Help! How Do I Turn My Deck Into a Place of Relaxation and Beauty?

Jacinda and I are on a mission this summer. We’ve both lived in our homes for about two years and we want to finally get around to creating beautiful (yet prudent) outdoor spaces, but we need your help. So I’m gonna go first and ask (beg?) for your thoughts. Y’all know I like to wax poetic about my garden (like when I’ve shared with you our Backyard Farm projects from last year and this year), but I have a secret… The kind of secret moms of young children everywhere try to hide away My shots have been carefully calculated to avoid revealing the reality of what my deck and patio have devolved into:

Can any of you relate (please say yes)? If you’ve been following us on facebook you have seen this disaster zone of toys and assorted folding chairs and empty sippy cups and know that a few weeks ago I managed to sweep off the bird seed and discard the melted crayon heaps, and that it was a soul-cleansing experience. But, well, this is the progress I’ve made. This pic is from the day we moved in to our lovely little home over two years ago:

And this is last week:

So, umm, that took two years. Now in the next few weeks I want to fix it up. I’d like, hmm, I don’t know, someplace to sit. Or maybe someplace to sleep? Or plant? Or store toys? Or drink tangerine mimosas at 11 am (it’s after 12 in dallas, so if I call Jacinda while I’m doing it that counts, right?). Your advice for the Craft Room Redesign Project has been insightful and indispensable so I must call upon you again: Please help! Let me show you some before pictures and tell you all about it and ask ten million questions after the jump…
Patio HELP PLEASE!


So…summer is here and I want to make a space that is kid & adult friendly. A space for relaxing, dining, luxuriating, and playing. A space of joy and beauty that honors the wonder of a Southern California summer and makes the garden an integral part of our day-to-day lives. American Express has generously offered me Membership Rewards points to help make this dream a reality. I have an American Express card (that I use more often then I care to admit, sigh) and I knew on some level that I had been accruing points, but I’d never really looked through the offerings. So when this opportunity came up I gave the Membership Rewards site a whirl. I was pretty blown away by a) the amount of points I had accumulated and not realized I had and b) the variety of things I could get with them. Things like grills, hammocks, fire pits, and cameras and even more exciting: Gift Cards. Gift cards to fave home shops like West Elm and Crate & Barrel and hello, HOME DEPOT! It’s like a DIY dream come true. So I’d like to use the Membership Rewards points they gave me and my own accumulated stash to revamp my patio without spending a dime. 

Here’s what I’m working with:

Those double doors in the middle go to my bedroom as do both windows.

This area I’d like to be a sitting area, maybe with my outdoor bed fantasy? I used to have a hammock there but one day I sat in it and it broke and I don’t trust it anymore. Shame. On the other side of the railing is the barbecue and air conditioning unit for the house. That little window is to the master bathroom.

The door on your right heads into the laundry area and then kitchen. On the side of the deck is the driveway (aka: sandbox/playhouse/tricycle toy zone).

That Ikea table has actually stood up pretty well to two years of use and it’s the one thing I might keep? There is only one director’s chair because the other three have broken under my weight. Ha, maybe the first thing I should do to fix my patio is go on a diet?

So where should i start? Here’s some thoughts I had:

An outdoor bed. Like an actual bed. Maybe a day bed? What kind of mattress could work? A canopy? Is an outdoor bed a bad idea?

A place to eat. Chairs to sit on. Or maybe benches.

A pool. I want to make one out of an 8′ round stock tank, but those are hard to come by in LA. What else could I make a little pool out of? I can get a filter at home depot with my points. I just can’t dig myself a pool. Maybe this is one of those dreams I need to let go of.

A fireplace or fire pit. Perhaps my deck is not the best place for this because of the overhang?

An outdoor bar? So I don’t have to walk 4 steps to the kitchen to get my margarita ingredients?

Plastic tableware… cuteness that cannot be broken when used for outdoor bbq’s

Should I replace one of the lights with a ceiling fan?

What should I DIY and what should i buy? Anything you want to see a tute on?

