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7 Last-Minute Ways To Freshen Up Your “Gross” Outdoor Patio For Summer

We’ve all had the “oh shit” moment when you have people coming over on a beautiful day early in spring/summer and your outdoor area looks like it’s been through 12 winter storms (because it probably has). I get it…having an outdoor space can be a real emotional rollercoaster. Let me explain: you invest time and money designing and installing the space so that you and your friends and family can actually use it, then each year the space starts to deteriorate little by little. In the winter you might not notice, but when the heat starts picking up and your heart mind and body are telling you to lounge outside, it can be a devastating blow to realize the weather has ripped your beautiful space out of your soon-to-be sweaty little hands. Luckily, we can easily turn that lounge upside down, I promise. Here are 7 small things you can do right now to bring your outdoor space back to life so you can actually enjoy it by the time those friends of yours come over in a few days…or hours.

If you have an outdoor space you know that there is one major problem child: the cushions. Let’s start with where to buy or DIY new cushions if yours are a goner, how to clean existing ones, and how to store them so they last longer…

1. Refresh Your Outdoor Cushions

photo by melissa oholendt | from: a foolproof way to create an outdoor room with target

The easiest way to make your furniture look new again is to make your cushions look new again (and there are a few ways to go about this). If your cushions have been outside for a few years, maybe it’s time to get some new ones (you can call your local upholstery shop to get some or get some premade ones online if they’ll fit). As a lot of you probably already know, this can be incredibly costly and oftentimes can be close to the same price as getting a new piece of furniture which is wild. If you want a quick fix to get you through one or two more summers (or your impromptu family gathering happening at your place tomorrow) add just a few pillows to make your space feel fresh (that’s what I did for this budget lounge I created in 2020 –– we got the furniture set second hand from an awesome reader but the cushions were not in the best shape ever and this really did the trick for 2 seasons).

The last thing you can try to do to freshen up those cushions before summer is powerwash & spot clean them. I love this video to show you how!

Another thing you can do is DIY some cushions (definitely more labor-intensive but it will save you TONS of money). This post from A Beautiful Mess is super clear and easy to follow if you wanna give it a go! If you go this route, we definitely recommend using some Funbrella fabric since it will last the longest and won’t fade as quickly. Speaking of making cushions last, the other thing you should do is invest in a shed or some sort of cushion storage place for when you’re not using the space. It will make your cushions last SO much longer and you won’t have to deal with the expensive nature of replacing them (which is also much better for the environment!!)

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: after three years we can finally use our mountain house upper deck

Here are some shoppable options:

1. Sunbrella® Replacement Chair Cushion | 2. Mathew Deep Seating Indoor/Outdoor Sunbrella Seat/Back Cushion | 3. Sunbrella® Indoor/Outdoor Toss Pillows | 4. Palm Pillow Cover | 5. Classic Striped Indoor/Outdoor Pillow, 20 x 20″, Chambray | 6. Sunbrella Indoor/ Outdoor Deep Seating Cushion and Pillow Set

2. Resand Furniture

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: jess’s communal patio reveal

It’s sad but true: wood furniture outside is incredibly high maintenance. My parents bought a bunch of teak furniture years ago (which they still have now and it’s great) and while it’s lasted for forever, that’s only because they have spent SO many summers resanding and taking care of it. Watch this video on how this guy transformed some teak furniture he found in the trash. It’s proof that you can bring wood furniture back to life!

