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My Outdoor Spaces Over The Years With Some Thoughts And Feelings (WHERE HAS TIME GONE????)

Literally everyone I know is zhushing up their outdoor areas right now getting ready to entertain (or just enjoy) for summer. I get texts from most of my friends with a “Wait, where do you buy cool outdoor furniture?” and I tell them the usual suspects (which I’ll list at the end). I’m doing the area around the pool and the river house’s back patio as we speak. I figured we weren’t alone and that likely many of you are looking for ideas and inspiration, too (and where to shop that ships fast). I feel like I have some solid experience on how to do it and figured I’d walk you through some of my older spaces (some from 10 years ago!), for a little bit of a show and tell (with a heavy dollop of nostalgia:)) ALSO LOOK AT THOSE BABIES!! HOW AM I GOING TO SURVIVE THEM GOING INTO 3RD AND 5TH GRADE??????? Good lord, I’m so grateful that I have been able to spend so much time with them while they are still little. The fact that they’ll be out of the house in less than 10 years is just insane and unacceptable.

The Glendale Deck: Our First Home

photo by tessa neustadt | from: glendale patio reveal

This was our first home in Glendale, up on Adams Hill for those of you who know LA. The view was awesome and we were so grateful to even get in the real estate market, but there was like 30 cement stairs to even get into the front door, and the deck faced west (so VERY hot in the afternoon with no natural shade). Nothing to complain about, but having this be the only outdoor space was very challenging with two kids under two. The first time we styled it, it was for one of my first Target partnership, which feels like forever ago now.

photo by tessa neustadt | from: glendale patio reveal

We did the best we could to make it as usable as possible despite the heat and sun. The umbrellas helped obviously. But I never felt comfortable leaving the kids out there without me which was one of the reasons we moved to our next home (yard).

photo by tessa neustadt | from: glendale patio reveal

We created a little play area with turf and a playhouse, which was nice but honestly, we took the kids to the park most days instead (down 30 stairs with two car seats and so much gear, it wasn’t easy).

photo by tessa neustadt | from: glendale patio reveal

It was a cute little area though and little toddler Charlie and I did hang out here a lot in the mornings while I drank coffee. Now it seems like I sure did buy a lot of landfill for one toddler, but at the time I was just desperate to create an area that was dedicated to playing outside. I have an odd association with this area as it is what pushed Brian into therapy, which dramatically helped our marriage (it was a dumb fight but unveiled our resentment cycle which had come to a head). You can read about Brian’s therapy journey (in his own words, obviously) HERE.

We also learned that we aren’t “cover the patio furniture” people (LA makes it hard because you can be outside all year so you don’t even think about it and then you remember after it rains). That playhouse was pretty much rotted by the following year so…

photo by tessa neustadt | from: glendale patio reveal

Goodness, we have both grown up!! As we should! But a bit confronting:) I want to squeeze that Charlie toddler so bad right now- THOSE CHEEKS!!!

The Glendale Deck: Round Two

photo by zeke reulas | from: giving new life to our old wood deck

I think this was for our Wood Naturally partnership (do you guys remember when I was the literal spokesperson for “Soft Wood” and talked about pine and doug fir for two years?). We refinished the deck under that partnership (I think they were facing market threats from hardwood – i.e. oak/walnut, and from composite wood so just like the National Coalition of milk has a lobby group that creates ad campaigns like “Got milk,” so does the soft wood coalition of America – FASCINATING stuff). I switched the chairs (Target) and coffee table (DWR) and just pared it back a bit and liked it more. As much as I like an eclectic style in photos I prefer a fairly restrained color palette for liveability (dare I say even things that match).

photo by zeke reulas | from: giving new life to our old wood deck

I do have opinions about outdoor rugs. I think there is a time and place for an outdoor rug (specifically if you have an ugly cement floor or broken tiles, etc) and/or great for crawling babies and toddlers as it’s less hot and splintery. In this case, I think that this rug looks really good because it’s such a big deck and helps define the conversation area, but most outdoor rugs really don’t last very long unless you are vigilant about storing and power washing. It’s just one of those things that can become a burden and landfill if you don’t take care of them (the wear and tear is real).

photo by zeke reulas | from: giving new life to our old wood deck

I was obsessed with that dining table and chairs (table from DWR and chairs from Serena and Lily, still available in navy). I do feel like there is a hole in the market for patterned outdoor upholstery (nothing crazy, but a simple stripe like that is so powerful and yet not too trendy). Patterned fabric is also more forgiving than solids (but you can keep it light which I still prefer). But so many of the “outdoor” or “summer” patterns are OOF, not great (think loud tropical or dated ikat). A patterned sectional or sofa set in a stripe like that would sell like crazy, IMHO.

