Outdoor Paints: Bring Some Additional Colour to Your Garden

Lead image showing painted outdoor table, bench and chairs

If you’ve seen our recent features – Part I and Part II – on ‘finding your outdoor style’, you’ll know that here at Home Relish we enjoy exploring how our outdoor spaces can look. Regardless of its size, with the right scheme a garden can be infused with the rustic charm of the Mediterranean, the vibrancy of Marrakech or even the laid-back vibes of life on an idyllic island. The possibilities are endless and once you have built up a look that you love – along with an arsenal of accessories – it can be brought out each year and then adapted to give a slightly different feel over time, should you wish.

When we lavish some love and attention on our gardens and place the same importance on decorating them as we do for our interior spaces, gardens can become such special places: places where we want to spend time and invite others to share in our enjoyment.

In addition to the recent features on Home Relish highlighted above, readers of our weekly e-zine, The Thread, may recall that a number of weeks ago we mentioned that we had earmarked some pieces of garden furniture for potential upcycling projects. Having read about our DIY aspirations, Sandtex got in touch to ask whether we would be interested in using some of their paints, to which the answer was an enthusiastic, ‘yes!’

Once we had taken delivery of the full colour range of sample pots, we began to explore different combinations and finishes. We spent a little time thinking about how we could add to existing pieces of furniture to build up a look that felt neither too contemporary nor too classical; we wanted to mix and match elements for a more eclectic look.

Painting colour swatches to choose the correct shade

When choosing colours, it is important to paint swatches to get a true idea of how the paints look once applied to a surface and to see how shades appear under different light sources (remember that, as the natural daylight changes during the day, it affects the way that colours appear). We set about painting small amounts of each colour on some narrow sheets of plywood from Hobbycraft; this pliable wood, often used for model-building, is easy to cut up into sections so that it becomes possible to move the paint chips around to see which colour combinations work best. As is often the case with any project that we have on the go, the swatches were popped into a work bag and brought out in a number of shops as fabrics and accessories were sourced.

Round Table

This cast iron garden table was inherited from a great-aunt a number of years ago and was in need of a refresh. As its surface was a little tarnished and dirty, the first job was to clean it with hot soapy water and a small brush to get into the hard-to-reach areas. Once this had been accomplished, we used an exterior primer to provide a good base for our chosen colour. To enable the detailing in the decorative metalwork to really show up, and to create high contrast against the colours within the garden, we chose a fresh white colour with a satin finish.

Wrought iron table painted in Clay White by Sandtex


Detail of painted cast iron table

Painting this type of table does require a little patience as you have to navigate the brush around the cut-work detailing, but the paint went on nicely and we are very pleased to have a restored table on which to display a jug of freshly cut garden flowers or some cooling drinks.

Table prepped with Rapid Dry Plus Primer Undercoat; table painted in Clay White Rapid Dry Plus Soft Satin; both £19 for 750ml, Sandtex

Plant Pots

Using pots and planters provides a certain flexibility in the garden – these vessels can be filled with seasonal plants throughout the year and moved around to add striking flashes of colour where needed. We enjoy being able to transform simple objects into pieces that suddenly feel more impactful: using paint is an easy way to achieve this.

Having chosen a selection of inexpensive vessels in metal and resin, we picked out a dark neutral, some paler pastel hues and a few vivid colours which look stunning against the leafy backdrop of a garden. In a really contemporary space, a row of straight-edged pots in just one single colour could look fabulous, but for this project we wanted to achieve a look that feels relaxed and informal – one that has developed organically over time.

Applying paint to a garden pot

We used two coats of paint to create a professional looking finish. Some pots were painted in just one colour but you can see that one of our urn-shaped vessels combines two colours. You might also notice that we chose to leave the rim of the red pot in its raw form – the contrast between the red glossy finish and the textured matt rim adds another layer of interest.

