Spotted: Bargain outdoor furniture from IKEA

A very quick post for you this morning readers… my latest bargain find from IKEA. As you know, we are doing the garden at the moment and it was finished last week (look out for a full post showing you the ‘after’ pictures soon!) but we were lacking in garden furniture to sit on and enjoy it. Typically, we were by now on a very tight budget, having spent the rest on the garden work. Any of you who have ever looked for garden furniture will know, cheap it usually isn’t. We looked everywhere but it was hard to find good quality, stylish furniture for a decent price. We actually found ourselves in exactly the same position last year when we finished the kitchen and deck and had no furniture to sit on it with, and we eventually spotted a rattan look sofa set in IKEA for £120. I remembered this and decided we should check out IKEA this time – their garden range is amazing, really well styled and made, with a good variety of classic, modern and vintage looking ranges, at great IKEA prices as always. I’ll let you guess what we went for. ;)


IKEA dining set with bench and chairs £235


IKEA table and white arm chairs £305


IKEA metal table and 2 chairs, £59


IKEA outdoor lounger £40


IKEA Rattan look modular outdoor corner sofa £500

So just in case you need some and thought you couldn’t stretch to a new set – make sure you have a look, although still costing a fair amount, all of this IKEA garden furniture is around 50% less than you would see in the usual high street stores I reckon.

Happy garden lounging!

Rebecca
xo

The Garden: Before

Our garden has already been through a partial make-over as when we did the kitchen we also did the deck which the bifold doors open out onto and that made quite a change. It drastically altered our living space as it becomes an extension of the kitchen when the weather is nice (not yet this year then!) but other than when the doors are open, the bigger change was looking back at the house, rather than our view from it.

Lets start at the very beginning shall we?

When we moved in the garden was tidy and shall we say, ‘a mature low maintenance garden.’ There were a lot of shrubs, many of which were taking up a lot more space than they should in the name of ground cover, a lawn and an enormous double garage. This had been there since before the previous owners bought the house and was apparently built to house the previous owners classic car. Apart from having electricity to it, it was rather ramshackle, an eye sore and took up masses of space.

When we built the deck it seemed massive, and in the planning stages I worried that it was taking away too much of the garden, but in fact if you look back at the pictures it was built over some rather ugly paving and in the main a big hedge-like bush that we pulled out (with the yellow flowers in the picture above.)

Once the building work and kitchen was done we built the deck, using Ecodek, a composite decking material made from recycled tyres and finished the edges and steps with normal decking that was stained to match.

I really didn’t want the deck to feel like a separate entity to the garden, opening up the garden to the house was the whole point of all of our work so far, so we planned very wide steps. In the spaces either side of the steps we built huge raised beds to allow for planting to soften the deck and bring more garden up and around the deck, making it feel greener eventually.

Then we had Bea and everything came to a grinding halt!

These last pictures were taken this spring, before the garage was taken down. You can see the (still empty) boxes around the deck and not much else has changed, other than it all getting a bit untidy and unloved.

We knew the hard landscaping of a garden this size was beyond us so we looked for Garden designers and found Iain at Outer Space Landscapes who I spotted round the corner from us working on another garden. Once we got chatting I knew he was the right person for me to work with. I knew what kind of design we wanted and the planting style, so when he mentioned the designer Piet Oudolf, that I had been researching and who’s style I had been inspired by, I knew we’d found our man. He drew us this plan (the third draft) and is now well underway with bringing it to life for us!

The next pictures I show you should be of the finished garden and it should be almost completed this week, so hopefully you won’t have too much longer to wait!

Love,
Rebecca
xo

Renovation Ruminations… The Garden

I have been ridiculously excited about our next renovation project for weeks, not least because it doesn’t involve my house being a complete mess! We decided this summer to tackle the garden, before another summer goes by with it a mess. Last year it was pretty much a building site and now we are home more with Bea, it’s the perfect time to get something done. It does however mean putting a hold on everything in the house for a few more months.


Napa Garden inspired by Piet Oudolf

Before I share the before’s, I thought I share a few of my inspiration pictures… Rome wasn’t built in a day and never were that statement more true than with a garden. Its going to be pretty bare at first and will take years to reach full maturity but we’re ready to play the long game and enjoy it as it grows :)


Italian Piet Oudolf Garden

A key factor in our re-design was the planting. I have fallen in love with modern prairie style planting which is very fashionable in gardens right now. Piet Oudolf is the guy behind the planting movement which involves mixing grasses with perennials and embracing plants for all their seasonal displays, particularly their structural form and autumn displays of seed pods and spires of dead flower heads.