Our Second Home: The Los Feliz Patio

photo by tessa neustadt | from: the finished patio (with the tile!)

My team joked that this was “America’s patio” because it was ALL OVER THE INTERNET (which was great for business). This was before things could go viral on social media (I think this was 2017 so just when stories were beginning and a lot of the algorithms), but it was everywhere – every press outlet, all over Pinterest, etc. Don’t get me started on how much I miss my life/brain before predicting the algorithms dominated so much of our content creation. It can be truly maddening, y’all. Anyway, this patio was so incredible mostly because of that awesome tile. It was and still is such a special house and I miss parts of that life so much (namely sitting out here with my best friend who lived literally next door and drinking wine while the kids played for hours). How stunning are those climbing roses???

I loved this version of the patio the best visually (again a Target partnership) but I preferred more comfortable chairs because we spent HOURS here on the weekends with the kids playing in the yard.

So pretty. I think this has to be my favorite outdoor space I’ve done, again mostly because of the tile (which is why I splurged and obsessed over the sunroom tile at the farmhouse).

The Los Feliz Kids Castle/Playhouse: Round One

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: building our backyard castle with wood naturally

Geez, I’m getting oddly emotional looking at these photos (I think the kids moving up grades and school being out, another year behind us is not helping). I am so nostalgic for them being toddlers, despite how much more work they were. Look at little Birdie!

Anyway, we had this castle/playhouse custom designed and built (because it was a partnership with the national softwood lobby so we couldn’t get something readymade and I wanted to make it more editorial and interesting in hopes of giving the great numbers via exposure). In lieu of a sandbox (that Brian was adamantly against) we put in a pea gravel “pebble pit” underneath that became the future home of a family of coyotes while we moved to Arrowhead full-time for lockdown. LOL.

The Los Feliz Kids Castle/Playhouse: Round Two

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: our backyard evolution – the changes i didn’t tell you about and how the trees are doing after the 2017 massacre

I couldn’t paint it originally because of my partnership with Wood Naturally, but once that contract expired I painted it the same color as our house trim which I loved (and we took all the stuff out because everything got ruined so only really stocked it full of stuff if we were having a birthday party). I still have those “H’ flags that we had custom-made out of Sunbrella fabric (as you do). Then we moved to the mountain house full time (and put this house up for sale, which was such an odd time of life, during Covid and taking this huge leap, leaving LA permanently).

The Mountain House Upper Deck

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: mountain house upper deck reveal

I LOVED how this deck turned out and it still looks almost identical to how we styled it (we planted the Japanese maples in the yard as we wouldn’t have watered them up here enough). This was in partnership with Sunbrella and Blu Dot – that furniture is still so rad. It’s really comfortable, super high quality, and I love the mixed finishes.

While we rarely sat up here (down below is just so nice, plus it’s easier as it’s near the kitchen). But when I do sit up here it’s really wonderful and I’m happy to report that everything is still in pristine condition.

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: mountain house upper deck reveal
photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: mountain house upper deck reveal
photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: mountain house upper deck reveal

This was the summer we put down turf after a year of our then-new pups tearing up our bark yard:) I’m so glad we still have this house and we still go at least 2-3 times a year.

Our Farmhouse

Now this house has so much outdoor space, it’s a real embarrassment of riches and we are so grateful. As I’ve mentioned before, I have long-term plans to rent it out as a retreat space for wellness/design retreats (that I’d run), as well as for family reunions, small weddings or events, or corporate retreats or even just multiple families who want to have a “farm” vacation with little kids. This wouldn’t be til after the kids graduate from high school so we basically have 10 years to finish the entire property which sounds about right. So I started with the kitchen patio because it was a partnership with Sunbrella that had a pretty tight deadline.

The Farmhouse Kitchen Patio

photo by kaitlin green | from: farmhouse back patio reveal

I really like this, but admittedly it could pop more. I feel like the pretty herringbone brick gets lost in these photos and doesn’t have the impact that it does in person. And the slatted wood gets a little too mixed with the herringbone brick. We don’t sit here very often mostly because sitting under the tree in the backyard is just nicer (and we don’t have the umbrella here all the time so it’s either rainy or too sunny). It’s shady here in the evening so we’ll see this summer where we gravitate. I chose the wood and metal because I liked the casual bistro vibe and it would be easy to fold up in the winter (and it was available at the time that I had to order and shoot, and allowed me to use Sunbrella as the cushions). I suppose that maybe had I chosen something more comfortable and more substantial I think we might sit here more often? But mostly it is because the kids are usually playing on the sports court or near the pool so it’s nice to be back there with them.

photo by kaitlin green | from: farmhouse back patio reveal

I think it also just needs more color? More graphic or bold plants?? Again, in person, I wouldn’t really change much but this is making me miss my Los Feliz Patio:) I do like that these can stay out year-round and fold up easily for when we need more seating in the back (which we have a lot).

