Before and after: from boring backyard to stunning garden retreat

Thanks to a DIY pergola, hammock and lots of planting, these homeowners have turned an uninspiring backyard into a relaxing space. See how they did it...

before and after backyard makeover
(Image credit: Steve Haworth/@ten_sea_view)

We love a brilliant before and after transformation at Gardeningetc, and this one has certainly grabbed our attention. Thanks to the addition of a fabulous DIY pergola, a stylish hammock, potted plants and festoon lights, this once boring backyard is a masterclass in small garden ideas, illustrating that anything is possible, even in a compact space. 

Owners Steve and Katelin have cleverly turned an uninspiring space at the rear of their home into a beautiful garden retreat where they can relax outdoors in the sunshine. 

The couple, who chart the progress of their home and garden renovation on their Instagram account @ten_sea_view, decided to give their backyard a makeover during lockdown in 2020. 

A fairly awkward shape, the garden extends to a point at one end. Completely paved over, there was no planting in the original space to help soften the hard landscaping. Mismatched fences on both sides of the garden did little to improve its appearance and there was limited privacy from neighboring properties too. 

Compact in size, the lack of interesting features and planting only served to make it feel even smaller than it was. 'The garden was very plain and tired and we wanted to introduce some plants and seating to the space,' explains Steve. 'With it being a small yard, we decided it would be a good idea to grow plants vertically as much as possible too.' 

The couple were keen to make more of their limited outdoor space and create an inviting area that they'd actually enjoy spending time in. Having already extended their home and added bi-fold doors to connect indoors and out, they wanted to redesign the backyard to help merge the two spaces too. 

before and after backyard makeover: building a DIY pergola

In progress: Steve says the main structure of the DIY pergola was fairly straightforward to build

(Image credit: Steve Haworth/@ten_sea_view)

A keen DIYer, Steve was up for the task of transforming what he describes as 'the yarden' into a space that matches the inspiring interior of their new kitchen-diner. 

The first thing Steve did was to work out how to build a pergola. To create the main structure for the DIY pergola, he installed the four main corner supports as well as the roof beams. Next he built the framework for the bench on two sides of the pergola, before adding timber slats to the top of the bench frame to create the all-important seating. 

before and after backyard makeover: building a DIY pergola

Building the framework for the bench seating

(Image credit: Steve Haworth/@ten_sea_view)

'The pergola was pretty easy to build,' says Steve. 'The seating was a bit more tricky to make sure it was strong enough. It took me a day to build then another day to paint, occasionally stopping for a brew of course!' 

The frame of the pergola was painted black, both to protect the timber and introduce some color to the space. Steve then screened the original fence behind the pergola with timber boards, slotting in handy shelves as a spot for displaying extra potted plants. 

before and after backyard makeover: painting a DIY pergola

The frame of the pergola was painted black to ensure the greenery would stand out against the dark backdrop

(Image credit: Steve Haworth/@ten_sea_view)

On the adjoining side of the pergola, narrow timber battens create a vertical screen, adding shade and privacy to this corner of the plot. 

With the structure complete, it was time to add the finishing touches. Festoon lights are an on-trend way to create atmosphere after dark, while adding their choice of the best hammock ensures Steve, Katelin and their two children now have a comfy spot to unwind outdoors. 

before and after backyard makeover: DIY pergola and hammock

Fixing the hammock in place was the finishing touch to the DIY pergola

(Image credit: Steve Haworth/@ten_sea_view)

'We use the redesigned space to grow lots of herbs like basil, mint, rosemary and lavender,' adds Steve. 'Last summer, we also grew peas up the side of the pergola. We plan to grow more peas and strawberries this year, and we've introduced lots of climbing plants to add color. There's even an olive tree and a lemon tree under the pergola too.'   

Costing the couple just £150 (around $205) for the timber required for their pergola ideas, this budget-friendly makeover has completely transformed their space and they love the difference it has made to their home. 'It has strangely made the garden feel a lot bigger too,' says Steve. 'We love having this area where we can gather for a BBQ or drink.' 

Feeling inspired by Steve and Katelin's makeover to create some budget-friendly furniture in your space this spring too? Check out our pallet furniture ideas, or follow our step-by-step guide on how to build a pallet bench

Beth Murton
Editor, Gardeningetc

For the past 18 years, Beth has worked for and contributed to a number of leading magazines in the UK, including Real Homes, Ideal Home, Period Living, Grand Designs and Good Homes amongst others. Now the editor of, Beth's attention is firmly outdoors. Her own garden is a really important part of her family's home, and she loves spending time tending to the veg patch or entertaining friends and family at a summer BBQ or alfresco pizza night.