The Great Garden Fakeover!

Garden Makeover Before&After Joanna Thornhill for Stylist's Own

I’ve been teasing this one out over on my Instagram feed, but it’s high time I sat down and did a proper post on this, perhaps my proudest renovation project to date in the never-ending, no-budget Project House. With a population of 8.3million crammed into London Town, having a 40×20′ outdoor space really is something of an achievement, particularly when it’s south facing (and you’ve not spent £1billion on it). Which puts into context why, when viewing my house last year on a freezing January morning, I got rather hot under collar after passing through the textured wallpaper and cheap laminate flooring and emerged into this:

Before Shots Garden Makeover by Joanna Thornhill for Stylist's Own

Before Shots2 Garden Makeover by Joanna Thornhill for Stylist's Own

Whilst not exactly a lush tropical oasis, this space had serious potential: a great raised deck, lovely Victorian brick wall background (mercifully not pebbledashed like the unfortunate front of the house) and (relatively) not too overlooked. And the 7am-7pm direct sunlight too, obvs. The question was how to transform it into what I’ve been lovingly referring to as a Proper Person’s Garden, rather than its current, inaccessible-parking-space type guise. Mindful of the fact that this in all likelihood isn’t the garden I’ll be tending into old age, spending thousands digging it all up and painstakingly planting a lawn and beds from scratch just didn’t seem like a sensible option. Plus I know pretty much zero about gardening. But I do know about makeovers. And that’s when it hit: why not just approach the garden as one?!

Shed Painting Garden Makeover by Joanna Thornhill for Stylist's Own

After many months plotting and researching, plans were finally put into place a mere few weeks ago (apart from the shed: that was set up during a particularly ferocious winter’s day late last year, with a little help from Handy Dad – aka, us realising how utterly useless we are at DIY and him spending about 12 hours constructing it, in the pouring rain, whilst the boyf dutifully passed up screws and attempted to keep a makeshift tarpaulin shelter up). The shed (this one, ordered from Wilkinson online) itself was then given a coat of paint from Sandtex’s new Garden Shades range – Morning Breeze for the body, then Pink Honeysuckle for the trim (which ended up being just a little toooo pink for me, so I mixed in some of the Morning Breeze paint to lighten it up somewhat).

Bamboo Fencing Garden Makeover by Joanna Thornhill for Stylist's Own

We also fixed up some cheap bamboo fencing to cover a rather flimsy bit of trellis which formed the only barrier between us (right by our garden table) and next door (right where their barbecue is, facing directly into our garden – cosy) by screwing through it at various points into said trellis. It also served to mask the top of their God-awful kitchen extension, and hide a bodge-job bit of plastering on our back wall, plus the plastic drain pipe. Having been quoted £300 to have this ‘properly’ fenced in, our £50 investment (thanks to swinging by B&Q on an ‘everything’s discounted day and buying two of these)  seemed rather shrewd. The plan is to eventually grow some climbing plants up it to soften it up a bit.

All of this set the stage for the Big Day. We purchased some old railway sleepers from the independent builder’s merchant at the end of the road, managed somehow to squeeze them (in two trips) into our tiny Corsa, then proceeded to cart them through the house in an elaborately complicated manner, thanks to the lack of direct access and abundance of awkward corners. Oh, and I say we – initially I thought we could do it between the two of us, until it came to removing them from the car outside our house and me realising I physically couldn’t lift the things, resulting in the boyf pretty much single-handedly dragging them from the boot to our front courtyard where they had to live for a week, until Bigger Boys could come and help shift them out back.

Midway Garden Makeover by Joanna Thornhill for Stylist's Own

So whilst the boys did all the donkeywork, I prepared the statement piece in my makeover magic: fake grass! Or faux, as I like to think of it. Having purchased a 2x6m roll of Alicante from Touch of Grass, chosen for its variegated texture, I set to work laying it into position in the middle of the garden, cutting round it when it reached the shed and using the excess to patch in a gap on the left hand side (you can just see the seam bottom left). This stuff is genius – easy to snip away at with strong scissors and blend into other sections seamlessly with a quick ruffle. As mine was going straight onto concrete, it didn’t even require any fixings – the sleepers are all it needs to hold it in place, and rainwater just washes straight through the holes in the membrane on the underside, so technically I could even roll it up and take it with me if/when I move (making it a great idea for rented spaces, too).

After Shots to Shed Garden Makeover by Joanna Thornhill for Stylist's Own

Once the grass and sleepers were down, with an extra line of bricks used to weigh down the short ends, Operation Gravel thusly commenced. Wanting to obliterate all signs of the grotty concrete, I had decided to create gravel borders in the new edges, helpfully defined thanks to the sleepers and brick edges, then build up a selection of pot plants to sit on the top. To pick up on the pale colour of the shed and contrast with the wooden decking, I went for a light cotswold stone from Homebase, gradually filling the whole way along, past our ‘rustic-chic’ brick-built barbecue (more on that epic adventure another time…) And then we stopped for Pimms and congratulatory back-slaps!

After Shot Towards House Garden Makeover by Joanna Thornhill for Stylist's Own

Garden Makeover Opener Joanna Thornhill for Stylist's Own

And there we have it! All in a (rather sweaty) days work. Since this was completed I’ve added lots of styled elements throughout the space (very much a work in progress still) so I’ll pop those up in the coming weeks.

Now: what plants work well in pots?!

{Images: all copyright Joanna Thornhill}


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About Joanna Thornhill

Freelance Interior Stylist, Author, Writer and Crafter working for a range of magazine titles and commercial clients. Author of Home for Now (CICO Books 2014)

7 responses to “The Great Garden Fakeover!”

  1. Yeshen says :

    Great work Joanna! Makes me miss my old garden. New place is sadly missing one.. that’s London though huh?
    I did a shoot recently in a garden where they had ‘faux grass’ – very handy and far less mess when wet.

  2. secretgardenhome says :

    Hi Joanna, Excellent job! You can congratulate yourselves with a glass of bubbly over the bbq:))) Using railway sleepers as borders is a great idea.

    Regarding plants, I would suggest Skimmia japonica. I’ve got it, and it looks beautiful.



  3. tina @ colourliving says :

    Ha! Brilliant. It’s so inspiring to see before and after pics. Thanks for that. Have a nice weekend!

  4. Eva says :

    Joanna! this is my first visit to your blog and you have no idea how impressed I am! this is pure genius. I love how you used bamboos and Alicante..Truly impressive girl!
    keep up the inspiration!


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