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 www.beanbagbazaar.co.uk