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Two Reveals, One Post: The Portland Outdoor Living Spaces and A Lot of Styling Tips

You might be thinking “wait, there’s still more to the Portland Project to reveal?” Well…yes. It was a BIG house (it was three stories, after all), and by the time we rolled out the interior spaces, it was the dead of winter and it didn’t feel timely to post about lush outdoor spaces when everyone was waist-deep in polar vortex snow.

So here we are, several months later, with the very last of the spaces—the upper deck and lower patio —to show you.

The hub of the big open house party we did last year, the bottom deck steps down into the full yard, and with all doors open, feels like it’s just an extension of the media room (which was the intention all along…the design team wanted to create a very indoor-outdoor vibe here). But we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves. Let’s actually start top to bottom and walk you through the upstairs deck, first.


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Just off the French doors of the family room is this covered patio, which started out MUCH smaller and far less functional:

Emily Henderson Portland Fixer Upper Traditional Before Photos Backyard 01 Edited With Copy

You can see it up there in the “before” shot of the property. It was really just a small elevated deck with no covering (so, in Portland, with all the rain, probably usable 25% of calendar days, ha). The first order of business was to extend the area and cover it up.

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For context, here is the full back exterior shot where you can see both the upper and lower decks. The third floor add-on provided the covering and ceiling we wanted for the upper deck, which was pushed out to create room for an outdoor living room and extended left and right for more “zones” like dining and entertaining. Don’t mind the baby plants – they are already way more grown in.

What was a patch of mulch essentially became the lower patio, and a staircase had to go in to connect both those spaces (with the landing serving as a great open spot for a grill).

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As Californians (Emily from Oregon) this exterior area is kinda a dream because it has BEAUTIFUL views of the trees with two snowy and important mountains in the distance. You have privacy and yet it feels really open. Maybe this happens more often in Portland but to all of us it feels very covetable. The focal point up here is this awesome two-way gas fireplace by Montigo, which we clad in gray Clé tile (the same as the flooring in the front porch). It’s “see-through” and Em loved it so much she also is using it in the mountain house in the master bedroom.

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The other side, as you might remember, is in the family room (above) and it pumps hot air to the outside which is perfect for the chilly Portland winters. It’s WONDERFUL and Emily highly recommends it. It turns on with a light switch and if you have it on full blast it can be loud (but so warm) so at both houses we have it on around 20% and its perfect.

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Here’s a tip for anyone looking to create a kick-butt outdoor room that we used here: find (or create) your focal point (whether a fireplace like the one in this house, your sliding glass doors, a water feature…whatever you have), and build your room from there.

This helps to establish “zones” (tip #2). Before running out and buying furniture and accessories, map out what “zones” you want to create – this would likely be conversation areas or dining/drinking.

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Here, we knew we wanted a big conversation area and plenty of lounging (this house was designed and built with a larger family in mind, so this was key), and a spot for dining and entertaining. (The upstairs area would function mostly for everyday use since it’s attached to indoor living areas and the kitchen, while downstairs would likely work best for larger parties.)

Also the windows cranked all the way open so you could hand food outside to the dining table.

We could have gone with a large, super deep coffee tables between the wicker Article sofas, but we made these two tables work, and they can obviously be separated (these are from Target).  Those sofas are extremely comfortable, were the perfect scale for out here and the vibe of ‘modern traditional’ that we were going for.

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The area to the left of the seating “zone” serves as our dining room, where we all sat for hours after the open house party last summer talking about our enneagrams, eating pizza and never wanting to leave, frankly. It’s important to remember your materials when you’re buying outdoor furniture, since it will wear far more quickly due to the elements than it would inside. This table from Article is made of raw teak, which is super durable and can stay out here uncovered. The chairs from City Home, however, aren’t recommended for constant outdoor use, so these would likely have to be stacked and stored when not in use.

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Another thing to remember is lighting. We worked with Rejuvenation throughout the whole house for hardwired lighting, including on the decks. These cage lights are equal parts interesting and unobtrusive while the semi-flush fixtures lend an interior vibe that’s welcome in an outdoor room like this.

