Help! A Courtyard in Which to Hold Court!

Last week, Jaime introduced you to our exciting Summer project. Each of us are giving a social space in our home a makeover using gifted American Express Membership Rewards Points. Lucky!!! Jaime chose her back patio and I chose my front-entry courtyard-type space. It’s one of my favorite spots in the house but also one of the most neglected. It has so much potential but I just haven’t done anything with it. Let me take you for a little tour and tell you what I have in mind. I could really use your advice and ideas! Thanks Prudent mamas! Oh, and I should mention that all the kiddo stuff and grill is in the backyard so this is really a space for beauty and adult relaxation ie. drinking sangria with my girlfriends. Where were we? Back to the tour…

This is the path to my front door. So far, so good. Then you walk in the gate and see…

Cement. Lots of cement. So what do we do?…
Do we leave it? Tile? Wood decking? Gravel? Area rugs? Paint? Painted rug? With the brutal sun, wind and dust of Texas, whatever we do has to be durable. The other issue is drainage. There is a drain right in the middle of the main seating area so a rug might be problematic. Or would it? The sun does dry things out pretty quickly here.

While we are here, Let’s talk furniture. I think we will keep these chairs for now. They were a steal and the style is plain enough that they don’t bother me. Eventually I’d like some kind of a modern sectional here but that won’t be for a while. I do need to get a bigger coffee table. Something that has a presence in this over-sized space.

Now we are looking back towards the door from the fireplace. See how faded these cheap cushions got in just one year? Can Sunbrella withstand the brutal Texas sun and dust? Can I go with anything other than tan? Please? Also while we are here, check out that little nook up top by the front door. Wouldn’t that be perfect for a little bench and rug since it’s protected?

Here is another somewhat protected area. Maybe I could protect it more by hanging a drape on a long rod behind the top beam? It would be a TON of fabric but could keep things cooler back there. I’m thinking a bar/counter with stools along that wall between the beam and the window. Good? See, here along this back wall below…

Then in the space above, in front of the bar, I’d finally get a stand for my hammock which I haven’t put up because I can’t commit to drilling in the beams. Since the Membership Rewards Points work at Home Depot (and other amazing stores like West Elm, CB2 and Pottery Barn) I can finally pick up a stand. With a stand I can move the hammock around to find shade.

Below is the view from the front door. Directly to the left would be the bench. Then beyond that, maybe a long planter along the wall with heat tolerant plants, ie cacti or plastic or rocks. HA.

Here is where a curtain would hang behind the beam.

Here is another long stone wall. More plants? More seating?

I think my biggest challenge is how to prioritize. My budget isn’t going to go far in this big empty space. How can I have the most impact? What can I DIY vs buy? And the big dilemma? What do I put on that mantel that won’t blow off in a Texas gust and kill my mailman? Help me Prudent mama!

Your wisdom could win you a yard!




Fun spot! I would totally get some kind of iron thing up over the mantle that would maybe even hold some candles. That should be weatherproof and help create some easy ambiance while making that space look more intentional.

Agreed about the coffee table situation. I would also entertain the idea of some more side tables, perhaps little collapsible ones that can be stashed when not needed. Everybody need a place to put their drink.

I definitely think some giant planters and large cacti would bring in some natural (durable) elements to soften the space -even though they're prickly! Make sure you get enough to make it look intentional and not spartan though.

Doesn't Ballard Designs do outdoor rugs? Might be something to consider. I also find the wood decking an intriguing idea, but you might want to think about materials there. Tiling is also cool, but since it's an entrance you use no matter the weather, you'd have to find a no-slip option, so something porous yet durable. Painting might be nice, but I don't can't think of an idea that wouldn't cheapen your home's exterior. I think an outdoor rug is really the best idea; the trick is finding the right one.

In terms of seat cushions and curtain…I would totally do a white Sunbrella fabric. That will always looks sophisticated for an entrance while allowing you to spunk/glam it up depending on your accessories/throw pillows. And if this is an adult area, there's even less worry about the white factor (and the sun would naturally keep bleaching it anyhow, ha!).

A big white umbrella -the kind where the pole is off to the side- would be really nice… =) You could situate your hammock under the umbrella. =)

I would totally get some kind of dust-proof container, maybe even a large basket that you just line with a plastic bag. That would be a nice way to add 'furniture' and texture and also be a place to stash patterned throw pillows and any lanterns or outdoor lighting, etc.

Looking forward to seeing what you do!


What a great space! But I can definitely see the challenge.

I agree with Juliette (see above), some sort of iron fixtures and cacti could help spruce up the place while standing up to the heat. Terracotta is always great in hot climates.

