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The backyard when we first "completed" it in summer of 2015.

Backyard on a Budget

Backyard - general view
The backyard officially almost done.

It only took all summer (and spring, too), but we are finally almost officially done with our backyard. Why almost? Well, I look around and see a few areas that I want to change, cover up, add to, etc. But I also look around and think, ‘Wow, we really created a cute space out of nothing.’ And, honestly, it feels so great to have this space, where over the past few months, we’ve had morning coffee, plenty of dinners, afternoon and evening drinks, and just plain old lazy lounging around time.

When we first saw the house, it was November, there were a few roses in bloom on the bushes out back, but what I really noticed was how small and, frankly, kind of useless the backyard was. It was mostly garage and driveway, with one strip of grass the length of our house and backyard. It was clear to both of us that we would have to add a lot to make this a great hangout space.

The backyard when we moved into the house in January. A whole lotta nothin'.
The backyard when we moved into the house in January. A whole lotta nothin’.

I had lots of ideas of how I wanted my backyard to look when and if I ever had a house. I had this vision of combining the verdant look and ethereal feeling of a secret English garden with the loungey, laidback feeling of a Moroccan-style patio. I know that may sound crazy, but I am a fan of mixing styles and picking the best of all worlds to bring everything together, as you can see from my Pinterest board. I have no doubt this could have been done, but once we got the house and we realized that even the littlest of fixes costs a lot of money, getting my dream backyard became out of the question fairly quickly.

The good thing, though, is we lucked into a secret garden, as I have written about before. So our mission was to create the loungey hangout space I wanted with enough seating that could accommodate a group of people for those days when we wanted to invite friends or family over for BBQs.

Here’s how we did it:

  1. We took our time. We bought the first few items in March and were still buying a few items as of a month ago and we still aren’t done.
  2. We decided we were going to cover up part of the driveway with budget-friendly materials that were also easily removable. Guess what Ikea has? Budget-friendly outdoor patio flooring that is easily removable! Once we realized that, we knew we could design the rest of the space fairly easily.
  3. I am as much of a fan of stark whites and grays as I am of vibrant color. A trip to Target during the spring solidified the direction we were going to take: the complementary colors of coral and turquoise. Since we already had one black table from our previous life, we got a second one to match that, then added the colorful chairs and a tan umbrella.
  4. We did most of that shopping early on, but we had the most trouble finding a bench that we really liked. As it also was the most expensive item on the shopping list (after having to buy many of the Ikea flooring squares), we didn’t want to rush into a purchase for something we only half-liked. After months of almost daily online searches, I came across a sale on Domino.com and found the light-colored wooden bench. The modern design and color fit perfectly with our general aesthetic and backyard decor.
  5. One major problem we ran into in terms of the budget is that the area of the driveway that we wanted to cover with the outdoor patio flooring was very large. We found ourselves spending more than we wanted and could really afford on the flooring. Unfortunately, we couldn’t buy it all at once and then Ikea ended up selling out of the materials. I was quite bummed about this, but felt mostly good about the solution: separating the dining area from the living room area with an outdoor area rug. To match the color scheme and vibe we were looking for, we found this orange and white Morroccan-style rug on Amazon to help finish the decor.
  6. And then came the finishing touches. We hung two solar-powered string lights from Target on trees and a tomato stand on the raised bed. We found bronze galvanized metal planters from Joann Fabric and used them to fill in the spaces in between patio flooring. Thanks to my mother-in-law for those planters.

There are a few things we still want to do and may need to wait to do until next spring, including:

  1. Buying two large planters to hold two large palm-like green plants to flank the bench and help cover up the garage door.
  2. Buying an outdoor curtain and hanging it outside the garage door to definitively cover it up and help define the outdoor hangout space better.
  3. Extending the outdoor hangout space into the garage with a ping-pong table and my clothing design studio.

As always, everything about this space and our house is a work in progress, but I’m really happy with what we were able to achieve on a budget.


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