Oh corten steel, how I love thee. Let me count the ways. Five there are five ways and I’m going to share them with you now.
Disclaimer – There are a lot more ways but we all have things to be getting on with, so I shall be taking you through five achievable ways that you can bring corten steel into your garden design.
“We wanted our garden to have an industrial feel so we added some weathered corten steel to give it more texture and character.”
“Corten steel has a unique patina and no two pieces will be the same.”
Sadly, we’re not all Bond villeins, so we can’t all live in a sexy fortress such as this one designed by Sturgess Architecture with the incredible corten sliding doors, steel framework and dark wooden panelling but, this picture perfectly sums up my obsession with the materiel. Just look at the patina. Look at the richness of the colours marbling through it and the almost velvety texture. It’s absolutely stunning.
I first became obsessed with corten steel on a trip to Offf festival in Barcelona when I saw it being used internally and externally in a lot of the city’s interior deign and architecture. I couldn’t wait for my opportunity to use it in our home and fortunately I didn’t have to wait too long…
Those of you that have been following this blog for some time will know that I love cladding – so much so, we’ve covered 90% of our home and garden with it, leaving no more room for any corten steel panels, but, while in the process of renovating our garden we encountered a little hiccup.
Our neighbour that lives behind us had replaced his fence for one shorter than the others around the perimeter of our garden as he wanted to increase his natural light. Totally understandable of course, but the main basis of our design was that the red cedar wooden cladding would wrap around the entire kitchen and garden area to make it appear as one unified space. My solution was to move the pergola to the opposite side of where it was in the initial design (the side with the shorter fence) and attach a sheet of corten steel onto their fence to make a feature out of the fact that it didn’t tie in with the rest of the garden.
It works brilliantly as you’d never know the pergola wasn’t always intended to be on that side, and the best bit is that I got my little bit of corten cladding in the end so it all turned out for the better.
If you are planning on using corten steel as a backing panel to a seating area, ensure that once the steel has weathered and you have reached your desired level of colour and patina, that you seal it with a clear lacquer spray or a roll on sealant to stop it from rusting any further or staining anyones clothes.
It’s a simple and affective way of adding an element of industrial design you your garden, or concealing an unsightly section of wall or fence.
I bought this corten sheet from Buy Metal Online, they’re great as they have lots of sizes to choose from and they’ll even cut them to size for you and send you the excess – but more about my extra bits and what I did with them later on in this blog post. Ooh, err.
Corten stairs are very much going onto my wish list for future projects. I love using materials that look equally good on the inside of your home as they do on the outside, as it’s the perfect way of blurring the lines between the two.
Now, that I’ve dangled that corten carrot under your nose I’m going to give you a couple of more affordable ways to bring corten steel steps into your outdoor space without you having to sell a kidney.
We dug about 3 feet of earth from our garden to make it all one level with the indoors, but if I’d seen this beautifully designed enclosed city garden by Sarah Price I may have reconsidered that decision and saved myself some money. These beautiful, bespoke corten steel steps have been custom made but you can get some similar ones for less than £500 from Buy Metal Online.
They’re not only a stylish and architectural statement for your garden but also a practical and hardwearing alternative to slippery wood and stone pathed steps. They are available from two up to ten steps making them a great solution for multi level spaces or gardens that are on a gradient.
And if that’s still a stretch too far for your budget, you could use corten steel edging, which is more commonly used to trim pathways or lawns. You can clad it onto your stair risers and then use shingles or pathing for the treads. Rose and Rust sell it in various sizes that come in straight strips, and cornered edging, making it flexible enough to create your own bespoke version for an absolute steel. Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.
To create the feeling of being immersed in nature we must try and include some greenery at every level from the ground up. This is something I love to do inside and outside of the home. Starting from the larger pot plants on the ground, woking up to the ones dotted around at eye level and finishing all the way up to the climbing and hanging plants above our heads.
Raised plant beds are a great way of zoning a space and bringing that all important greenery up to your line of sight, while protecting them from your kids mud kitchen and any digging doggies.
The raised planters in our garden are structural, but if yours are purely a design feature, I love the idea of putting them on castors and using them to zone the space in a number of different ways. This is a good solution for smaller spaces or for making your garden more accessible and functional for multiple uses.
Rose and Grey do an excellent selection of steel planters – you could easily combine one (or two) with some heavy duty castors from Ross Castors , we’ve used them before on our moveable kitchen island so we know they can take the weight and with a bit of creativity you could create something wheelly unique for your space. I’ll get my coat.
You don’t have to have a huge outdoor space to create your own little outdoor kitchen area. Anything that encourages us to get out into the fresh air as much as possible and soak up that all important vitamin D while consuming a never ending supply of chargrilled kebabs is a good idea.
Cast your minds back to a little earlier on in this blog post when I left you dangling on a cliff edge wondering what I did with the off-cut of corten steel from Buy Metal Online? Well, I packed it into my car, along with my wriggly toddler and took it all the way to the Design Technology department of the local secondary school to get it bent into shape by one of the teachers there. And this all happened because I’d asked for some advice on my local Facebook community hub.
Humans can be so wonderfully helpful at times can’t they? You can read more about the whole process in a previous blog post here.
To cut a long story short, corten steel does not bend easily, but with a lot of elbow grease (his) and a lot of apologies (mine), we (he) bent it into a fabulously industrial style splash back for our cooking corner that I could not be happier with AND it was just an excess piece that was destined for the waste pile.
And if, like my Father in Law, you’re still not convinced by this “rusty old piece of tin” I’ll just leave you with this image…
BRB, I’m just going back to the Design and Technology department with my “rusty old piece of tin” and this picture to see what my talented teacher friend can do. It’ll be similar to the time I went to the hairdressers armed with my wispy hair and a photo of JenAnn. Spoiler alert – I ended up looking like Worzel Gummidge after a heavy session with Aunt Sally. Not a good look.
One of my only regrets about our garden is that we didn’t include a water feature of some kind. Ross, my better half and the maker of most of my imaginings, came up with the incredible idea of running a water feature that would pour down the back of the corten steel panel on the pergola, and collect into the retaining wall underneath. We decided against it in the end as we wanted the retaining wall to double as seating and/or an extra surface area for food and drinks.
It was the right choice in this instance but I wish we’d included the soothing sounds of water somewhere else in the garden…I do have a little idea up my sleeve but it may be one for next year if we can make it work so watch this trickling interlude.
If that’s wet your appetite, Rose and Rust have some beautiful corten steel water features and ponds such as these industrial looking water tables. They’d add impact to any garden, while giving you somewhere to dip your toes and rest your G&T while you take in the soothing sounds of the burbling water. Absolute bliss.
Finally, my ultimate dream scenario, if money and space were no object would be a corten steel koi pond, complete with running water. It would probably have me running to the loo every 5 minutes but it’d be worth it – I mean just look at it.
Those of us with smaller spaces don’t need to feel too left out though as Rose and Rust have us taken care of. They’re serving up a little splash of tranquility in this wonderful water bowl for those cosier city yardens. Hurrah.
So there you have it, 5 ways to give your garden design some industrial sized impact using corten steel. I hope that you will all rush out and try some of these ideas in your outdoor spaces, and then report back me so that I can swoon over the results until the rest of my days.