Tall euphorbias in pots, wall-mounted pots with draping succulents, or bougainvillea climbing trellises could help the walls look less bare without damaging them as well as added a burst of color (assuming they don't fry).

For added shade and protection against the sun, and because it looks like you have a good L-shape to work with, have you looked into a Sail Shade or Coolaroo? I'm always intrigued by them and it could be a cool alternative to an umbrella (although not as moveable as an umbrella).;_medium=marketing&utm;_campaign=googlebase

Anyways! Redecorating is always fun. Good luck and looking forward to seeing how it turns out. πŸ™‚


My in-laws used a brown concrete etching stain – it makes a super cool effect because it variegates its color based on the natural variations in the concrete – plus it only cost them about $100 to do their whole porch AND it's durable because you seal it – take that Texas. (she did say that when you put it on, it looks blah and when you rinse it off it looks like you loose all the color, but when you put the sealant on it brings out gorgeous color and creates an old-world effect)
For some reason I'm thinking a tealish blue color for those cushions – good luck and can't wait to see how it turns out.


Great space, I would totally suggest some bold, bright colors.

If you're looking for fantastic outdoor furniture there's a company here in MN that "manufactures maintenance-free outdoor patio furniture and accessories from recycled plastic". I heard about it on the radio- they say shipping anywhere in the US is only $10 and they're furniture is sturdy/ heavy so it doesn't blow away. If you're interested check them out:

(I don't work for the company or anything but anyone whose doing their part to create US jobs and recycling is A-okay in my book)

SweetAsPie Owner

You Should do a mosiac above your fireplace… that way it's purty but it's not gonna blow anywhere! And get some new fabric on the cushions for those chairs they look sad. πŸ™


I have a lot of friends that live in Texas and have seen them Stain or paint their concrete. Staining it to look like wood is fairly easy and inexpensive.

You could also do a mosaic border or accents…I also really like the painted rug idea and introducing outdoor friendly fabrics.


I love your house! It's like a castle. I definitely think some more potted plants would look nice. Also, I love that wooden beem, maybe you could find some chairs that match with it, but I do like you chairs that you have. The coffee table is not bad either. I was thinking though it might be fun to make a mosaic top coffee table. It kind of goes with the stone walls and would be a way to use color that wont fade. I can understand about the sun and dust, I'm from Arizona. πŸ™‚

Lil' Bit and Nan

This is what you need, Jacinda. Instead of a rug, try straw or bamboo mats, larger coffee table, a bench, a nice drape, just one, that can tie back towards the fire place wall, and a game table, like ping pong, in that covered area by the front window. Also an awesome stand cooler with a bottle opener attached! Like the retro ones! And more vegetation for sure. Bring on the botanics to liven up your veranda. Taller plants to go with the high rise of your arch and walls. The small ones don't take up enough space. No more wimpy small pots allowed.

– Bethany


Here's my 2 cents!
Lots of plants! Do a google search for your zone number and shop for some lush plants and cacti to fill some spaces. Use a fun faux stone technique and some spray paint to give cheap plastic pots an expensive stone look!!! Rustoleum even has a "stone look" spray paint! So easy! and such a great impact!

First thing I thought when I saw your fireplace was PB Succulent Wreath! Then I would add some cool driftwood pieces to your mantel….they would weather fine and shouldn't cause any concusions!;)

Could you do some oilcloth cushion covers? That way you wouldn't have to buy new, but could use a fun pattern to add some color and pop to the space!

The Mulvihills

Your space is great! There are so many options!

The one that came to my mind instantly is that you should stain your concrete floor! We stained our concrete patio a couple years ago and it has withstood full summer sun and very harsh MN winters. We seal it each summer to keep the shiny look! Here's a link to my blog for a peek!

Also, I would love to see some large, colorful ceramic pots with tall greenery for more structure, color and shade! Your furniture is great and versatile, but yes, new cushions are in order–but you should have no trouble whipping those out! πŸ™‚

One last thought, how about some oversized house numbers? Something modern to balance out the traditional!

Happy decorating!


An idea..
Stain it! My husband works for a concrete company and they stain concrete.. It looks awesome! Adds sooo much pizzaz to an otherwise blah concrete job.
They have used this stain and there are different colors to choose from..
Do it yourself or find a contractor to do it. πŸ™‚ Then add a rug to highlight your 'dining' area.


Your biggest impact is definitely going to be fabric and plants. So that's what I'd prioritize. You can fill in details as you go along (fountains, things to hang on the walls, etc).

