With the weather hotting up, it’s the perfect time to be getting outside and making the most of our outdoor spaces once more. Having somewhere that’s stylish and comfy where we can catch up with friends and family is top of our garden wishlists.
That’s exactly what DIY savvy couple Cat and Jono Stuart have achieved with their garden design ideas, transforming a neglected, uninspiring courtyard into a welcoming outdoor living space complete with DIY pergola and outdoor kitchen. There's even an outdoor shower that’s perfect for using after those sunny beach days we’re all looking forward to this summer.
Having completed an extensive renovation on their house, which Cat has documented on Instagram @catrin.stuart (opens in new tab), the couple’s next goal was to update the garden to create an indoor-outdoor flow that worked better with their new extension. When COVID hit and lockdown restrictions were imposed, the couple suddenly found they had more time on their hands and decided to give the garden makeover a go themselves.
DIY courtyard makeover
‘The builders had paved the outside space and run the plumbing for the outdoor kitchen and shower underneath the patio as we knew we eventually wanted to include those features, but other than that we just had a blank canvas to work with,’ says Cat.
Painting the walls a soft shade of pink was the starting point for the courtyard makeover. ‘We’ve got pops of pink throughout the house and Jono suggested it would work in the garden too,’ explains Cat. ‘I grew up in the Caribbean and knew the painted walls would give it the Caribbean vibe I was after. Trying to get hold of any suitable pink paint during lockdown turned out to be harder than we thought it would be! We ended up having to order some online without having tried a tester pot, so we just had to hope it looked ok.’
The couple kept seeing images of pergolas on Instagram and Pinterest and were keen to try something similar in the corner of their garden to help zone the patio. Jono searched online for some step-by-step guides on how to build a pergola, then once confident he could build one himself, he ordered a load of timber from a local timber merchants and got to work.
‘The timber for the pergola cost around £300,’ says Cat. ‘It went up super quickly too; it took Jono just two days to build it. We attached the frame to the garden walls and then added the roof slats on top.’
One of our favorite elements of the patio makeover has to be the spacious corner sofa. The couple saved themselves a massive amount of money by building it themselves. ‘Jono followed a You Tube tutorial and the sofas were built within a couple of days. I ordered some dark grey sofa cushions on Ebay, and our outdoor seating ideas were pretty much complete.’
The timber for the sofas and the cushions cost around £350 in total – a huge saving when you compare it to the cost of buying a similar wooden corner sofa, which can cost in the region of £2,000.
If you want to make similar savings by making your own budget-friendly garden furniture, make sure you check out our pallet furniture ideas, or why not follow our guide on how to build a pallet bench?
The completed design slots neatly underneath the pergola
On the other side of the space, Cat and Jono have used their DIY skills for some outdoor kitchen ideas, plus they've even included an outdoor shower, which is tucked neatly against the garden wall. Colorful wall tiles complement the pink walls, while an outdoor tap made from copper piping is a fun touch.
‘We live five minutes from the sea and love surfing and paddle boarding, so having an outdoor shower with hot water is perfect for washing off all the sand when we get home,’ says Cat.
In autumn, the couple added a roof to their pergola to weatherproof the space during the cooler months, while a couple of patio heaters meant they were able to use the space over winter, too.
The OSB board and corrugated roof took less than an hour to be attached to the frame of the pergola, and it can easily be removed during the summer if needed. ‘With our unpredictable weather, I think it might be staying on though!’ says Cat. Festoon lights, an outdoor rug and lots of cushions give the whole space a cosy, welcoming vibe.
‘Adding the pergola and outdoor kitchen has given us the perfect outdoor entertaining space that we always wanted. We love being out here reading the papers at the weekend or sitting chatting with friends,’ says Cat. ‘Plus, we’ve saved thousands of pounds doing this garden makeover ourselves. It’s definitely worth giving it a go if you want to save some money on your garden project.’ We couldn’t agree more.
If you’re feeling inspired, take a look at our cheap garden ideas for more budget-friendly ways to transform your space.
Beth's first journalism job was working for Real Homes magazine more than 18 years ago. It cemented her love of all things homes- and garden-related and she's never looked back since. She's worked for and contributed to a number of leading magazines in the UK, including Ideal Home magazine, Period Living magazine, Grand Designs magazine and Good Homes magazine amongst others, before returning to Real Homes magazine as editor. Now the editor of Gardeningetc.com, Beth's attention is firmly outdoors, and she's constantly inspired by how people make use of their outdoor space.
Her own garden is a really important part of her family's home, and they were lucky enough to inherit a space with lots of lovely mature planting when they bought their 1930s property.
Since then, they've built several raised beds for a veg patch, increased the size of the flowerbeds to find room for yet more of her favourite David Austin roses and her husband's collection of hostas, created an outdoor living room complete with comfy sofas and festoon lights, and not forgetting the biggest challenge of all – trying to fit in the ever changing assortment of trampolines, climbing frames and outdoor toys that are inevitable when you have two young kids!
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