Piet Oudolf Gardens in Winter at RHS Wisley

I really wanted an outdoor eating area but with a cover to it. We already have the decking area outside the kitchen which is shaded most of the day but perfect for drinks and casual eating after about 4 when the sun hits it until up to 8 pm in the high summer. In the day time however, one corner of our garden gets the full sun from morning until about 4pm, perfect for day time BBQ’s. I don’t like to eat in full sun however and our BBQ area will be down here too, so I’m imagining string lights hanging from the trees and canopy with a big dining table for lots of impromptu entertaining.



Rustic long dining table // Modern pergola

We gave up our allotment when we moved into this house, as it has a reasonable sized garden, so we plan to have a designated area to grow vegetables and I would love a little greenhouse for pottering in and sowing seeds with Bea! Pete has requested a decent sized area of grass for kickabouts and playing in the garden with kids, but I want it to be child friendly in other ways… places to hide in and behind, paths to follow and cycle round, and places to sit and read.



Greenhouse // Piet Oudolf Border planting // Kitchen garden boxes

As we are taking down our garage which currently takes up at least a quarter of the garden and is HUGE, we are going to need some better screening at the back and some trees for privacy. I’ve been looking for varieties that won’t grow too big or spread, casting a shadow on our neighbours gardens, but that will work hard for their place in our small garden, with interesting form, beautiful leaves and colour, with seasonal interest like flowers in spring or fruits in autumn too.


Birches for screening

Work started last week so I’ll share some before pictures very soon and some ‘in progress’ and ‘after’ pics soon after that!

Love,
Rebecca
xo

My (old) house garden…

Right now I am totally immersed in garden planning and I’ll be chatting about that soon, but first it occurred to me that I don’t think I ever shared my old garden, before we moved house. The new garden is a pretty decent size and unusually large for where we live. It’s nothing compared to some country dwellers, but for urban Manchester suburbs, its big. (London readers will relate!) The old house was a 3 up, 3 down, typical mid-terrace and had a yard at the back when we moved in. It was 4 metres square but we had patio doors going out onto it from the kitchen and it was South West facing. We had never had our own outdoor space before, so I was determined to make somewhere we could relax.


Image by Lawson Photography

It ended up being a relatively cheap and easy project. When we moved in the ‘yard’ was concreted over entirely and the developer we bought the house from had added a square deck kit over the top, directly out from the kitchen patio doors, which happened to be the shadiest part of the garden.) There were also some decking material planters with cheap bedding plants in them and it couldn’t have looked more hasty, ill considered or ugly. The pictures don’t give a great overall view (they were taken for the Good Homes magazine feature on my old home by Laura and Peter Lawson.) but you can get the gist here that we created a courtyard garden that still had room for growing plants and greenery.

Here is one of my own photos from above showing the layout:


Image by Rebecca @ FlorenceFinds.com

What we did:

  • Paid someone to come and remove the decking and drill up the concrete yard.
  • Marked off an L shaped border at the back left and to the right of the gate for plants, edged with Victorian style terracotta rope edging.
  • Built two steps down from the back door with indian stone slabs and a simple brick layer to create the steps. (I’ve linked to B&Q but check your local builders yard for the best prices on garden hard landscaping.)
  • Laid an Indian stone patio in the sunniest corner of the garden, with stepping stones of indian stone straight out of the back door to the back gate and from the patio to the back gate.


Image by Lawson Photography

  • Laid weed supressing membrane and put golden gravel down over it.
  • Put in a trellis panel to hide the side return where our bins were stored.
  • Planted climbing plants to cover the walls (Left wall – shade loving Clibing hydrangea, Pyracantha for berries and where it got sunnier a Ceanothus for the stunning blue flowers; On the right side we had climbing roses and a Clematis Montana.)
  • Planted the borders and some pots for an overflowing look. These were cheap plants bought mostly in the supermarkets with a couple of David roses too


Image by Lawson Photography

It ended up being a kind of cottage garden meets Mediterranean garden, with the overflowing relaxed style of the cottage garden but with plants that withstood the dry heat microclimate that the walled courtyard created. We had an olive tree by the back door! The pictures here show it about 6 years after completion so it was maturing and the hard landscaping was blending in to look like it had always been there (along with some weeds creeping in, but hey, that’s life!)


