While we were staging and styling a recent project for my next book (you’ve seen a few rooms of this sick house so far here and here), we noticed a lot of clever hacks and ideas in the backyard that seemed share-worthy. It’s those things that make you say “ooh, that’s a good idea.” So today, we’re walking you through 5 outdoor hacks, a.k.a. clever ideas, that you can steal for yourself.
1. Candle Chandelier
Okay how genius is this? Lighting without having to wire anything up. It’s basically a plank of wood, a handful of pillar candles, and chains attached to the beams of the patio roof. This version here uses metal hanging planters as the flat base to set the wood on, but you could absolutely hack with either just more of the same chain, some dowels or flat pieces of wood attached by hooks to the chain. We don’t suggest lighting this on a windy night for obvious reasons, though. Ha.
The drippier the candles get, the better they look. Vary your heights and widths to get that effortless, magical look, like this:
2. Distressed “Upholstered” Bench
Dining Chairs via Article
“Effortlessly cool” usually involves doing something that makes people go “huh? ohhh, I would have never done that/made that look good.” Kind of like this rough bench that’s nothing but weathered wood screwed together. Next to the vintage butcher block table, the terra-cotta tiles and the bistro chairs, it’s just one of those things that works in the coolest way possible.
It’s not pristine, it’s not fussy, in fact, it’s the complete opposite. Outside of this scene, it might look like it belongs in a back alley, awaiting trash day, but adding a nubby textured rug over it (i.e. skip any fancy, expensive upholstery), and boom, you have yourself an “upholstered” dining bench. It was SO easy honestly…it’s just a matter of taking a spare rug (something smaller like a 4×6 works) and throwing it on.
3. A DIY Makeshift “Fire Pit”
That “fire pit” up there is actually just a repurposed flea market find. It is a large iron cauldron that has rusted over and patinaed and now is a pretty rad pit. The hack here is to think outside the box with what you can use outside. Instead of seeking out a specific fire pit (which can be very expensive) either second hand or new, look around for something that’s large, deep and able to handle high temps and, well…fire.
The planters here (which, hot tip, can be found for SUPER cheap at places like estate sales) also create intimacy and a sense of a “room” without actually having to do hardcore in-ground gardening. You can go with either all the same plants in the same pot for a more modern look or go more “lived in” and eclectic with various sized pots and plantings. It adds a lot of warmth, texture and makes it feel like its own “enclosed” space for conversation and lounging.
4. Wired Tree Pendants
Okay, this one takes a tad more effort than slapping some planters down, because it involves wiring and whatnot. Basically, William (the homeowner) hung a vintage iron pendant light from the tree over the firepit conversation area, which adds both serious charm and also light for after sunset. You could, of course, go the route of twinkle lights in the branches, but if you’re looking for something a little bit more simplified (because honestly, stringing lights in trees is not our idea of a Friday night well spent) or just unique, go on the hunt for something with some visual interest the next time you’re hunting down flea finds.
Once you have your light picked out, all you have to do is string it up and run an outdoor-safe wire or extension cord through the branches to your power source.
5. Use Pebbles to Cover Dirt or Bad Grass to Create “Zones”
Want to know the secret to a “magical” outdoor oasis that actually is just a coverup for dirt and/or bad grass? PEBBLES. William created zones in the backyard, which was just dirt prior, by laying out a barrier of larger rocks, then filling in with small smooth beach pebbles. It’s an instant solution that you don’t need to water, let grow in (like sod), and frankly, it looks pretty dreamy, don’t you think? Masonry, decking, grass…it’s all far more expensive than some bags of pebbles that you can get at your local hardware store like The Home Depot or Lowe’s.
Make sure to put down a weed barrier before laying the rocks unless you’d rather spend your nights and weekends pulling weeds instead of actually enjoying your backyard. Oh, and another tip from this same sweet little area is the table and chairs. The base here is just a found piece of metal that has patinaed in the elements and the top is stone. The chairs are not specifically “outdoor” seats, but they’ve weathered nicely and frankly look pretty cool. I’m not suggesting just bringing anything from indoors out and letting it get destroyed by nature, but in California specifically, where it doesn’t rain often and there really isn’t any kind of “weather,” it’s a lot more sensible to do this. The soft goods like the throw and pillows, only come out when you need them.
This is probably not the last time you’ll hear about this house outside of my book because it was a goldmine of cool spaces and architectural details. Thank you again to William for letting us do our thing on your property, and call out in the comments what here you want to steal for your own home (or if you have other super easy, affordable ideas and hacks for outdoor spaces).
***photography by Sara Ligorria-Tramp for EHD, produced and art directed by Emily Henderson, designed and styled with Velinda Hellen and Erik Staalberg