Contemporary rattan furniture and fence painted grey in a new build garden

Lisa’s Garden {How to Add Character to a New Build Garden}

Author: Lisa Soeno

When we first moved into our house three-and-a-half years ago, the garden was the type of outdoor space you’d find at the back of any bog-standard new build home. I really wish I had a ‘before’ photo, because seriously guys, it was awful. We’re talking unpainted pale wooden fence panels, terrible quality grass, cheap-as-chips patio slabs and no plants/shrubs/flowers/interesting features whatsoever!

Fast forward to today, and it’s completely transformed. I mean it’s never going to win Garden Of The Year, and the quality of the grass is still awful (I can count twenty two dandelions from where I’m sitting), but hey: it’s my first ever garden where I’ve attempted to try and grow anything but grass. I now love spending time out here: pottering with a watering can, digging up dandelions(!), giving the kids marks out of ten for their star jumps on the trampoline (the trampoline is opposite the shed but no-one wants to see pictures of that right?!). It really does feel like an extension of the house.

Lisa’s New Build Garden {What We Did}

  • We crossed over to the dark side with the shed and the fences by painting them in Cuprinol Urban Slate and Cuprinol Silver Birch respectively. This made a HUGE difference. The greens of the garden really pop against the grey, and even though I was slightly concerned that using moody hues might make the garden seem smaller, it actually had the opposite effect.
  • The patio was titchy, so we extended it by adding a couple of extra rows of slabs. Now there’s actually room for an outdoor table and chairs, and space to walk around it.
  • We asked a landscape gardener to install raised planters made out of railway sleepers, and to incorporate easy-to-maintain plants, shrubs and trees. Our garden is quite overlooked so we also sought their advice on the best types of trees to plant in the raised beds that would provide a bit more privacy.
  • I spent yonks choosing the right outdoor furniture. I was keen to find pieces that were modern (so they matched the era of the house), stylish but kid-friendly. The rattan chairs were from Cox and Cox, and the table is an outdoor dining table from Asda which I spruced up using leftover paint. The outdoor sofa is a modular sofa from and is one of the best purchases we’ve ever made. It’s ridiculously comfy, the cushions still look as good as the day we bought it – that’s despite being constantly left out in the rain/overnight, and the ottoman part can also be used as a coffee table if you whip the cushion off.
  • To see a couple more pics, and for a sneak peek of my nearly-finished kitchen, head over to Rock My Wedding today for a shoot that took place in my garden.

    Lisa’s New Build Garden {Next Steps}

  • See that big expanse of brick wall behind the table? It has been crying out for some greenery since the day we moved in, but as it’s not visible from inside the house, it’s been my last priority. Well, on the weekend I bought a large tall planter from Homesense a bit like this linear planter and I intend to plant roses or some other kind of climber that will hopefully cover the wall. (If you’re in the market for garden stuff get thee down to your local Homesense: they’ve got some bee-you-tiful stuff in at the moment).
  • Most of the cushions in these shots are indoor ones which have been scooped off the sofas in my house, so I’m in desperate need of outdoor cushions. I’m eyeing up these woven ones from Maisons Du Monde.
  • I loved having bright, vibrant blooms in my garden for the Rock My Wedding shoot, so I’m going to do some research into colourful, low-maintenance flowers that don’t mind a) shady spots and b) being plucked by kids. (If the green-fingered readers amongst you have any recommendations, I’m all ears).
  • This is the exciting one. I’d love to replace the patio slabs with concrete tiles, a la Emily Henderson. My tile of choice is that instafave, the Lily Pad, in dark grey encaustic cement. (Again, if anyone has done similar, I’d love to hear your advice). Until then, I’m going to invest in an outdoor rug…B&Q have some beauts. And would you just look at this outdoor pouffe.
  • For more inspo of the garden variety, I blogged about splurge/steal outdoor furniture last summer and some of the pieces are still available. It’s also worth checking out Allison Sadler’s home tour as she has an absolute peach of a new build garden.

    Do you have an outdoor space which you’re planning on tackling this Bank Holiday? Or maybe you’re the proud owner of a newly spruced up garden?

    Enjoy the long weekend guys x

    • Outdoor Sofa
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    • West Elm Rattan Lanterns
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    • Maisons Du Monde Outdoor Cushion
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    • Wilko String Lights
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    • Garden Trading Outdoor Chairs
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    • Garden Trading Bench
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    Author: Lisa Soeno
    Lisa is obsessed with all things interior design. And Cadbury buttons.
    Follow Lisa on instagram @lisa.soeno
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    24 thoughts on “Lisa’s Garden {How to Add Character to a New Build Garden}

    1. Emily Henderson’s patio has been top of my inspiration board for when we eventually do our own since it first appeared on her blog and it still looks amazing. That tile!!

