How I Created An Outdoor Cinema In The Courtyard
When Joe and I first met, we were literally slaves to the TV. We both worked long hours in London; by the time we got home after negotiating the M4 in rush hour we would collapse on the sofa knackered with a ready meal, a glass of wine and the remote control. Soap operas were our speciality. Emmerdale, Coronation Street, Eastenders, Brookside - we were fully invested in each and every character. We were committed to Casualty, harnessed to Holby City. Living the dream in our Barrett starter home in Tilehurst. As the years went by and our situation changed, we dropped the soaps, one by one, until child number three when we suddenly realised that we weren't watching any television at all.
Then came Sky Store and Netflix. Our evenings were transformed - TV on demand meant that we could relax AFTER the kids had gone to bed and have proper adult time. Box sets were a revelation - Breaking Bad was our new Brookie; Sons of Anarchy was Eastenders on motorbikes. We could finally catch up on the good mainstream dramas that we always manage to miss out on and everyone was raving about. We could watch fairly current films with no babysitter required in the comfort of our own living room. Totally winning.
Now my older kids are teenagers, they are far less inclined to want to engage in family activities. Unless it's buying batteries for the PS4, WKD for them to take to parties or driving them to football training then they barely leave the house with me. The other week, I posted on Instagram about how the ubiquitous Love Island had randomly created mother and daughter bonding time between Ella, aged 16, and myself. Who'd have ever have thought that watching waxed chests, surgically enhanced bikini wearing and emotional recouplings would bring us closer together? Finding something that we can all do together is a rarity.
Watching films is one of those things. Last week, we went on a family outing to the cinema to watch Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again and it was just so nice to all be together in one place without one of the Three F's - Fortnite, FIFA or FaceTime - interfering. Obviously we all fell out within about five minutes of the film finishing but hey! It was great while it lasted. So when I was working out what to do with my newly vacated courtyard, an outdoor cinema seemed a pretty damn good idea.
I wrote a blog post about my plans last month which you can read here, but did it all go to plan? Here's the lowdown.
Sorted The Tech Stuff
I started with the technical side (not generally my forte). Joe investigated lumens and all that (don't ask me what it means) and decided on the Epson EB-WO5 Projector from ao.com. At around £350, it's a good investment and equally perfect for use inside. I love a multi tasker. We wanted a really large screen so I went on to Amazon and found the Exapor Outdoor Screen 120 inch. It was really simple to put together and the screen itself is almost like a duvet cover, zipping at the bottom to keep it in place. You can attach it via cord to stop it from blowing away (always an issue living in the Yorkshire countryside). When you're not using it, you can store the screen inside and the frame outside. For the projector, I again went to Amazon and found the Pulse floor projector stand that was perfect. We added a really old speaker which plugged in to the projector and used the Sky box cable to attach it directly so we could watch everything al fresco. Technical stuff sorted.
Added An Outdoor Sofa
So with the tech stuff done, we needed somewhere to sit. As a family of five, a corner sofa was the best option and the Thetis from Maisons Du Monde ticked every box. It's weather proof so you can leave the cushions outside during the summer (although I'll be taking mine in during winter) and the frame is metal and can be left out year round. It's also really comfy, which is always an issue with outdoor sofas. Super easy to put together, it took me about five minutes to install in the courtyard. The cat immediately jumped on and claimed it as her own.
Warmed It All Up
I'd already got a square fire pit from VonHaus that is amazing for giving off warmth so we kept this in place. It's brilliant - it's got a built in BBQ so that you can toast marshmallows, it even comes with a fork to do so. Random side note: I've started using those one block logs which come in paper bags for this purpose. They're smokeless which means you don't smell like you've been in a bonfire and also they last about four hours which is ideal for movie watching and you don't worry that you're going to set the house on fire when you go to bed.
Made The Space A Room
One thing that I always feel is a necessity in any space is a rug to bring it all together. No matter whether you are indoors or outdoors, it makes the area feel cohesive and cosy. This one I've used, the Diamond Mono, is over 9ft wide which covers the majority of the space and it's made from polypropylene so that you can leave it out in all weathers, plus it's washable with a hose. It's from Modern Rugs and is a total winner - I particularly like it because it's verging on ecru which makes it more neutral than white, which wasn't the look I was going for. It would also be perfect for a kitchen or any sort of area that can attract spillage. Actually, all rooms in my house tick that box. If you use code LISA15 you'll get 15% discount until the end of September which makes it just over £100. A good buy.
Let There Be Light
I was lucky that I already had festoons strung across the courtyard which I installed when we very first moved into the house. They were an excellent investment and with 25 watt bulbs, give off the perfect glow. I've got four 8m lengths of outdoor festoons from Festive Lights and they are plugged in to an external electrical point. Aside from candles, no other lighting is required in this area.
Brought In The Plants
Because the courtyard is completely enclosed by a brick wall, I needed lots of greenery to add texture. Horticulture is not my forte so I asked Instagram for help on this one. I wanted plants that looked good nearly all year round but needed barely any attention. I wasn't really interested in flowering plants as I knew this would be well past my abilities. Instagram did not disappoint and I went off to The Range with a list of possibilities (next week I'll be listing my Top Ten). After hoisting 180 litres of soil home, I repotted what I already had and potted up the new ones. I took the large plants that I had indoors outside for the remainder of the summer (a tip from my landscape gardener father in law who is a total expert in this subject). Now I just need to water them.
I'm a massive fan of using what you already have in different ways, so I brought in the EREMITT lantern from JYSK that is a favourite. I took the smaller of the coffee tables from JYSK that was part of a pair and added seagrass tea lights from The White Company for texture. I have to admit, my intention had been to create a new coffee table from a pallet I already had but a) I ran out of time, and b) I couldn't work out what to do with it that would make it look good so I gave up. Always better to be honest about these things, I feel.
Pimped It Up
So no space is finished without soft furnishings and cushions were my go to. Again, the ones I used are just as perfect inside as they are outside which makes them a really flexible option. I also love the fact they are both from small, independent businesses - the larger ones are from Poppy & Honesty, the bolster cushions are from The Effortless Trading Company. The pink blanket I've had for a few years and it came from The Startup Sisters, another independent store. These items gave the courtyard a much needed colour pop.
I'm super happy with the result. We've already had some family film evenings - I can confirm that Hugh Jackman looks even better seven foot high - and it's really exciting to be able to sit outside when the weathers warm. Plus I love the fact that both the projector and screen are totally portable and can be used basically anywhere. It's a flexible investment I think, which are always the best ones. Move over Love Island. I'm coming in with Pretty In Pink and The Outsiders.