By Ann Broad
Buying a new-build home can have many benefits, not least having a blank canvas to work with, both indoors and out. It offers the perfect opportunity to make your mark on the interior and garden and design the spaces to suit your own needs.
That's exactly what Charlotte Evans did when she bought a six-bedroom new-build in Oxfordshire, UK, with her husband, two sons and Harvey, their much-loved fox red Labrador.
'Having spent an incredibly long time looking for a traditional property without success, I bought my newly built home in 2018. Initially I transformed the interior and then the garden a year later. The house was built six years ago and is part of a new development, having only had one previous owner.'
The garden was an open space without any real structure. The couple wanted to incorporate lots of different garden design ideas and create areas for relaxing as a family and entertaining with friends.
The original garden and how it looked before
It was almost winter the couple moved in and the garden was in a poor state. 'It felt unloved and in need of some fresh ideas,' says Charlotte, who runs online interiors shop Betty’s Barn Interiors. 'After we had completed the interior decoration of the house, Andrew and I decided it was time to tackle the garden. We thought it was important to plan how we would use the space as a family and take into consideration how the sun moved around the garden, making the most of sunshine and shade at different times of the day.'
The plan for the garden makeover
'My passion is interior design and I wanted the garden to be an extension of our home. Having spent the previous year refurbishing the interior throughout, I had an image in my mind of how I wanted the garden to look.' says Charlotte.
The soil and lawn was in desperate need of improving before they could start planning a layout for the structural work. The couple ultimately wanted it to become an attractive, relaxing space, filled with their favorite plants which would become focal points around the garden.
'Top of my wish list was to soften the view of the neighbor’s house at the bottom of the garden,' explains Charlotte. The garden wall is very prominent and so needed screening as much as possible with plants to conceal it from sight.
'My idea was to plant a row of bamboo, mainly for their height and without taking too much depth from the garden. I’ve always wanted to use railway sleepers for their rustic look and this was an ideal spot for them. We chose a mix of bamboo and phormium plants to help soften the view from the dining room and kitchen.
'I saw in various magazines and Instagram just how effective it can be to repeat the same variety of plant in groups in garden borders, creating a simple, unfussy style. We bought fairly established plants which were expensive but large enough to make an impact and disguise the wall instantly.
'Overall the garden construction and planting cost around £4,000. We tackled the project in several stages, preparing the ground, constructing and planting, taking us about six months to complete.'
Designing a dramatic backdrop
'I stained the garden fence panels and newly installed shed in black to create a dramatic backdrop for the overall scheme. The water-based stain was inexpensive, easy to use and gives a matt finish. It’s the perfect backdrop for my furniture and accessories which I sourced from my shop.'
The ornate garden mirrors add a touch of glam. ‘I love the luxurious feel with gold framed mirrors and lots of comfy cushions,’ says Charlotte.
Continuity with the interior
'I also like the idea of continuity from the house, as I chose an almost black shade for the dining room walls. It started to feel we were getting somewhere with all our efforts as our ideas began to take shape.'
'As new stock arrives into my shop, I like to style and refresh the look with new cushions and throws, both inside the house and outside.'
The inside/outside feel is helped with the bi-fold doors. 'It works so well for us – we usually spill out from the house into the garden, chasing the evening sun.'
Our top tip? Carefully chosen paving ideas can help to enhance that indoor/outdoor feel further. By opting for the same flooring materials for your interior and the patio, you can blur the boundaries between the two spaces.
Creating multiple seating areas
When selecting the best garden furniture for her space, Charlotte opted for lightweight designs so it can be effortlessly moved around the garden and stored away with ease. She then found a good selection of stylish, showerproof cushions and outdoor rugs online, which really add to the indoor-outdoor feel.
'What I really love is using the garden throughout the day, weather permitting. I look forward to a morning coffee sitting outside the dining room and, if I have time later, a quiet read on the swing chair in the shade. Of course, the evening sun on the seating at the top of the garden is such a wonderful treat.'
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