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Ajai Gave Her Parent’s Patio A Major Facelift Just In Time For Thanksgiving (And Her Due Date)

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Who else has been stressed and anxious lately? I know I sure have. With the pressures of a pandemic, pregnancy, and election, I’ve been feeling on edge, which has left me really anticipating the holidays. For me, the holiday season is a beacon of hope. The holidays incite cheer and most importantly, quality time spent with family.  

A quick recap; we moved back to California after selling our Georgia home. This entailed us moving in with my parents to save on rent, but the deal was that my husband and I offer a helping hand with updating my parent’s home. We’ve already updated their living room, and now have completed the patio area so that we can host Thanksgiving strictly outside this year. 

For Thanksgiving, my family and I typically try to use all the spaces we can to host family members. This means aunts, uncles, and cousins coming together in the dining room, living room, kitchen, and outside area – gathering around any and every table we can – California-style (the weather usually allows us to hang out in the front and backyards). 

But this year, due to COVID, we’ll only be eating outside, as we feel this will be a safe way for us to gather. However, when we came to the realization that we’d be spending our Thanksgiving outside, we knew we had to whip it into gear with getting the patio ready for such a thing. Especially with my due date being Thanksgiving day. I know. What timing.

Did I mention I’m one of five children? Well, with that said, I should also mention I’ve only had the chance to see my siblings a few times since I’ve been home. Everyone in my family has been very sweet about not crowding me during such a timid and vulnerable time in my life – pregnancy during a pandemic. I’ve seen my youngest brother one time, and he hasn’t been back around since I freaked out after he hugged me from behind (without a mask). He is also an EMT and always dealing with sick people… so you can probably imagine why I freaked out when this happened. I should also mention that I’m asthmatic and have been dealing with lung issues during my pregnancy – back and forth to the ER for breathing issues (to further provide you insight as to why I went crazy during the no-mask-sneak-attack-hug). I think I may have scared my little brother a bit, so he hasn’t been back over to my parent’s house since. 

My older sister (second to oldest) has been over once, she has a couple kiddos of her own, so she’s been playing it safe and staying home). My older brother gets the award for being the most cautious around me. He only waves to me from afar when I see him, and always talks to me through some sort of blockade (i.e. the car window, the house security system, window, or house door). Now my older sister is the one I communicate with the most. Her and I facetime, DM, text, Marco Polo, you name it! I believe she gets the most frustrated behind my pregnancy paranoia. Lately, she’s been making comments like, “I guess I’ll just see your new apartment when I read about it on the blogs,” and asking questions like “will I be meeting baby Jack via Instagram?” Nicole, if you are reading this, I miss you too. My older sister has been dropping sweet hints that she doesn’t want me to be afraid of the world right now, just because I’m pregnant. She really wanted me to have a baby shower, but I refused because I didn’t want people bombarding me and trying to rub my belly. All that to say, I haven’t seen her much since I’ve moved back to Los Angeles. My dad and mom have done their best to protect me during this pregnancy thus, we are not having all of our cousins, uncles, aunts, and friends over this year to celebrate. For the few people attending the gathering, they’ve been gracious enough to agree to get tested for COVID a few days before the gathering, and have even gone as far as getting the TDAP to keep baby Jack safe from whooping cough when he arrives. I’m pretty excited to see everyone. 

The patio had been an area where items like toys, bikes, easels, and furniture had been housed (things my siblings left when they all moved out, and decided to use this area as their own personal storage). The concrete on the patio was red, and had never really been updated since my parents purchased the home from my dad’s late uncle. So my husband, dad, mom, and myself went to work on it! We emptied out the patio and made tons of donations.

The toughest part about this update was the work we did with the concrete, there was so much ground we needed to cover (pun intended). The concrete was originally red and peeling. There were also various cracks throughout. The red color really wasn’t pleasing to the eye, and did not work at all with the new vision we had in mind for the space. We wanted to keep a neutral theme going, as the outside paint color of my parent’s home is a light beige. We also wanted to lean more into a minimal look here – my mom was tired of having stuff clutter the patio over the years and was really looking forward to an open space where she could actually see the ground. We filled in the cracks then primed the concrete with an all-surface primer. Afterwards, we painted the concrete with a granite grip (this took two layers of paint). 

Once the concrete was complete, my mom ordered a new gazebo with a canopy to cover the view of the neighbor’s house (these homes were built a tad bit strange, where you don’t get much privacy in the backyard). Plus on chiller nights it will keep us a little warmer. During COVID, we all need to take advantage of every available space for as long as possible. Ok, back to the process. We even painted the exterior wall the color Aspen – to lighten the area and have it coincide with the outside of the house.