The Farmhouse Front Porch: Round One

photo by kaitlin green | from: farmhouse front porch reveal

The front porch is also in the calmer vein and I’ve added a lot bigger plants since we shot this.

photo by kaitlin green | from: farmhouse front porch reveal

The vibe here is super sweet and casual, in hopefully a Scandi farmhouse way:)

photo by kaitlin green | from: farmhouse front porch reveal

The Farmhouse Front Porch: Round Two

photo by kaitlin green | from: a fun fast post about sweet new spring decor

I recently took off the white Sunbrella cushion to expose the wood and I honestly am not sure what way I like it more.

The OG Portland Project

photo by sara liggoria-tramp | from: two reveals, one post: the portland outdoor living spaces and a lot of styling tips

Cheers to whoever remembers this project. The OG Portland flip that I did with my brother and the same contractor, JP, had two huge outdoor spaces (upper deck and lower patio shown here). I believe we worked with Article on this for the most part and it turned out so functional and classic.

photo by sara liggoria-tramp | from: two reveals, one post: the portland outdoor living spaces and a lot of styling tips

The tile is from Cle, in a really fun Moroccan pattern which I felt worked even though the house was more traditional.

photo by sara liggoria-tramp | from: two reveals, one post: the portland outdoor living spaces and a lot of styling tips
photo by sara liggoria-tramp | from: two reveals, one post: the portland outdoor living spaces and a lot of styling tips
photo by sara liggoria-tramp | from: two reveals, one post: the portland outdoor living spaces and a lot of styling tips

The upper deck had two matching sofas as well, with double coffee tables (I guess that could be a hack if you can’t find one big enough?) and a cute little dining area off the kitchen.

photo by sara liggoria-tramp | from: two reveals, one post: the portland outdoor living spaces and a lot of styling tips

Back To The Farmhouse

The most recent outdoor space we did was the pool area at our house and of course, our back porch (that we revealed a couple of weeks ago).

photo by kaitlin green | from: farmhouse soake pool reveal

My goodness I love that vibe and it’s grown in so much more now (both good and bad, we have a crazy clover situation that is taking over!). Kaitlin really captured the vibe. And if you are wondering if we still use that Soake pool, the answer is ALL THE TIME. During winter it was a hot tub and the kids played after school with their friends even in the rain. And now it’s cooled down to be in the 70s and is super refreshing when it’s hot out. Big fan.

photo by kaitlin green | from: farmhouse soake pool reveal

I love how this pool area turned out (and it was just in two magazines – Thank you Better Homes and Gardens and Country Living!). The Neighbor chaise lounges are so pretty, and we use this area so much so there are really no improvements needed here (but I might move the Adirondack chairs somewhere else, we’ll see).

The Farmhouse Back Porch

photo by kaitlin green | from: farmhouse back deck reveal

I clearly have a color palette 🙂 White, blue wood, pink (copper), and green – all day every day! Article sponsored this porch and we’ve used it a lot since we finished. I even napped during the day out here a couple of Saturdays ago (very unlike me, but man it was nice).

photo by kaitlin green | from: farmhouse back deck reveal

We’ve started eating out here most nights, playing games, or me just reading magazines. If you are looking for even more inspiration check out Emily Bowser’s backyard, The Bay House deck, and Jess’ communal apartment patio makeover. If you have a small patio (more like a balcony) Jess and Caitlin both redid theirs and they are super cute.

My List of Best/My Favorite Outdoor Furniture Stores That Are Relatively Fast, Not Crazy Expensive, But Not Super Cheap:

Article – While they might be lower on stock this time of year (due to demand) they can usually come within a couple weeks and the quality and style is excellent. Super long-lasting, easy to work with other styles, etc. Big Fan. You can even opt to pay more to have them put everything together and take the boxes with you (DO IT).

Wayfair + AllModern – A huge variety, also comes super fast, and between the two they have a TON. We just ordered a lot from AllModern for the pool area refresh and it all is arriving in under two weeks and it’s looking GOOOOOOD.

Pottery Barn, West Elm, CB2, Crate & Barrel – I hate to lump them all, but they are all GREAT and have so many different styles so I feel like it’s very specific to your style. Now I’m not sure if they can deliver in under 2 weeks so definitely check that.

Ikea and Target – for the most affordable but still really good these two rule, always. Amazon has some good stuff, obviously, but you are weeding through a lot.

