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Garden makeover project by Bland Design

With the recent easing of Covid restrictions here in the UK I thought it was about time I got my garden ready for guests now that we’re finally allowed to meet up! Before I started, I only had an old table with a collapsed top and no chairs. All it takes is a few DIY projects and some help from ManoMano to totally transform your space ready for entertaining… That’s the plan at least!

The garden before its makeover
The garden before its makeover

I’ve split the garden makeover into 6 mini projects:

  1. DIY Garden Mirror
  2. Tips for painting wood outdoors
  3. Using arches to structure your garden
  4. DIY Garden Table 
  5. Setting up a pizza oven
  6. Making it comfy

1. Garden makeover: DIY Mirror 

The garden makeover features a DIY mirror
The garden makeover features a DIY mirror

Materials & tools

My garden is pretty small, so adding a mirror is a fun way to add a bit of dimension to the space (just be mindful of its placement so you don’t have any accidents with birds flying into it). For mine I made it to go behind the metal arbour seat against my fence to create a fun optical illusion that the garden extends further.

This one is surprisingly simple; cut the marine ply to the size you want (I left a border around mine and painted the edge black) and glue down the mirrors with the solvent free adhesive, making sure to apply even lines of glue.

Place the mirrors down firmly and leave it lying flat while the glue sets for a few hours and you’re done! To keep it in place I used a couple of wood screws to attach the top to the fence and the base is resting on the floor to take the weight.

2. Garden makeover: Painting Wood Outdoors

So, I’m slightly obsessed with painting everything black, however you can choose any colour… But before you grab your brushes, don’t make the same mistake that I did last year! I painted this bench a year ago and it’s peeling already because I didn’t sand it, but I’ve fixed it now!

Materials & tools

The bench from last year that hadn't been sanded down
The bench from last year that hadn’t been sanded down
The bench is a key part to the garden makeover
The bench is a key part to the garden makeover

I also painted the fence and raised planter, these are made from ‘sawn’ wood which is rough and easily holds on to the paint, which is handy, along with the sawn timber that I used to border the beds around the garden. The wood for the borders was actually repurposed from the old boiler tank in my loft but you can use this timber for the same thing. All you have to do is dig a little trench for them to rest in once you’ve painted/stained them.

Painting the wood
Painting the wood

My pro tips for painting wood outside:

  • If you’re repainting something that’s peeling (like my bench) you’ll need to give it a rub down with a wire brush and then a light sand to give the new paint something to grab on to
  • Smooth unfinished wood needs lightly sanding and possibly priming (if your chosen paint brand recommends it) 
  • Multiple thin coats with a very light sanding in between will last much longer than one thick coat. It’s more effort initially but totally worth it!
  • Wood outdoors will usually need retreating/touching up every couple of years, that’s just something I’ve come to accept

3. Garden makeover: Structures 

I quite like the slightly overgrown/woodland garden look, although it can look a little wild… In order to give the garden a bit of interest, I used simple metal arches to help structure the area. (Last year I build a massive pergola on my patio – if you you’re wanting to do something a bit more dramatic take a look at the blog article I did.)

Add some structure to your garden makeover
Add some structure to your garden makeover

I already had one arch next to the raised bed (which I really like) so why not add more! Along the fence where there aren’t any trellis I added a set of green arches to eventually grow climbing plants around. This will give the garden a bit more privacy, it’s really simple but effective – and they just stab into the ground!

And as if that wasn’t enough, directly in front of the original arch, I used an arched metal arbour seat in front of the arched mirror I made (I think that’s enough arches now). 

Although for the arbour I did end up putting down some spare slabs so it didn’t sink into the ground (I saved some old ones that I lifted from my patio last year) and it was easier than I thought it would be, a couple of bags of building sand and a spirit level was all I used to get them laid nice and flat!

Garden makeover step by step
Garden makeover step by step

4. Garden makeover: DIY table 

You can see from the ‘before’ photo that my old tabletop was a wreck (I used the wrong wood when I tiled it) but the metal frame was still usable, although you can do this with any wood topped table really – just make sure to prepare/paint the wood suitably! If this is the first time you’ve met me you won’t know that I’m a bit obsessed with gold leaf (I’m an artist and gilder) so that had to be a part of my project, but of course you can just paint yours.

Garden table - before
Garden table – before

Tools & materials:

If you’re starting with a readymade table then you can skip this step, but for mine I needed to cut a new top from marine ply, and sand the edges smooth once cut to size (I did cut a hole for an umbrella using a flat drill bit from my set. I also need some seating for my table so I got 2 metal benches that came with untreated wood tops which were perfect for painting, and a pair of black rattan chairs by VidaXL to match.

Using the same paint I’ve used for everything in the garden I painted the table and bench tops (2 thin coats sanding in between) and once dry I got to work on my antique gold effect. At this point you could paint a design/stripes/stencil you name it – if you want to see more of my gold nonsense check out my Instagram.

Once you’re happy with your look then you need to seal it, otherwise it’s going to be a little rough and hard to clean, using a clear varnish. You can get clear outdoor varnish in different finishes, but my preference is gloss, just make sure the paint underneath is completely dry before you varnish anything! And voila! You’ve got a stunning bespoke seating area that’s hard wearing and easy to clean.

5. Garden makeover: Pizza Oven

We all like pizza of some kind (and if you don’t then we can’t be friends) but it’s a bit daunting to dive right in to using a pizza oven! This pizza oven from Outsunny is a great place to start for a beginner like me.  It’s not huge or permanent and there is no need for gas canisters as it’s a solid fuel burner.

Pizza oven from Outsunny
Pizza oven from Outsunny

It needs a stable and level base of course, and since I was putting mine on the grass, I set a few concrete slabs down with sand underneath just like I did with the arbour mentioned above. Once that’s all done it’s ready to light! I will admit that I burned one… 

6. Garden makeover: Making it comfy 

British weather can be a bit unpredictable as we know, so to make the space a bit more comfortable and cosy when the sun isn’t out I added a table to bio ethanol fire, some solar lights, some solar fairy lights – and of course a couple of rugs and throws.

And to top it all off… Giant bean bags. I mean who didn’t dream of having one as a kid! 

Garden makeover project by Bland Design
Black rattan chairs from VidaXL

So, there we have it – now I just need to scrub the paint off of my hands, rally up my friends and have a little gathering in my new lovely garden!

Did you enjoy this article from Bland Design on how to do a garden makeover in 6 easy steps? Why not read our tutorial on a DIY solar lamp made from pallets or even our pizza oven buying guide!

Are you doing a garden makeover too? Share your finished results with us on Instagram using the #mymanomanoway, #manomanouk and #youvegotthis hashtags!