Painting ideas: how to revamp outside space over a long weekend — from prepping surfaces to choosing colours

·4-min read

Lockdowns have taught us to value our outside space, no matter how small.

And painting outside has never been easier, thanks to colourful, water-based finishes that are easy to apply.

From balconies and yards to patios and gardens, every inch is important.

A couple of basic rules

You must match your paint to what you are painting, checking if you need a primer for starters. Some paints sit happily on several surfaces, others are pickier, being specialised.

Secondly, you must do your prep.

“Make sure older surfaces are dry, clean and in good repair,” says Craig Collins, head of paint at B&Q. “Get rid of any mould, algae or moss. Remove rust and sand smooth.”

B&Q’s website has an excellent exterior painting guide, while Leyland SDM has all the clever cleaners and primers a perfectionist might need.

Factor in the weather, too. Aim for a fine two-day window so surfaces can dry out, then dry off. Avoid working in full sun, if possible.

Choose your quick-drying paint

Cuprinol is quick-drying, water-based and now comes in super-seductive shades.

They have two fresh palettes: nature’s neutrals — think landscape, water and minerals — and nature’s brights, in flowery shades.

Try using neutrals as base colours and then adding brighter “pops”, says Marianne Shillingford, creative director.

Visit for ideas. Price is £25 for 2.5 litres at B&Q.

For small jobs, Ronseal Garden Paint comes in 24 good colours for wood, brick, metal and terracotta, £4 for 250ml, also at B&Q.

Small projects

“Style is what our customers want,” says Stephen Pitcher, gardens director at Homebase.

Easy-grow plants are key, in boxes or tubs that you can jolly up with paint. Then add appealing furniture — great fake rattan, glossy metal, classic wood or your old repainted stuff.

Finally, revamp surfaces, from decking and fences to walls and sheds.

Outdoor décor combinations can be low-key monochrome for a refined, natural, relaxed effect, or Miami-meets-the-Med zingy.

Colour tricks

Use a single shade to unify a hotchpotch of surfaces, tying together brick, concrete and fencing, for example.

The Homebase website has handy painting tips, plus simple DIY paintable “pallet” furniture ideas.

“Make your garden a home extension,” says landscape designer Tom Howard, expert in small London spaces. “Painted fences and render can tie inside and out together.”

Like many pros, he loves Farrow & Ball, using exterior eggshell for smooth timber and metal, in shades such as Mole’s Breath, Worsted and Mouse’s Back.

“But don’t use an expensive paint on rough timber, which just soaks it up.”

Paint a shed the same colour as a fence, to blend it in. Add chic blocks of colour with masonry paint on rendered raised beds, which can be easily made from concrete blocks.

Black is surprisingly useful, Howard adds. “It makes boundaries disappear, with the illusion of a bigger space. And a dark background makes the planting pop.”

Reliable and low-cost is Cuprinol’s matt black Ducksback, £11 at B&Q for five litres, enough to cover about 10 fence panels.

Or use bright shades as a focus

Use colour for focal points, says Joa Studholme, Farrow & Ball colour curator.

“Initially, keep brights for movable pots, watering cans or a single chair. Then you can experiment.”

You could even use tester pots. To reflect the colour of your planting, Studholme suggests Brassica and Cinder Rose, with soft greens such as Vert De Terre on garden chairs.

Get creative with screening

London’s Katharine Pooley, named Interior Designer of the Decade earlier this year, disguises “blank, unloved walls” with painted trellis, also good for screens if you are overlooked.

She suggests low-key Pavilion Grey, or Cornforth White, again by Farrow & Ball: “Classic neutrals are good in an urban setting.”

Then wait for your climbers to grow, such as wisteria, jasmine or roses.

Speciality paints

Designer paint, however, is expensive. Farrow & Ball costs £29 for 0.75 litres.

There are speciality paints for particular projects. Fortress satin and gloss finishes can go straight on to rust, £19 for 0.75 litres, as can Hammerite, at £19. both at B&Q.

Rust-Oleum Garden Furniture Paint from Homebase, with a chalky finish in six low-key neutrals, could upgrade cheap plastic chairs. Or try chalky Frenchic paints.

Zinsser primers block out stubborn stains, such as smoke damage, and prepare virtually all surfaces for painting, says Nick King, paint expert at Leyland SDM.

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