To further create consistency in the color palette, we got rid of the current eye-sore we call the garage door, and my mom and dad updated and customized a new garage door, replacing the outdated and broken brown one with a bright white functioning door. The garage is my dad’s working area (where he builds things like stools and desk tables).

Which brings me to how wonky the layout of the patio area is. The patio area is in between a five-car driveway and the garage, so we’ve never parked cars in the garage because of this layout. We’ve always preferred utilizing the patio space for family gatherings, rather than blocking it with cars. The new garage slides up in sections instead of letting out and lifting straight up, so we don’t have to worry about knocking over the gazebo. Updating the garage door led to repairing the gutters over the garage as well. A lot of great and needed updates.

We gave ourselves plenty of time to prepare for Thanksgiving, as we had a good idea that we’d need this area to host comfortably (given the current situation with COVID). We considered the fact that everyone who typically joined our thanksgiving celebration would not be in attendance this year, so only minimal seating was required to host immediate family. 

I’ve always dreamt of the perfect outside get together and table-scape. In this dream, there are plenty of candles, whimsical florals, and warm golden tones. I imagine a wood table that seats plenty of people gathered around and market lights strung over us. My dad is more on the modern side, and my mother is really working towards minimalism, so the furniture from Article really helped to create a balance between all three of our ideal outside spaces. The Atica table from Article is like a good partner: sturdy, reliable, and a bonus, it’s gorgeous. It’s made from solid Acacia wood. It’s definitely ready to hold an Olympus-worthy feast, or a simple coffee date. Now the chairs were a personal favorite of my mother’s. The Caya chair is seriously light. It is built from steel and powder-coated, and if you ask me, it brings considered elegance to the patio space.

I was able to incorporate the whimsical feel I’d hoped for with the floral arrangement, large vase, and small vase used to set the table. The warmth I so desired was brought in with the champagne and gold flatware sets (spoons, forks, and knives).

Hot Tip

Mix and match flatware sets to make a more visually interesting tablescape.

I also loved adding warmth by mixing in the new pillar candle holders and the vintage taper holders with tapers I’ve collected through the years. My dad appreciates the modern feel of the dinnerware set we selected (cups, bowls, and plates), and is a big fan of how light and airy the table runner and linen napkins are.

The rest of our family will be joining our Thanksgiving celebration via Zoom this year. We’ve all decided to keep the gathering to the immediate family members, and eat at our homes while tuning in for a dinner prayer, meal, and a few toasts. My cousin Ariel is the queen of facilitating and creating games to bring everyone together, and she’s got some really fun activities planned for us during our Zoom meal. I’m thinking I’ll grab Jenga and the werewolf game for the immediate family to play (if you haven’t played werewolf yet, you must partake – it’s a real hoot!). We are all doing our best to make this year’s dinner a fun one. 

This year also looks a little different as we are celebrating earlier than usual. Baby Jack is due on Thanksgiving, and I definitely don’t want to risk not being able to have a plate of my mom’s infamous macaroni and cheese or cornbread before I go into labor (that would be a real tragedy – as I’m sure my siblings would eat it all and I’d never get the chance to have some). This brings me to my next concern – not being able to partake in my mother-in-law’s potatoes (I call them Tonya’s Taters). These potatoes are simply the best carb I’ve ever eaten. Every bite is filled with herbs, spices, onions, buttery potatoes, with the occasional bite of sausage. It is truly a hygge dish if you ask me (must be her Scandinavian roots at play). In summary, the dish is so good I have literally given her the nickname Momma Taters.

With our economy’s current state, I reiterate the importance for us to gather around the table and spend time with our loved ones. I’m very grateful as to how my family has gathered around me to uplift and support me during such a sensitive time, a lot of this support has consisted of meals and cooking for me. My husband has stepped up in a huge way, constantly preparing meals during my pregnancy and checking in on me and the baby. When we lived with my parents, we spent a fair amount of time gathered around the dinner table. Instead of remaining anxious and stressed about what is taking place in the world currently, I’d like to spend this Thanksgiving focusing on setting the table, gathering around, and gratitude.

I photographed this tablescape on a really windy day, getting whipped by gazebo fabric throughout the entire shoot and constantly relighting candles because of angry winds, but I needed to get it done ASAP as Jack could come at any minute! I did love creating this, and my mom is still swooning over the setup. Creating this space filled me with joy and already has me looking forward to the next Thanksgiving when we get to share these special moments with our son. Though these tablescapes could eventually be replaced by birthday decorations and kid-themed decor (such a scary thought).