Here are some options if you are starting from scratch:

1. Samwell Teak Brown 4-Piece Wood Patio Conversation Set | 2. Saldano Rectangular Teak 63″ Dining Table | 3. Round 2 – Person 27.5” Long Bistro Set with Cushions | 4. Mesa Teak Chair | 5. Lithonia Acacia Wood Outdoor Club Chairs with Cushions, Set of 2 | 6. Chelsea FSC® Eucalyptus Rectangle Seating Set

3. Zone Out Your Space With A Fresh Rug Or Deck

If outdoor cushions are the problem child, the outdoor rug is the cushion’s problem cousin. It’s QUITE the task to keep them lasting for years and years so to freshen up your space you can either replace the rug (there are lots of affordable options out there since they don’t always last the longest) OR you can rethink the rug and instead invest in zoning your space with a more permanent deck or tile. The floor is always a good place to add some fun pattern or texture, so if you’re looking for an affordable deck/flooring option, you can do something like these IKEA tiles (Jess DIY’d them in her skinny outdoor balcony) or you can really invest in some fun tiles this summer like the ones on the patio at Emily’s last house. Not a quick fix but a worthwhile one:)

photo by melissa oholendt | from: a foolproof way to create an outdoor room with target

Here are Jess’s IKEA tiles in action!

1. Shibori Eco-Friendly Indoor/Outdoor Rug | 2. Mallsten Tiles | 3. Loft Gracie Border Natural Design Indoor/Outdoor Rug | 4. Redondo Rug | 5. Square Interlocking Acacia Wood Quick Patio Deck Tile | 6. Runnen Tiles

4. Add Plants

Another easy and relatively affordable way to make your space feel new again for summer is by adding plants around the space. It does WONDERS to bring in the life of a plant + it creates the feeling of “walls” which is important to do when you’re zoning out an area of your yard or patio.

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: how to style out your outdoor space so you’ll actually use it

I love a succulent because they really do last forever and you hardly need to water them (which is good to get you through the summers and beyond) but if you want to try something else and don’t know a lot about plants (I can’t say I’m the plant expert)…see this article called 15 Impossible-To-Kill Outdoor Plants.

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: how to style out your outdoor space so you’ll actually use it

1. 2 Succulents | 2. Cacti and Succulents | 3. Outdoor Minimalist Collection | 4. Large Majesty Palm | 5. Large Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree | 6. 5’ Travelers Palm Artificial Tree in Tall White Planter

5. Add String Lights Or An Umbrella To Create A “Ceiling”

So we briefly chatted about using plants to create “walls” but what about creating a ceiling?? It’s always a good idea to try to basically replicate an indoor room, so options for your ceiling include using string lights (which are great for nighttime) or an umbrella (which is great for shade in the daytime). Either one (or both together) is a solid option, so it really depends on how you use it. By the way, I have used the solar string lights before (which is great if you don’t have a plug in your yard) and they work really well in my opinion!

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: jess’s communal patio reveal

1. Plante 108” Octagonal Market Umbrella | 2. St. Tropez Beach Umbrella | 3. Solar ST38 String Lights | 4. Outdoor 20 ft. 10 Socket LED Solar Edison Bulb String Light | 5. Solar 10L String Light With Black Metal Cover And Plastic Bulb | 6. Capri 9′ Umbrella with Bronze Aluminum Pole – Water-Resistant Canvas Natural with Ink Blue Piping

6. Add A Little Fire For Ambiance

The newest hottest thing on TikTok is this tabletop fire topper product where you basically burn rubbing alcohol or a gel to get the feeling of a firepit without spending thousands of dollars. I haven’t tried the rubbing alcohol one personally (I’m worried they’ll smell weird so let me know if you’ve tried them and what your experience has been) but they are WILDLY affordable (like $20-$40 ish). I did, however, give this one as a gift to my boyfriend’s dad for father’s day last year I believe and they use it ALL the time, it burns for hours and hours and it’s so easy to use (and doesn’t smell). I highly recommend getting one for you or a friend, you can also roast marshmallows on it which rocks.