      We also used Urban Slate to revamp our shed and garden furniture, and you are right, the dark grey really makes the greens pop. Your garden is looking lovely.

      1. Ahh, thank you Kirsty!

        THAT TILE.

        What I also like about the shed being dark grey is that it almost merges into the shadows.

    2. Looks fab Lisa!!! Well done, must be so lovely to sit outside in your garden now. I’m not the best for plant recommendations I’m afraid, we have a ridiculously sunny garden, however if you can find irises to grow in a slightly shadier habitat I would recommend – ours are thriving so much they are in danger of taking over the whole flower bed! Clematis are also lovely, although the flowers don’t last that long in my experience. We also had Erysimum “Bowles Mauve” in our garden, which flowers for most of the spring, summer and autumn (at least in our very temporate space). We have just pulled it out because it was getting a bit massive and didn’t like being cut back much, but looking to replace it. It was fabulous, didn’t need much attention and the bees loved it.

      1. Your garden looks beautiful Lisa.
        Hydrangea is a fav of mine for our shady corner spot. As long as it gets a bit of sun light.
        Do all the fences belong to you or some are neighbours? I’m dying to paint the one belonging to our neighbours as it’s a bright brown/orange colour, but my husband is worried it will leak through to the other side (I would check before going ahead with the neighbour anyway). Any tips for not leaking through? 1

    3. Oooh I forgot salvias! Loads to choose from (mainly in the purple spectrum I find) but again really lovely and not hard to look after at all.

      1. Annie, for someone who says they aren’t the best for plant recommendations you’ve come up with some great ones 😛 Thank you! I doooo love sitting out there now.

    4. This looks great Lisa, I have just screen shotted your lovely grey fence to email to my husband! We have been debating which colour to paint ours for ages.

      We moved into our new build 4 years ago and had exactly the same to contend with – pale fences and awful quality grass. After re-turfing twice (infestation of leather jacket worms that kill your grass) we went artificial and we”re so glad we did. We’ve also extended the patio so we have room for garden furniture, added some raised beds and we’re pretty happy with the result. We haven’t a clue what we’re doing (lived in a flat with no garden for 9 years) so we are totally winging it but I shall certainly take some inspiration from this post 🙂

      1. Ahh Katie what a compliment! Would definitely recommend the silvery grey fences.

        Leather jacket worms…yuck! X

    5. Beautiful! I’ve bookmarked for inspiration when we eventually get round to doing ours.

    6. Your garden looks so lovely! The fences and shed look amazing against the plants and the bright blue sky and sunshine but can i ask whether they look as good when it is grey sky and miserable outside? Currently debating dark v light fences and worried that when the weather is grey it might just all look a bit depressing – I do live in Manchester after all!! Thanks!

      1. Amy I’m looking out into the garden now (it’s TIPPING it down) and I still love the fences even though it’s grey and miserable. Go for it! X

    7. We are in a new build too which has an overlooked garden. I’d be really interested to know what trees were recommended to help with privacy. Thanks in advance x

      1. Hi Philippa, the gardeners recommended using feathery trees such as prunus shidare yoshino and hoheria sexstylosa Snow White. We’ve been really happy with them x

    8. Hi Lisa, it looks fab! I would love to know what plants you’ve got in your raised bed….the spikey ones by the shed, the small tree in the corner, the dangly one with flowers… (can you tell I’m not much of a gardener :D) x

      1. Thanks Jen! Hee hee, your knowledge of gardening sounds similar to mine.

        The spiky plants are a mixture of cordyline and pennisetum sky rocket. The cordyline has been great as it grows really quickly, so provides a lot of greenery.

        I thiiiink the small tree in the corner is hoheria sexstylosa and the dangly one with flowers (I lol-ed at this) is a Weeping Yoshino Cherry tree. It had THE most beautiful pink blossom which blew off the week before Adam came to shoot it, obvs 🙂 Hope that helps x

    9. Good work Lisa, looks really good! Have you seen what @iamhayleystuart did to her paving slabs with a stencil and some masonry pain? I think a climbing rose will look great on that wall and if you pick well it will flower all summer. Can’t wait to see your kitchen makeover.

      1. Oh em GEE Kat I’ve just had a peek on insta, I am so going to look into doing that! Hayley Stuart is a DIY genius!

        Do you have any recommendations of climbing roses? x

    10. Love it Lisa! Can I ask a very middle aged question? Sorry if you said Andy I have missed it, where is your shed from please? Xoxo

    11. Your garden looks beautiful Lisa.
      Hydrangea is a fav of mine for our shady corner spot. As long as it gets a bit of sun light.
      Do all the fences belong to you or some are neighbours? I’m dying to paint the one belonging to our neighbours as it’s a bright brown/orange colour, but my husband is worried it will leak through to the other side (I would check before going ahead with the neighbour anyway). Any tips for not leaking through?

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