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We love the idea of bringing a bar cart outdoors and setting it up with either a smaller cocktail station or something more family-friendly like a pitcher of iced tea and lemonade. This prevents you from having to run back inside every time someone’s drink hits bottom. The one we used here was from Target’s Project62 summer collection from last year, and it’s sadly no longer available, but this one is very similar with the same big circle wheel detail.

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When not hosting an al fresco dinner, keep busy by delicately slicing fruit (preferable pears), of course.

Okay, ready to head downstairs now?

To avoid you having to scroll up to look at the before to compare what’s happening now as opposed to where it started, here it is again for ease of reading:

Emily Henderson Portland Fixer Upper Traditional Before Photos Backyard 01 Edited With Copy


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This whole area here (which spills out from the adjoining media room) didn’t exist, so it was basically carte blanche to do WHATEVER we wanted here, including bringing in a WOW moment with that medallion Clé tile and creating different levels for more usable zones.

Hot tip: With a traditional style tile like this, we love a border to help it look original. It also could have been way busy on the steps and looked messy without the black border.

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Because we didn’t have the fireplace as our focal point down here, we created a few different conversation areas working within the french doors. When you can, I love two facing sofas because they are great for symmetry and easy for conversation. We kept them in coordinating pieces, just in different colors than the upper deck to better contrast with the floors.

We also set up loungers (from Article), which really amp up the “staycation” vibes of the property.

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To the right side of the covered patio is another dining area:

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These chairs are honestly SO comfortable, and the synthetic wicker means they can stay out all the time, instead of dragging them inside or under cover every time you think it might rain. The upholstered cushion seat is also removable, so it’s super easy to throw in the wash.

The rest of the yard needed some tending to (we worked with the wonderful Monrovia on all the plantings, and as soon as they grow in, we’ll be doing a post on the garden here), and to create even more entertaining zones, we had to flatten out a lot of the land.

Emily Henderson Portland Fixer Upper Traditional Before Photos Backyard 02 Edited With Copy 01

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From the lower deck, we added walkways out to a fire pit with seating for 10, and the nearby shed is extra storage for all the yard tools and machines. Also: HOW CUTE IS THAT SHED????

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And finally, off in the distance of the above shot is the bocce ball court. We wanted to be sure the whole yard was usable space, both with activities as well as pretty plantings, flowers and enough flat grassy areas to run around.

And thus wraps up every. single. reveal of the Portland project. We know it’s been a LONG road, but we hope today’s post provided some inspiration for styling out your outdoor areas, no matter how big or small. Just remember some of the key tips we shared today: establish a focal point, create “zones” for conversation, dining and entertaining, layer in textiles to feel cozy and more like an interior space. Got it? Let us know if you have any questions, need any suggestions or more information about anything we talked about or showed you today.

Also, while the reveals are done,  Emily is writing an “all the ways we could have saved money” post about this project, assuming that is interesting to you. Let us know in the comments. 🙂

Emily Henderson Portland Project Upper Deck 01

1. Painted Stripe Pillow | 2. Blue Throw Pillow | 3. Outdoor Sconce by Rejuvenation | 4. Doors by Milgard | 5. Everyday Cotton Throw by Schoolhouse | 6. Wool Tweed Throw | 7. Calo Sofa by Article | 8. Jug Vase | 9. Oceans Wood Patio Coffee Table | 10. Semi-Flush Fixture by Rejuvenation | 11. Two-Tone Rope Rug by Annie Selke | 12. Grey Furrow Planter via Room and Board | 13. White Furrow Planter via Room and Board | 14. Belgian Reproduction Tile by Clé Tile | 15. Black Metal Tray (similar) | 16. Amber Glass (set of 4) | 17. Ceramic Pitcher | 18. Buffalo Check Napkin | 19. White Plates (set of 4) | 20. Cutting Board | 21. Pedestal Serve Bowl | 22. Bar Cart (similar) | 23. Fireplace by Montigo | 24. Poplar Basket with Handle | 25. Vase | 26. Marble Tray | 27. Small Outdoor Lantern (similar) | 28. Large Outdoor Lantern (similar) | 29. Stripe Napkin (set of 4) | 30. Graph Napkin | 31. Carafe | 32. Dip Bowls (set of 4) | 33. Pure Glass Vase | 34. Teaka Table by Article | 35. Metropolis Chair via City Home