Image by Lawson Photography

It really was like my personal oasis and because the walls held the heat we were able to eat out there most dry nights in the summer. I can’t wait to create something equally cosy and inviting but on a grander scale in this house!


Image by Lawson Photography

It seemed timely to talk about Gardens now as everyone is thinking about getting outside… have you got any garden plans this year?

Love,
Rebecca
xo

#JanuaryJoy – Plan a project

Good morning readers!

I’ve left some of the prompts for this years #JanuaryJoy deliberately vague to allow as many people to join in as possible and whilst this particular prompt could encompass many things, for me it will be a house project. We’ve got quite a few things planned this year, big and small, from whole rooms to finishing touches. I’m keeping it small for now as I want to enjoy the remainder of my maternity leave dust and stress free, so I thought I’d share a couple of the projects I have in mind for this month.


Alcove storage // Peach and grey alcove

A Nursery wardrobe.
When we planned the nursery (which I will share soon, I promise!) I was convinced I was having a boy and didn’t give any thought to wardrobe space. We have a huge chest of drawers in there but since having a girl I’ve realised I need hanging space for dresses. The best place for the storage is in an alcove to the side of the chimney breast but it’s proving difficult to find a pice of furniture as it’s an oddly sized 66cms wide, so I’m having to think outside the box. I love the idea of being able to see Bea’s tiny clothes and so I thought some kind of open storage might work and hopefully won’t look too untidy as she doesn’t have that many clothes and I can still keep the majority folded in the drawers. Or do I do some kind of IKEA hack with something like this?

IMG_9491.JPG
Garden design by Tom Stuart-Smith.

Deck planting.
When we built our deck outside the kitchen last year we added some raised beds made of sleepers, half the height of the deck. They’re pretty big and the idea is to plant them with tall perennials that will surround the deck with foliage so it doesn’t seem separate from the garden. So the first job is to order some topsoil to fill them as they have stood empty since we built them, and secondly to plant them up with appropriate plants. I’m going for delicate drifting styles, in shade loving plants for one of the boxes on the north facing side and pretty flowers for the other west facing side which gets lots of sun.

IMG_9493.JPG
Bathroom via

Bathroom revamp.
Our bathroom is perfectly adequate and not on the agenda for change for quite some time… if we did change it, it would be part of quite a major reconfiguration of the first floor so we need to give that serious thought. In the meantime, I think I can make it a lot more us, with some simple additions. A new mirror, new light fittings, a bit of paint and some new hooks should make a big difference and it’ll be fun to change a room without all hell breaking loose in the house for a change. ;)

So what projects are you planning this January readers? (It doesn’t have to be house related!)

Love
Rebecca
xo

Triple temptation: Garden Furniture

As the completion of our kitchen comes to an end, the outside space is also getting underway. As our kitchen is above full height cellars, the ground floor level is about 1m above the garden. So we can step directly out instead of going up and down stairs, we are building a deck that the bifold doors open onto and I’m keeping all my fingers and toes crossed that it is finished this week.


IKEA Harmano Garden suite, £179 // John Lewis Madrid outdoor furniture £1475 (for what is pictured) // Palermo right-hand corner sofa, Next £699

Having spent so much money on everything else, garden furniture just isn’t in the budget right now, but I’m loathe to have an empty deck, or be unable to enjoy the rest of the summer months (hello maternity leave!) after working so hard on this space. I had been browsing at outdoor seating options for this area but they are all so expensive – we are looking for a sofa style seating solution, as our main outdoor dining area is planned for further down the garden. I was on the point of saying blow it (with another maxed out credit card flashing before my eyes,) as I fell in love with the NEXT Palermo range, then Pete spotted this IKEA set when we were there buying a spare bed. We couldn’t believe the price and snapped it up – The cushions are a bit thin, but I’ll simply buy some different foam pads and perhaps recover them. For the price, we couldn’t say no and it doesn’t matter if it’s not a long term option.

