Before and After: 5 DIYs Turned My Bare Patio into a Cozy Outdoor Living Area for Under $1000

published Apr 8, 2023
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About this before & after
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Patio area with green astro turf before renovation.
Credit: Juliana DeMarici

I’ve always loved the concept of seamless indoor-outdoor living spaces. Living in SoCal, the warm climate allows us to relax outside almost year-round, so it definitely made sense to put some time and money into my patio area and turn it into a beautiful, relaxing hangout.

When my husband and I first moved into our condo, I was over the moon with our patio because this is the first outdoor space that we’ve ever had, but it needed some work. We had a great starting point, though: The sliding door to the outside was right on the edge of the living room already, so it made the living spaces feel seamless, and the concrete slab was a solid canvas to work with. We also lucked out that our HOA had installed a modern, easy-to-clean white fence that we actually liked. 

However, there was a huge air conditioning condenser and a rock border that was a little unsightly. Plus, the old piece of fake turf glued down to the concrete had to go — I did like the concept of low-maintenance, drought-conscious landscaping but wanted greenery that was a little more natural-looking. We also wanted more storage to keep our bikes, beach chairs, and home improvement tools.

Credit: Juliana DeMarici

I knew that I didn’t want to spend more than $1,000 on this space, and I was determined to stretch that budget with big-impact changes that turned our patio area into a comfy, cozy hangout. Every great project starts with design inspiration, and I was incredibly drawn to the terracotta tiles on this pink patio and these ultra-plush patio loveseats. I knew I wanted to incorporate these two design elements into my refresh. 

The first step was figuring out what I could do with the concrete slab. I considered painting a stencil design but the even, uncracked slab gave me the opportunity to try something more permanent like tile, and I was pretty comfortable taking this on after my bathroom and kitchen renos.

I chose a porcelain terracotta lookalike that is commonly used in outdoor and indoor spaces in this region. Its $250 price tag fit my budget, and the porcelain material is durable enough for my patio. The hardest part about installing my new tile was making sure everything was straight given the imperfections of some of the tiles. I made a half-inch spacer out of some scrap wood to make sure I was evenly spacing all of the tiles. Traditionally they are meant to be set with wider grout, which helps hide those imperfections. Once the grout was in, it looked completely straight.  

Credit: Juliana DeMarici

Next up was replacing the river rocks on the border with something that better matched the terracotta tile. I went with a sand-colored decomposed granite (a fine crushed rock). This is a great alternative to natural turf or ground cover in my drought-prone area. I only needed a couple of bags to fill the space, so my total was just over $50. 

For patio furniture, I really loved the look of sleek loveseats, but not the price. (Some of those sets are upwards of $2,000!) I found an easy-to-follow online tutorial to build your own patio furniture out of common 2x4s. In total, it was about $225 for the 2x4s, screws, and exterior paint to make them look more like the furniture sets I’d been eyeing. It took me a weekend to build and paint all three pieces. 

Credit: Juliana DeMarici

I went to an outlet store for the cushions, which were marked down because they came from floor models. I scored a long loveseat cushion for $80 and two chair cushions for $30. Instead of one big coffee table, I ended up finding two boho-style ceramic garden stools (originally from Anthropologie), both for $90 from Facebook Marketplace. 

I really wanted to find a solution to cover the bulky air conditioning condenser unit that wasn’t permanent and was secure enough to stay in place. I found some breeze block design inspo that looked easy to DIY, got some breeze blocks from my local landscaping store, and built an L-shaped half-wall that’s secured with heavy-duty landscaping glue. It allows for easy access and airflow, and can be taken down if we ever need to replace the condenser.  At $2 per block, this wall came out to just under $40 including the landscaping glue. I used the leftover paint from the patio furniture to paint the breeze blocks white.  

To finish out this space, I found a small garden shed on my local OfferUp for $80. I sprayed everything down with a coat of blossom white Rust-Oleum spray paint, and  it looked brand new (not to mention matched both the breeze blocks and the fence). 

Credit: Juliana DeMarici

Finally, it was time to add some decor. In the case of this outdoor space, that meant potted plants! I wanted to keep a coastal aesthetic, so my first few additions were a bird of paradise, ornamental grass, and a bougainvillea from my local nursery. All of these plus their pots totaled $110. This means the total for the entire refresh came in just under budget at $925.

All in all, it took me about three full weekends to complete the mini projects within the space. Each of these projects added significant style, but I think the biggest impact was tiling over the concrete slab. It’s the perfect coastal feel and really low maintenance, which is exactly what I wanted, and it (quite literally) set the foundation for the rest of the space. 

We use this patio all the time now, everything from lounging in the sun with my morning coffee to hosting our friends for weekend night BBQs after a beach day — it’s exactly the easy, breezy outdoor living I was after.