Our Garden Makeover

Our ‘office’ over the last two years has either been a small and narrow, often cramped room or the kitchen table. We shared the room-that-we-intended-to-be-an-office-but-never-really-worked-out-that-way with Penny, doubling it up as her playroom. Foolishly, we believed that by sharing the space and allowing her to play by our side as we worked would create the ‘perfect’ working environment (haha – oh how we giggle at ourselves now!). For anyone who doesn’t know four-year-olds very well, or has never had any dealings with them before, sharing is not one of their strong points. Neither is being quiet (as I type this I’m listening to her tantrum around the house making as much noise as possible) or being patient or understanding that adults do sometimes have to work. So whether it be a toy or space on an already cramped desk, it’s theirs. Or “mine”as they put it. This ‘shared’ working environment wasn’t really working out for any of us (mainly us), so after much deliberation, we agreed that we needed more space, another room or a restructure of our living space. We discussed the idea of extensions, room swaps, even hiring a studio to offer a more structured working routine, but the option that continued to pop up was to build an office in the garden. And here’s why:

– The act of ‘walking to work’ every morning, allowing us to separate the two – work and home – sounded very appealing. Sometimes I can be a little too cosy and unproductive in home mode and making the switch into working mode can take longer than it should. It’s worrying how long I could take transforming my kitchen table from somewhere to enjoy eating pain au chocolat to somewhere I make important business decisions. I’d always find something tasty to eat or another cup of tea to drink.

– I’m the world’s worst procrastinator and it doesn’t take much for me to be pulled away from my laptop – emptying the washing machine, cleaning the bathroom, sorting my socks (yes, I’m really *that* bad). So, I’m removing myself from a home full of distractions; completed dishwasher alerts, a fridge full of food and the T.V. and instead, popping me into a one-roomed office. I’m hoping this change will result in my fingers and brain burning with all of the work I’ll be producing. This’ll happen, right?

– We were drastically running out of white space or an area for us to take our images against. The office now offers us a large white and blank space to work our magic.

– Props – or more specifically – our masses of materials that we’ve collected while doing our #scenefromtheceiling shots were taking over the house. We now have an easily accessible place to store them. A place that doesn’t take up valuable room in the house, but also out of reach to children (I say children, what I obviously mean is Penny). She’s turned the act of pulling them all out of the box, throwing them around the room and then abandoning them into a game. A game she likes to repeat as soon as I tidy it all up.

– When we converted our garage into what was going to be our office, we lost a ton of space. Not square footage, of course, but space to house messy or dirty objects like Boy Dom’s toolbox, paint, bikes, and random pieces of wood that we seem to have an endless supply of. So, along with the garden office, we decided to add a shed-like room to house them all. No more bikes littering the hallway and no more tripping over Dom’s toolbox as I carry the washing basket upstairs (obviously, I type this as I glare at his toolbox that has decided that it lives in the downstairs toilet).

– A child-free zone. As mentioned, an office/toy room isn’t always the most zen place to work. A child-free office, however, well that’s a different story.

– We’ve known for a while that we’re a room short in this house. Penny’s bedroom is quite small with no storage for her toys, meaning they spill over into every other room. Amelia wasn’t up for swapping (and who could blame her), and so the once office/toy room is now solely a toy room/snug, where both girls can enjoy hanging out and playing. A win-win situation for all.

So, with all that in mind, we took the plunge and we went for it. And below is a timelapse of the full process.

Usually, any homeowner who is undergoing building work is counting down the days until the builders pack up and leave; wistfully dreaming of the day when the countless offers of tea cease, the endless banging and buzzing stops, and longing for the day that they finally get their home back. Not us. Of course, the day our garden and building work officially completed came with happiness and excitement, but it was tinged with sadness. Our builders were like no other. And if you were watching my daily Instagram Stories updates, I’m sure you’d agree. Not only were they exceptional at their job – true perfectionists – who transformed our once shoddy, overgrown, unkempt garden into a haven of tranquillity. They built a rather sexy garden office, and they introduced Builder Bear to us; to Penny, and thanks to the wonderful world of Instagram and my oversharing, to you. And we all loved it. For any of you who haven’t been following along and watching my Stories, Builder Bear is not one of those over-priced bears that you buy from the factory, but instead, a small, purple, plastic bear who came as an accessory with one of Penny’s dolls (I bet he never imagined that he’d become such a star!).