Love,
Rebecca
xo

Triple Temptation: Festoon lights


Seletti Bella Vista Outdoor light, £85 Heals // Auva string lights (50 lights) £29.98 B&Q // Pink festoon lights, £85 Out there interiors

Last year I wrote a post about festoon lighting and listed some sources available at the time. You can still read that post here and see for yourself if they are still available, but the trend is going nowhere and thankfully the strings of globe lights with a soft glow perfect for pretty outdoor illumination are getting more widely available. I’ve spotted 3 in the last couple of weeks and thought I’d share them in case anyone is still looking for them. Do let me know if you have spotted any too! (The B&Q set looks like great value.)

Love,
Rebecca
xo

#JanuaryJoy: Plan to revamp your garden

This weekend saw me out in my new garden for the first time. I’m characteristically so fed up of the doom and gloom in January that I want to get outside a lot. So far I have been waiting to see if any bulbs would sprout up in the garden heralding spring but there were a fair few leaves around so I decided to get out and rake them up, and after finding that there were in fact no bulbs to be seen, a quick trip to B&Q rectified that with trays of primroses and ready to grow bulbs.


Image credit: Lawson Photography

I am chomping at the bit to get the new garden planned and am bursting with ideas but waiting on the devastation that will be unleashed when we start the work to the kitchen and outdoor deck area. Adding to that we plan to knock down the double garage and create a dining area there, so 75% of the garden will be changed. As a result, I thought today would be a good time to share some pictures of my old garden, something I have never shared on the blog before and to also tell you that the old house is featured in this months Good Homes magazines – on the shelves now!

I was contacted early last year by a freelance journalist who suggested I send in my home to a magazine but I was a bit slow in getting my act together. Fast forward almost 6 months later and I realised that we were running out of time and it would be a lovely momento of a house I have been very happy in. Laura and Peter Lawson kindly agreed to come round and shoot the house and Good Homes said they were interested. I’m so happy with the images and I’ll be sharing more here soon but in the meantime do go and buy the magazine – I have to confess, I’m not a regular Good Homes reader but I was thrilled to be featured in the ‘Bold & Bright’ issue and felt it couldn’t have been more suited to my style – I’ve got so much inspiration for the new house from it already!

Anyway, back to the garden!


Image credit: Lawson Photography

When we moved in the garden was a typical terraced concrete yard with some bizarre attempt at decking outside the back doors that covered about ⅔ of the ground and was edged by stair bannister railing! One of my biggest priorities coming from a flat was to create an outside area and so we paid a handyman £100 to come with a pickaxe and bash up the concrete and take away the decking. Best £100 I think I have ever spent!


Image credit: Lawson Photography

One of the things I loved about the garden was that it was walled, which worked to our advantage in the summer as the walls held and radiated the suns heat back in to the garden, long after it had sunk beneath the houses behind. However the walls also created pockets of deep shade that needed careful planting. We couldn’t maintain a lawn in that space (nor could we store a lawnmower!) so we opted for gravel with a patio for outdoor entertaining.


Image credit: Lawson Photography

The patio flags came from a local builders yard and came in packs that made a 2m square patio area. We bought 2 and instead of arranging them squarely created an irregular edge and used a few spares to make a stepping stone path to the back gate. After the concrete came up we were left with an uneven mud pit and spent a weekend levelling it, creating some planting beds around the edges with a victorian style rope edging tile, underlaying the gravel area with weed proof membrane, laying the patio and making 2 steps down from the house.


Image credit: Lawson Photography

After that the planting was a work in progress. It started off with a lot of flowers and some favourite shrubs but found the flowers high maintenance in such a dry garden (made worse by them being close to the wall,) and some of the shrubs grew too big. Over time I chose different plants – shrubs like the hydrangea which provided summer colour without leaving a hole in the border come winter, montbretia (crocosmia) for structure and an olive tree suited to the warm dry conditions. I also made the most of the walls but growing clematis, climbing roses and a rampant clematis montana around them. It ended up pretty wild but felt like a little oasis.



Image credit: Lawson Photography

I added the final touches just last summer, rearranging the furniture to move our bench (a wedding gift from my mum) to create more seating on the patio, added the festoon lights (from IKEA) and some cushions (from Next) a bird box with a copper roof from Homesense and my favourite succulent, also from IKEA.


Image credit: Lawson Photography

The back gate was our only bug bear as it was practically rotting off the hinges but we opted not to replace it before we moved as we didn’t use the exit onto the alley anyway. As the plants overgrew it I liked to think it gave a bit of a secret garden appearance :)

So readers, I would love to hear about your garden improvements and any changes you have planned for this year. If there’s anything you want advise on, feel free to ask!

