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Thrifty couple transform their neglected back garden into Thai paradise on a budget

Daily Record logoDaily Record 20/01/2021 Kirsten McStay & Martha Muir

A DIY savvy couple have given their back garden the ultimate makeover and transformed it from a tired, rundown space into a tranquil, Thai-inspired paradise, finished off with Buddha statues, plants and mirrors.

The garden transformation only cost the pair £2,500 after they insisted in shopping around for bargains and second hand items.

Katy Roast and her husband Ken really wanted to create an exotic escape, inspired by their travels so decided to put the wheels in motion and do it all themselves.

“The project was motivated by a desire for change.” Katy, 47, told

“We have a small rectangular garden measuring 5m x 15m, which is enclosed by 1.8m fence panels. After 10 years of not doing much to it, it had become dated and uninspiring.”

Katy was behind the creative planning of the project and Ken, 68, took on the practical work, using his gardening, plumbing and electrical skills to bring it all together.

They spent £2,500 on the garden, using secondhand and discounted items where possible and doing all the work themselves to keep costs down.

The work was complete after eight months and now the couple are waiting for spring so they can capitalise on their idyllic new space.

“Neither of us could be described as green fingered, so we opted for low maintenance artificial grass and bamboo as the main materials to use for the project,” says Katy.

a man and a woman posing for a picture: The couple were inspired by a trip to Thailand © Birmingham Live WS The couple were inspired by a trip to Thailand

“As we began the makeover, we noticed that some local branches of a DIY store were closing down. It meant we were able to pick up some bargains, including the grass and bamboo, as well as some gardening ornaments that we used for the finishing touches.”

Once they'd got their hands on the main materials, the couple began work.

“The first thing we did was cover the depressing fencing in sheets of bamboo,” says Katy. “It gave an overall lighter finish that had a far softer effect.

“The next step was to replace the sandstone coloured patio,” she says. “It met the conservatory doors at the back of the house and was a very hard surface to step straight out onto. We were keen to switch it for decking.”

Instead of digging up the patio, which would have taken far more time and expense, the couple decided to use it as a solid foundation for the decking.

“We purchased the wood for the decking from a local timber merchant, which was far cheaper than getting it at one of our local DIY outlets,” she said.

They placed a damp-proof membrane and laid 50 x 100mm timber over the top to complete the sub structure, complete with a step-up to the conservatory.

“The decking wasn't hard to lay,” says Katy. “But getting it level onto the existing slabs of the patio was time consuming.”

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Next they laid the artificial lawn.

a room filled with furniture and a large window: They did all the work themselves to keep costs down © Birmingham Live WS They did all the work themselves to keep costs down

“It was a challenge to level out the subsoil beneath the membrane,” says Katy. “We used a 2.4m length of 50 x 100mm timber, which was dragged and pivoted across the surface. Any recessed areas were tamped and filled by hand where necessary. Finally, we added a layer of sharp sand.

“As there is little footfall we took a bit of a shortcut by not bothering to get it bowling green flat. We took the grass right up to the workshop at the end of the garden.”

Due to their hard work, Katy wanted to be able to use the space all year round, so she found a way to rainproof it.

“We wanted to build a shelter to shield us from the unpredictable British weather,” says Katy. “We didn't want a totally enclosed space, so we opted for a pergola with a transparent PVC roof.”

Katy found a perfectly sized second hand pergola for sale locally.

“It had been built in treated pine by the original owner and was constructed to a very high standard,” she says. “We had to dismantle it and rebuild it with some minor alterations in order to fit the space. We gave it a lick of charcoal paint to match the colour scheme and then fitted it completely over the decking.”

They quickly realised they would need to attach it to the existing conservatory to ensure stability.

a close up of a green door in a garden: They spent £2,500 in total © Birmingham Live WS They spent £2,500 in total

“This was the challenging aspect of the project,” says Katy. “We had to attach two posts to the brickwork of the conservatory using rawlbolts. After that, we secured a five-metre length of timber to both posts and fixed these to two supporting posts secured to the decking.

“Once the pergola was up, we realised that we didn’t like the view of the corrugated roof so we decided to obscure it with willow fence panels and solar powered fairy lights to give the effect of stars above our heads.”

They gave the decking some extra definition by adding white pebbles on the edges of the decking, the perfect place to install lights. The white pebbles were also added to three gabion baskets, which were used to make a bench for a water fountain.

“This was initially a planter, which was fitted with a pond liner and small pond pump,” Katy said.

The feature was decorated with Buddha statues, a mirror, a faux plant and letters made from leftover artificial grass that spell out 'love'.

“There’s also a main female sitting Buddha statue, named Tara, which was a birthday present from my husband,” adds Katy.

The garden furniture was bought from ManoMano and the chiminea was a second hand find.

a chair sitting in front of a window © Birmingham Live WS

“It was in need of some TLC, so I spray-painted it charcoal and placed a few battery powered pillar candles inside,” says Katy.

“The large rug on the decking is made entirely from recycled straws. We bought it from Green Décor and it was a small extravagance.”

With the garden design complete, all that was left was to sit back and enjoy.

“Spending time in the garden helps to take us back to the experience of being in Thailand,” says Katy. “It’s so relaxing to be able to sit and look at all the hard work we have done – it has really paid off. Ken is out there under the pergola for hours in all weather.”

Tom Church, Co-Founder of said: “We could all benefit from a calming space to retreat to and this tranquil garden is just the ticket.

“Katy and Ken kept a lid on their budget by seeking out second-hand and sales items wherever possible.

“It goes to show that searching around for the best deals pays off in the end.”


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