How I Revamped My Outdoor Space
Yorkshire isn't known for it's tropical climate. In fact, let's be honest about it, the weather in the UK verges on the unreliable and that's putting it mildly. More soggy than sunny, less clement than crap, we spend our Summers running in and out of the garden, tolerating onslaughts of weather more suited to November. I remember vividly a rare bell tent camping trip to Devon one August Bank Holiday wearing two fleeces, a hat and tracksuit bottoms (the total antithesis of the word 'glamping'), so cold we were huddled around the disposable BBQ for warmth. According to my son Max, global warming is on it's way but it's going to be quite a while, so I've decided it's important to make the most of the space that we have and adjust out outdoor living situation accordingly.
Our house in York is set back from the road, overlooking the Yorkshire Wolds. Oh, and the A166 to Bridlington. We are pretty much not overlooked from the back and sides, which is perfect for naked sunbathing but not so good for shelter. As a result, sitting in our garden feels like you are sitting in the middle of a noisy field, completely exposed to the elements, be that wind, rain or sun. We've lived in this house for three years now and we've never really utilised the space. Its purpose was as home to our two BBQ's - a Weber charcoal and a gas.
One of Joe's few home based strengths is the fact he is able to BBQ to a degree which he would personally describe as professional, I would describe as average to good. He loses points on his cooking of vegetarian items. Ask him to BBQ a beanburger and his distaste would be palpable from a distance of 100 miles or more. In Joe's opinion, BBQ's are for meat eaters. Every time I hand him a halloumi skewer he immediately starts ranting about non cohesive texture and how it's all going to disintegrate within three minutes. Anyway, his cooking skills are such that he even BBQ's the Christmas turkey - for the last three years, he's stood outside, alone, with a small beer under an umbrella, shivering, whilst we all sit inside drinking Prosecco and eating canapés.
This year, I decided, was the year to make a plan. In the main garden area, there are two seating spaces. One is a patio directly off the dining room; the second is a raised decking area containing the BBQ/bar. I say bar in the loosest sense of the word - it's basically some decking slats and a wonky shelf on the wall put up by Joe. plus storage for the BBQ's. There's a low wall surrounding the bottom patio which had been built by the previous owner but never painted so it was still bare plaster, very unappealing and dark brown. The whole area needed to be transformed. So what did I do?
Decided On A Plan
I was keen to have pergola's covering these two spaces, but with solid roofs so that our dodgy weather front wouldn't affect our outdoor socialising. There's a huge old brick wall that goes the entire length of the house to which the pergolas could be attached. One for dining and one for sitting, yet not restricted in use by the Yorkshire climate. I had an idea of what I wanted, but needed someone to pull it all together who knew what they were talking about and who knew if it was possible - the old wall was built in 1760 and I didn't know anything about whether it could be weight bearing or whatever the technical stuff was. I was recommended to a man called Simon, a garden designer and landscaper.
Found A Man Who Could
Simon knew what I was talking about. He had never built anything similar before and was as almost as excited about the prospect as I was, which was a good start. He went away and drew me up a plan which threw me into a state of complete excitement - it was exactly what I was looking for and would provide completely separate outdoor living rooms which could be feasibly be used year round, with the assistance of heaters. The main structure would be made from timber with beams, concreted into the patio and decking and attached to the old brick wall. We decided against adding guttering initially to see how it went - the roof would be built on a slant and there was ground draining on the patio. This was always something that could be added later. The structures would be three metres deep and five metres wide, loads of living space which is exactly what I wanted.
Decided On The Roof Structure
The main discussion revolved around the roof - what should it be? I didn't want it clear as I wanted protection from the sun as well as the rain. We talked about whether it would be too dark, whether it would cut out of the sun completely and feel claustrophobic. Simon sourced a local company, Jacksons Building Components. Primarily for the fabrication of farm and office buildings, they had the perfect corrugated sheets that were metal with a coated top that came in loads of colours. I chose white; the underside was a pale grey so very reflective to light. I'd watched to see how the sun hit the spaces over the course of the day and knew that even with a roof, both areas would still receive plenty of sun during different times of the day. In addition, the decking seating area had space at the front which would always be in full sun so I wasn't worried about the shade issue.
Added A Room Divide
Simon built by hand a huge three metre trellis using timber. He placed this made to measure panel in between the two pergolas and created a natural divide, planting two clematis either side which would train to climb the terrace. He did this by taking a panel of the decking platform out and adding a plant bed. It made both areas feel even more like rooms which was perfect.
Painted The Walls
The boring plaster low walls had to go. I wanted to give the dining area a real mediterranean feel (yes, I know I live in Yorkshire but we can but dream), plus white walls are also reflective so would encourage the light. I used B&Q brilliant white textured masonry paint - it took two coats and immediately transformed the space. When the sun came out you could literally be in Puerto Banus. Almost. With the A166 to Bridlington in front of you. And a jumper on. And no good looking Spanish waiter waving Sangria at you.
Styled It Up
So the fun bit began. I already had the VEBBESTRUP lounge set with coffee tables from JYSK so I used that in the seating area. I attached a strong hook to the front of the pergola (click here to see which one) and hung a macrame chair, also from JYSK. I rescued the Home Bargains hanging chair from Ella's room and added that, creating a seating area for seven. I used the bamboo plant stands picked up for £4 from the local charity shop as side tables and moved out the large jute rug that I'd had for years (bought from eBay). The piece de resistance was a canvas palm print from Homeplace which looked perfect on the wall.
The dining space has a long wall at the rear which, once painted white, created a super seating area. I added long rectangular Indigo Rural cushions that I picked up from B&Q - they're rainproof so can be kept outside. I moved my IKEA outdoor table into the space and added a selection of bamboo chairs that I've collected over the years, including a new buy from the Community Furniture Store which I picked up for £15. The table isn't that pretty - it's been kept outside a lot and hasn't been looked after very well - so I scoured the internet for a linen single flat bed sheet, finding one on La Redoute (taking advantage of their 40% off everything promotion at the time).
I made a rattan succulent wreath using products from Hobbycraft (click here to see what I did) and and after adding lanterns from The White Company and JYSK, it was dinner party ready. Okay, almost dinner party ready. The only outstanding job is the lighting - I've got plans for festooned ceilings and a bamboo chandelier but I haven't planned it out properly as yet. In the meantime, we've got outdoor electric points so it's easy to bring out some side lamps when the sun goes down.
So that's it. I'm ridiculously pleased with the two structures - we've been outside every time the sun has shone over the last two weeks and it's made a massive difference to our outdoor living situation. It protects us from the weather to a degree and also feels cosy and cocooned, which is exactly what we were aiming for. The white roof, pale ceiling and white walls reflect the light and makes it feel as tropical as you are going to get in Yorkshire. Both rooms feel like complete spaces and only assist in my quest for constant rejigging of my home due to the hundreds of styling possibilities that they bring. Bring on the BBQ's and the halloumi skewers, let the Summer commence.