Love,
Rebecca
xo

Spotted: Festoons of Happiness

I’ve been obsessed with the strings of lights seen on American blogs, at outdoor weddings and even parties, since they first exploded onto the UK scene. I first saw them in outdoor weddings not long after my own wedding 4 years ago and instantly wished I had had THAT kind of wedding. For a while I forgot them, then more recently I decided that if I couldn’t have that wedding, I could have that life. You know the kind, where people have elegantly thrown together casual outdoor dinner parties in their beautiful gardens, with their stylishly dressed close friends… ;)


Credits R-L, Top to bottom: 1 // 2 // 3 // 4 // 5 // 6 // 7

Some of you may have shared my frustration that these so called ‘festoon lights’ seemed to be an exclusively American item. I searched high and low and although we have plenty of ‘fairy lights’ and ‘string lights’ I just couldn’t find a good match for festoon lights anywhere. They had to be bulb lights, large, widely spaced, on thick cable and they had to be oh so pretty. So imagine how excited I was when I spotted that Cox and Cox had introduced a set. Before splashing out the £50 required though I thought I would turn to the Florence Finds readership and see if you guys had any tips and you really came up trumps, sharing finds from IKEA to Lights4fun and B&Q.


1. Cox and Cox £50 // 2. Ikea (solar powered, £12 // 3. B&Q (not featured online, look for their Blooma Ascella string lights, £20, and glass globe lights, £30) // 4. Lights4fun (allow you to connect several sets) // 5. Toast (not available online, check instore)

I figured there must be more of you like me who had been desperately looking for a little string light magic to festoon around your garden this summer and as these were such bargain finds, I had to share them here.

I’m in the middle of a little garden revamp that I’ll be sharing very soon, but rest assured, it’ll be featuring my very own festoon of happiness. :)

Love,
Rebecca
xo

The Southport Flower Show

Last weekend, I headed home to Southport and went back to something I used to do every year as a child, visiting the Southport Flower show. Jess wanted to get some garden inspiration but if you want to visit any of the Royal Horticultural Society shows (like the Chelsea Flower Show or Tatton Park for example) you have to be a member, which can really inflate the cost. As an alternative I suggested we visit the Southport Flower show.

The highlight of the show for me used to be the small garden design that is right at the entrance of the show so I thought I’d share those with any of you looking for some garden inspiration.

This rather modern (and Cheshire-set looking I thought) garden was the first prize winner. It’s a bit too stark for me, but I liked the furniture. I was actually quite disappointed by the gardens this year. They were smaller than I remembered but maybe thats a hazard of growing up, although when I later discussed it with a colleague who also went, she said they were no different to the big RHS shows.


Modern seemed to be the order of the day with sleek paving, square and rectangular planters and still water features amongst the paving. What I did like however was the soft planting which juxtaposed with the hard landscaping beautifully particularly in the bottom two images above.

This garden was completely different and designed for a shady garden full of evergreens and a woodland influence. It looked like a little fairy woodland escape.

One of the things I always take away from flower shows is something that I don’t think people really consider when planting their garden – colour theming. This ‘Cool Runnings’ inspired garden might be taking things a little too far with the resident bob sleigh team, but the Jamaican inspired colours of hot pinks, fiery red, oranges, purple and yellows all looked amazing together. I’m always inspired to make my own garden more colour themed as all the gardening greats did in their time!

Inside the various tents there are fantastic displays of plants from nurseries and specialist growers from all over the country. You can buy everything from a garden perennial to rare cacti. Unfortunately due to the wet weather the ground was sodden and flip flops did not make for easy navigation around the tents – better footwear next time!

We spent a considerable amount of time in the flower arranging tent chortling about the critique given by the judging panel to each entry – Stepford wives at dawn doesn’t even begin to describe the cutting criticism dished out to all who dared to enter!

There was even an amateur growers tent with tables of giant and prize vegetables which were amazing and stands of fragrant sweet peas we wanted to bury our noses in. After poo poo-ing the craft tent we were seduced by some gorgeous wool and alpaca blankets and I picked up a Barbour-esque short wax jacket for £38 after a bit of haggling. The birds of prey and food tent wasn’t a bad stop off either!

I’ve never been to a country fair although I imagine it would be a fun day out. Have you been to any fairs or flower shows that are worth a mention here?

Love,
Rebecca
xo