One sunny afternoon while Bear was casually sitting in the garden, minding his own business, the builders – Chris and Jay – decided to hide him from Penny. That night when she came home from school we explained to her that the little purple bear had gone missing and that it was up to her to find him. So, never one to shy away from a challenge, off she went. The first night, he was wedged in the handle of a shovel. The next, he was standing proudly next to a sand castle he’d built with the cement sand. And over the following weeks, Builder Bear’s antics got more and more imaginative (the reel of all of his hiding places are in my Highlights), Penny got more and more excited to get home after school, and we fell more and more in love with our awesome builders.

So, yes, to say we were a little disappointed that their time with us had come to an end would be an understatement – and judging by the messages I’ve received, you all felt the disappointment too. But – and this is a big but – the end results are incredible. We are completely besotted with our new working space and our new garden.



*This is in collaboration with Wyevale Garden Centre*

Our beautiful furniture and row of plants (that I promise to keep alive) are all courtesy of Wyevale Garden Centre, and the swing chair (or Atlanta Day Bed if I want to call it by its real name), in particular, has become my outdoor office. Every morning, I venture out, croissant, tea and laptop in hand and I get to work in the sun. By typing this out, I’m beginning to realise that this swing chair is single-handedly going to scupper my plans to be productive, isn’t it? Oh well, at least the summer is short here in England.

When it comes to plants and greenery, both Boy Dom and me aren’t the greatest fans of flowers. So, team that with the fact that no flower is safe in the garden of an Instagrammer (I once bought a Hydrangea and within the week I’d pulled off all of the flower heads to make pretty pictures) and it’s probably a good idea that we resisted. We did compromise with a few Lavender plants, though, one, because they’re quite understated and not too overpowering and two, because apparently the bees love them and we want to do right by the bees. Wyveale Garden Centre kindly gifted us the plants you see in the planter and they have an incredibly wide range of variety and choice. From bright florals, to fruit trees and herbs, to grasses, bays and beyond. We spent the entire afternoon there (with the help of Boy Dom’s mam) choosing a combination that we felt would frame and enhance our favourite space.

We’ve carefully positioned each seating area to maximise the sun and the warmth. On the morning, the swing chair benefits from the sun’s rays, so we swing as we type and discuss our next Instagram image or campaign. Then, as lunchtime sets in, we migrate to the corner sofa (Millan Modular Dining Set), and this is where we remain for the rest of the day, laptop and camera at hand (weather permitting). Once the girls arrive home from school, it becomes front row seats to whatever show they choose to perform – and there are many. These shows are renowned for running over their allocated time slots and for the actors adding in additional scenes without warning, so we need somewhere comfy to park our bottoms while we watch – and this sofa is exactly that. Feet up, food on the table and drinks to hand. As long as the British weather is on our side we’re sorted.

It’s also become the perfect socialising area, and with our uber new and super fancy Genesis Gas BBQ – with pizza oven – and the perfectly timed, albeit very coincidental, World Cup (probably the main reason why Boy Dom was so eager to get the garden finished) friends and family have been flocking. We’ve lived in a number of homes in the past – an apartment, a flat and a Victorian terrace – all of which didn’t have a garden, so, an outdoor space that we enjoy spending time in, where the girls can play and where we can warmly invite people round to sit in with us, has always been something we’ve dreamed of. It really feels like our haven. A place of total calm (between the hours of 9am-3pm). The girls now opt to play outside at any given opportunity – Amelia with her book on the swing chair, Penny chasing Elvis – and watching this all from the window not only lets me enjoy a sneaky chocolate biscuit without them knowing but also fills me with joy.

So, excuse me, I’m off to lounge in the garden with some food (probably accompanied by yet another show), and make the most of this glorious weather.

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