Original article from Kent Live
A couple from Rochester who spent £7,000 building an outdoor seating area and firepit at their home were astonished when friends told them it was the spitting image of the Love Island garden.
Joanna Thomas, a healthcare assistant at a GP surgery, and her car salesman husband Aaron, both 34, recently redesigned the space, which looks familiar – but they have never seen the hit show.
The couple spent hours scouring the internet for ideas, which they then showed their daughters, Lexi, 9, and Ava, 6.
But the family – who have won a national competition with their transformation – were oblivious to the fact they had created a replica Love Island set, according to Joanna, who said: “We were completely baffled.”
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She added: “When we invited our friends over to see the garden, they kept commenting on how much it looked like Love Island.
“They were all joking, standing up in front of the firepit and saying, ‘Tonight, I’d like to couple up with…’
“Aaron and I were totally lost, because we’ve never even seen Love Island.”
The couple, who moved into the property in August 2020, even built a pub, The Mulberry Arms, in their garden.
Joanna said: “When we first moved in, the garden was just a bit of a blank space really.
“We thought it would be nice to do something with the area. It’s quite a sun trap and we wanted to make the most of it.”
She added: “At our old house, we didn’t really have much of a garden, so all we had was the traditional table and chairs.
“We really needed to revamp the space here and buy some nice furniture for it.”
Spoilt for choice, they devoted hours to sifting through online images, before settling on exactly what they wanted.
Joanna said: “Aaron’s always wanted a pub in the garden and, with being in lockdown and on furlough, we started getting ideas.
“We had a lot of time to plan properly and decide on exactly what we wanted.
“We got quotes from various places before picking a builder to come round and install the seating area and firepit, which cost around £3,000.”
Then, ordering the framework of their shed-come-pub from Holland and, enlisting the help of family and friends, they saved on costs by building the bar it housed themselves.
Joanna said: “The pub was built from a proper cabin which we ordered online and then we did the interiors ourselves.
“The bar was made with leftover plywood.
"Then, all the barstools and decorations inside were pretty much rescued from charity shops, upcycled with a lick of paint and put in place.”
She added: “Kitting it out probably cost us less than £100.
“We were thrilled with the finished product. The garden cost us £7,000 in total, but it would have been £2,000 more if we’d paid someone to make the bar.
“Our kids were over the moon with it.
"They couldn’t wait to invite their friends over and, to be honest, we couldn’t wait to invite ours too.”
Stunned by the alleged similarity between their gorgeous new garden and the one on Love Island, the couple’s interest piqued when a pal told them about the Raising the Barbeque competition to find the nation’s most creative DIY renovators, who were showcasing their outdoor havens.
Joanna said: “We decided to enter, but we didn’t expect to win, so when we received the message on Twitter saying we had, we couldn’t believe it.”
Hosted by supermarket Aldi, after their research showed that 32 million Brits have revamped their gardens this year, the top prize was £1,000 worth of vouchers for the store.
Joanna said: “We’ve been spending it on the girls, mainly for lunches and treats, but we’re also hoping to use some of the winnings to buy some nice things for the garden.”
Preferring the garden and pub to any other part of their home, the family are delighted with the results – whether they conjure images of Love Island or not.
Aaron said: “The kids absolutely love what we’ve done. It’s become a trend now that every Saturday night they tell me they’re going down to the pub.”
He added: “They shower, put their dressing gowns on and we’ll go down and play cards at the bar.
“They’re even learning to play darts. Teaching a six year old to play darts is quite scary, but it’s a lot of fun.
“Even though we haven’t left the house, it still feels like a night out.”
He added: “It’s a space that we can enjoy as a family, so we’re all thrilled with it.”
To help review the competition entries, Aldi enlisted the help of DIY aficionados Shelley and Ashley Sargeant, of Doncaster, South Yorkshire, whose own garden made them social media stars.
Shelley said: “Joanna and Aaron blew us away with their incredible space, which you can tell a lot of love and energy went into.
"We could definitely see ourselves having a glass of wine or two in front of that firepit.”