Tag Archives: playhouse

Covering it all up, and a dad joke

Well hello there…glossing right over my long absence from keeping you updated on our progress, I have progress to share with you in spades. Or shovels actually – square front, because they’re the best for this job so I’m told.


The last I clued you in on what we’ve been up to in the backyard, was when we transplanted the plum tree from it’s corner of the odd little triangle of deck, and up into the more deserving and lofty place of the biggest planter we could heft down the stairs and across the backyard.

I’m pleased to say it survived, and I had high hopes when we got to enjoy a good spring bloom, but sadly there were only a small handful of meagre plum offerings. Uprooting an old tree definitely interferes with it’s nervous system. Hopefully next summer it’ll be feeling more up to production tempo again.

Pretty ain’t it?


But not so pretty… the weeds growing in every nook and cranny of the patchwork of old and new concrete, and ugly stained timber decking.

What to do….? Clearly laying ready lawn over top is not a good idea.

While we didn’t hate the concrete part, the odd triangle of deck in the back right corner really didn’t fit in with my vision of a comfortable, cosy, and relaxing back yard. What I really wanted to do was turn the concrete into crazy paving, and then cover up the deck. But apparently this was not achievable without seriously annoying the neighbours with a concrete saw for weekends on end, and the result unpredictable at best but leaning heavily towards disaster.

Would you believe we even contemplated ripping out the decking and filling the void with concrete so at least we’d be back to one simple surface? But that would have brought all sorts of retaining nightmares and probably have involved talking to the council. Not ideal.

So. “Cover it all up!” was the cry. White pebbles was the answer.

Until we saw the price. And realised that to do it properly we’d need to first invest in what the kids have deemed “honeycomb”.

“Honeycomb” is otherwise known as Natural Paving. There are various versions of it, and I forget quite why we chose this in the end, although most were priced pretty comparably, and do the same job. Which is to provide stability for a large area of pebbles. It holds them in place, and makes them easier to walk on. An added bonus is that it makes it hard for kids to dig around in them and throw bucket loads over the back fence and generally create havoc after you’ve gone to great lengths to rake it all out nice and smooth and level. Yep we’ll have some of that.

At $32 a sheet, and needing a total of 31 sheets, it got us almost to $1000 in one transaction. Scary stuff. But at least it was straightforward.

Pebbles was not so much. First there was giving up the dream of white pebbles, because that was looking like a few too many digits after the dollar sign. But mainly because once I got beyond that by telling myself they’d only be hard to keep looking good anyway, I couldn’t for the life of me make comparisons between pebbles and prices and suppliers thereafter. I was good at maths before I divided my brain in half twice by producing two offspring (leaving me with a quarter of my original… just enough to work that one out) but trying to compare these pebbles priced at so much per m3 with these different but supposedly the same pebbles at so much per tonne… way too much.

So what is one to do but go by looks then..?!


Exhibit A: 4 different pebble samples from 3 different suppliers

I liked the look of the “Hoki Poki Small” from Daltons, and within days a truck dumped a 1.5m3 mountain in front of the garage door.


But meanwhile… we laid all the “honeycomb” and congratulated ourselves on moving one step further so efficiently (it was super quick to lay), only to spend the next few days wondering if perhaps we needed some kind of drainage underneath…



A wash down of my pebble samples left water sitting in the matting, with nowhere to drain to, and a quick phone call to Natural Paving confirmed that yes it was absolutely necessary to have at least 50mm of drainage metal underneath. The webbed material on the underside of the honeycomb is more for weed control. Nevermind that we’d edged off the entire yard allowing only for the thickness of the matting plus 10-15mm for pebbles on top of that. We didn’t have 50mm. At least not without copious frustration.

Andre’s day time job came in handy once again as he sussed out more advanced drainage materials than GAP 20, eventually coming across some kind of geotextile called “bidim” from Geofabrics. It has hydraulic properties which makes it ideal for use for drainage and filtration applications. Oh really? And how thick is it did you say? Oh about 2mm. Give or take 1mm!!

Laying it meant taking up the honeycomb row by row and replacing it over the top as we unrolled the bidim, so we didn’t mix up our jigsaw and get ourselves in a complete pickle.



With that done, I spent most of a precious childless Friday moving barrows of Hoki Poki from here to there. Blisters and splinters aside, it was a good feeling to get to this point.

0504_145748I left off with it all dumped in piles where the wheelbarrow got the better of me and tipped off my wobbly ramp, too exhausted to rake it around, and definitely not able to manhandle that half-built playhouse structure around to finish off the job.