Is that enough questions? Thank you for your help!

by

28 Comments

sabrina

1> DIY a better hammock
2> waterproof floor pillows are pretty cool
3> try sunset magazine and apartment therapy for inspiration

for plastic tableware… I got a super cute set from target last year. This year is equally cute and could totally coordinate with last year. IKEA has pretty cute outdoors stuff too. how about some kind of lights on a string? those always make me feel happy. I am sure there is some kind of modern version.

I have no suggestions for the pool, sorry.

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stephanie joy

oh… i'd like a go at your back yard!
especially with those awesome reward points.
score!
you just gotta keep shopping.
really, the more you buy, the more you save!!!!
ha ha ha ha ha ha!
ok, back to business…
as soon as you wrote that you want a bed outdoors, my immediate thought was this project:
http://ashleyannphotography.com/blog/2009/06/29/diy-pallet-reading-bed-for-the-nursery/

it's something that i've considered doing as well.
who doesn't like to nap while enjoying the great outdoors?
anyhow, i think with your DIY expertise, you could give it a go. 🙂
have fun!!

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cory - falling star lane

wow – how exciting!!
If this were my deck, I would hang curtains around it, to create an alcove feel, and privacy for closeness and intimacy. Something on big hooks or poles that can be opened easily – tie backs too. I would not use a daybed, but an outdoor couch, something cushy that could be used to sleep on – beds are wide, making them not so comfortable for sitting on – too loungy and your guests don't really relax. 2 chairs, to match the couch, and a low table, like a coffee table, not glass. and put the hammock back up! use a stand if you need to – it's very pleasant to be able to relax! a couple large planters on the edge will create a sense of dimension.

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Beca

We got an outdoor patio set from Costco several years ago as a wedding gift. It's not the store you're looking at, but the great thing is they are compact and the chairs stack. Then you can make some cute chair cushions. Also the area on the left (bathroom window area) would look great with a "L-shaped" seating area -it could double as reclining social area/eating area and lounge/bed. As for a fire pit, I wouldn't do one on the deck under the overhang, but if you want one you could use this or something similar: http://www.bhg.com/home-improvement/porch/outdoor-rooms/improve-small-backyard/?page=9
To make the area more warm/cozy and inviting I'd probably start with some climbing plants on the ends to trail up and around the deck. My in-law's have done that and it is so peaceful. It also helps with the California heat. You could also put some string lights around. Totally add's to the night ambiance.

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Rebecca@This Present Life

Unfortunately, I don't have any advice to share but I am anxious to see what everyone suggests because I would LOVE to fix up our outdoor space. It might actually be nice to have a place to sit an enjoy myself while the kids are playing outside 🙂

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Jocelyn

First of all, it is wonderful to see your messes! Sometimes in blogland everyone's lives look too put together. Nice to know that my little ones aren't the only ones making a mess at the house.

I would look up "sleeping porch" on google. You'll see all kinds of beautiful examples. Looks like a lot of people use acutal beds. It seems to doesn't rain much in LA most of the time so maybe you could buy some kind of water resistent/outdoor fabric and make a cover for it when you aren't using it to protect it. Or maybe home depot would sell some kind of outdoor mattress online or something? I also like the idea of some flowy curtains (even if they don't really do anything but add some color/texture). I love ceiling fans but they are a must here in TX. Does your back porch stay pretty cool and shaded during the day or would a fan be helpful? How are your mosquitoes too? Seems like you mentioned flies in one post…fans can help keep them away a bit. I don't know if you read AnnaWhite.com but she has instructions on how to build really beautiful and functional patio furniture. She recently made a picnic table that comes apart into two pieces and then those two pieces transform into two chairs if you don't want a table all the time. Pretty ingenious. Oh, and P. Allen Smith from PBS always has beautiful garden things. He has a sleeping porch but I wasn't able to find any info on it. Not sure about the pool.

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kalliejenn81

i've seen some fantastic outdoor "bar" areas built out of a potting bench like this one: http://www.plowhearth.com/product.asp?pcode=11323

the basic idea is to paint the bench a pretty color. then, install curtain rods (cut-to-fit galvanized plumbing pipe, which most home-improvement stores will cut for you) to the bottom part by drilling holes for them to fit on each side (with a spade drill bit).

add a curtain to it by affixing fabric (something weather-resistant like sunbrella) to it with curtain clips. things like sodas, drink fixings, etc. can go down there behind the curtain). then up on the top bar can go glasses (preferrably plastic ones since they'll be outdoors) and maybe a pretty decoration or two.

you can install a bottle opener on the side of the potting bench, too, for easy use.