Display of painted outdoor pots
From bottom step: Bay Tree Rapid Dry Plus Soft Satin; Gentle Blue Rapid Dry Plus Soft Satin; main part of pot in Winter Oak 10 Year Exterior Satin with the rim painted in Classic Burgundy 10 Year Exterior Gloss; Oxford Blue 10 Year Exterior Gloss; Cranberry Swirl Rapid Dry Plus High Gloss; all £19 for 750ml, Sandtex

The Main Table

With a budget of around £250, we scoured ebay and a host of online shops in search of an inexpensive garden table and ample seating for six, which could then be customised using a variety of paint colours. We settled on a simple wooden table with a matching bench, along with a trio of decorative metal chairs that we felt would provide a nice contrast against the straight lines of the table.

Stained wooden garden table and bench set
Customised folding metal garden chair

The chairs were already a matt ivory colour but we customised them by painting the trellis panels on the backs of the chairs in a lovely green colour. To tackle this slightly fiddly job, we used a brush that measured about 2.5cm wide and a small-headed artist’s brush that could be used for some of the areas around the edges. The use of this green colour provides a visual link to the various green hues used elsewhere in this scheme.

Having prepped the furniture by lightly sanding it back with fine grade sandpaper and following this with one coat of a primer, we painted the table top in a pale silvery grey and the legs in a dark grey; the contrast of using two different tones of grey works well. To create a unified look, we painted the bench in this same dark grey.

Upcycled garden table and bench ready for an al fresco lunch

Table legs and bench in Seclusion; table-top in Cloudy Day; both £19 for 750ml of Rapid Dry Plus Soft Satin, Sandtex. Chair panels in Fern Canopy 10 Year Exterior Satin Paint, £19 for 750ml, Sandtex. The table, bench and chairs were prepped with Rapid Dry Plus Primer Undercoat, £19 for 750ml, Sandtex
Glass vases, candlesticks and candles, from a selection at Burford Garden Company. For similar linen and vintage cutlery, try Baileys. Kasmanda reversible outdoor cushions (seen left and right on bench), £12 each, John Lewis. Other cushions and tableware, stylist’s own

When it came to building up a scheme for an outdoor lunch, the starting point came when we found some rather lovely melamine plates featuring beautiful illustrations of citrus fruits. Drawing on the plates’ orange, leafy green and turquoise palette, we sourced some mustard yellow bowls which add a gorgeous pop of colour. Always lovers of lively and unusual colour combinations, we added some vases and candlesticks in beautiful blues and greens – it is a look that works really well at this time of year.

Colourful table accessories complete the look

As the best lunches are the long, languorous ones, we added softness and comfort to the seating with a mix of cushions in contrasting patterns; highly coordinated cushions would have created a more formal feel and so, to keep the look relaxed, we used a mix of designs. The palette seen across the soft furnishings reflect the turquoise blue, jade green, orange and citrine hues seen elsewhere in this scheme.

Upcycled bench with colourful cushions

Since putting this feature together, the furniture has been used each day as a place to eat or enjoy a drink, and even as a somewhere for children to draw and colour in the open air. We especially like the greys used on the dining furniture, along with some of the vibrant shades, such as Cranberry Swirl and Oxford Blue – these brighter colours work particularly well when used in conjunction with earthy colours, such as Winter Oak. Sandtex’s paints proved to be excellent for our needs, going on easily, drying quickly and appearing hardy thus far; the exterior high gloss finish adds a slick look to any piece, whereas the satin finish is perfect if you want a gentle sheen.

With so much warm weather predicted for the coming months here in the UK, it’s a good time to realise all those decorating ambitions. We hope you have enjoyed reading about our outdoor painting projects and that the feature might inspire you to either use paint in a way that can refresh tired looking pieces of furniture or accessories, or to completely reinvent the external areas of your property with a new palette of colour.

Have a lovely summer!

With thanks to Sandtex for making this feature possible. Visit www.sandtex.co.uk to see the full range of Sandtex products.

All images © 2018 Home Relish/Liam Jones/Miranda Watchorn