Design and Photos by Ajai Guyot

Fin Mark

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T

This is beautiful….BUT how are you going to talk about those potatoes like that and not give us a recipe? Please ask Momma Taters to share the earth.

T

*wealth

Hahaha I wish I had the recipe, she’s been holding out on us all! I’m doing my best to get it out of her, and maybe can do a recipe share at some point. 🙂

Siel

I really love your writing and your style. You’re such as good addition to the team.

Thank you, I appreciate that and love sharing with you. Happy holidays to you! 🙂

Jessica

Wow now I feel super grateful that all my friends are the same level of paranoid as myself, and I don’t live near family – my equally-paranoid mom has cancelled Thanksgiving, my less-paranoid in-laws are accepting that we’re probably not visiting again until next summer.

The makeover creates such a wonderful resource for your family! I love that it’s not overdone, and let’s the food and the people be the stars of the show <3

My only concern would be the large vases blocking y’alls views of each other… I saw somewhere a designer who uses single flowers dotted around the table to create a transparent, meadow-like feel, which I suspect is a concept you would execute really beautifully!

I hope your family stays well and you have a nice easy (relatively) birth!!

Thank you, I appreciate that. 🙂

Also, I’m thinking of sitting in the middle and putting my younger brother across from me (using the centerpieces to block me) that way he doesn’t get any ideas about hugging and kissing me during dinner haha…

Jessica

Hahaha amazing

Sahaja

I’m so glad you’ve found a way to safely see family this Thanksgiving before Jack is born. What a gift. As it gets colder on the east coast, it’s been harder to do that.

I love hearing your entries on this blog. That floor was a labor of love, for sure ( aside from ur upcoming labor haha). I like how airy the chairs are.

Thank you so much. Yes, these are tough times. We are constantly doing our best to think of ways to be celebratory yet safe. Happy holidays to you friend. 🙂

Lori

That looks gorgeous! You didn’t happen to win a bunch of those brass taper candle holders at an EBTH auction recently, did you? A bunch are dead ringers for a set I was outbid on!

Thank you so much! It wasn’t me that outbid you haha. I antiqued the majority of my taper candle holders from places in Georgia 🙂

Kcat

Congratulations on getting this accomplished before the baby arrive—I feel for all the pregnant women dealing with this pandemic.

What’s the werewolf game? There are quite a few games with werewolf in the title.

Alice

I just have to say that anyone who would put their feelings above you and your baby’s health and safety is not anyone you should feel bad about avoiding.

Rusty

Aaah, so calm and peaceful looking.

I love those chairs!!! And the xandle holders!

I have red concrete (faded) but it’s not painted or peeling coz it’s stained instead, but… I kinda like it, since the house is nearly 100 and has a new, rsd, colourbond roof with red brick facy detailing.

Wishing you a healthy, short labour and lots of love to welcome little Jack! x

Jules

Love the makeover! I love seeing these more accessible makeovers on the blog, bravo.

Also wanted to chime in and say I’m sorry you’re dealing with pressure from others about your COVID boundaries – we’re there and it sucks! I had a baby in May, and have a 5-year-old with medical conditions that put her at a higher risk for complications, so we’ve been pretty strict – no one has held the baby without a strict 2-week quarantine, no indoor visits with family, maintaining distance at outdoor visits, etc. It’s really, really, really frustrating to get pushback from family and friends about our boundaries, so I feel you. As if I WANT to be in this position of having to hide away my totally adorable 6-month-old from the world! Hang in there mama, you’re doing a great job protecting your family. I also made everyone get TDAP shots when my daughter was born 🙂

Katie J.

THANK YOU and Emily for sharing content that actually helps us in the reality of the current state of Covid AND is also relevant to your blog and our interests (instead of pretending things are totally normal out there). It’s appreciated. Good luck and best wishes on your delivery.

Caitlin

I love everything about this post! I am also one of five and dealing with my less cautious siblings…not fun! I really love how you cater your design work so much to your client’s (in this case parents) style. It’s thoughtful and lovely. Wishing you a wonderful holiday and sending love to your expanding family.

Dani

The thanksgiving gazebo outside is SUCH a good idea! Might be stealing that one for my own family’s get together 🙂

Also this post made me very hungry

Patricia

Love it. We’re planning an all Zoom thanksgiving (day after actually) when we can all get together. We have several vulnerable family members.
Side note: my husband was born late on Thanksgiving day. His young first time mother ate a gigantic meal, was still hungry (eating for two!) and ate a whole pumpkin pie. She thought she’d just eaten too much when her water broke and she gave birth. The baby was called “Pumpkin” for the first couple years.

