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Budget Outdoor Lounge Agony: Help Mallory Choose A Design Plan


At this point in my life I think I’ve mastered the art of picking up “trash furniture” from the side of the road. Every day it seems I’m hauling some piece of garbage down the street and into my apartment or my parent’s house, and now I’ve officially added my boyfriend’s parent’s house to that list. This skill has really come in handy this summer especially because when you can’t leave your house that often, there comes a sudden motivation to rearrange, redecorate, and improve your living space. However, we all know that updating anything costs money (and usually a lot of it), so when we decided we wanted to upgrade Chase’s parent’s backyard by adding an outdoor lounge, we thought…well how much would it really cost if we go the Craigslist/free roadside furniture route?? When we were first talking numbers, we got an idea in our heads that we could do the entire thing for as close to FREE as possible.

And guess what?? We craigslisted our way into the basic foundation of an outdoor lounge. Is it functional? Yes. BUT does it look good yet? Hell no.

So we found out pretty quickly that our budget was highly unrealistic because we don’t want our free garbage furniture to look like an actual collection of garbage. So now we’re in the mindset of let’s see how we can make it look actually good and last for $1,000 total. This is a design blog after all, so now it’s time to style. play. everyday. I came up with 3 design directions for our outdoor accessories and I need your help deciding which one we should go with…

The Outdoor Lounge

First, let me tell you how we achieved our initial $100 outdoor lounge foundation (the $100 was the cost of the string lights). We started the project with a collective goal in mind that this area could be a little happy hour and hangin’ spot. I initially wrote about it in this post (alongside the rest of this amazing team and their yards) so check it out if you want to see a really sick illustration made by our photographer/HR department/head of production/EHD president, Sara (she does so much we still don’t know what to call her).

Anyway back to the yard. Here’s a little birds-eye view floor plan of their yard so you can see what the heck we’re working with:

See that massive side yard? Well, it’s been nothing but a storage spot for this rusty trampoline for 20 years. We spend a lot of time in the other sections of this yard, but this side yard has been heavily neglected by everyone but the dogs. Here’s what it looked like before we embarked on our outdoor lounge journey:


LOOK HOW MUCH SPACE AND POTENTIAL! Let me fill you in on what’s happened since this photo was taken 3 months ago. We picked up a small IKEA sofa that a neighbor had put up for grabs on the side of the street. It was small, uncomfortable, and was missing cushions (plus the cushions were a wildly weird size), but it gave us the spark we needed to get this thing together. A few days later, I posted on the blog about our backyard plans and boy oh boy I couldn’t believe what happened next. I received an email from an insanely wonderful reader named Kisha (check out her website and IG account –– she’s a very talented designer!) and she offered up this massive outdoor sectional that she was about to list on craigslist. There were some minor issues that she warned me about… the cushions had been stained by a redwood tree and looked a little bit like a murder scene. She wasn’t wrong. The other catch was that she lived in Santa Barbara so we would have to drive 3 hours each way. VERY WORTH IT.

We rented a truck and retrieved the sofa. Now, this is a very EHD scenario and we got really lucky –– but before anyone that’s doing a budget backyard feels discouraged I have to say: check craigslist and facebook marketplace! People dump their free “garbage” there all the time and all you have to do is look at the bones of whatever they’re giving away and be hopeful that you can make it less disgusting. Also, check your neighborhoods and keep your eyes peeled for free curbside furniture because I promise awesome deals are out there if you just look 🙂

Now back to the cushion debacle. Most of the cushions had one side that looked like this (see below), so we washed, bleached, and tried to stain remove the problem spots. Ultimately, it didn’t go very well but we put the badly stained sides of the cushions down and the less stained sides up and covered them with throw pillows. That’s our “for now” kind of solution while we await samples of cushion covers to come in the mail… I’ll keep you posted.

We got the sofa and chairs in the backyard, found a small outdoor rug, and then separated the bad Ikea sofa that we found on the side of the road and took the two usable parts (with cushions) and turned it into a separate little seating area. Then we bought some string lights and strung them up with this pole situation (again see below) that my dad and I figured out originally for my parent’s rooftop deck area (this pole/string light setup works like a CHARM). After all of that, the foundation is pretty much there. Here’s where we’re at now:


Everything in the above photo was FREE except for the string lights which cost us around $100 total. So we spent $100 to go from the first “before photo” to this progress point. Not too shabby.

