I’ve never really been an outdoor person. I mean, I enjoy being outside, but I don’t CRAVE it. Recently, though, I’ve been getting a little cabin fever. The temperature here in Pasadena is going up, and the possibility of a weekend beach trip is still far away. So a few weeks ago I decided I needed to enjoy my own outdoor spaces (mainly my backyard).
Here a quick video of me talking about the whole process (just wait for the ad to play first)…
Our front yard is decently cute, and my mom and I have spent a lot of time fixing it up. But it’s less than ideal to layout in as little clothing as possible slurping margs in the front yard where everyone can see you. The whole point of having a backyard is so you can have a private outdoor space (in my opinion). But my backyard is really just . . . a whole lotta cement.
First, let me get all the disclaimers out of the way for the people who are about to yell “YOU’RE LUCKY TO EVEN HAVE A BACKYARD!” Yes, I am very lucky. It’s a decently big backyard too! And one day I really hope that it will be beautiful, awesome, and given the attention and love it deserves.
Here’s how it looked when we bought our house:
It was mostly just cement and weeds. Along with the addition of my boyfriend’s vintage (old) BMW he refuses to get rid of. Even though he couldn’t drive it to work because of the distance, doesn’t have it insured so he actually can’t drive it at all, and has to keep it plugged into a power source almost all the time, otherwise the battery dies. It’s a whole thing. But he loves the car, and I love him. The point is, our backyard wasn’t really a space you wanted to hang out in. And for a lot of the last year it was literally a trash dump, during our renovation.
I’m lucky enough to have some outdoor space, so I wasn’t going to waste it, even if I didn’t have budget to jackhammer out all the cement and landscape the whole thing. So, I started thinking about what it’d need, bare minimum, to be enjoyable. After thinking long and hard I decided it was only two things. 1.) A place to lounge, and 2.) Some shade. THAT WAS IT.
I spent one weekend working on it, and after some sale shopping, leftover prop scavenging, and repurposing of already owned things, I pulled together a little outdoor space that I’m hilariously really proud of. Let me introduce you . . . .
Oh my god, she cute. Is it my dream backyard? No. But is it the backyard I have? Yes, and I really like hanging out here. And guess what, since it’s a BACKYARD I have a whole lotta privacy. NO ONE CAN TELL YOU NO IN YOUR OWN BACKYARD. ‘Buh bye tan lines ; )
I built everything around that loveseat, which is actually a hand-me-down from the spring patio brunch story we shot several months ago. For one reason or another we weren’t able to return it, and I became the lucky recipient of a loveseat in fairly new condition. It became the foundation for my backyard hang out, and it was huge in terms of reducing my spending on this space.
If you have a piece of old outdoor furniture, or two chairs, or WHATEVER, build around those! Even if it’s not the prettiest, newest thing in the world, a few new outdoor pillows, a pretty umbrella, and some glow-y string lights will give it a whole new life. Right now it’s all about working with what you’ve got or can easily find and afford.
The next thing I wanted to address was giving the space a sense of “area.” Because my whole backyard is just one sad cement slab, I definitely wanted to make this feel like it’s own “space.” I decided that an outdoor rug was the best way to keep my loveseat from feeling like it was just floating aimlessly on a cement sea. This cute and neutral one is mostly plastic, so it’s totally outdoor-friendly but still magically feels like a woven rug, and it was on sale for $56. Amazing, great, done.
Next I needed shade. The star jewels of my backyard are three citrus trees, but they don’t really provide much in the way shade until around 3 or 4 pm. EASY – a patio umbrella is the solution. Well, patio umbrellas it turns out can be surprisingly expensive. And you have to buy the base separately. WHAT? It’s the stupidest thing I’ve heard since selling bikini tops and bottoms separately.
The original umbrella I had wanted turned out to pretty far outside of my budget for this area, and all the $50 umbrellas were sold out at my local Target. I was feeling frustrated because I really wanted to enjoy my outdoor area THAT WEEKEND, and I wasn’t about to wait for one to be shipped to me (what hath the conveniences of modern living wrought on my soul?). But then I found this cute striped umbrella for $100, and this umbrella base for just $36. It changed the aesthetic I was going for (light, airy, boho), but sometimes you just gotta work with what you can.
Then it was time for some details. I started by bringing out a little side black table I had in our living room, and repurposing it as an outdoor table. Is it meant for the outdoors? Probably not, but a benefit of living in Southern California is that it rains very infrequently here and we’re lucky if we can get a drop of moisture to stick around. In general, the worst our outdoor furniture gets is a whole lotta sun.