Beyond the tabletop fire pit, there’s a whole range of small to large gas or electric fire pits that will really set the vibe outside. Also, don’t forget about candles and lanterns…they always get the job done, too 🙂

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: jess’s communal patio reveal

1. Forestbrook 36 in. x 20.75 in. Round Outdoor Concrete Wood Burning Fire Pit | 2. Indoor – Outdoor Portable Tabletop Fire Pit | 3. Bangor Outdoor Wood Burning Fire Pit

7. Waterproof Speaker

The last thing you’ll need to refresh your outdoor yard to be party/vibe ready is some music! I love the google home speaker that connects to each other so you can play the same music throughout your whole house, but the only downside is you have to bring it in and out of your backyard since they’re not waterproof (yet). If you don’t mind having different music in your backyard vs your house then you can also get a waterproof speaker so you don’t have to worry about any water that might come near it…Sarah on our team highly recommends this waterproof one (and it would make a great father’s day gift FYI).

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: caitlin’s balcony reveal

1. JBL Charge 3 Waterproof Portable Bluetooth Speaker | 2. Boom 3 | 3. SoundLink Revolve+ II Bluetooth® speaker 

That’s all for this post, folks! If you have any more outdoor yard housekeeping tips, please comment them below. CHEERS TO ANOTHER AMAZING SUMMER UP AHEAD! Xx

Opening Image Credits: Photo by Sara Ligorria-Tramp | From: Jess’s Communal Patio Reveal

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🥰 Rusty
7 months ago

Some interesting tips n tricks.👍

However, “ADD A LITTLE FIRE FOR AMBIANCE” … bummer.
Akin to ‘Burn some more fossil fuels, because it’s pretty!’
😐 WYKYK.

🥰 Rusty
7 months ago
Reply to  🥰 Rusty

The truth isn’t always pretty.

jamie
7 months ago
Reply to  🥰 Rusty

We do small patio fires with tree trimmings, cut lavender and rosemary from our garden….keeps the mosquitoes away and smells heavenly.

B
7 months ago

So the best way to freshen up the patio last-minute is to buy a bunch of new stuff? That seems less like a freshen and more like an overhaul. The DIY tip is also not last-minute. Ability to have a backyard fire and listen to music are not related to the weather, so not exactly relevant to the thesis of this post either – nor are those ideas exactly groundbreaking. I appreciate the attempt to be relatable for us bumpkins who live in places where the weather changes with the seasons in a meaningful way, but we aren’t so dumb that we can’t figure out… checks notes… furniture, fire, plants, and music.

Also curious about the sustainability of wooden outdoor furniture in places with extreme weather. Surely there is a greater variety of options you can suggest for us, weighing each one for their sustainability, durability, style, etc.

Amber
7 months ago
Reply to  B

I live in the northeast, so we have lots of rain and snow, and teak (only teak) can last pretty much forever as long as you keep it oiled. I don’t mind the grey, weathered finish, so don’t sand it. I even see teak benches frequently at estate sales around here. Those are often the first things to be sold.

Acacia, eucalyptus and some of the other woods used in outdoor furniture do not last more than a few seasons here. I guess that’s why teak is so expensive…

🥰 Rusty
7 months ago
Reply to  Amber

Teak is a hardwood. That’s why it lasts so long. Hardwoods take a very long time to grow.
Unfortunately, most Teak is ripped out of the last remaining tropical forests in South-east Asia (think Gibbons, Orangutan, Asisn Elephant….all clinging on, desperately endangered).
Why??
To create a mono-culture (one, single plant), where an abundance of ecosystems thrived before they were wiped out….for …. PALM OIL PLANTATIONS.
If you care, read the labels of your yummy potato chips-do they contain Palm Oil?!
Think about the pretty wood you leave out in wintry weather instead of oiling it and putting it away until good weather.

Saving our planet is not simple or easy, but it sure takes a lot more than blindly choosing things we “like ” or think are “pretty”, without taking responsibility for our own choices.

I’m expecting to be voted down for speaking this very real and uncomfortable truth, by people who can’t be bothered choosing beyond convenience or desire.
That’s unfortunately the way things roll.
Meanwhile, I’ll continue to shine a light on reality.

