Budget Friendly Outdoor Upgrades

Budget Friendly Outdoor Upgrades

Kimber Watson
May 13, 2010

This Old House highlighted 75 new and not-so-new suggestions on ways to upgrade your outdoor space, each for $75 or less. From hammocks to birdbaths; water gardens to cheerfully painted fences, these are just a few from their extensive list. Following, I whittled the list down to include my 10 favorite ideas, with a slight variation or two thrown in the mix.

Shown above, top row, left to right:

1 Tree stump turned dining table - If you have the space and the stump, then I can't think of a reason not to make this Secret Garden-esque table. A leveled tree stump with a DIY poured concrete top, offers up a table worth drooling over.
2 Stone sculpture - Construct a stone-style totem with found garden rocks, masonry epoxy, and a steel dowel. This will add a focal point to your garden you can enjoy year round.
3 Floating steps - Hide the risers of your steps by planting a living carpet. I'm not sure about using ivy (as pictured), because it can be quite invasive (as well as a rodent attractor!) - but I don't see why other climbing or trailing perennials wouldn't work. Perhaps thyme, creeping jenny, or a rock-loving sedum.
4 Hang a chandelier - Make your outdoor room even cozier and create some glowing ambiance all at the same time! This is something I desperately want to do above my outdoor marble table, but alas, I have nothing above to hang it from (anyone out there have a nifty solution for my dilemma!?) I'm even more smitten with this idea after viewing Erin Ever After's DIY succulent pot rack chandelier.
5 Shadow-box your plants - Gather weathered wood scraps, cut the boards, nail them together, and then hang them on a wall or fence. You can make a big impact with small plants by framing them.

Bottom row, left to right:

6 Plant an umbrella base - If you have an umbrella, but are in need of a base, this is an ingenious idea. Using a glazed ceramic pot and piece of pipe, add concrete mix in the middle and then soil on top, and voila! You have a decorative umbrella base. For a slightly different take on using a pot-as-a-base idea, check out the first photo in this post.
7 Mason jar lanterns - This idea has been floating around the blogosphere for some time now, but it just never loses its rustic charm to me. They can easily be jazzed up by adding crystals or beads, and like many things, I think they look best when grouped in multiples. Here's an quick tutorial for an easy DIY project.
8 Hang a swing - Make your own using a piece of cedar and strong rope or go over to Breezy Swings where you can purchase one for around $60. Or, follow Maxwell's lead; he offers up a simple "How To" here.
9 Install a fountain - A water fountain is not only visually appealing in the garden, but it can also help mask the sound of urban streets or yappy dogs. I love This Old House's economical suggestion of turning an urn into a fountain. But don't shy away from this idea if you are tight on space. A smaller tabletop fountain would be just as appealing and much more suitable for small balconies. This cairn river rock fountain from A Zen Gift is stylish and comes right at the $75 budget.
10 Add some shade - If you hang out in my patio long enough, at some point during the day you'll wish you had one of these by Coolaroo. We sure do, which is why I remember seeing them last year at Overstock.com. And way cheaper than This Old House's suggested go-to store. Or, if you can get your hands on used sailboat's sail - it's probably pretty easy to make one of your own.

One idea that I just added to my garden that didn't make the list, was hanging a mirror. I simply reused something from inside, added a protective coat of paint and it made a big impact (and dare I say makes my small garden feel slightly roomier!). For the full list, head over to This Old House. And if any readers have additional $75 or less suggestions for upgrading an outdoor space, let us know in the comment section.

(Images: 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10: This Old House, 4: Apartment Therapy: San Francisco, 7: Re-Nest)

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