How to build a timber screen
Snazzy outdoor kitchen? Check. Tranquil zen courtyard? Check. A gorgeous garden takes hours of planning and labour, so the last thing you want is a rotary clothesline plonked in the centre, but your backyard needs to work hard, too. Factor unglamorous essentials into the design for a garden where form meets function.
A clothesline is the most economical way to dry your clothes, but it's unlikely to be your garden's greatest design asset. The challenge is to find a way to hide the clothesline from sight without banishing it to the darkest corner of the block, where your laundry will never dry.
Retractable lines can be neatly wound away, and even the classic rotary clothesline can now be packed out of sight, with newer versions able to be taken down and removed from a ground socket when company calls. A fold-down line attaches to a wall and collapses when not in use, but it's still a bulky bit of hardware. Try distracting the eye with a green wall, decorative screen or similar statement feature next to the line or on an adjacent wall.
Clotheslines themselves are becoming more attractive. If you can't find one to suit your backyard's aesthetic, landscape designer Adam Robinson suggests, “you can create a custom clothesline with recycled railway sleepers and stainless steel wiring.” Choose materials that echo those used elsewhere in the garden, and when not in use, the line will be virtually invisible.
There's nothing beautiful about bins, but somehow they often end up sitting centre stage in the front garden. Though they do need to be accessible – so you don't have to drag them too far to reach the kerb – they don't need to be visible. Bin housing is an obvious solution and, while a custom-built box is an option, many low sheds can also be turned to this purpose. Ideally it should look nice and fit seamlessly into the garden scheme.
If whiffy bins are an issue – particularly in a hot climate – Adam suggests, “bins are best hidden in an open storage structure – semi-open so they don't smell.” If you choose a flat-pack shed, ensure it has vents, while custom housing should be built with slatted timber or a similar material that allows airflow.
Between the pool gear, sports equipment and garden tools, most homes have enough stuff to fill a sizeable garden shed, but beware of going too big. “Choose a shed based on the size of your yard, rather than taking the bigger-is-better approach,” says Ronen Mazor of Keter. “This will ensure the shed is a nice feature in your yard rather than the main feature.”
Sheds come in all shapes and sizes, but choosing one that matches your home – in style or colour – is the first and easiest way to make it a visual asset, not an eyesore. It's also helpful to choose a material that can be customised, such as timber or a paintable resin surface like Keter's Duotech. Ronen explains, “the shed can be used in its original colour, or the walls can be painted to match your landscape, deck, patio or outdoor setting.”
When choosing a colour, you can either paint it to match the main house – like a little mini-me home – or Adam suggests, “Paint it a dark colour so the sun doesn't bounce off it and it'll appear to nestle into the garden. We like to use a timber shed, stained with Feast Watson Black Japan.”
Making your garden features work harder by integrating storage is a great way to hide clutter without the bulk of a freestanding shed. Storage hidden inside bench seats is a great use of space, though Secret Gardens Design Consultant Mark Curtis warns, “It's virtually impossible to ensure that's is a watertight space. It's fantastic for kids toys, plastics, rakes and garden hoses, but hopeless for cushions and things like that because moisture will build.”
If you want weatherproof storage, a cost-effective solution is to buy a watertight container that fits neatly within the bench space.
Sometimes there's no way to disguise a shed (or bins, or a clothesline) as anything other than what it is, which is where screens can mask all manner of sins. “Work out if you want your screen to be a feature or if you want it to be discreet,” says Adam Robinson. “If you want it hidden away, paint it the same colour as other parts of the garden, or use natural timber and allow it to age. If you want it to be a feature, use a different texture or direction of timbers.”
A screen doesn't need to be a solid wall. Lasercut patterned screens allow a glimpse of what's beyond – a great idea to enhance the sense of space in a small garden – while disguising it. Trellis or even hedges can be used to similar effect, while softening the scheme with an added touch of green.
Pro tip: If you want to hide an unremarkable fence and can't wait for your greenery to grow, artificial hedge tiles are straightforward to install and will disguise it instantly.
For all you need to hide away your garden's eyesores, pop into your local Bunnings store.
Photo credit: Sue Stubbs, Natalie Hunfalvay, Gap Photos (Clive Nichols)