We have been dragging our heels for ages over buying a new set of outdoor furniture. Our old wooden table and chairs are well and truly rotting away. We have also had it in our minds to build a verandah at the back of the house, leaning against the kitchen wall. However, each spring has come along and we’ve ended up spending any spare money we’ve had on a holiday instead. So it hasn’t happened, but the idea was still there, and it made a choice on the garden furniture difficult to make…..
If we continued our alfresco eating in the garden, then a similar table and chairs set-up would be wanted. However if we did do a veranda, we’d probably prefer something a bit more comfortable. In the end, a decision was forced by our family phoning up and asking to come and visit. This was back in June, and the heatwave was just beginning. It would certainly be the time to get our act together because it’s always nice to sit outside with our parents and gaze at the view we are so lucky to have.
We still couldn’t afford to have a permanent structure built, but we came to a pretty good compromise: We would buy a gazebo type thing with a roof canopy. But first, I had a bit of tidying up to do! Our house has a layout (that I really don’t like by the way) where the garden, rather than being behind it, spreads out each side, against the road. We have a driveway that leads round to the back of the house and is currently the only thing stopping the herd of cows from sticking their heads through the window and munching on whatever they find. So anyway, the end of this driveway is where we thought we’d set this up. Unfortunately it’s also where the builders had dumped all the stone and rubble from when a wall or two came down a few years ago; and is also where the logs get dumped every winter.
The other problem was that we only had one week before the family arrived! I’ve honestly not physically worked that hard for a very long time!
With a bit of help from Rain, it took two full days to clear the space, and the stone and wood has only been shifted along a bit! A good sweep and many sprays of weedkiller later, we were ready to take the next step, which had just been delivered. The assembling of the gazebo.
Chris did almost all of this himself actually while I was out one evening. I was very impressed. Of course, until you have a space, you’re never quite sure how you’re going to use it, but we spent the extra money on the 3m x 3m (which cost a disproportionate amount more than the 3m x 2m) structure new from ebay. When it was up, I was very glad we went for the larger size; it made the space feel like an extra room, rather than just a little awning next to the house. This particular gazebo has a canopy that can be slid across so you can sit in the shade or sun. This is perfect! My Mum likes to sit in the sun, where as Chris and I are definitely shade lovers, so we can arrange it to suit. It also meant we were able to test whether or not it makes much difference to the light in the kitchen. I’m pleased to report that it doesn’t; which means that when we do eventually have a permanent frame built, we know we can have a solid roof on it.
The furniture arrived and we were happier than we expected to be with it! Ordering online without having seen something in person is always a risk, but more so when you’re spending a lot of money and it wasn’t free returns! So that was a bit of a sigh of relief actually. The fake wicker didn’t look shiny and plastic, and the cushions, although they seemed to vary in thickness, were comfortable. Although our set cost about £400, this was a fraction of the price of the one we liked in Dobbies; which was beautiful quality, but at £3000. So we were worried that the alternative was just going to be a bit shit!
The thing that I’m pleased the most about, is the fact that we can all sit around the table and eat from it; not from our laps! Some people are blessed with the ability to always eat without spilling their food down themselves. I am not one of those people! And barbecues are messy aren’t they? If we go to a barbecue where I can’t sit at a table, then I barely eat anything for fear of dripping or splattering it on my dress! There is a bit of an issue with the fact that the driveway isn’t flat and the table obviously slopes. And when anyone knocks into it just slightly, everyone’s cups of tea immediately spill everywhere. So this isn’t ideal, but we can put up with it.
Our other problem was the fact that looking down the drive wasn’t pretty, and it really spoilt everything. So the plan all along was to build a large gate across so it would be completely clear that this was our outdoor dining and social area, and not just the end of the driveway! However, this will be something we’ll aim for in the future, and in the mean-time a roll of bamboo canes could do the trick. On the field side, we attached it to a tall iron spike that could go into the ground. However, the other side was more problematic. We couldn’t make a permanent structure because in winter, we will need to access a pile of logs with the wheel barrow. Then there’s other general access we need to the garden with wheelie bins and lawn mowers etc. So I came up with the idea of a tall plant pot, filled mainly with rocks to keep it sturdy, with a pole inside it, to which we could tie the other end of the bamboo screen. This would stand on one of those plant pot stands with the wheels underneath. It took a while to get this right. The first time was too heavy to move, to we had to take out some of the rocks. And the wind sometimes blows against the screen and knocks it completely over. Keeping the wheelie bin on one side and the barbecue on the other combats this most of the time.
Another thing we did to make the area look more like an outdoor room, was roll up the rug we had in the dining area of our kitchen, and roll it back out again outside! This has actually worked better than expected. We paid the grand total of £13 for the rug ten years ago, and I felt our kitchen was ready for an upgrade anyway. And in actual fact, as well as being highly successful in achieving what we wanted, it’s been fine outside through the summer. In a couple of weeks I think we’ll roll it up again and keep it in the garage over winter. And eventually we’ll replace it with something designed for the purpose, but outdoor rugs don’t come cheap. This is fine for now, and I really like it!
So then it was the fun bit, and a browse on Amazon, a trip to Homesense, and the local garden centre later, I’d bought some waterproof cushions, a table cloth, fairy lights, a couple of outdoor lanterns, and plenty of plants to cheer the place up a bit. I also gathered a couple of lanterns we already had, and I am so pleased with the end result. I went for a rich colour scheme for the flowers with plum and orange, and deep pink to blend in the roses over the archway into the garden. I wanted a bohemian traveler look for the decor so that was my thinking behind my choices, but as I spot ideal knick-knacks when I’m out and about shopping, this boho style will build up a bit more over time.
It took six wheel-barrow loads of compost (luckily I’ve been brewing compost at the end of the garden for some time!) to fill the pots and enrich the soil of the flower bed that was previously covered in weeds and rubble. I used copper spray paint on my old plastic flower pots I’ve had for years, as new nice pots weren’t in the budget. At the time they looked fantastic, but although I thought the finish was as good as car paint, it turns out I should have sealed them with varnish or something as the copper is now fading unfortunately. I think that’s a job for next spring!
Now that we’ve had everything for a while, here’s a quick review: The furniture has been good, but unfortunately the back of one of the settees was leant on too hard and has snapped on one side. We can’t work out how to fix this, and the seller has disappeared from Amazon since. It’s useable and not obvious to look at, but the person sitting on that side leans back a bit and won’t get the back support to sit upright. It also turns out that the waterproof cushions aren’t! Which was embarrassing when a friend came round and got a wet bum. We’ll just have to pack them away and store under the table; which is a bit of a pain, but normal for most garden furniture.
The canopy has been great. While Chris and I were away, the kids didn’t realise the canopy needs to be pulled back in the rain, so it over filled with water and a couple of the metal hooks bent so it fell out of the rails in a couple of places. This was an easy fix with metal key-ring loops. Otherwise it’s been sturdy and strong.
We have spent a lot of time outside this summer and I desperately don’t want it to end. It is one of my favourite spaces now and I’m SO glad we went to all that effort to make it happen. The overall cost was about £1000, which I think was very good for what we got, and well spent. It’s actually revived my enthusiasm to continue our endeavours for the rest of the house and resume its renovations again. So look out for more home content coming your way!
These are links to the garden furniture and some of the bits and bobs I ordered online:
And if you’d like to see the whole patio transformation on video; naturally I kept my camera near me at all times!