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Shavone

I may come back with more comments, but this must be said. YES – get a ceiling fan!! I imagine SoCal is just as hot as South Carolina in the summer, cooling off is a necessity.

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Laura

i've been prowling craigslist for a porch swing and have come across MANY "swinging daybeds" that are made from slats and a frame, like a swing, and hold a twin spring mattress, and hang from the ceiling on chains. Looks like most people cover the mattress like a sofa cushion with an outdoor fabric and pile high with outdoor throw pillows. I'd be sure to include ceiling fans and an indoor/outdoor rug. Have fun!

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teacherspet04

I have no suggestions, only dreams of fixing up my own space. But, I have to say, I can SO relate. I live in the desert, so it's really difficult to grow a lawn. When we moved in 5 1/2 years ago, there was a nice lawn, but there was irrigation water (which has since ceased to exist) and an elderly couple living here. Now, after 5 kids, two dogs, and some city hens have had their way with it, I have dirt and roses. And the patio next to it, looks like well, dirt and patio furniture. harumph

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marisa

Definitely the ceiling fan. I love ours on warm summer nights. We also have a small bar. I wouldn't put the pit on the deck. We have an area off of our deck that is not covered so the pit is there, I didn't want it under.

I think a nice table and chairs set too. never thought of a bed.

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Beth @ Sand To Pearl

My suggestion? A outdoor box to hold toys. We recently got a big one that doubles as a seat at Menards, and it's been WONDERFUL! We now have a great place outside where my kids stuff can go, no more shlubbing it outside and back inside after play, it stay safe from the rain, and the kids can get into it easily. They have lots of different designs to go with just about any patio furniture you pick, and trust me, you'll be SO happy if you get it. Definitely worth it! Plus, when you're ready to go inside it's really easy to throw all the kids stuff inside of it real quick, and make the deck look nice again.

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Erin

I would absolutely add a ceiling fan. It's a must and helps keep away pesky mosquitoes when you are sitting under it.

Looks like you have a great space! If you ever eat outside, I would suggest a table with drop in tiles. Easy to clean and also easy to change out the tiles to different colors/textures for occasions or whatever else. Also, I picked up mine (seats 4) for about $100 at Lowes. Love it and it's held up great after 5 years.

I would also pick up a storage seating bench. That way it provides extra seating, plus a place to hide toys when needed.

If the sun is ever an issue on the deck, you could put up outdoor curtains. I always love how those dress up a covered patio.

I would avoid a fire pit, but that doesn't mean you can't find really great candle holders/candles to put on a table on the deck. I love the mini chimeneas for candles. They are cute.

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Hannah

How fun for you, and how lucky you are!!

I would invest in an awning to the left of the verandah, to shade that exposed space.

I would definitely install a fan in front of the bedroom doors, where the current light fitting is. Fans are fantastic outdoors.

A (heavy) day bed can be annoying, especially when you want other things like bbq, storage etc. You could think about something like Ambient Lounges? They're super super comfortable, weather-resistant and, most importantly to me, easily moved!

For a table, I like long tables with bench seats, so whether you've got 4 people or 8, seating is never too much of a problem. Two comfortable chairs at either end are good.

Instead of a fire pit, a brazier might be good. Something you can store when not in use.

I would, along the wall of the left hand side of the house, install an outdoor kitchen. Have bench space, a sink and a grill on top, and cupboards/drawers/mini fridge underneath. The cupboards are great for holding toys, and the sink is so useful for cleaning up messes quickly, as well as cleaning dirty kids before they go inside! Plus filling up water glasses etc. I'm from Aus, where we live outdoors in summer, and these kitchens are beyond fantastic.

For tableware, my fave fave brand is French Bull. Fun, bright colours, and really durable.

I wouldn't give up on the stock tank pool. Their increasing popularity means they'll be more accessible.

Good luck, I'm sure you'll do a great job!