1. Large Plants – in gorgeous pots
2. Curtains
3. Rug (the indoor outdoor kind would be fine even with that drain!
4. Consider a console table for behind the long chair that looks at the fireplace. You can add items of interested to that and change the according to seasons. You can also anchor it with additional pots of tall plants to really define that space.
5. Add a runner then that would lead to the front door.
6. Flank the fireplace with tall plants in pots
7. Consider making shade with colorful umbrellas (2) or build a square think with fabric in the middle to create some nice shade for the mid-day heat.

Oh so fun. Such a beatiful space. Can't wait to see what you do with it.

Oh – and NO – sunbrella fabric won't hold up. I have some and it's faded – I even keep mine covered unless we're using it! So you just have to expect to replace it every year or two.

Adventure of the Hoffman family

I see some garden benches in your future. Lowe's has some great (and easy) woodworking patterns to help. A few benches maximize seating and storage to allow for anything from toys to lightweight blankets or even pillow storage to preserve fabrics. Ikea has great heavyweight material for fairly good prices. You could make a kids space with a teepee then it would have sun protection, easy portability and a place to corral toys. We have one (handmade- they are otherwise out of budget) we get out occasionally and the kids love it even if they are too big for it. Made with ikea fabric as well. holds up well. I agree with the cactus and succulent choices & lots of them. A painted rug in a sand painting style would add great character to your space. Best of luck it will be fabulous when you are done I am sure.

Sally P

I think you need to make a special trip to Canton Market Days for something for that mantel. I'm thinking wrought iron art. You might find a great deal on a fun bar & more planters. Probably can't use a gift card there πŸ™

I like the idea of the fabric drape. But I think you also need an umbrella in the seating area.

I love the look of stained concrete. I've seen really interesting patterns done to make it look like a rug. Seems like it would be durable & low maintenance but stylish.
Have fun!

Crunchy Con Mommy

Wow what a gorgeous space!! I think I'd consider a woodcarving for above the mantle and some woven Mexican blankets to hang from the beams covering your nook. I'm a sucker for stuff that looks like the old Spanish missions though πŸ™‚
I do like the cement staining idea; tile or terra cotta floors could be nice eventually but the staining is a much less drastic but still effective way to warm up that floor (so it won't take as long or as much money hopefully as a total floor redo!). And I agree with getting a large potted plant or two. Aren't there any hardy local trees there? A giant cactus might be too silly though, lol. And I'd try to find lots of smaller cacti with bright colorful flowers if it were me!

Lapiz de la Guerra

Hello! I'm new here, but being another Texas mama who has patio issues, girl, I TOTALLY relate! I watched a segment on Central Texas Gardener the other day that featured succulents. Google East Austin Succulents for a whole bunch of info on how to grow them, select them, etc. Go easy on cacti with kiddos around…some of the cuter cacti look fuzzy enough to hold…and those needles are a b*tch to pull out of small chubby hands! Look at succulents like aloe and the like that don't have needles. Home Depot will have plenty to choose from and they are super easy to propagate and care for.

While I'm thinking about plants, I think it would behoove you to find some full sun plants that grow fruits or veggies. They might be a bit of an investment to get started, but putting in some fun raised beds (I saw an idea on Pinterest that used large galvanized livestock feeding troughs!) with wheels on the bottom (for the inevitable wacky cold spell you might get and you need to move them inside) to move around would be a good investment and would instantly brighten the space, You don't have to grow edible plants, but it's fun to grow them with your kids and teach them about the fruits of their labors. Ha!

I've done sheer curtains on my patio before to cut down on the sun. It made a HUGE difference. We used long wooden dowels instead of curtain rods (make sure to put a spacer between the timber and the dowel when you drill it in, so you can slide the curtains easily) and found some sheer curtains on clearance at the Home Depot for under $50 and we were able to cover a much larger section than you have. We had an apartment patio, so you might need to sew some curtains together, or find long gauzy fabric. You might even consider mosquito netting.

I love your bar idea! Scrounge garage sales for old desks, cabinets, etc and repaint them in the color scheme of your choice. You could even check out places like World Market or Target for outdoor bars to get some ideas on what to look for.

For the mantle, you might try small cement planters or filling large hurricane lanterns with small rocks to help weigh them down.

Good luck! I'm sure your courtyard is going to look gorgeous!

jaya pratheesh

you know, instead of a fabric curtain, why not a bamboo curtain? like this ;

also, for the patio, have you considered a pergola? like this:

and you can add a climber on it, like this :

i think that would look wonderful, but i do not know the cost.


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