Emily Henderson Portland Project Lower Deck

1. Tan Pillow Cover | 2. Multicolor Pillow Cover | 3. Blue Throw Pillow | 4. Everyday Cotton Throw by Schoolhouse | 5. Black Solid Square by Clé Tile | 6. London Apothecary Tile by Clé Tile | 7. Outdoor Sconce by Rejuvenation | 8. Doors by Milgard | 9. Outdoor Sofa by Article | 10. Oceans Wood Patio Coffee Table | 11. Live Edge Media Console | 12. Large Outdoor Lantern (similar) | 13. Small Outdoor Lantern (similar) | 14. Vase | 15. Grey Furrow Planter via Room and Board | 16. White Furrow Planter via Room and Board | 17. Trapeze Glassware (set of 4) | 18. Pure Glass Vase | 19. Blue Suits Dinner Napkin (set of 4) | 20. Tavola Table by Article | 21. Teaka Lounge Chair by Article | 22. Ora Basket Chair by Article

***Photography by Sara Tramp for EHD, design and styling by Emily Henderson and Brady Tolbert (and team). JP Macy of Sierra Custom Homes was the General Contractor, and Annie Usher the architect.

For more Portland Project Room Reveals: Living Room | Staircase | Office | Master Bedroom | Master Bathroom | Kitchen | Dining Room | Powder Bathroom | Guest Bathroom | Hall Bathroom | Laundry Room | Guest Bedrooms | Media Room | Family Room | Rompus RoomSecret Room

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5 years ago

I just love the style outdoor spaces. The Portland House is no exception. The fireplace is beautiful.

The stairwell and landing look very generous. What’s over there?

Loveley of
5 years ago

i absolutely love all of this! these are like dream outdoor spaces….#lotteryplans. thanks for sharing. everything was done so beautifully. the tile is all so good. the landscaping is awesome. what a difference between the before and afters. i can’t even say enough. i would love all of these furniture pieces, BUT, in michigan, there’s only so many months that the weather is good, so spending that kind of money on them wouldn’t make sense (at least on my budget-i’m sure there’s lots of people here that would pay for it), plus these would all need to be stored the rest of the year, and i just don’t have the garage space for that (especially since my garage is currently packed full of vintage furniture i’m selling or restoring). BUT, if #lotteryplans becomes a reality, i would totally do it. so many good ideas here though. THE ONLY thing i have to say that’s not spectacular feedback is: i hope you didn’t actually chop down any of the trees mentioned in the before pictures 🙁 i remember when you first posted your plans for this house last year, i wrote a LONG comment about how i don’t think people should… Read more »

5 years ago

I also hoped they’d leave them, but given all the lawn (also a problem—aren’t we supposed to be taking care of our home, the earth?), I don’t think they did.

5 years ago

I would be interested in a “money not saved” post! Less in a “here’s a way to do what we did on the cheap” and more in a nuts-and-bolts Oops mistakes-were-made here-is-my-process way. I think there was an earlier reference to Emily and her brother going back and forth about specific items/decisions—would love an in-depth look at this from Emily’s perspective as a (first-time?) flipper.

5 years ago

Love it! Just curious if there will be a post about what you learned from designing a house to sell, if you think it was worth it, and if you would do it again. I’m always interested in the behind the scenes from this type of things, and I don’t know if I always trust HGTV 🙂

5 years ago

Would love the how to save money on this house post!! It’s so interesting to see Emily work at different price points and how, even when you’re going luxe, you’re still constantly making decisions on where to save/spend. Plz plz plz to this post.

Also, these outdoor spaces are gorgeous!!

5 years ago

Can you share who installed the tile in the Portland area? I’m looking for someone to do this and was told the tile would crack in the freezing and thawing temps.

5 years ago

I love outdoor spaces so I was very happy to read through this post. I would like to know what decking material was used for the upper deck- because that’s more my speed that the tile. Again, the black terracotta tile from cle made my heart beat. I think I wrote this before (I’m sure you remember!), I would love to see a post on the finances of all this flip and how you would recommend to splurge or save if you or anyone tackles this kind of flip. Obviously, going into a high end neighborhood is not the typical flip- but in a sense, I’m doing this to my primary residence right now (should we move), and I’d love to know the finances of it!

