How to: Backyard Renovation and Pallet Seating

With more and more people living in urban areas, small space design for outdoor environments is becoming a hive of creativity. Here at Living Spaces we want to celebrate those people maximising the smallest of outdoor areas to give themselves some space to breathe.

We caught up with Alice Duggan, to find out how she transformed what she describes as her ‘grotty bin store’ into an oasis of relaxation to while away the summer days.

Tell us about your project, what inspired you to start and how you managed such a transformation?

“I think this project was mainly driven by frustration with the lack of light in my home. We were experiencing a fantastic Spring, and I felt like when I was at home I wasn’t able to make the most of it.

I live in a first floor tyneside flat by the coast, so I had previously gone to the beach when the sun was shining (a luxury I’m very grateful to have the option of!) but it was time to sort out the tired old back yard so I could have a space to have breakfast outdoors, or read a book or do a bit of sunbathing. I had a bit of a vision from looking at images on Pinterest – this was one of my favourites:

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – JANUARY 18TH 2015;The Block Triple Threat contestants reveal their week 10 room (Terrace/Outdoor Area) on Sunday the 18th of January 2015 in Melbourne Australia. (Photo by Martin Philbey) *** Local Caption ***The Block Triple Threat

I love the mix of the black fence and the tropical plants, and having inbuilt seating to chill out on, but this was a little out of my league from a budget standpoint so I took a mainly DIY approach (with a little help with the decking!).


 Step 1: I got a local company to come and cover up the uneven concrete with decking, this was the cheapest way to level the yard, and they put up a fence for me too.

Step 2: Paint the fence black! – I had a lot of worried looking faces when I told people that I was going to paint the new fence black, I think it’s because it’s quite a small space, people were worried this could be very imposing, but I had a vision and stuck to it.

Step 3: Pallet seating.

  • Ask at your local supermarket if they have any disused pallets you can take off their hands, you will need 2 large square or rectangular pallets of the same size.
  • Use a saw to cut in half, stack two or three halves on top of one another, depending on your preferred height and use the final quarter as a backrest, simply nail into place.
  • Get some pallet cushions that connect to create a seamless sofa feel that won’t slip about. Make sure they are water and stain resistant. The Serenity cushions from Icon are ideal as they look seamless indoors with their soft woven fabric, and yet have all the durability of outdoor furnishings.
    The Serenity Cushions by Icon turn a pallet into an outdoor sofa in seconds…
    Outdoor cushions and bench pads are essential to breathe a bit of colour into the space.

Step 4: Plants, plants, plants and more plants. The black only really works in contrast with the green of the plants, I wanted a tropical feel so choose leafy green plants rather than floral, these seem to deal with shadier spots quite well too which is great. The best buy was probably these little plastic black planters that attach to the fence in threes, this is now my herb garden. Vertical planting increases the space in your yard to grow things, so it’s essential in a small space.

Sunflowers and climbers are a great addition as they are fast growing and create such an impact, it’s so fun to watch them grow!

Sunflowers and climbers – instant greenery!
The fence planters on the left are perfect for an urban herb garden. And the bench pads, cushions and stools give instant sophistication to a pallet.
Tropical plants give instant greenery and create that oasis feeling. And the soft pastel colours of the Serenity Cushions soften the look, creating a calming atmosphere.

Step 5: Get yourself a fire pit that can double up as a BBQ – space & money saving!

Step 6: Relax with a glass of Prosecco and enjoy your urban jungle in total comfort (a little indoor-outdoor stool is a great drinks table and extra seat!)”

You can find all the soft furnishings used in this project at


We caught up with designer Allison Chatten, lead designer at British brand Icon, to discover the big trend for AW18 and her simple styling tips to give your home a retro modern twist.

A fusion of contemporary and retro style, and a focus on well being in interior design can help turn your home into a warm, welcoming escape from the cold this winter, says trend analyst and designer Allison Chatten.

So Allison, what is the big trend to watch out for this AW18

“‘Future retro’ is set to be a very popular trend this winter. It’s about refined sophistication and combining a love of vintage and heritage with a more playful, modern atmosphere. In furniture design, this means combining contemporary fabric technology, an awareness of mood-mindful textures with looks inspired by high end sixties and seventies fashion and design such as Prada and Hermès. But for you at home, its about Sophisticated colour combinations and choosing the right balance of luxury and minimalism.”

