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Sitting in Style

When Bridget Aitken first moved into her Papamoa home the "dinky" deck at the entranceway was rotting to pieces - not a great first impression.

She saw the potential, however, and 12 months later she has a new deck complete with a built-in bench seat - and it has effectively added another room to her house.

"It was my entryway to the house, so I wanted to have something a bit more expansive. I had a vision of what I wanted to do with the deck, then the bench seat idea came from the table because once the deck was built I realised I didn’t have a lot of room for chairs," says Bridget.

Bridget’s bench seat both maximises the small space she has, and encloses the area to create an outdoor room. She was able to cantilever it out to create more space.

"The design of the bench seat kind of evolved - I knew I wanted the shaker style front panels to the inside, and originally wanted to do weatherboards on the outside, but the shadow ply was a lot less expensive, and laying it horizontally tied it to the fence.

"I also painted it the same colour as the fence so it blended nicely. Using the same shadow ply for the back rest, but vertically just made sense, gives it a tongue and groove look. I painted all the inside panels white to tie it to the house."

Once the bench seat was completed Bridget added some planting to provide wind and sun protection, soften the hard edges, and aid privacy, as the deck is elevated and in full view of the street over the fence.

"I bought some plastic pots and designed the whole back section of the bench seat around the size of those, so the plants fit snugly, and once they grow a little more, will be a nice hedge.

"Somehow I managed to construct it all in such a way that there are a couple of gaps perfect for inserting umbrellas."

Bridget is proud to say she built the bench seat herself.

"Although I design kitchens and cabinetry, I’d never designed anything like this before and I definitely hadn’t built anything before.

"I started it in the factory of our family business, Mount Joinery, thinking my father or brother would step in at some point and take over, but they were busy with their own projects.

And as I got more into it I really wanted the satisfaction of completing it on my own and -with a bit of saw cutting assistance and advice - I did. It’s added a whole new room to my house - I just love it."

Bridget’s advice to wannabe DIYers is to get the scale right. "I ended up having to cut down one section as it was just going to be too long. And also, pay to have the squabs done professionally.

"I spent way too long not getting anywhere making my own, so dropped all the foam and material to a lovely upholsterer in Te Puke who did them in two days and they’re fabulous."