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How To Build A Backyard Lounge From Scratch For Less Than $1,000

Do you have a dream that an area in your home can be better than it is right now? 3 months ago, I had that dream and it all started with a trampoline and some dog poop. Here’s what I’m talking about…

You may have already been following along in this journey, so let me just give you a brief recap. This is my boyfriend, Chase’s parent’s neglected side yard (wow that was a mouthful). Well, this is what it used to look like at least. 3 months ago (wait I mean 6 months??) we were fortunate enough to set up shop at their house during the initial COVID stay-at-home order. You guys will get this for sure: being stuck in one house for a few months really gets the wheels going on what “could be” design-wise, am I right or am I right??? Well, I saw the potential in this space and knew that one day she would be a beautiful (budget) outdoor lounge.

My plan rolled into action one (almost) summer night, when we were out on a walk and stumbled into an outdoor sectional on the side of the street. She was small and old, but charming nonetheless and I knew this could be the beginning of something good. What happened next? We did what any normal person would do. Grabbed the Toyota Camry and shoved the sectional into the car as much as possible (no the doors did not even come close to being closed), then we drove through the neighborhood (no major streets thank god) and dumped it straight into the backyard. She was missing some cushions to be honest, but it really sparked something for this space. Here’s what it looked like:

Dreamy, no? In all seriousness, we had huge hopes and dreams of making this sectional work (and I still fully believe we could have if we had just gotten a few more chairs to round out the space and then fixed the missing cushion situation). But what happened shortly after we picked this up felt like fate: I posted this photo on the blog in this post with a dream of one day turning it into the outdoor lounge we all desperately wanted. Little did I know that blog post would REALLY get the ball rolling on this budget-friendly lounge plan.

We chatted about the outdoor set situation back in this post, but basically what happened was an amazing and lovely reader (and talented designer) was about to list an outdoor sectional on craigslist, but saw my backyard plans and sent me an email to see if I wanted it. To say we were STOKED would be an understatement. But you really should know that while getting used furniture can be life-changing and incredibly helpful to the budget, it almost always comes with a catch. This one came with two. 1. It was in Santa Barbara (a 3 hour drive each direction) and 2. The cushions had some major issues, which you can read more about here. We weighed out the pros and cons and decided to take a chance on this outdoor set regardless of what could’ve happened (it could’ve been bad you guys). Luckily, we figured out a solution for the cushions (which you can watch more about that in the video below) and got the ball rolling YET AGAIN.

Once we got the sofa situation locked in –– maybe you remember, maybe you don’t but we had 3 different design plans for our new (well, used) beloved sectional. Here they are to jog your memory:


So which design plan did we end up going with?? DRUM ROLL PLEASE…

Coffee Table | Terrazzo Side Table | Blue Outdoor Rug | 7′ Umbrella | Big Woven Lantern | Small Woven Lantern | White Throw | Navy Sunbrella Pillow (similar) | Pink Square Pillow | Striped Lumbar | White Textured Pillow | Navy Throw | Oversized Circle Pillow | Palm Leaf Plant | Vase |Tea Towel | Cheese Platter | Wine Glasses | Pitcher | Candle

None of them! Jokes on me because little did I know putting highly requested affordable outdoor accessories on the blog means that they will most certainly sell out (besides all outdoor stuff is FLYING off the shelves as is). So I ended up creating an entirely new design plan: I wanted to lean toward the spanish style in option 3, but ended up going with the color palette of option 1. So we landed somewhere in the middle, which is kinda fun. You know what else is fun? Another before and after, so here it is:


We built this entire thing from the ground up FOR LESS THAN $1,000. I’m screaming with joy and pride after seeing these photos because there were moments when I just thought there was no way. But no, there is always a way!! There were 3 main things that I learned, so if you’re wanting to create an outdoor space on a budget, here’s what you should know (plus a video where I’m chattin all about it!! Just wait a few seconds for the ad to play:))


Coffee TableBlue Outdoor Rug | Big Woven Lantern | Small Woven Lantern | White Throw | Navy Sunbrella Pillow (similar) | Pink Square Pillow | Palm Leaf Plant | Vase |Tea Towel | Cheese Platter | Wine Glasses | Pitcher | Candle

This is the best tip I’ve learned from Emily Henderson herself: Treat your outdoor space like a room and make sure you have “a floor” and “a ceiling.” There are MANY ways to go about doing this, but not all of them are cost-effective. For example, a non cost-effective way is to build a deck or a pergola as your floor/ceiling. A cost-effective way to do this is to use a rug as your “floor” and string lights/an umbrella as your ceiling. We (obviously) went with the cheaper option and I could not be happier with how it turned out.