For splurgier, I like Neighbor, Business & Pleasure, Room & Board, and Blu Dot – all so awesome, and I’ve been known to order from Frontgate and Ballard Designs for the more traditional styles. Terrain and Anthropologie have more stylish and splurgy pieces as well that I love. Lulu and Georgia never disappoints (and Sara Sherman Samuel’s newest collection looks dope).

I know I probably just named every major retailer, but if you needed a place to start you should be good to go 🙂

Opening Image Credits: Photo by Zeke Reulas | From: Giving New Life To Our Old Wood Deck

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1 month ago

I still love America’s patio. So perfect.
Have you thought about painting the steps of the kitchen patio? Perhaps even a tile print? The plain concrete (I remember and understand why you did that) brings the brick down and a clearer colour separation might make the brick pop more. I also think you’re missing plants. Something bigger in the corner otherwise the black and white umbrella gets lost in the siding. But I also like that you’re being honest in the styling because obviously you could bring in an outdoor rug and more small plants etc but you couldn’t keep it that way except for a shoot.

I remember the tree cutting and I had a visceral reaction reading that post again. So many sad stories in the comments!

1 month ago

Great post, and I loved revisiting all of your beautifully designed spaces! I want to add an additional resource: Polywood. We got a sectional and round coffee table for our porch, and four sturdy Adirondacks for our patio firepit, that are very well made, and their service is very good as well. Their website currently says that their quick-ship styles ship in 5-7 days, and delivery is free. The quality is very good and sturdy: we leave our furniture outside year-round.

1 month ago

So many beautiful spaces! I think my favorite might be the upper deck at the mountain house – such a gorgeous mix of textures and shapes (and trees!).

1 month ago

What a fun walk down memory lane! I remember ALL of these. And the kids have grown so much. 😥 I love hearing your insights and your thoughts now as you look back. Great post. Thanks Emily!

1 month ago

I enjoyed this post. Loved all of your outdoor spaces. I have a slightly different style so I lean more into border pieces and supporting pieces a opposed to keeping everything the same scale or color. It would make sense to add a background or bold greenery in some areas. I would add evergreens or more greenery as a backdrop to your table in the kitchen patio. Evergreens would break up the elevation of the building and would frame the patio visually. It would seem less hard and not as overwhelming as a big bare wall. A vine would have the same effect You can do this with deciduous plants too but then you will need repetition in terms of color, height etc. Evergreens or vines add structure all year round so may be easier to do. I think the American patio has much more differentiation between the brick and tile so it was less of a challenge. There’s no right answer, everyone enjoys something else.

1 month ago

Just a note of gratitude for sharing your Mountain house turf process way back when, which was a huge inspiration. I thought that turf was a Palm Dessert vibe and would never work with our Portland yard that looks into the forest, but after seeing it at the mountain house we took the plunge and LOVE the outcome. Thank you for the inspiration and guidance on this project!

1 month ago

This was a fun walk down memory lane 🙂 And also, beautiful inspiration. Thanks for the round up!

1 month ago

I am disturbed by the lovely, restful, simply gorgeous places that you don’t use for whatever reason. I have a small screened porch with furniture from BIG LOTS that I use constantly! Would love to have the funds to have nicer more comfortable pieces.

Sue Sue
1 month ago

Loved this post so much. Brings back so many wonderful memories for Sue Sue. Can’t pick a favorite as each one is so unique & fabulous. You amaze me, Emily!❤️

1 month ago

Loved this post, thank you!

1 month ago

Well that was fun, thank you for taking us down memory lane with you. It’s crazy to think I’ve been following for so long, I remember all those outdoor spaces! As someone who lives in California, we also spend tons of time outside, so its important to have comfortable couches, dining area, etc but also know that over time the heat/weather will beat it up (we also are not ‘cover furniture’ people). And loved seeing your kiddos grow up in each of those homes, its funny to think that all those moves brought you back home to the perfect space for your family.

1 month ago

World Market is another great source for affordable outdoor furniture! I bought a substantial wood outdoor dining table and metal outdoor dining chairs there that are now in their 7th year of use (also here in the PNW, but I keep them covered/stored during the rainy season). Also, Ballard Designs has a huge selection of ready-made outdoor cushions in a variety of shapes, sizes, and patterns. I found cushions there in a classic black and white Canopy stripe (Sunbrella fabric!) to dress up my World Market chairs. Oh and one more product plug – I have recommended the “Vivere Double Hammock with Space Saving Steel Stand” (what a mouthful!) to almost everyone I know. It’s super affordable, and it’s perfect if you don’t have a ton of space. Mine has held up to pretty heavy use for the last 7 summers (again, I keep it stored during rainy weather).