Good design, great design, does not need to harm Mother Earth.
We are here and it is now.

There is no Planet B.🌏
WYKYK

Amber
7 months ago
Reply to  🥰 Rusty

Rusty, could you say a bit more about teak’s connection to palm oil? I’m aware of the many problems with palm oil production. I don’t eat packaged foods outside of dried pasta and am careful to avoid it in cosmetics, but it seems to be a really complicated issue. Organizations like the WWF don’t encourage boycotting it, because substitute vegetable oils are less efficient to produce. There are also human rights issues, but to keep this brief… I also realize that teak wood takes a long time to grow, as do other hardwoods like oak, but those types of wood can’t survive in an uncovered space in our New England climate. This is true even if we store furniture inside for the winter, because it rains so much here. It will rot and is susceptible to pest damage. In my view, teak and metal are the most sustainable options for outdoor furniture here, because they will last indefinitely if they are properly maintained and can ultimately be recycled. (Some people like Polywood too, which is made from recycled plastic, but I’m less familiar with its production.) I try to source teak outdoor furniture either on the secondhand market or that… Read more »

Sasha
7 months ago
Reply to  Amber

After the teak forest was clear cut, they are used for palm plantation, so there is an additional incentive to cut down teak trees. Also unfortunately, some iffy certified wood still can have some black market wood slipped in to be sold as certified, so it is not 100% foolproof (hearing that from Indonesian themselves). I think the best way is just to “Reduce” the need. *Nice* outdoor furniture is a want that are sold to us, not a need that we’ll die without. In that vein, currently we only has a used glass table outdoor. We’ll just bring our dining chair out for al-fresco dining, and pull them in again after meal. That way we don’t need extra set of furniture.

K
7 months ago
Reply to  🥰 Rusty

Rusty, all due respect, I think the reason you get downvoted isn’t because you’re bringing up sustainability–it’s because your comments can come off as patronizing. I assume your intention is to be educational… providing education in the comments of a blog where many people are coming just to see pretty things we like (because if anybody thinks this particular blog is about sustainability in any way, they’re kidding themselves) is challenging, and if you’re not super conscious about being gracious (a la Joanna Goddard in the comments of Cup of Jo), there will be people who take what you’re saying “the wrong way.” I appreciate your passion for the environment; it seems like you have a good relationship with EHD since you’ve written an article before–perhaps you could propose writing one on sustainability in design for them?

Ellie
7 months ago
Reply to  K

I didn’t find Rusty’s above comments on this post to be patronising. And I’m glad to learn more about the teak-palm oil connection too. I love how invested and helpful the commenters are on this blog! Personally, I have an issue with much of the trend for creating ‘outdoor rooms’ because largely the materials used are not really going to last very long outdoors, are not easily recyclable and will end up in landfill. When did we shift from bringing the outdoors in to bringing the indoors out – rugs and all – and expecting to leave it there? Jess, I really like that you raised the need to maintain furniture and introduced the idea of sanding older furniture and recovering cushions. I would love an outdoor space post to lean more heavily on ways to create a beautiful comfortable outdoor space in more sustainable ways: herbs, fruits, veggies in planters, easy to grow pollinator friendly perennials that come back year after year, ideas for a small patio tree, a water bath for the birds, furniture that is long lasting, made from recyclable or sustainable natural materials and is easier to store over winter (foldable/stackable etc). Yes, you can have… Read more »

Ellie
7 months ago
Reply to  Ellie

Sorry, Mallory not Jess! My apologies Mallory!

🥰 Rusty
7 months ago
Reply to  Ellie

Ellie, thank you for pointing out light pollution, too.💞
So many birds don’t sleep adequately due to ‘pretty’ lights unthoughtfully left on all night. Plus nocturnal critters can’t forage at night if it’s not dark enough.

