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Make the most of awkward exterior areas

From the Resene decorating blog

Do you have spaces around your property you just don’t know what to do with? It might be a sunless no-man’s land down the side of your house, a tiny balcony or an odd-shaped porchway.

Most properties have one or two of those exterior areas that aren’t obvious places to put a deck, a barbeque area or even a garden. They might be damp, disconnected or disorganised, but they’re still a part of your section and you want to make the most of them! With a bit of forethought and design inspiration you can revive these forgotten or disused spaces so they contribute to how you use your exterior spaces in a way that suits you and adds value to your home.

A stylish outdoor space

Having a clear plan for your outdoor space ensures you’ll end up with an area that is both functional and stylish.

Exterior wall painted in Resene Quarter Friar Greystone, patio floor in Resene Triple Friar Greystone, trellis in Resene Friar Greystone, wine box shelves in Resene Iroko (large, stained) and Resene Equilibrium (small, stained) and Resene Zeus, table and bench have a Resene Gunsmoke base and a Resene Delta top, chairs have a base and back in Resene Gunsmoke and a Resene Delta seat, planters on ground in Resene Abbey Road, Resene Mamba, Resene Juniper and Resene Conch, lavender pots on shelf in Resene Abbey Road, Resene Mamba, pots on table in Resene Juniper and Resene Opal and two ceramic birds in Resene Abbey Road and Resene Opal. Lavender, pansies and purple kale from Kings Plant Barn. Project by Megan Harrison-Turner, image by Bryce Carleton.

Mirrors can add a sense of space to an outdoor area

Mirrors can bring light and a sense of space to outdoor areas.

Wall, floor and planter box painted in Resene Half Tapa with weathered concrete effect in Resene FX Paint Effects Medium mixed with Resene Half Atmosphere. Round table painted in Resene Half Blanc, larger planter (right) in Resene Half Bokara Grey bottom with feathered top in Resene Half Blanc and left planter in Resene Half Bokara Grey on the bottom with feathered top in Resene Alamo. Umbrella, umbrella stand, outdoor rug and mirror from Briscoes, grasses and garden lights from Mitre 10, chair, bottle and glasses from 10 Curated, outdoor floor cushions from Freedom, speaker from Allium, faux plant from Adairs, watering can and black lantern from H&M Home, shoes from Gathered & Co, sunglasses from Cotton On. Project by Melle van Sambeek, image by Bryce Carleton.

Declutter and design

Just as you would when planning the makeover of an interior space, clear out any rubbish or items stored in your awkward outdoor area, so you have a blank canvas to work with. Since it’s outside this might include weeding, removing dead plants or mowing lawns. If there is concrete or pavers underfoot that you want to keep, consider giving them a clean with Resene Paint Prep and Housewash or Resene Deep Clean and rejuvenate their colour with Resene Concrete Stain or protect their natural look with Resene Concrete Conserver.

Once you have a clear area you will get a much better idea of what you have to work with in terms of space and materials.

The next step is to ask yourself some questions about what you want the space to be, and what some of the challenges might be in making it over; these are the things that have probably led it to being ignored as an ‘awkward space’ in the first place. How much sun and light does it get? Does it suffer from dampness? Is it muddy underfoot? Is it fenced? Narrow? Is it private? Do you need to be able to access services like gas cylinders or water metres? Is it the main accessway to get between the front and rear of your house?

All of these things will influence what you can do with your space, and how you approach your design.

Bringing wooden slatted screens into an outdoor area

Wooden slatted screens can create an outdoor room out of an awkward space, adding privacy, style and protection from the elements. Patio back wall painted in Resene Triple White Pointer with slatted panels in Resene Woodsman Whitewash, side wall in Resene Half Friar Greystone with Resene FX Paint Effect Medium mixed with Resene Quarter Friar Greystone, flooring in Resene Triple White Pointer, front trellis and smaller planter in Resene FX Faux Rust Effect, large planter in Resene All Black, tray in Resene Blanc and tealight holder in Resene Biscotti. Sofa from Early Settler, blanket and grey checked cushions (made by stylist using wool blanket) from The Warehouse, black cushion cover from H&M Home, fur cushion from Adairs. Project by Vanessa Nouwens, image by Wendy Fenwick.

Follow the path

A lot of sections, featuring just one house, will have areas of section down each side of the house. Some may work as your main thoroughfare from the backyard to front, others can be narrow, dark and hard to make practical use of.

If you do need to use your side-space as a path, really emphasise that as its function. Make sure the walkway is clear of all rubbish, and define the way with pavers, stepping stones or a pebbled path. Add lighting so it’s practical and safe at all times of the day or night. You could even paint your concrete pavers in Resene Walk-on paving paint or Resene Non-Skid Deck & Path to give them a facelift and even add a pop of colour to your pathway.

But you can also add some flair so it’s more than simply a functional space. Plant hardy groundcover plants like creeping thyme around your pavers, which are soft to walk on, will help keep weeds down and will give you pretty seasonal flowers. Add fairy lights through trees and shrubs and hang a bird feeder. You could also set your pavers or stepping stones in a meandering pattern rather than a straight line for a touch of extra whimsy.

Create drama by painting a mural along the side boundary wall or you could even add a mirror to your boundary fence or wall to bounce some light around and make the space feel larger and less like a tunnel.

Forest green cladding complements the patio floor

Timber cladding painted in Resene Atlas beautifully complements a patio floor in Resene Woodsman Iroko and crisp patio chair bench seat and table contrasts in Resene Alabaster. Painted plant pots in Resene Sorbet, Resene Jailbreak and Resene Hive add a bold pop of colour. Cushion from Father Rabbit, throw from Citta. Project by Amber Armitage.

Outdoor rooms

If you don’t need to keep the side of your house clear as a pathway, you could turn it into a relaxing destination instead. Add some outdoor bean bags or comfortable furniture to relax in. Add a small table and a collection of potted plants and you have a secluded retreat.

Top tip: Slatted screens are a great way to add privacy and protect against the wind down the sides of your house. Plus they can be painted to become eye-catching pieces of garden art. Paint with Resene Lumbersider, a waterborne low sheen paint ideal for exposed outdoor areas.

If you have a side space that’s become a dumping ground for sports gear, gardening paraphernalia or just anything you don’t know what to with, then embrace that idea with some organisation.

Add lockable gates at both ends for security and add organisational features like racks for bikes and boards, shelves on the boundary fence for garden tools and equipment. This same idea could work to turn your awkward space into a children’s outdoor play area with toys and a sandpit. Use painted pavers to create a hopscotch grid and a pegboard to the fence to store toys and sports gear.

Adding a table to the boundary wall with storage underneath can be a great way to turn your dead space into a useful potting shed or outdoor creative studio.


Front door patios and entrance ways can be awkward to design because they are high-traffic areas that you want to be multi-functional as well as looking great. They need to offer shelter from the weather, storage for shoes and mats to keep dirt at the door.

A small storage box to house wet shoes or even courier parcels, can be an extremely useful addition to your entranceway. Paint it the same Resene colour as the exterior of your house, and make it sturdy enough to double as a seat.

Vertical gardens on the walls near the entranceway will make them extremely appealing or you could simply layer lots of potted plants and planters, just be sure to keep walkways clear.

Give any paved or concrete paths a refresh with Resene Non-Skid Deck & Path paint for a safe finish which will provide grip for feet.

Resene Quarter Friar Greystone

Resene Half Friar Greystone

Resene Friar Greystone

Resene Sorbet

Resene Jailbreak

March 31, 2022

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