Deanna Hunt
5 years ago
Reply to  lindsey

Yes I’d love to know the deck as well?

5 years ago

This is beautiful. Pushing two smaller tables together to create a larger tabletop is particularly appealing for outside. It is easier to adapt for different events and store. I would be incredibly interested in a post about how to trim costs and still achieve a similar look and impact.

As a side note, I really enjoyed yesterday’s post on Leanne’s Ford reveal but this one is just as lovely and also provides information that helps me learn from it and utilize ideas in my own home. I think these”why and how” posts are something that really elevates your entire blog.

5 years ago

Emily, I wonder if you can help me? I see in the mountain house you used quarter round only as base around your wood floored rooms. We are building a modern house in Hood River. I’ve told the builder I want no, to the most minimal moldings as possible. I’ve specified drywall return around windows and doorways. He was somewhat aghast when I asked for quarter round matching the wood flooring for the base. What do you think?

5 years ago
Reply to  Cheryl

Hi Cheryl, not Emily (obviously) but I wanted to share my thoughts as my husband and I just remodeled a our modern/ranch/farmhouse last summer. We did drywall returns in all the windows and I LOVE it. (The previous owners had oak frames/sills.) Also, you may be past this point, but we chose black windows instead of white and it looks amazing with the drywall returns. For our baseboards, we chose a thicker, squared top base that was 6″ tall with no quarter round. To us, this looked more modern (but not too trendy) and the floors/baseboards don’t look like they’re missing anything without the quarter round.

5 years ago

Really beautiful spaces. What a lucky family who will live there! I’m curious about why you didn’t create a screened in area for one of the spaces. I live in the Midwest and we wouldn’t be able to use our outdoor space for much of the summer after dusk if it wasn’t screened in–the mosquitoes are terrible. I assumed Oregon would have the same issues because of all the rain, but maybe it doesn’t?

5 years ago
Reply to  Kristin

The best thing about the PNW is the lack of bugs (the worst is all the rain)! Summer nights are clear and wonderful (and can be chilly! that outdoor fireplace = dream). Barring the odd moth, mosquitoes and flies generally aren’t an issue.

5 years ago

It’s all beautiful but, oh, please no cutting down trees. That’s just heartbreaking to read …

5 years ago

Would love a “how we could have saved money” post!

5 years ago

Out of curiosity, has this house sold yet or is it still sitting on the market?

I’m curious to know whether the money put into the house (which is fabulous!) ended up being worth the effort or whether it’s priced the house out of the local market.

If it hasn’t sold have you received feedback on why? I ask because it would be interesting to find out what sorts of renovations help or hinder a house sale and/or if some areas would have been better to scale back on to make it sell quicker etc

5 years ago
Reply to  Brooke

This! And whether the buyers also bought any of your furnishings/decor if/when they bought the house?

Monique Wright Interior Design
5 years ago
Reply to  Brooke

It sold after a few months and based on previous posts the new owners did buy a lot of the stuff but not all of it.

5 years ago

Thanks, I must not have paid enough attention 🙂

It would still be interesting to find out if Emily/team would have skipped some of the renovations they did or at least scaled back on them etc just for knowledge for anyone renovating that such and such was actually a deterrent for buyers or that the high end finishes in say, the laundry room, cost us money etc and that they could have scaled back on those.

5 years ago

Love it! What stain color did you use on the deck for the planks and what paint color for the railings?

5 years ago

This is beautiful! We are currently in the market for a shed. Did you buy it or have it built? Thanks!

5 years ago
Reply to  Sarah

I’d love to know this about the shed, too!

5 years ago

So cool! Thank you!

5 years ago

You can’t just say “cute shed” and then not tell us one single more thing about it! Too bad the shed is sold (along with the house I guess) because I’d love to see Emily and the gang tackle different ways of styling a shed… future post idea.
Oh, sure, the rest is very nice, but CUTE SHED!

Michelle S.
5 years ago

The Calo Salt Gray sofa has been discontinued. 🙁 Any other suggestions for a sofa that is similar? Thanks!

