January Backyard Makeover
Erika Raxworthy is a self described Jill of all creative trades who spends her days between styling, photography and graphic design, among other creative odd jobs. Her blog, Erika Rax, is where she lets her inner crafter and home baker run free, sharing the bits from life that brings her the most joy.
A comfortable outdoor space can do miracles for your sanity and quality of home life. If you don’t agree, a week in my top level, balcony-less apartment will almost certainly change your mind. So with my parents’ backyard sitting in a state of unuse for the better part of 10 years, it was time to take action.
The reason for the backyard’s neglect simply comes down to it having been filed as a lesser priority to the front yard’s contribution to favourable street appeal. Also, the too hard basket as the ideal plan for a large deck area would cost thousands of dollars and take many hours to complete.
But progress is made in baby steps. So with January being nominated as the month to get it in a usable condition, we set off to Supa Centa. I kid. We did a little lot planning first.
We called a family meeting and discussed how the backyard was going to be used. After some back and forth, we decided it would best serve as an extended living space. We were quickly imagining summer evenings lounging, sipping sundowners and soaking up the remaining daylight hours after work. While in cooler months and weekend mornings, coffee in the sun.
Now that we knew what it would be, we considered how it should look and feel. In order to fit with the rest of the house and the front garden, we wanted to keep it light, neutral and natural for low maintenance. The point was to spend the evenings relaxing in the space, not upkeeping. By the end of the meeting we had settled on a bohemian coastal feel.
Day one was spent getting our hands dirty. The team cleaned up the work space, pulled out paths and whipped stray grass back into line. It was time to divide up the jobs. Team mum and dad would take care of landscaping – getting the grass and plants to match the front yard’s glory. They also decided to build a small deck to round off the part of the garden attached to the house. As the stylist, I would look after furnishings and finishes.
I approached my shopping at Supa Centa methodically. First, the big ticket statement items. In my mind I was visualising a two seater and a cute chair (like one of these from Coppola Home), but after my eye fell on the Adirondack chairs in Bed Bath N’ Table, I couldn’t resist and snapped up two straight away. They’re so comfortable and I think they’ll give the area a relaxed, coastal style.
Next was a trip to Barbeques Galore to hunt for a fire pit. I’ll admit my motives for seeking one of these was predominantly motivated by romanticised thoughts of roasted marshmallows and toasty starlit nights. Sweet things aside, the pit will really cosy up the space and take away the evening chill once autumn hits.
Speaking of cosy, I discovered the softest throw at MyHouse to wrap around shivering shoulders and for extra comfort, a bright green cushion from Freedom. I also collected some serving wares, sweet gold tumblers for sundowner cocktails, a blue rimmed white ceramic platter and a leather finished bamboo board for nibbles. It would be too easy to spend all day in Freedom, but with so much else to explore and see, I resisted.
To round out the space, I popped in to Shack (which as a side note was such a surprise gold mine of beautiful things) where I walked out with a stunning glass and brass lantern that would look great with a potted succulent nestled inside. The lantern would also perfectly match the Middle Eastern inspired mirror that I picked up with the chairs at Bed Bath N’ Table. A large wicker basket to house the charcoal and other bits and pieces for the fire pit was a no brainer. On a final round of Supa Centa, I went over to Adairs and got some cutesy twine wrapped jars. A great find which will hold candles or cut flowers from the garden.
Back at home, my parents had done a brilliant job with their duties, leaving me to think of finishes. Some stumps found next to the house were the perfect accessory to my goodies from Supa Centa. We gave them a good bath, painted their tops white then grouped them around the space. On one, my dad indulged my crafty side and drilled a hole in the top, filled it halfway with quick-set cement and planted a plastic (shhh) overhanging pearl string succulent I couldn’t walk past in Freedom.
Just add plants! We went for mostly succulents (see low maintenance) planted in various jars and pots but stuck to greens and whites for a unified look. And those marshmallow dreams? Yeah, that happened.
Overall, I think we did a great job turning the backyard around. We achieved all our goals of natural, light and open spaces. There’s also lots of space and opportunity to keep building upon it and improve in little ways if my parents decide to later.
Time for another roasted marshmallow with this simple recipe.
Vanilla Bean Marshmallows
• 1 cup Caster Sugar
• 1 tbs Powdered Gelatin
• 2/3 cup Water
• 1 tsp Vanilla Paste
• 1/8 cup Icing Sugar and 1/8 cup Cornflour combined for dusting
Combine sugar, gelatin and water in a saucepan over very low heat. Stir until the sugar has completely dissolved then increase heat to medium. Stop stirring and let simmer for 10 mins. Take off the heat and let it sit for another 10 mins to settle. This is a good time to grease, line and dust a small square tin (about 20cm x 20cm) with icing sugar/cornflour.
Transfer the syrup to your electric mixer bowl, add vanilla, and beat for another 10 mins until white, thick and shiny. Pour marshmallow into dusted tin. Depending on the conditions of your kitchen, the marshmallow can take an hour or two to set and firm up. Slice with a greased knife and dust with more icing sugar/cornflour mixture.
Yield: 20 small squares.