light are key, including the essential uplighting magic of floor and table height sources. Little is more likely to nuke a romantic garden vibe than a 100 watt security light.
If you don’t know what festoon lights are, you clearly haven’t been outside in the dark since 2015. Generous strings of festoons are the perfect way to add a subtle, magical overhead lighting effect. Solar powered ones, like the set I strung between branches at the bottom of my garden, are perfect for places a cable won’t stretch, though bear in mind they tend not to switch on until it’s really quite dark.
Hurricane lamps are of course the other lighting essential for achieving that candlelight ambience in breezier climates. I chose these black Hurricane lamps from Wayfair for their classic nordic good looks.
I can’t tell you how delighted I am with my new outdoor room. Since finishing this makeover we’ve already enjoyed lots more time in the garden and I have completely fallen in love with my house all over again. I’ll take my garden over an all-inclusive week in Turkey any time. (Though ask me again in August by which time we will probably have had eight weeks of solid rain.)
Thank you for stopping by Around the Houses on the Summer UK Blog Hop. If you’ve enjoyed the visit, sign up to the newsletter to get future posts by email (no spam ever) and to be entered in the monthly draw to win a perpetual calendar.
Thank you to the fabulous brands who collaborated with me on this post:
Next up in the Blog Hop, is the fabulous Lazy Daisy Jones. I can’t wait to see what Ashley’s got in store for us – I know it will be good.
Here’s the full list of Summer UK Blog Hop Bloggers with direct links to their summer styling posts. Think of it as your source book of home and garden summer ideas. Enjoy!