Before, During, After: An Evolving Outdoor Space

updated Dec 19, 2019
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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Just about this time last summer I somewhat sheepishly shared our back deck and the modest makeover cover-up that I attempted to pull off with $150 and a can of paint. This year, we’ve poured a bit more thought, time, and money into the space, and it has totally transformed our summer!

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Before. Don’t worry, we decided to incorporate the dog and child into the new design plan too 🙂 (Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

As I explained in last year’s post, we have the world’s narrowest deck attached to possibly the world ugliest addition. Ok, I’m sure there are worse, but ours really does look like a trailer smashed into the back of our cute brick colonial. After a few summers of very minor updates: removing a broken storm door and painting the exterior door, adding planters, and planting flowers, we were ready to see our backyard move to the next level…on a budget.

We have a new baby, so we decided to lay low this summer, not go on any major vacations, and put the extra time and money into our outdoor space. At first we thought about extending the deck, but we realized that we’d be looking directly into four neighbors’ backyards from that height, so for the sake of privacy, we thought a patio would be best.

I’ll be honest, when we (and by “we” I really mean my husband because I was 9+ months pregnant when we began thinking about the project) started we thought it would be a pretty straightforward weekend project. However, we quickly discovered that it would really take about 4 weekends and a lot more planning than we originally thought. Since we started late in the season, some of the planting we’d like to do will have to wait until next season, and we would love to replace the plastic Adirondack chairs with their prettier wooden counterparts. Even so, the result is fabulous, and in the 2 months since the patio has been completed we’ve spent more time outside enjoying our yard than we probably have in the 3 previous summers that we’ve lived here. It makes me wonder why it took us so long to take the plunge, and it also makes me think about what other under utilized areas of our home could revolutionize our home life if given a little TLC.

Here’s the breakdown:

• Added privacy lattice under the deck. This is still somewhat of a temporary fix until we figure out what we’d like to do with our addition. I’m not a fan of lattice in general, but the privacy lattice doesn’t bother me as much, especially since I stained it in Restoration Hardware’s slate (my local Benjamin Moore store color matched it and mixed it in one of their siding stains).
• Reconfigured the existing blue stone path into a patio. This was way more complicated and labor intensive than we initially thought. It required my husband to regrade, put down stone crush, tamp, put down paver sand, and then lay the stones (which varied in both width an depth) into a new pattern. Next spring we’ll add a ground cover such as moss or creeping time between the stones.
• Planted morning glories in a narrow bed beneath the lattice. We planted these from seeds, and I’ve been absolutely amazed at how they’ve flourished, climbing up the lattice. I have a notoriously black thumb, so I’m guessing that these are pretty hardy little vines.
• Added a curved garden bed on the side of the patio to soften the edge.

Improvements we’d still like to make:

• The deck needs to be re-stained, and since we’re still not sure what we’d like to use it for, I’m stumped on what direction I want to go in terms of color. White railings to match the siding? A slate color like the lattice? Suggestions welcome.
• Moss or ground cover in between the paver stones on the patio. I love the look of moss, but have been told a ground cover like creeping thyme might take better. Thoughts?
• Switch out the plastic adirondacks for wooden ones.

(Re-edited from a post originally published 08.01.11 – NM)


(Images: Leah Moss )