When Sera Sekerci’s dad, Ishak, got locked down at her house and was unable to fly home to Turkey, she had the perfect solution to keep him busy – and save her thousands of pounds - turning her bland, oddly shaped back garden into an Instagram-worthy sensation.
It was no small task.
Ishak spent hours digging out the entire plot, which was transformed into a beautifully styled social space – complete with luxurious sofa for lounging and an alfresco dining table – for around half the price that Sera’d been quoted...and we’re here for it!
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Sera (@rugrats.and.renovation) revealed that she’d been left with a ‘builder’s backyard’ after an extension to the house in York that she shares with her husband and three children, and she’d despaired over what to do with it. ‘We had gone over budget with the house. We got some quotes for the garden and they were coming in at £14,000 – and our garden is tiny! We hadn’t anticipated how much things would cost.’
Her 72-year-old dad came to the rescue with an idea that would save her a pretty penny. ‘He normally lives in Turkey, but he’d got trapped here, and he said “I can do it”,' she says. 'He’s quite a keen gardener – he doesn’t really know what he’s doing, but he’s a grafter. And, actually, the digging out of it all he could easily do because he loves digging.’
Sera made a wishlist of what she wanted in the garden to see what they could afford. ‘We thought we’d do it bit by bit to see where we could kind of go with it. That’s how we went from having a muddy piece of grass and some left over old patio. We just tried, and somehow became quite successful at it.’
One of the challenges they faced was negotiating a curved side wall. ‘It’s curved to accommodate the driveway on the other side, and there’s nothing that can be done about it so we just worked with this strange space,' says Sera. 'There were also two trees that we were very close to taking down as they were shady and nothing grew underneath.
‘I had a dining set that I thought would go outside the sliding doors. But I went round to a friends and she had the most lovely sofa set. I really wanted one, only I thought my garden wasn’t big enough. Then, by chance, we moved the dining table under the tree and the kids started eating there when the weather was sunny. The tree acted as a natural canopy, so I thought let’s keep it there, and then we could have decking by the house where we could put the sofa.
‘I wanted an area of green to but with real grass it would have gone brown underneath the table, then a friend suggested artificial grass. I also wanted borders that curved round the wall, but didn’t want sleepers, so we got builders to quote for a rendered wall. It just came together like that. All the time my dad had been busy digging, preparing for something, though we didn’t really know what. I had the kids to homeschool so didn’t have much time to help, but even they liked to get out there and shovel a few bits in a wheelbarrow.’
It took from May until mid August before the garden was ready, with Ishak spending a month just digging and preparing 'The builders and the decking took about two weeks. There were gaps in between, waiting for the arrival of things as everyone was going mad with their gardens,' says Sera. ‘My dad also laid the artificial grass. We watched a YouTube video which showed how many centimetres you needed of hardcore and how many of sand, and we hired a compactor plate. We didn’t have an idea what we were doing – we just went for it.
‘The builder built and rendered the curved walls and my dad lined them all and planted them up. That’s his specialty. Because he lives in Turkey, he has got a fruit trees and a veg garden – you can have your whole dinner from his garden.’
By mid-August, Sera was able to put in all the furniture, lighting and soft furnishings that she’d been buying slowly over the summer and storing in the garage, and dressed it to stunning effect. Unfortunately here dad missed out on seeing it: ‘My husband works away and my dad had left to go home, so he never saw the finished garden with everything in it, he’d just seen it with the decking down,' says Sera.
‘When it all came together it honestly was magical. The feeling of achievement I got as the kids and I sat out there with our little blankets, toasting marshmallows on this little burner I got, it was lovely.’
The makeover cost £8,435, which paid for the builder, plasterer, decking, fence, hardcore, sand, compactor hire, artificial grass and planting, ‘It was an amazing price compared to £14,000,’ says Sera. ‘But I know 100 per cent how much we saved on labour, because it was about a month of hard work.’
She now has plans to build a garden pod, and she knows just where to go for help. ‘My dad is stuck here again. He went back to Turkey for a bit, then came back for Christmas and we got locked down. So as soon as the weather is better, I’m sure he’ll be out there.’