5 years ago

I love the tiles. But how do they hold up outdoors? I can’t tell from their website whether they are recommended for outdoors.

5 years ago

There are several large vases with stems. Are those dried plants, faux or live? What types do you use? Sources?

5 years ago

This. Is. Just. Awesome. So lovely, comfy and inviting! I always LOVE how you mix high and low price points. There’s always room for Target!! If I remember correctly, the house was sold right off the bat. What a lucky family!! Did they buy it furnished, or was it only available non-furnished? Congrats on such beautiful work!!

5 years ago
Reply to  Jane

wow this is so nice thank you thank you xx

5 years ago

The lower outdoor area certainly lends itself to a fabulous infinity type pool off the lower tiled area. How fabulous would that be?

5 years ago

This all looks so amazing, and I’m SO ready to move in! I’m curious though, if the Article outdoor furniture has been put to the EH test? I recall seeing that you guys had a partnership with them, and it’s already a challenge to shop for outdoor furniture, as much of it is only available online. We’re in the market for outdoor furniture suitable to Southern California coastal weather, and I’m loving all of the Article designs.

5 years ago

Yes! Please give us ideas/options on how to save money – always appreciated.

Rebekah North
5 years ago

Absolutely stunning and so much fun! I love the gray and black tile on the lower level. It is the perfect style to really make the place unforgettable.

5 years ago

Those tiles, wow! And the live edge table (I’m crying because Australian target doesn’t have these amazing things!) Everything is so cosy and lush, I just want to curl up on the lounge by the fire with a book & a glass of wine at twilight. Also, bocce court?! How cool is that?!

5 years ago

We will be building a lake house later this year so YES, please write a post on how you could have saved money on the Portland project. Your money saving options never cramp your amazing style!

Katie L
5 years ago

Has the house sold? It is stunning and I hope a family is now enjoying (and the mortgage is no longer on Emily’s Business!). I live in a Boston with brownstone living and love looking at such a big house. 🙂

5 years ago

This might be my favorite reveal of the portland house – LOVE what you did here!! Feeling inspired going into my own landscape overhaul this spring, so thank you!

Also would love to see a ‘how we could’ve saved money’ post!

Gina Stukes
5 years ago

This is beautiful!! Can you please tell us what is used on the ceilings of the outdoor spaces?

5 years ago

Every time you do a post on the Portland project, it has me thinking that the new owners are SO SO SO lucky!!!! It is pretty darn dreamy!!!

Roberta Davis
5 years ago

Lovely, lovely, perfect! And you must be the best salesperson on earth because most links that I look at are sold out, much of the time! I like that you worked with Rejuvenation, a local company. This house really went from that drab generic northwest style to farmhouse wow. I’m imagining a view of Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helen’s- which I saw recently from my mother-in-law’s retirement home in Battleground, WA. You are a genius, Emily!

5 years ago

This is beautiful! I can’t believe you figured out a way to make rainy Portland feel a little more California.
I would live a post about the Portland project that diga I go the nitty-gritty details of the flip. Was it worth it financially? Did it sell? If so, did the buyers want the furniture? So many questions!!

5 years ago

Absolute dream house. I have not tired of these posts and I will miss them : (

Paula Carr
5 years ago

I love this house so much, but what you’ve done with the outside spaces is what makes it really livable. Great improvement from what was rather depressing and sad-looking before.

5 years ago

Beautiful, luxurious spaces! YES to the “all the ways we could have saved money” post, please 🙂

5 years ago

OMG! So pretty. Can you share the house color/paint? Are the trim and siding different shades? I love the look with the dark doors and white house. And then with the brass fixtures – to die for!
Thank you!

5 years ago

Crew, this is SO GORGEOUS! Absolutely everything you did feels so thought out and makes me want to move in immediately. Stunning. And how you maximized beauty and functionality in the backyard ?? Those trees. Wow to have a view of those beauties from your porch(es!) what a treat.

Q: what’s the material for the ceiling of the porches?

And YES YES YES TO ANY financial posts you want to do in this project including :
– where to save
– real costs vs estimated costs
– energy/planning output vs money made

Thanks and again bravo!

5 years ago

Yes, please, to all of it. I have enjoyed every Portland House post but these outdoor spaces are my favorite.