So after we locked this foundation in, Chase and I sat down one night and we started building out our vision on the computer (because this is what we do for fun). I know how to use photoshop pretty well, so I just threw a design into the actual photo you see above. So here’s what we came up with to make this backyard a little less sad and a little more “outdoor oasis…”


It wasn’t until I showed Chase’s family this design plan that everyone stopped looking at me like I was a lunatic when I talked about how cool the outdoor lounge could be. I could tell this was the thing that made it click for everyone. They could see the vision for real and we were finally all on the same page. Well sort of on the same page. The first thing Chase’s mom said was “this is SO cool, except maybe we should switch out that one pillow.” And that’s when the designing and redesigning began.

So let me introduce you to 3 different design directions we could go in. We all like different ones, and there are no wrong answers, but boy do we need a tie-breaker. Check these out and let me know which one we should go with… A true desperate Ask the Audience!

Borderline Beachy Getaway

Rug | Umbrella | Umbrella Stand | Blue Side Table | Lanterns | Blue and White Pillow | Navy Pillow | Throw Blanket | Tassel Pillow | Gray and White Lumbar Pillow | Coffee Table | Striped Bolster Pillow | Wood Side Table | Short Plant | Tall Plant

TOTAL: $1,055

I call this borderline beachy because honestly, I didn’t know what else to call it in comparison to the other two, but let me just say they do not live by the beach so objectively speaking, this one probably makes the least sense. I do like how calming and serene it is though, and honestly it’s the least offensive and bold option. No one has a problem with it but does anyone really LOVE it?? You tell me.

Modern Desert Oasis

Rug | Umbrella | Umbrella Stand | Black Side Table | Lanterns | Geometric Pillow | Black and White Dash Line Pillow | Throw Blanket | Block Print Pillow | Tassel Pillow | Black and White Lumbar | Coffee Table | Yellow Lumbar Pillows | Wood Side Table | Short Plant | Tall Plant

TOTAL: $1,274

Now this one I like, a lot. I am an absolute sucker for the color yellow (it’s been my favorite since I was a kid) and it’s so happy and cool. I think this one is fresh, contemporary, and fun but does it scream family or suburbia? All the kids are into this one which sure makes sense. But is it too modern and desert-y?

Also, did you notice how the base of the sectional changed color? We have a plan for that, and it was inspired by none other than the awesome lady who gave us this sofa. She spray painted her dining chairs with rust-oleum paint and they looked SO GOOD. We thought it might be an affordable and fun way to breathe some new life into this sofa and make it our own, so that’s another question: should we spray paint the grey wicker sectional black to modernize it??

Contemporary Spanish Courtyard

Rug | Umbrella | Umbrella Stand | Blue Side Table | Lanterns | Tan and White Striped Lumbar | Blue and White Line Pillow | Throw Blanket | Gray and White Lumbar Pillow | Navy Pillow | Tassel Pillow | Coffee Table | Blue Knit Lumbar | Wood Side Table | Striped Planter| Cactus (hot tip: you can look on Facebook Marketplace for more affordable plant options!)

TOTAL COST: $1,184

Chase’s mom told me she really likes Spanish style, which makes sense because they are Mexican and Spanish and live in a suburban town called “Mission Viejo.” This one fits the vibe of their house pretty well, but is the rug too much? Will we get tired of it?

So Chase’s brother is team beachy, his sister and I are leaning toward the modern desert, Chase likes 2 and 3, and his parents are team Spanish courtyard. You guys will be the official tie-breaker 🙂

Please let me know what you guys think we should do, THIS IS SO MUCH FUN! Have a happy hump day and thanks in advance for chiming in! Xx

Opening Photo Credits: Photo by Melissa Oholendt | From: A Foolproof Way to Create an Outdoor Room with Target

Fin Mark


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Most definetly option 3, the Spanish courtyard! I love it. It has the most visual interest if you ask me.


I agree! Def the most visually interesting. I love the scallop detail on the umbrella, the print on the rug is busy, but in a good way, and I love the planters for the cacti.

your design looks great. i love this is really helpful for me hope you add more in future also


Spanish courtyard! Looks beautiful and like it will suit the house best 🙂


2 or 3!