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Vanilla Bean Crafts

Looks like it needs lots of cushy furniture to lounge in with a good book! Did you see that hanging papasan chair Pier One posted a while back? I have my heart set on that one! I loved the colors!

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neubiewaters

OK…this is what I would do:
1. put up some outdoor curtains that I could pull toward each post when I didn't want to block the sun…maybe dropcloths so it would be cheaper.
2. go to anawhite.com to get directions for building a daybed & build one….I'm envious that you have the space for one
3. funky accessories & lights on a string (for the enjoyment of the kids…mine would love them)

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Kathy

DEFINITELY curtains! Check out Ballard Designs – good stuff, not too too pricey.
Use the curtains to create a couple different areas.
Maybe some hanging flowers?
I liked one of the PP's idea for planters/pots to create some depth/dimension.
Definitely invest in some really cool hanging lights. If you take one side and separate it with curtains (create a square), then put a chandelier in the middle – you have a perfect "dining" space.

You could also put a fountain either somewhere (against the wall) on the deck, or get a cool round one that you could put a few feet out from the bottom of the deck. Create a bit of a walking path up TO the deck?

Oh what a fantastic blank slate. I'm so jealous!

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Lil' Bit and Nan

Okay, Jaime. Here are my ideas. On the side of the porch with the bathroom window – a rope bed(My Grandma slept in one on her front porch) under it you can keep a crate of reading books and such. On the other side of the porch next to the kitchen door a DIY bar(Stainless steel would be a good idea)with a mini fridge and outdoor serving and drinking ware. A fire pit would go nicely right in the center of the walkway off the porch, surrounded by Adirondack chairs.I hope this is all helpful and that you can gather some good ideas!
– Bethany

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Rachel

Color. You need color!!! That's where I'd start.
And FYI kmart has some surprisingly great outdoor decor and it's very reasonable.

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eireann

Someone mentioned curtains, which I did along my back patio cover and love. I made them out of canvas drop-cloths (like for painting) from Home Depot, and 1" electrical conduit for a curtain rod. I just sewed an oversized casing at the top, and I used some Sunbrella-esque outdoor fabric from Joann for tiebacks. All total, each (about 12'x12') curtain came out to about $30 each. I do remove them in the winter so they won't mildew (and we like the light) but in the summer they are GREAT.

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Tamara

You need an outdoor rug for sure! It is hot out there? You need outdoor curtains to soften the porch up and block the neighbors' houses. You could do a tutorial on making a custom rod out of galvanized steel (similar to the craft room redo) but maybe using grommets or washers to attach the curtains to the rod. If you do get a ceiling fan put in the center light's place. Make sure that you get one that you are not staring at the exposed light bulb. It is no bueno after a few cocktails to sit and sear your corneas on the lights. I would love to see some beautiful outdoor chandeliers or more attractive lighting fixtures. Outdoor lamps are awesome for ambient light (Can't tell if there are any outlets out there?). If you do a seating area with some side tables you could put some lamps on them and also hang some lanterns on the post of your porch with candles. I don't think you are going to get a fire pit on the deck but in the yard is totally doable. With a nice seating area around it. If you just want the ambiance of fire, you could try putting those fire pots on the deck (they are pottery and have little stainless steel cups that you put some flammable gel in and light it). As for the furniture. If you don't find a sanitary way to make the bed you could do a deep couch. I know some people suggested a while back (I think it was the flea market post) using an air mattress (the camping ones) for the outdoor bed, just have to figure out the frame and how to keep it from slipping off. There are those big round bed/seating areas but that may be too big for the porch and pricey. You could also do a double chaise but they don't come cheap either. You could make outdoor cushions and outdoor pillows. I am guessing it is foam, some kind of waterproofing, and outdoor fabric?… but maybe you can figure it out and let me know. The kids may love floor cushions to jump on, I mean sit on. As for the lonely directors chair cut off the legs and let the kids have it. Off of the kitchen… YES, do a bar! If anything do some kind of outdoor buffet that you can put snacks and drinks on when you are outside. If you don't have any yet double insulated drink and serve ware is awesome for outdoors… it doesn't sweat. If it has shelves or cabinets you can have the kids put their "things" away in it. Can't wait to see what you make of it! Now go spend ALL of those points!

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