As I said, WYKYK….it’s like not being able to unsee something once you’ve seen it.👀

🥰 Rusty
7 months ago
Reply to  B

👍

Lisa
7 months ago

Thanks for the lovely post, Mal! I really appreciated the integration of different options and tutorials – like here are ways to clean your cushions, here’s a sewing tutorial or maybe just dress it up with a few throw pillows and the general focus on not just buying new things 😀

Tamara
7 months ago

I appreciate that I’m not the only one who realizes (sometimes much too late) that company’s coming, spring work has arrived (hello, beautiful flowers and weeds that are growing too fast! Ha!) and not is all as I’d imagined for when friends and family arrive for a visit. Realities of life — but it’s the warmth of hospitality with a place to welcome people in that is most important ❤️

As you mentioned, it’s really nothing too complicated and old things can be made like new again, if they’re taken care of — old doesn’t have to be trashed if it’s maintained. Inspiration to get outside and be a good steward of what I already have — thank you!

April
7 months ago

A quick way to refresh worn out cushions is to cover them with blankets or quilts. Table cloths of varying sizes can also cover cushions and/or tables (of course). They don’t need to be specifically for outside since they’re just being placed temporarily for an event. For sound, I have a few battery packs for echo speakers and take them outside when needed. Likewise for portable rechargeable lights and flameless candles/candleholders. I have a cabinet shelf dedicated to stuff I bring outside so it all stays charged and clean, and a basket to take it all outside in one trip. For last-minute entertaining, the easiest strategy is to have already-clean, charged/functioning items that you can set up in five minutes or less.

Deborah
7 months ago
Reply to  April

Great ideas April, thanks! Your kit is also portable for grab and go for a picnic too! 🙂

Coral
7 months ago
Reply to  April

Ooh, this is a great way to use tablecloths that are stained in certain places – if you wrap them over cushions, the stains can be hidden. Great tips, April!

Liz
7 months ago

Ugh… fire pits are so awful for air quality and climate change.

D
7 months ago

Maybe I’m just grumpy because I just spent $200 at the grocery store for like 3 days worth of healthy whole food, and then filled up my gas tank, oof, and I realize this isn’t a budget blog or a save the world blog, but I feel like the climate here is getting a little tone deaf. The country is ripping itself apart, there are shootings happening EVERY DAY, the homeless/drug situation is out of control, people are getting the squeeze left and right, and we are all infighting about teak and the environmental effects of having the occasional bonfire. I’m so tired of people not caring about the problems right in front of them. I’ve come here for escapism and pretty pictures, but it’s getting pretty unrelatable.

Deb
7 months ago

If you don’t sew you can still cover your existing cushions very easily. I purchased my material from
JoAnn’s on line when it went on sale in the fall.
I cut the material big enough to wrap each cushion
just like wrapping a present . I secured it on the back side of the cushion with large safety pins. This way I can
remove the fabric if need and throw it in the washer and dryer. Just make sure you cut your fabric big enough.
I covered cushions for four chairs and two stools for less than $50 and still have quite a bit of fabric leftover .
I then purchased an indoor/ outdoor run for the sun porch/screen room when it was on sale and the whole room looked completely different for a whole lot less than having to purchase new cushions.

Cris S.
7 months ago
Reply to  Deb

Great idea on the cushion wrapping! Thank you!

Felicity
7 months ago

I did get organized one year and managed to store my outdoor cushions in our unheated shed…they suffered terribly from rodent damage. Going forward, I am thinking space bags, which can be used season after season, but shrink them down enough to go under the beds.

7 months ago

7 Last-Minute Ways To Freshen Up Your “Gross” Outdoor Patio For Summer This Blog are Amazing & Very Helpful.
Thank You, MALLORY WACKERMAN

7 months ago

Hi! Emily. I just love how true it is that the teak furniture you got makes such a pretty and long lasting place in our homes. Been using the bose speaker for 2 years and I can say it’s totally worth it.

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