Coffee Table | Blue Outdoor Rug | Big Woven Lantern | Small Woven Lantern | Pink Tasseled Lumbar | White Throw | Navy Sunbrella Pillow (similar)| Pink Square Pillow | Tea Towel | Cheese Platter | Wine Glasses | Pitcher | Candle

The planters and some of the pillows we had already had lying around the house, so we repurposed those items to be part of our new lounge. We already had the big navy pillows that weren’t getting any use, so we figured let’s just use them as outdoor pillows since at least they’ll get used. Also, it gets pretty dusty out here since it’s next to a hill, so we’re planning to keep all of the pillows inside most of the time (which is why you’ll notice not all of these pillows are outdoor pillows) but I purposefully chose pillows that seemed more durable than your average indoor pillow, so they’ll definitely hold up if we accidentally leave them out for a night or two.

I know you’ve heard the sectional saga, but I must reiterate that finding used furniture is ESSENTIAL in keeping to a small budget. Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, and literally THE CURB are your best friends. We were incredibly fortunate to know of someone that was getting rid of their sofa, but even if that didn’t happen we definitely could’ve made our original curb sofa work. We only would’ve needed a few more seating options across from it (which we also would’ve tried to find used). Furniture is THE BIGGEST expense when building a space (and most outdoor furniture is $$$), so if you can use your resources, keep your eyes peeled on the street and look online, you can definitely find some gems out there.

Oh and where is that curb sofa now? We split it into two chairs and now it’s functioning as an extra seating area across from the lounge (pictured on the left below):

Coffee Table | Blue Outdoor Rug | Big Woven Lantern | Small Woven Lantern | Pink Tasseled Lumbar | White Throw | Navy Sunbrella Pillow (similar)| Pink Square Pillow | Vase |Tea Towel | Cheese Platter | Wine Glasses | Pitcher | Candle | Blue Lumbar Pillows | Stump Side Table

The Aperol spritzes and cheese plate were just out here for the shoot, but now I’m wondering how I can keep them here all the time cause man they make the space look good. Now for the last tip:


Coffee Table | Terrazzo Side Table | Blue Outdoor Rug | 7′ Umbrella | Big Woven Lantern | Small Woven Lantern | White Throw | Navy Sunbrella Pillow (similar) | Pink Square Pillow | Striped Lumbar | White Textured Pillow | Navy Throw | Oversized Circle Pillow | Palm Leaf Plant | Vase |Tea Towel | Cheese Platter | Wine Glasses | Pitcher | Candle

When throwing used stuff into the mix (like this free sofa and pillows we already had) it’s even more important to stick to only a few colors to make it look cohesive. I picked up a bunch of random stuff off of the side of the road (as I always do), but just throwing random free stuff together can make it look jumbled and messy. Pick a jumping-off point then stick to a few colors (I started choosing a color palette once I found this super affordable 9×12 rug from Target and it set the scene for the whole space.)

Now if you don’t mind, I’m going to enjoy my spritz with all of the friends I’m seeing during this quarantine (aka no one, so here’re photos of me leisurely enjoying the spritz solo).

Thanks everyone for tuning in and let me know your thoughts in the comments!! BYE!!! Xx

Opening Image Credit: Photography by Mallory Wackerman| Design by Mallory Wackerman | Styling by Mallory Wackerman (post-covid shoots are way different, guys)

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2 years ago


I have a lot of hand me down and secondhand furniture in my apartment, so I figured out a colour palette for things I buy myself so it can look somewhat cohesive. Since then (this was 9 months ago), I haven’t bought any furniture or accessories or anything. One day, one day…

Erin Dae
2 years ago

Love this. It turned out beautifully! Mallory, I also really enjoy your voice and the budget conscious perspective – let’s make sure we continue hearing from you! Question on the string lights – I see that you made the choice to anchor into the walls of the house. Can you talk about that decision and whether that is “reversible” should you decide to remove the lights someday?