I did buy a new outdoor ottoman, inspired by a tip from the “small space” vignette from this post.
Small spaces mean less furniture, so you’ll want to make sure that the few pieces you do pick are going to pull double duty whenever they can.
Well, the pouf I got (which is sadly not available online) works TRIPLE duty. Because of how sturdy it is, it can be a footrest, an extra seat, or a table. Though I’ll admit that footrest is my favorite way to use it. Lastly, I stole a few potted plants from my front porch, and brought them out back to hide the umbrella stand a bit, and just generally bring a little more life to this concrete island.
I found that little palm frond tasseled pillow in the Bullseye section at Target (the little area up at the front of the store when you first walk in), and it was only $5. I can’t find it online, but these are similar. The other cream and black pillow was on sale for $18, and yes, apparently it’s made for the great outdoors while also being very pretty.
But I know you’re all dying to know what’s going on in photo #2 up there. Oh, that’s just my private DIY lounging pool. Obviously. I live in Southern California, so remember it gets HOT. I don’t have a pool, and there were no kiddie pools in stock at the store, so I got creative. (Since then, I’ve ordered this one, and I can’t wait to use it this weekend like the adult I am.) That empty plastic tub is just big enough for me to sit with my legs crossed and my knees hugged to my chest. I do look ridiculous, but at least I’m enjoying life.
Oh, I’m sorry. Did you not think this post would have a day-to-night lewk?
Yes, it’s exactly the same patio. I’m not trying to fool you into thinking there’s some huge, dramatic reveal. But this IS how I use it day-to-night. Do I bring glasses of wine out here in the evening? Yes. Do I also bring the whole bottle? Of course. Do I bring snacks, too? No shame! Though, admittedly, they aren’t always so pretty (I’m looking at you, frozen grapes). And y’all already know I’m a fiend for a candle, wherever, whenever I am. Especially ones that are mosquito repelling, like this one.
In the evenings I’ll usually wear my favorite slippers, and bring a little throw out with me. It never really gets that cold, but I like to feel cozy. Plus it makes me feel like it’s harder for the mosquitos to find my legs when they’re wrapped up tight.
The more important star of this whole “evening look” though are those string lights. They’re only $12 a box, outdoor safe, and give the entire space a really lovely, warm glow. The best part about them though? You can buy replacement bulbs for them in packs of 2! Just in case one burns out. Or your dad breaks one (or four) of them while hanging them for you.
I really DO love spending time out here. And I really like doing it while listening to this playlist. Bonus tip: If you’re in the market for a portable speaker, may I suggest this one? Mac and I got it two years ago, and it works SO GOOD. Anytime we bring it with us somewhere, or people are over and we’re using it they’re also impressed. We’ve taken it camping, we’ve taken it to the beach, I turn it on every night while I cook dinner, and bring out back with me. It’s just a really well-made product that works.
Oh, and in case you’re curious. The rest of the back yard hasn’t changed that much. But the view isn’t so bad. Right above the house line is clear open sky, and the tops of some oak trees, so it makes for a really nice place to watch a sunset. And my mom and I planted some drought resistant flowers in the flower beds right behind the house, which really help the aesthetic.
Otherwise, we’re still waiting on a full backyard renovation. So there you have it, my tiny backyard update, on a budget. The total for my set up was $844, which I understand isn’t BUDGET and possibly not attainable for everyone. Myself included! Keep in mind I got the loveseat as a hand-me-down. But these are pieces that I know will not only survive the summer, but hopefully a few summers to come. And since it doesn’t really look like I’ll be going to many places this summer, I decided that investing a little bit into an outdoor space I feel safe in was worth the budget.
This is me, trying to look glamours in 90-degree heat, while also trying to direct my boyfriend who was photographing me. CUTE. Now if you’re into it, here’s a “Get The Look” for my set up.
1. Outdoor Pillow | 2. Throw | 3. Striped Umbrella | 4. Outdoor Loveseat | 5. Umbrella Stand | 6. Black Wood Accent Table | 7. 5×7 Outdoor Rug | 8. Woven Ottoman | 9. White Tray | 10. Outdoor String Lights
Not into my style? I’ll survive. I’ve pulled together two other looks (a modern aesthetic and a boho style), both under $800 total.