1! (and if not 1 then 3) 😉


Didn’t think I would like ‘the parents option’ but I actually really dig the spanish courtyard it feels inviting and grown-up yet also very very fun at the same time plus I think it really fits the house. I especially love that umbrella and the stripey planter and if you ever do get fun of the outdoor rug in the future you could still try and craigslist a new one….? I like it in any case 🙂


*get tired of the rug… if you get fun of it all is good I guess…? 😀

ellen feeney

#3 – love the rug and it will hide the dirt!

ellen feeney

#3 – love the rug and it will hide the dirt.


#3 definitely!


I would just say that if the sectional is a decent one, don’t paint it. The paint might hold up but it might not, and that’s a hard thing to replace.


Also to add, it is hard to tell if it is the exact same but I think I have this same Ikea sectional. If so, it is awesome and will hold up for years (we’re going on 8). But also, it is plastic, not wicker. It’s a great dupe of wicker and after having this, I would never purchase real wicker. Plastic is the way to go! Paint would be a trainwreck if that’s the case. Why don’t you just dye the cushion covers?

Jenny B

Paint the plastic wicker, I’ve done that for years. Totally updates the look, lasts for years, and if you ever need to touch up so easy. I painted my brown one black about 6 years ago, now am contemplating going white with a Serena and Lily vibe


Definitely have to use a spray paint designed for plastic if you go this route.


Spanish courtyard all the way! That rug is fabulous and along with the detail on the umbrella goes a long way to adding visual interest. I have to ask though. There has been no mention of removing the old, rusty trampoline. Is it staying? Who exactly is using it?


I kept waiting for the part where the trampoline would be cleared out, too. What an eyesore.


I think Mallory mention once that they actually jump on it a lot.


I have a corn hole set up that I would happily donate to the cause. In my mind, you gotta get rid of that trampoline!




3 but with more pops of terra cota


Number 3…. although I love yellow, I think the house color with yellow accents like in 2 would look wonky


#3 for sure! It’s the prettiest option and suits the house and purpose of the space the best.


#3 Spanish courtyard for sure, it’s so cute and fun and goes with the house! Plus the parents like it the most, and it’s their house after all 😉


I vote for #3 for all of these reasons as well! I also think spray painting wicker and/or plastic meant to look like wicker is a risky move. I LOVE spray paint, but for outdoor furniture that does not sound easy to paint, I would avoid it. Getting in every little nook and cranny of the wicker sounds time consuming and expensive. Spray paint is convenient but it’s not cheap for covering a lot of square footage.


#3 with rug from #1!!! so cute and as an inveterate garbage furniture picker i love the whole concept. one day this summer my neighbor came and scooped up a set of chairs from my garbage and later that day I grabbed a wicker planter from hers!

don’t paint the sectional! i have a outdoor wicker sectional and I can’t imagine the paint adhering to it very well, I think every time it was bumped you would have a nick and over time with weather and age it would peel off…the grey is so neutral, I would live with that over taking a risk that you have a janky paint job flaking off all over the place.


I like the rug from 1! Do not paint!!
I would add large grasses around air conditioning unit, though. It would hide it, still let it function and help to establish your room as a room.


Also, do the adults still use the trampoline? I figure bocci ball and other activities is a better option for socializing.


#3, Spanish courtyard


3, especially if the parents are paying for it!

Meghan Terry

I love #3!

Also, I’m not seeing the pole for the string lights liked anywhere, and I desperately need that! Where can one get a pole like that?


Option 2!


I too got an outdoor sectional from Craigslist this summer with faded cushion covers. I’m going to try re-dying the covers with Rit dye this weekend. It’s a lot of fabric to cover so I ended up spending about $100 in dye and Rit ColorStay Dye Fixative but, if it works well, it should be way less expensive than new cushion covers given the number of covers needed for a sectional. Could be an option for you to consider too! I actually got the idea from a Facebook Buy Nothing group where someone was giving away Rit Dye.


Yes, I was thinking you should dye the cushions as well!


Wondering if you could paint a fun little neutral mural or an outdoor friendly wall treatment/art behind the sectional? For anyone sitting in the chair facing the house, could be nice to look more than just the side of the house in addition to friend’s and family’s beautiful faces : )


Ooooh… a mural maybe?


