Monday, September 20, 2010

Backyard Makeover - Part 1

Even though we're currently living in "project city", we decided to head outdoors this weekend.  The weather was great and we wanted to finish a project we had started back in April of this year, so we spent our weekend yard crashing right here in our own backyard.  Unfortunately, when we ran in to Lowe's to gather some supplies Ahmed Hassan from DIY's Yard Crashers wasn't there to lend us a helping hand, but when we started this project a few months back we did get a little lot of help from a landscape contractor we just so happen to know - my dad!  We're so grateful for his help and our backyard is too!

Once again I don't have a before pic, but I think if you use your imagination just a little you can picture what we started with.

This whole area pictured above is right outside our basement door, which is where the concrete path that runs right down the middle leads.  Our favorite part of this patio is the fire pit, which we used retaining wall pavers (about $2 each from Lowe's) to create.  (I do feel I need to mention that while we have used our fire pit many, many times without issue, we have heard that very high heat could cause air bubbles in the concrete to explode in rare circumstances.  However using fire-safe bricks to line the sides and bottom would help to prevent this from happening. )  Anyhow, thanks to my dad who helped me get started back in April, I was able to finish laying these pavers (which were about $1 each from Lowe's) over the summer as my time and pocketbook would allow.  

Then around the end of May, we turned our attention to the 20+ year old deck that sits directly above the patio.  It was in pretty bad shape.  Quite a few boards needed to be re-nailed and the lattice on one side needed to be replaced as well.  We thought about just tearing it down and building a new one; but that didn't fit into the old budget.  So, we cleaned it up with a little Clorox Outdoor Bleach.  
Then while we spent a week at Disney World (which was our 1st family trip there), we hired a little help through Craig's List to have the deck floor and rails stained in a semi-solid deck stain.  While we could have saved the $200 it cost for the labor and done this job ourselves, we decided that we'd build that into our vacation budget and it would help to make the 12 hour drive home from Disney a little less dreaded as we'd have something to look forward to when we finally arrived home (besides mountains of laundry).  We were giddy with excitement to see the transformation - we know we're dorks.  We just embrace it now. 

And we loved the major improvement for minor dollars.  Going with a semi-solid stain was definitely the right choice.  It really covers and renews the look of old wood but still allows for the wood grain to show through.  We went with Cabot semi-solid wood stain in bluestone for the floor and cinder for the rails.  Deck stain comes in so many different colors now. This blueish-grey and light tan really makes the deck look a lot larger, and we love the way the rusty reds and terra cotta colors pop against them.  Not to mention how well these colors coordinate with our front exterior.  (The patio set you see here was a house warming gift from my dad for our 3rd house, which was in Richmond, VA- it's also from Lowe's. After 5 years of wear and weather, we finally broke down and bought replacement cushions this summer which are also from - you guessed it - Lowe's.  Are you noticing a "theme" here?! )

And we also improved our view from the inside about a million times over.  

So, this weekend we made a few more improvements to the backyard.  I started by staining the ceiling of the patio with some left over stain we had from the deck.  I brushed it on really lightly to give it a weathered look so that when it actually starts to weather it won't be so obvious. 

Then, with help from my little backyardigan, I moved some of the gravel over to the side of the house around the air conditioning units, and made a little gravel bed with some large cement tiles ($7) and edgers ($2) - also from Lowe's.  Also added a few large planters and some mums (for a fall look) to keep the dogs from using this as a litter box (if you know what I mean). 
Who me?  Yes you, Prince- stay out of the gravel bed!

And there's that little backyardigan now!

Then we had a little "mishap".  The hubs started staining the concrete path that runs down the middle of the patio with wood stain instead of concrete stain.  He had about 1/4 of it done when I noticed that the can of stain he was using was the wrong one.  So let's just say the next hour and a half was spent trying to remove the wood stain from the concrete.  Thankfully it hadn't dried, so the cleaner/etcher we bought (which we used to prep the concrete for the stain in the first place) worked to remove the wood stain.  Then I applied the concrete stain (pearl grey- off the shelf) to the walkway.  Then the next morning the hubs added a brown concrete stain with a spray bottle

and then used a grout sponge to rub it in

to create this look.
I think he made up for the "mishap" - what do you think?

