How to Make an Ugly Fence Disappear…

9 Written by Lisa on 23rd Aug 2010 in Design Tips

The average surburban garden is normally separated from its neighbours by the humble timber panel fence and, let’s be honest, it doesn’t really enhance the overall look of the garden does it!?  Of course there are many products on the market that allow you to paint, colour and preserve but from a design point of view, the colour you choose is really important if you are to achieve the right look for your garden. What you choose is up to you, but I thought I would give you a few general tips to help you along the way.

Believe it or not black is a brilliant colour to use, especially with panel fences and sheds where really you don’t want to attract attention to them.  Painting something black will literally make it disappear into the background and, with fences, what happens is that it gives the garden more dimension because the plants against them really stand out and somehow look more luscious.  To illustrate my point, here’s an example:


Although the fence in the left hand picture is painted a dark brown, what’s happening is that it has become an element within the garden rather than a backdrop.  It is also highlighting the rather unattractive concrete block retaining wall at the bottom of the garden – because it’s the lightest thing within the space, your eye goes straight to it.  In the picture on the right, because the shed, fence and retaining wall are painted black, your eye goes to the urn and the furniture, the things you do want to look at!    This picture was taken before the planting was finished so the flowerbeds are fairly empty but I still feel that the black fences bring the plants forward into the space and makes the planting feel fuller than it is.

Using other colours within the garden can work but you need to bear in mind that painting any element will make a feature of it.  Farrow & Ball and Curpinol Garden Shades have a gorgeous range of colours and these can look fantastic.  If you want to paint, for example, the shed a pale green or a feature wall in a contemporary town garden a creamy colour, go for it, but do be aware that you will be drawing attention to it so it’s really important that you are happy to look at it!

The general rule is this:

  1. If you want something to disappear, paint it black
  2. If you want to highlight something, paint it a colour
  3. If you want something to really stand out, paint it white (although care should be taken with white because we have a greyish light in this country and it doesn’t very often sit comfortably – transport it to Greece or Spain and it works perfectly!)
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9 Responses to “How to Make an Ugly Fence Disappear…”

  1. Hi Lisa

    Thanks for this great post which has solved my dilemma! Black paint it is.

    Any advice on an organic or non-toxic product to use?



  2. Lisa Cox says:

    Hi Pascale, glad the post was useful. The only product I know is by Cuprinol – the colour is Black Ash and it’s in their Garden Shades range. Hope that helps!? Lisa

  3. shed supplies…

    […]How to Make an Ugly Fence Disappear… | Lisa Cox Designs Blog[…]…

  4. Louise says:

    Today I took the plunge after I don’t know how long of deliberating and started painting my fence black. The thing is I have a LOT of fence and my garden is only young, new build, so I’m nervous I’ve made a mistake as it will take a few seasons for me to be able to fill the space. In the mean time it’s just looking like a lot of black fence. I think my neighbours think I’m mad, and my husband is doubting me. Even I feel my confidence is blown. I know it’s just paint but do you have any words of encouragement for me? Thanks, I really enjoy your blog, it’s a great source of inspiration.

  5. Lisa says:

    Keep the faith, Louise, you’re not mad! Once they’re all painted and you’ve planted, it will look fabulous. It’s like a magic trick – they literally disappear into the background!

  6. Harry says:

    Hi Lisa, we installed a new fence last summer and we were talked into using concrete posts. I only painted the wooden fence green and left the concrete posts bare which isn’t appealing to the eye (probably first mistake). Do you you have any tips on hiding these posts? Starting to think I should have used wooden posts, but the damage has been done. We live in a cottage if this helps with your suggestions?

  7. Lisa says:

    Concrete posts are far from pretty but on the plus side, they’ll last forever and if you need to replace any of the fence panels, it’ll be a much easier task. The trouble with painting a fence green is that it becomes a feature of the garden along with all the other shades of green. If you can bear to paint it again then be brave and paint it black (you won’t be sorry) – you’ll probably find that the posts won’t stand out so much but if you really hate them, paint those black too (with a masonry paint). Training some planters up the fence might help too.

  8. Harry says:

    Thanks Lisa, we only installed say 1/3rd of the fence last year. I’m starting to question if I should start again. I didn’t spend much on materials and installed it myself. Painting 20m of fence black is not what I planned. I would much prefer to see a nice hedge. I’m a bit stuck, should I rip down what we started? We plan to be at this house for a long time. We just had a baby and hoping that we can eventually keep some family pets in the garden, so I thought a fence would be good.

  9. Lisa says:

    In my opinion a hedge will always look better but you can always plant on the inside of the fence if you need the boundaries to be properly secure. Or you could start again and plant a hedge with something like a chain link fence behind so that you’re secure and can’t see the fence.

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I specialise in helping families to turn their gardens into an extension of their home and into a space that can be used and enjoyed all year round.

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