I prefer Modern Desert (#2) the most. But I would be worried that painting the sectional black will make it super hot to the touch.


Option #3. The pattern in the rug will hide stains. But maybe throw in some yellow accents? Yellow is my favorite color as well. Blue and yellow go well together. And can you spray paint the sectional navy instead of black?

Angela Craig

Option 2 love the look also you can power wash your cushions to get clean soak in white vinegar and dawn dish soap the power wash. Works like a charm


Option 2 is my favorite!!

Option 3 – Spanish courtyard! It’s visually interesting, has a distinct vibe and it’s the parents’ house and they like it best! I don’t love the rug though – maybe you could find a rug with a similar feel but in more orange/yellow/beige colors to bridge the gap between styles?


Without a doubt, Spanish Coyrtyard #3!!!
You’ve done so well for freeeeeeee!
(crowd cheering in background)
Ummm… I still cannot stand the fake grass though. Bad for the environment in so, so many ways. Check out the conversation about Bowser’s real grass! 👍


* courtyard


Mallory – great options here! How’s your apartment balcony coming along? Can we get an update/progress post of that cute space? THX!




Team 2 Modern Desert Oasis


Definitely option 3! And I love the idea of painting the wicker black.


2 and 3 are the best options but I think the rug in 2 would be an issue outside with dogs. And option 3 rug feels dated. Like early 2000’s.
Id do either option 2 or 3 with a new rug option.

I wouldn’t paint the wicker. I don’t think it would be successful. I’m not sure what the other person painted but wicker has so many cracks i would think the pain would glob up in some areas or not get into the cracks so you would see the grey in other areas. I think it would peel fast too and not last.
Painted old metal chairs is different than exterior grade or really plastic wicker. too big of a risk.
Maybe if you leave it grey you could get a black modern patterned rug.

Amazing by the way getting all for this for free and making it work. Such a great job!


Spanish courtyard


Spanish courtyard!

Option 3 for sure.


I love #3 but add in the yellow pillows. I love that pop of color.


#3 – it looks great, and I say give mom and dad what they want. =)

Lisa Smith

I would definitely blend 2 and 3. In my opinion 2 alone is too trendy and will look out of date fastest BUT aspects of it have that contemporary feel 3 is lacking. 3 alone is a little too cool-toned and staid, but has the classic “bones” 2 lacks. So combine them!! I’d scrap all the black from 2 for a mix of black, grays, naturals. And then in 3 I’d scrap the overly patterned and blue rug for something more neutral. I’d keep that scalloped umbrella but look for one with some yellow or terra-cotta. I’d keep the big pieces and upholstery neutral, calm, timeless, a little Spanish. And then bring in warmth and contemporary fun with side tables, planters, pillows. The last two combined could be so, so good.


3 – I love the planters and pops of orange and blue. Also, I defer most to the residents preference. They live with it the most and longest. I think the rug is rad, if they get tired of it, they can switch that out.

Susan Carroll

I love option 3. I don’t love the rug. I wonder if you could find one that leans terracotta?


Option 3, Spanish Courtyard. I love the rug, which is unusual for me, but I think the color scheme is simple enough to not make the pattern overwhelming. But I also love yellow, so I think yellow pillows on those extra chairs like in option 2 would be great. Maybe yellow pillow that fit the theme more though. So many great free scores. I’m excited to see the final result!


First- definitely paint the sectional. So much better. Second- the home owner gets to choose. When everyone heads home and returns to normal, they will be the one utilizing the space each day. I love #2, but Mama gets her pick! And it is more Mission Viejo. That being said, I would switch out the rug to the more neutral option in the second design. It will definitely have a calming aspect on the space and more longevity.


Have you considered dying the fabric to hide the stains a little better?
Also maybe breaking up the set and using the IKEA chairs with the couch?


Option 3 seems like a no brainer… so beautiful AND that’s what the home owners want.

Dolores Talarico

Definitely #3!


#3, but…with the rug from #1. I do think the rug from option 3 is too busy, and I’m over that type of pattern. Overused for sure.


I’m in for 3. All are nice. 1 seems blah and done to me but “fine.” The other two have clear point of view. To decide between them, I would look to what you are doing in the rest of your place. And that striped planter is what sold me on 3 so include it somewhere regardless!!! Love these budget posts!

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