2 years ago

Great makeover but…designers gloss over the lights! How is this achieved? Most folks don’t have a power source in the middle of the yard…is there an on/off switch or is it a plug in/out? While I have an outlet against the house wall that could involve (dangerous) routing of extension cords to have the lights overhead…help! Maybe a feature on outdoor lighting for seating with the nuts and bolts involved (and maybe an electrician or two). Thanks!

2 years ago
Reply to  Pip

I have the same questions about the lights! I need a detailed how to.

2 years ago
Reply to  Pip

Maybe try solar powered lighting? You’d probably need more in order to make a space as bright as the plug-in options, but I have some string lights I got on Amazon for cheap that I really love for the ambiance they create.

2 years ago

Mallory….you did such an amazing job! You should be very stoked with the results!!! I’ll bet Emily’s bursting with pride for you, too!

Gorgeous as (and you’ve even hidden some of that dastardly fake grass!) Hahaha!
I had high hopes for this space and you exceeded them!
Whoo Hoo! 😍 x

2 years ago
Reply to  Rusty

Oh…and I actually watched your video….very slick, friendly and fun! You can see how chuffed you are.

2 years ago

Yay! I’m so happy for you, outdoor space is such a wonderful resource to have now that we’re all stuck at home, and you created something super cute – and achievable!

I’m still waiting for my “floor” to arrive – ordered an amazing-looking rug in March and it’s been on backorder this whole time! But I think it will make the whole seating area next-level, and it’s supposed to come some time this month (this is it – I have to share I love it so much:×9/s326292). A rug is super impractical for my spot but I don’t care hahaha

2 years ago

This is a great makeover! But is it just me or…
Is there a new outdoor patio makeover on the blog every week?? I get that people are wanting to upgrade their outdoor spaces because of Covid, but if they haven’t already…. it’s probably not happening.

2 years ago
Reply to  Grace

Well, maybe some of us just need the right dose of inspiration to get us to finally get around to it 😛

2 years ago
Reply to  Grace

I enjoy these posts. I have zero outdoor space – not even a window sill deep enough for plants – and I live vicariously through those who do!

Sarah T
2 years ago

Such a thoughtful way to say thank you to Chase’s parents for hosting during the quarantine. You are setting a bar for host gifts in designing this inviting space haha! Love the video…Thanks for adding it in!

2 years ago

It looks so wonderful and what a great thing to leave behind after your quarantine stay! I am, however, confused. The first sectional that you found on the curb only appears to have one arm, but when you split it into two chairs, a few new arms seem to have appeared. Also, did the two separate sectionals happen to be a perfect match or did you spray paint them? All of them look like they came from the same set. If you managed to find furniture that coordinated that perfectly all for FREE, then you have some seriously good luck!

2 years ago
Reply to  Molly

The extra chairs made from the first found sectional are a separate seating area in the distant left of one of the photos. The have blue lumbar pillows on them.

2 years ago

Such an amazing transformation!! In your previous post you mentioned that you were v unable to dye the cushion covers, but the appear to be a different color after washing, bleaching, and stain removal. Did the color of the covers change after bleaching or is the color difference just due to lighting? I’m thinking about updating my patio space. I have cushion covers that are beige, but I would love to see them grey!

2 years ago

Congratulations on an amazing transformation! I love all the details and the steps to create the perfect space.

I need to follow your tip for keeping pillows (and possibly cushions) inside. I get so much dust, partly due to being in the flight path of the nearby airport that my outdoor space feels unusable. Maybe covers would be easier since all my pillows and cushions are for outside. Whatever I do, it needs to be easy, because I have a beautiful outdoor space that I dread using because of the dust!

2 years ago

#1, you’re so fantastic on camera. I could watch you all day (in a NOT creepy way, promise). #2 YAY it came out so great. I love a little design serendipity (the seating situation) and glad you guys could make it work. Outdoor furniture gets disgusting in about 3 seconds anyway, so great choice ha. Nice work Mal Pal!

2 years ago

Nice sitting area. I’m just curious about the grass under the carpet? Or is it fake lawn?

2 years ago
Reply to  Wendy

It’s 10 year old fake grass.

2 years ago

It looks so good. Great job, Mallory! 🙂

Catherine Schrage
2 years ago

Hey Mallory – great work! Can you share what layout / design software you guys use to mock up the room? I’m using PowerPoint and wondering if you have recommendations for software to use on a budget.

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