You know the saying, ‘make lemons out of lemonade’? Well I’ve been making lots of lemonade while being self-quarantined at home for the past seven plus weeks. Hello, patio makeover!
Embracing life at home means using this time to tackle all of my pending home decor projects – starting with the backyard. We invested a lot of time and money into our outdoor space in the summer of 2018 when we remodeled our pergola and pool (resurfacing, new tile, salt water system, and new lights,) but our patio was left as-is. Since then, it’s been low on the priority list because it’s already functional… and patio furniture is expensive! Real talk: everything I like costs a small fortune. We purchased our existing patio furniture from the former homeowners with the plan to eventually replace it… but three-and-a-half years later, it’s still here.
It only took about two weeks into quarantine life to realize that we were spending much more time enjoying our outdoor space than we typically would. (The fact that we’re fortunate enough to even have a backyard space to ‘escape’ to is not lost on me.)
One breezy March night, while having our umpteenth dinner alfresco, Eric looked at me and said, “we’re outside people now,” and I knew that it was finally time to finish what I started two summers ago. Since we can’t travel anytime soon, why not make our backyard feel like a vacation?
Here’s how I transformed my patio into a chic backyard getaway with just six simple updates.
Start with a Clean Slate
Step one – start with a clean slate. Yes, this involves cleaning. A lot of it. We cleared everything from the patio, including the furniture, rug, and planters, so that we could start fresh. (If you follow me on Instagram, you probably saw just how intense that cleaning was!) Armed with a ladder, cleaning bucket, soap and glass cleaner, Magic Eraser sponges, countless rags, a garden hose and a leaf blower, I went to town scrubbing everything from the ceiling to the grout on our patio doors. There’s something really therapeutic about cleaning in this way. Six hours later, our white walls and windows were white again.
When I think of a resort destination, a chic cabana with billowy white curtains usually comes to mind. I’ve been planning to add curtains to our patio for years, and now that it’s finally done, I’m kinda kicking myself for not doing it sooner. Outdoor curtains are the most impactful way you can upgrade your patio or pergola space without spending a fortune. This part of our patio makeover was the least expensive – and probably my favorite.
I wanted curtains to obscure the view of my neighbors’ messy yard, but needed to make sure they didn’t block out too much sunlight since I planned to hang them on the east and west sides of the patio. I initially purchased Sunbrella curtains from Pottery Barn, but when they arrived they were the wrong color and too opaque for my needs. Then I found these sheer white outdoor curtain panels; I was so impressed with the quality that I immediately ordered more. (I ordered the 96″ length as I wanted the curtains to just graze the ground. You’ll need to decide where you’re hanging the rod in order to decide the length you need.) To hang the curtains, we installed an oil rubbed bronze outdoor curtain rod from Home Depot that was also a complete steal at under $25. I wanted something that would hold up well outdoors but was also simple and sleek. So far, so good.
While I still haven’t found an outdoor sofa or sectional that I love for this space, I’m making the current couches work by updating the cushions and working around them. I found this stunning black french cane lounge chair while browsing Homegoods a couple of months ago, and grabbed it before even knowing what room it was going in. It found its home on the patio and instantly added a modern touch with old-world charm. The large round coffee table is the most recent addition to the space, and a very welcome one at that. (Previously we had a narrow and wobbly rectangular brown wicker table that matched the couches. Not very cute.) Continuing with the old world vibe, I wanted a cement or stone-like table that would anchor the seating area and provide space to enjoy beverages and snacks. There have since been many cocktails enjoyed while sitting around our new table.
No resort experience is complete without plenty of pillows to lounge on. I came across these Sunbrella pillows during one of my last Homegoods runs before lockdown. Ideally I’d love to add a couple more to each sofa – but I’m holding off for now since we’re planning on getting a new couch. You can never go wrong with a bunch of plush neutral colored pillows; they make a seating area feel more inviting and are easy to repurpose in different areas.
Lots of Greenery
My green thumb has been thriving while I’ve been at home. I shared on Instagram recently that my watering routine is my new favorite thing, ha!
Jokes aside, pops of green literally bring a space to life. One of my favorite hotels, Four Seasons Hotel at the Surf Club, is dotted with palm trees, green vines, and tropical flowers – inside and out. But greenery doesn’t have to be careful curated. I started collecting white bird of paradise trees, and orchids, (when I finally learned to care for them properly,) and love creating little green vignettes to fill empty corners. This is also a great excuse for me to use my favorite blue & white planters.
Hanging plants are a great way to add interest and height to a room with bare walls, or for a space that doesn’t get too much natural light. Pothos are some of my favorite because they’re low-maintenance (aka hard to kill,) and the hanging vines create a romantic tropical environment.
Locally, I get many of my plants at J&J Rattan, a lovely family-owned shop since 1976 specializing in tropical plants, garden decor and wicker furniture. Alex, the garden manager, is great at sourcing particular types and sizes of plants if you have a specific need for your space.
Just like an outfit, a room isn’t complete without accessories. I added texture to our outdoor coffee table with an oversized white coral, a small woven basket (which stores a remote control), and a grouping of LED candles. Because the candles weren’t impactful enough individually, I arranged them as group of three and placed them inside a glass hurricane. Instant upgrade. Remote controlled candles are probably the best thing to ever happen to outdoor spaces, allowing you to instantly create chic mood lighting without a flame. Lanterns with battery-operated candles are placed throughout for even more resort vibes.
Lastly, I repurposed a large covered basket from anther room as a new side table, and it doubles as storage to hide away things like sunscreen, bug repellent, and citronella candles. Pro-tip: baskets are the best way to keep clutter at bay. Clutter is not cute.
“Since we can’t travel, why not make our backyard feel like a vacation?”
Photography by Jordan Braun