“Pink is an essential colour for AW18, no matter what your taste, you’re sure to find yourself gravitating towards it this winter. Its playful tone is refreshing with an earthy palate, you’re sure to see pink in a new light this year. The future retro trend gives pink  a sophisticated yet grounded feel.”

So how can we bring pink into 2018 at home?

Try combining peachy pinks, muted berry reds, golden ochre and deep blues to create a moody yet fresh air of sophistication. Then add richly soft textures, dark mango wood, tan leather and copper accents to give the space depth and cosiness. It’s quite an earthy, contemporary take on pink, which is key to giving the seventies look a contemporary twist.

Are there any fabric combinations we should look out for?

Corduroy and velvets come into their own with this style – they have that great retro feel but are also welcoming and refined – while faux fur is great for adding layers of warmth and depth. I’d choose at least one of these fabrics to really complete the look – a velvet arm chair with fur throws always works to layer up warmth and opulence in one, and cord gives a really relaxed retro feel.”

“You’ll find oodles of these fabrics in our new collection, launching in September. Look out for cord retro bean bags in charcoal, stone, heather and navy and a new range of plush velvet beanbag ‘throne’ armchairs and footstools which we are very excited about. These come in three on trend colours of rich Dragon Teal, delicate Moon Glow Gold and earthy Sea Smoke Grey. And everyone’s favourite – faux fur, in every tone and shape you could imagine –  whether your style is more Game of Thrones or Made in Chelsea we have the fur for you!”

What influenced you as a brand and designer to explore this trend in product design?

“I think the thing that drew us to this modern-retro trend for our 70’s Soul Collection is our commitment as a brand and as designers to create interiors that enhance wellbeing. Mindfulness and balance are at the heart of everything we do, we are very much inspired by a relaxed Scandinavian way of life where warmth comes from sharing moments with friends and family, and happiness is found in the little everyday things.

Living in Northumberland has probably influenced this mentality, as Geordies are a typically friendly, warm bunch – probably because of the harsh weather! I am a firm believer that every object in your home should bring you joy. It’s important to consider the impact of the fabrics and fillings you choose to dress your home with, and how the organisation of space can affect mood and atmosphere in the home. Our Autumn/Winter look has been designed to create a relaxed and fluid way of life.

I’ve pulled together some advise to help you bring a bit of retro charm into your home, and most importantly, to make sure you have a balanced home that makes you feel calm and cosy this winter.

Interior advice from Allison for Autumn/Winter:

– If you want to make your home feel warmer for AW18 whilst retaining an air of sophistication pair deep teals, bold ochres and dark greys, with delicate dusky or peachy pinks.

Image credit: Marie Claire Maison via Ariel Gordon Jewelry Blog


-Once you have your base colour palate, choose walnut or mango wood accessories, to add a richness and raw depth. Lace these with amber vases and copper highlights to lift the look into true 60’s and 70’s style.

– When choosing furniture, smaller simple pieces that engulf you in comfort rather than large, bulkier items can create a calm informal mood without taking up too much space.

-If you are an interiors addict with lots of accessories try to strip back and have a rule for yourself – if it doesn’t bring you joy or have a practical use take it to a charity shop.

– If you have a minimalist look add layers of cosiness and opulence with ultra-soft faux fur, plush velvet or soft corduroy to create a warm and welcoming living area.

– When winter is getting you down, remember soft, tactile textures such as faux fur throws are a perfect antidote to bleaker weather.

– If your struggling for space make a list of the activities you do in that space and look for multi-use pieces such as soft stools which can be used as seats, footrests and even side-tables.

Image credit: Homes and Gardens Magazine & Interior Designer Rachel Casey. Featuring the Icon Serenity Stool.

Allison Chatten is one of Britain’s leading furniture designers, with over 15 years’ experience in trend prediction and analysis and furniture design.

Icon is a British brand of soft-fill furniture and furnishings, drawing inspiration from its home in the wilds of Northumberland and a relaxed, Scandinavian way of life. Blending minimalism with layers of cosiness each item is carefully crafted to tempt the soul and stir the senses. Icon furniture and furnishings are available to purchase at

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5 Minutes with ICON’s Queen of Serene Stephanie Grieve on Finding Serenity

Modern life is full of colour, pace and energy. So, it’s easy to get caught up in the everyday hustle and bustle of work life and forget to reconnect with our inner beings. Our inner self is often the person we are when we are at home; surrounded by the living spaces we have created to reflect our personal passions and interests.

Continue reading “5 Minutes with ICON’s Queen of Serene Stephanie Grieve on Finding Serenity”