Before and After: An Unwelcoming Backyard Becomes a “Tropical Oasis” for $1000

updated Jul 28, 2020
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About this before & after
Home Type
Project Type
Outdoor Spaces
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Rental Friendly
Before: small backyard with limited patio space and two blue benches
Credit: Jerome Hyde

When it comes to living spaces, it’s not enough to be functional—it’s important to be comfortable, too. The same goes for outdoor spaces, as Asa Davis (@designbuildbyasa) found in his Washington, D.C. home’s backyard. “My outdoor space consisted of a patio area with aqua blue benches and a wood fire pit, an unpainted deck, and a long strip of lawn that seemed to be overrun by weeds,” Asa says. “The space was usable but never felt welcoming. The majority of the time spent in the backyard was taking trash from the house to the garbage cans in the alley or going to the car.” Not exactly hangout central!

There was also the issue of unsightly telephone wires, which went from the house to the alley. “The space made me feel like I was constricted to the inside of my home,” says Asa. “I never really wanted to go outside on a nice summer day and just enjoy being there.” After seeing an inspirational picture on Instagram, though, he was motivated to redo the backyard—especially given that COVID-19 had him spending more time at home.

Credit: Jerome Hyde

Asa’s backyard redo took about two and a half weeks from start to finish, with some weather obstacles along the way. “I had to constantly monitor my weather app to see what I could get done on certain days and times,” he says. “It was a bit stressful at times.”

Asa started by filling in much of the yard with decorative gravel; that’s where he added a pergola and seating to create a shaded hangout. He had a bit of help from both a friend and his dad when it came to setting the posts and hanging the crossbeams for the new pergola. “One setback I had early on was cutting one of the posts too short,” says Asa. “It was very frustrating to make that rookie mistake and I had to spend extra money and time replacing that post.”

Once the pergola was successfully put in place, Asa added hanging daybeds and a fire pit to the space; the old deck provides just enough room for a small L-shaped sectional for additional seating. He painted both the pergola and the day beds black for a sleek look.

Credit: Jerome Hyde

Asa also added boxwood paneling to one fence to give the yard a little more lushness. String lights around the pergola turn this into a dreamy escape once the sun goes down. “I absolutely love everything about the after,” says Asa, who estimates he spent about $1000 on the redo. “It feels like a tropical oasis,” he says. “I’ve also managed to hang a projector to have movie night under the stars. The only thing I would do differently is I should’ve done this project years ago.”

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