Before and After: A Neglected Backyard Corner Is Transformed By Paint and a Pergola for $400

published Mar 24, 2023
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
About this before & after
Home Type
Project Type
Skill Level
Rental Friendly
Patio before decorating/renovation. One red brick wall, another plain gray wall, a couple plants, 2 trash bags, no furniture

For anyone lucky enough to have an outdoor space, it can become an extended living room for family and friends to congregate during nice weather. It may take some effort to brush away cobwebs and create an area for drinks and conversation, but your guests will appreciate the investment as soon as the temperatures rise — and you will love using this al fresco area on your own, too!

Ndandu Khavhadi (@justamomwithadrill) knew her family’s backyard did not reflect their style or promote any type of relaxation. “It was a dead space to the point where we didn’t even want to go outside,” she says. “We really avoided this part of the house at all times.” 

The backyard was built alongside the home in the 1980s, but years of neglect made it dull and uninspiring. Still, though, Ndandu recognized its potential. Her Instagram is filled with figuring out how to make DIY dreams happen. “A home should be well rounded,” Ndandu continues. “It should feel warm, and we wanted that for the space — we love spending time outside as a family. My husband and I enjoy sitting or having a meal outside, especially after the girls go to bed in the summer.” 

The corner of their yard was particularly in need of a refresh, since it featured nothing but a brick wall and some uneven concrete. So, Ndandu focused her attention there. 

“I started by building a large planter and repainting an old bistro set I bought,” she says. “It’s amazing what paint can do.” 

She coated the planter and bistro set in the same deep navy shade, and then set her sights on constructing a pergola that was semi-attached to her home. Even by Ndandu’s experienced standards, building a cantilevered pergola was a personal challenge. 

“I mostly used reclaimed wood to build it, therefore I saved a lot of money and made the environment smile at the same time,” says Ndandu. The reclaimed wood also received a coat of blue paint. “Paint is the kind of magic we all need,” she adds. 

As it turns out, the hardest part of her project was painting the concrete patio. “To get this right, I first patched the holes and built drainage for rainwater,” Ndandu shares. “I then washed the floor, applied a coat of primer and two coats of paving paint. This floor is so rough I could not use a roller, so I had to use a brush all the way.” Doing this intensive work was “humbling,” she says, but made the whole area look much more sophisticated. And finally, Ndandu painted the brick wall so that every inch of this outdoor oasis felt like new. 

For finishing touches, Ndandu added a few strings of solar lights and placed faux vines in a geometric pattern. In all, the entire project cost about 6000 South African rands, or $400 dollars. For anyone considering a similar undertaking, Ndandu says they shouldn’t doubt their DIY abilities. 

“With all of the mistakes I made, I came out on the other side with priceless lessons,” she says. “My husband says I’m superwoman.” 

She didn’t know she could build a pergola until she tried, but doing it herself — while asking for help from friends and the internet — meant that this drastic transformation stayed entirely within her budget. “Projects like these could cost you so much. Find a way to save some money,” she says. “Don’t be afraid to ask someone who has done a similar project, it helps a lot!”

Ndandu’s only regret is not transforming her backyard sooner. “If I knew this place would feel like this, I wouldn’t have waited so long to work on it.”