Before and After: A “Barren and Messy” Backyard Becomes Hangout Central

updated Jun 18, 2020
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Before: Patio full of weeds and dead grass
Credit: Ryan Varjas

Now that summer is in full swing, you’re likely looking to make the most of any outdoor space you have—no matter how small. Ryan Varjas was fortunate to have a backyard that came with his New York City home, but it had seen better days. “The backyard was mostly weeds when I moved in, which once removed, left the whole space pretty barren and messy,” Ryan says. “This was made worse after we had a pool party last year on the hottest day of 2019. Of course the pool exploded, washing away what little bit of yard was left. So it was basically dirt and some weeds this spring, with all our furniture piled onto that concrete patch.”

With COVID-19 hitting New York City particularly hard, Ryan says, he and his roommate wanted to make a welcoming outdoor space that he could spend time in without having to leave home. His three goals in the redo: keep the project as low-cost as possible, limit the amount of dirt and rocks they needed to bring in, and hide the exposed drainage pipe in the middle of the yard.

Credit: Ryan Varjas

Ryan and his roommate rented a U-Haul to pick up lumber he’d use to frame the patio and garden, and to build new wood benches. For the patio area, he picked up concrete “tiles” from Home Depot for about $1 each; he filled the area around them with rocks that he scored for $5 per bag. They installed grass using a pre-seeded roll they got from Home Depot.

Credit: Ryan Varjas

For the garden beds, Ryan used wood pallets he got for free on the curb. Finishing touch: a projector screen, where Ryan and his roommate can watch movies (they connect a couple bluetooth speakers for sound). “It’s become a super welcoming space that has so many uses and can so easily transition,” Ryan says. “It’s a garden, and place to work, lay out in the sun, eat dinner, have cocktails, and watch movies. It’s pretty much exactly how we wanted it to be, and just keeps getting better.”

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