0504-03.07Andre got it done the next day, and after a good wash down of the dusty pebbles, it was looking pretty fine!

0504_4354We over ordered by a small pile of pebbles, and these have been fun for the kids (to throw around by the bucket load) but will get bagged up and used for top ups when necessary.

0504_4358 0504_4359Besides this “cover up” we’ve been busy in the backyard for most of the summer with adding timber to the front side of the planter wall on the deck, and to the side alongside the stairs. I’ve spent a bit of time in the garden up the side, trying to get some shade loving plants established, and helping the jasmine along with a better growing frame, and a couple of extra plants. We also filled in and painted the “half wall” at the garage side of the backyard.

Busy. But these leaps of progress are so worth it!


Once you can stop and look back… and once you know there are just a couple more things left on the list. We have a playhouse to finish obviously, and then a line up of more concrete pipe planters waiting to move into position along the back fence and break the monotony of brown with some much needed green!

I’ll leave you with this:

After 5 years of fatherhood Andre is getting pretty heavily involved in the Dad-joke Club, but one of his latest (pilfered from somewhere no doubt) is actually not bad: “Did you have a good weekend or do you own your own home?”

Small spaces: An open playhouse

Open playhouse for small space

This little playhouse was one of my very first pins onto my kids room board on Pinterest. I thought it would be a fabulous option for small rooms, because visually it doesn’t fill the space, even though it is plenty roomy enough for a couple of kids to play in.

But, I wondered if it was one of those play things far more appealing to adults, and would just have the kids ignoring it in favour of something more messy looking!

I’m thinking again, because Miss E has been having such fun playing behind a bed frame we currently have stored in “the green room” – no matter that it’s open, although the slats help give it a more “cosy” feeling.

Wouldn’t it be great to have a quick-assemble version of this open playhouse that you could dismantle and rebuild wherever and whenever takes your fancy?

With summer coming along nicely (at least it was this morning, before the rain started!) I’ve been pondering our lovely big (bigger than it used to be!) lawn with thoughts of picnics and games. How fun would it be to set up a playhouse like this on the lawn, drape a sheet over for some shade, and laze on some cushions with a stack of books for the afternoon?

Hmmm… play kitchen or playhouse…? That is the question!

PS. Also love love love that paper plane on the wall! It’s a fun touch to an otherwise rather grown up room.

Backyard plans

The more time I spend on Pinterest, and the more we clear out the backyard, the more ideas I have for how to make our odd little backyard a pretty, functional and “something for everyone” space.

Right now, I have a couple of quite different ideas.

But first, here’s what we have (or will have once we demolish the last remaining planter box and remove another trailer load of dirt):

0510_Backyard plan

At the front of our house we are just a few steps above ground level, but at the back, we have a pretty good birds eye view of the neighbours. In these plans (x) means steps down from the house level – hopefully that helps with the interpretation! Under each of the deck areas are terraced lumps of concrete… apparently a previous owner was a concrete junkie. We’ve already demolished a small portion of it in the front, but we will just have to work with it (ie. keep it covered up) out the back here.

So, the first plan (but the second one I drew up, hence “plan 2”) was to deck it out at various levels, gradually stepping down, with no need for hand rails – creating different areas for outdoor dining, seating and playing but keeping things open and spacious. All greenery in pots, with a feature wall of giant potted plants along the back fence for privacy.0510_Backyard plan2

I had a more modern look in mind for this – think oriental trellis, simple structures and minimal furnishings. The multi level deck would be the main feature, and a great play opportunity for the kids.

0513_backyard moodboard2

Since renovating is all about learning to work with what you have though, I thought I’d veer well off course and see how we could live with the current (but upgraded) small deck, and even the concrete below.

The result is four very distinct areas – a covered deck for bbq-ing, rainy day play and after the kids are in bed relaxation, then down some sweet brick walled stairs to a crazy-paved potential cosy dining space (I haven’t shown a table in the plan), with an old armoire for gardening bits and pieces and outdoor toys, then a built structure of some sort over white pebble, and a final area for nothing more glamourous than hanging out the washing, and access to the garage and drive.

0510_Backyard plan1My vision for this plan is a little more relaxed, with loads of different textures – there’s timber decking, rustic brick, herbs growing in cracked concrete paving, white pebble… – and some defined areas to escape to or explore. Can you tell I’m quite liking this plan?!

0513_backyard moodboard1With winter approaching fast, it’s unlikely much of these plans will eventuate for a few months yet, but that will allow me time to mull them over and decide on something just perfect! Dreams are free…!