Roberta Davis

What a tough time of year- pandemic holidays. This will be a great space for your holiday dinner and you have taken all the precautions. I know it’s hard to say no to family- I have done it and it feels awful. I hope all goes well for your holiday dinner and also your delivery!

Sarah T

Am always in awe at your ability to create calm and elegance in a room and hoping your current apartment is providing that calm. You’re so lucky to be part of a large loving family and it sounds really challenging to have to enforce distance when of course you all want to be near during joy and difficulties. We readers are also happy for you and pulling for you in these last weeks, Ajai! Can’t wait for the announcement that little Jack is here 🙂

Emily K

Hi Ajai,

I love reading your writing and your experience! I hope you have a smooth delivery. I am due a few days after Thanksgiving (Dec. 1) so we have also decided to just do a small Thanksgiving gathering – myself, my husband and our toddler. 🙂 (we don’t have family in town). It will not be the same as Thanksgivings past but we agreed it is probably the best call! Thinking of you as your due date approaches.

LM

I have also been incredibly careful and cautious with COVID, and Thanksgiving and Christmas are my favorite holidays of the year. It’s so hard to say no to family members for family gatherings! Some of my relatives are hurt and insulted about our decision to skip gatherings this year, but I just don’t think family members know how hard it is to say no!!! As if I didn’t want to gather?!

Anyway, this patio update is absolutely gorgeous, Ajai–I love the Article chairs, and the floor looks amazing. What a relaxing space!! 🙂 You are inspiring me to help my parents with their house updates once all this COVID madness is over.

Also, like others in the comments have mentioned…I’m craving those Momma Taters potatoes now!!

Brenda

I love how you were able to complete transform the space. Thoughtful and elegant design!

Kali Bracey

How do people feel about mixing silver and gold? My China and stainless set is silver but I love the champagne colors in the flatware shown and it is so economical!

Alexandra

I love what you did with the space, paint goes such a long way. I love the colors of the table setting and the table itself. But those chairs don’t look exactly comfy …. do you have cushions that were only taken off to not disturb the photo? Or perhaps they feel better to sit on than they look like? Thank you! Best wishes for the birth and your growing family.

j.

Ajai, I love reading your writing so much and this post really filled me with such calm and joy. I loved every minute of it, and cannot imagine how stressful and scary it has been to go through this pandemic pregnant (as it has been for so many who have brought or will be bringing little ones into the world!) I love your creativity and ability to create something so beautiful, sentimental, and functional while also sharing so openly and vulnerably. Sending big hugs and hopes for a speedy, easy delivery and can’t wait to welcome Baby Jack to the world! xx

maureen

Great makeover! the Aspen paint really made a difference. Beautiful table, the canopy with lights, the chairs! Awesome!

Shirley Goff

I would like to know more about the gazebo. Thanks.

PK

This looks so beautiful Ajai! I can relate to your paranoia filled pregnancy as I was riddled with anxiety through mine. Wishing you a safe labor and a wonderful Thanksgiving with your family. We need both the Mac and cheese and potatoes recipe!

Susana

Please don’t call your behavior “paranoid”. Paranoia is an unreasonable fear but COVID is a very real threat.
The patio is truly beautiful but the table doesn’t allow for enough social distancing to keep everyone safe.
I don’t mean to preach. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and I’m sad we’ll have to forgo our family celebration this year. But the pandemic is raging and we can’t afford to be casual about the recommended precautions

A.B.

Looks great! Would you consider adding a rug? Since its temporary (because you may need car space) you could even take one from inside just for the day. Best wishes on your delivery. A baby’s arrival is truly the most exciting thing to experience.

Stacey

May your labor be short and sweet! This is a beautiful way to honor family and share the love when the world is nuts. The silver lining to all of this is we are realizing what is really important…caring for one another and time together, not “busyness” and stuff. I also want to thank you for making beauty in a modest space. Those of us with less than palatial dimensions appreciate it!

meredith

This post resonated with me so much. Thank you for being vulnerable and honest about how you’re feeling. Love the beautiful outdoor space and hoping for a safe and healthy delivery for you and sweet baby Jack!

MJ

This looks amazing! It’s such a good example of how to adapt and rethink the home areas we already have, but aren’t being used to the best potential, or maybe a different function than usual. Bravo!

Wow! who wouldn’t enjoy this beautiful setting right?
The transformation looks amazing! The area is perfect for every ocassion. From the colours to the furniture. I super love the tablescape and everything that comes along with it.
Ava | HIREtrades

Wow! who wouldn’t enjoy this beautiful setting right?
The transformation looks amazing! The area is perfect for every ocassion. From the colours to the furniture. I super love the tablescape and everything that comes along with it.

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