 Then to make the patio feel more like an outdoor room, I wanted to add some outdoor drapes.  Pottery Barn sells them  but at about $60/panel times 4 I decided to keep looking.  Bed, Bath, and Beyond sells them for $49/panel, which is a little better but still not what I wanted to pay.  Then, while standing in the paint aisle of Lowe's, it hit me like a lightning bolt.  Why not use paint drop cloths?!  I mean, they're super durable, not too heavy looking, washable, and best of all $9.99 each!  Booyah!  You know I bought four of them - right!  Then the hubs attached drapery rings (which we already had) and hung them up on plant hooks so they'd be easy to take down.

I love this new look!  It feels a little cabana-ish, dare I say a little like a "backyard beach".  Oh no, now I've got that Phineas and Ferb song - backyard beach - in my head!  I guess here in the bluegrass this is as close to a beach scene as this California girl is gonna get- huh?  I'll take it! 

Here's a better look at the fire pit - you know you were itching for one.   Sorry - ran out of smore's the other night- boo :( 

And here's a big virtual smooch for my dad!  Thanks for making me your padawan.  I love learning from the landscape master.

After all that hardwork, I felt like I deserved a little quiet time on the patio this morning with my MickeyD's iced coffee and a few mags.  No I'm not living the life of luxury over here (I wish), I'll turn back into a mommy pumpkin when the clock strikes 12 noon.  But for now............

So what did you do over the weekend?  
This was just part 1 of our master plan (if you can call it that); we plan to do some more landscaping later this fall when my dad comes in from Cali to stay with us for 2 weeks!  Gotta love retirement!  Too bad we won't let him retire when he visits us.  Hey- I'm still a Jedi in training- I need my landscaping Yoda to teach me! 

And speaking of teaching........who's gonna teach Jake not to kick up the grass after he does his bidness? I mean, Jake, you're tearing up my backyard beach buddy!

(FYI - The patio furniture is from Target.  It was the last one they had of this set.  We actually bought the floor model, which was great because it was already assembled.  We bought it when they were getting ready for "back to school supplies", so we snagged a really good clearance deal!  Good things come to those who wait!  End of season is the best time to buy.)


  1. WOW what a spectacular backyard! Darn Ahmed for not being at Lowes...I love that show! I think you did an amazing job without him!

  2. You have a seriously amazing patio setup here. We're thinking of doing the same thing with the patio under the deck. Are you going to put anything up to keep the rain from getting through? We were thinking of those wavy plastic roof things to put just under the deck/over the patio.

  3. I have a backyard... and front that could use some serious help!!
    Your patio and deck look great!!

  4. That's fantastic! I LOVE the drop cloths for outdoor drapes - brilliant! (Stumbling you from Liz's BlogFrog community!)

  5. Gorgeous! I have big plans to make my deck/patio area look very similar. I'm inspired!

  6. Amber,

    We're planning to (at some point) put a roof on the deck which would then keep both the deck and patio from getting wet. I've seen those plastic roofing sheets at our local plant nursery though, and they do seem to hold up really well!

    Glad to inspire - thanks for the comments!

  7. Oh I love the idea to use the drop cloth outside like that! How do they do when it rains?

  8. That is a great idea! And by the way, it is so cold here that the thought of sitting in your outdoor room right now sounds fabulous!

    Thanks for linking your project!


  9. Michelle - They do surprisingly well in the rain. They dry pretty quickly and they wash well too!

    Rene- Our outdoor room is surrounded by snow now. It looks pretty, but I'm already looking forward to sitting out there in warm weather again :)

    xo- Carmel

  10. I like how your backyard turned out. Was this your first time to do a garden makeover? It's hard to remake a backyard that's as huge as this. But you successfully did it and with that, I give you guys a two thumbs up!

  11. Oh my goodness--your dog looks like a twin to mine! Love what you've done under your deck. I need to get busy and work on mine.

  12. What a very informative post you have here! :) Many thanks for sharing these garden ideas!


Be nice or I'll tell your mom! xoxo -C


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