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The Patio Makeover + Patio Decor Roundup

You know that chick who needs a bikini vacation or a wedding in order to be really motivated to lose weight? And then, all of a sudden, they look like Kiera Knightly, and you kinda wonder why they waited so long to try, while subsequently thinking did they go too far too fast? That’s how I am with my own projects – I need a photo shoot in order to make progress on my house. The deck had been sitting there, collecting leaves for a year and a half, begging for me to care about it enough to improve it. Then, I booked a shoot (see the whole story at Today) so I finally did it.

Here’s how it all went down: Summer was approaching, Charlie was/is running around and desperate for outdoor space to play in, and Target had an awesome new outdoor collection. It was the right combination of motivating factors to schedule a shoot and force a much-needed makeover. Once a shoot is scheduled I make things happen. Come to think of it, should I do that for all aspects of my life? Like, maybe I’ll book a swimsuit body-reveal shoot 8 months after baby #2 comes to help motivate me to exercise? That sounds terrible but maybe not the worst idea I’ve ever had …

Back to that big deck – it needed some help. I was ready to do it, as long as it didn’t take too much work (which it didn’t). Click on through to see the whole transformation.

When we moved in it looked like this:


The railing was dark brown, the pergola was painted brown (and boarded over) and the stones were crumbling and beige. The landscaping was overgrown and terrifying, but the view and open space were pretty wonderful. And for a while it really just wasn’t a priority. We had the whole rest of the house to worry about. Charlie was a baby, we didn’t need a yard, and we had plenty of space inside. But as he grew and started wanting to play outside more, I knew that we had to prioritize making it somewhere that he (and more importantly, we, as a family) had fun in.


It clearly had potential and a wonderful view, but it needed some love. I had dreams of an outdoor built-in kitchen/bbq, which turned into nightmares after we got the first quote of $40k (which really means $60k). And after buying the house and fixing up room by room, I just couldn’t commit to real transformation outside – I was interested in just making a pretty, inviting, family-friendly, comfortable, and relaxing backyard deck.

So just weeks after we moved in I bought that outdoor sectional which has basically sat there unused ’til now. I loved that the base matched the railings (once the railing was painted white) and it just looked like it belonged here, but I took issue with the color of the fabric, the amount of pillows and the size of pillow that basically just slipped through the back frame the second that you leaned on it. It was so annoying.

Cut to 2 months ago – ish (where this makeover story really starts):


When we first moved in I didn’t really have a design direction, nor did I know how we wanted to use the space. Would I be sunbathing? Cooking huge outdoor dinner parties? Throwing raves with mosh pits? I just didn’t know. So it was actually nice to live here for a summer before I invested in anything else. But before the fun stuff, some more annoying stuff had to happen.

That pretty eucalyptus tree hadn’t been trimmed in decades so it dropped thousands of droppings every day all over the porch – some large branches, a ton of leaves and one million little seeds. You just fell asleep, I know, but it was terrible. We could barely walk, let alone bring a baby out there. So we had to spend some dough getting it trimmed. Quite possibly the most boring way to spend money ever (wait, maybe that was fixing the AC or getting a new condenser, or rerouting the dishwasher pipe ….).

So in the above photo it actually looks clean because the tree trimmers had just been there, and they styled those pillows like that which was pretty darn adorable, and yet visually violently offensive to my eyes, but typically it was pretty yucky and certainly not pulled together.

So I started pinning and shopping – at Target, the flea market, some of my other favorite stores, and successfully pulled together a very happy family friendly deck.


Where do I start? It’s just SUCH a good place to hang out. And we do all the time. Every morning and every evening Charlie yells to go ‘pay ahsiyde’ and runs to the door. It’s painfully adorable. He has his own area (which I’ll show you tomorrow) and we have our area, too.

So let’s go through the process:

I started with neutral furniture for the foundational pieces – it’s all part of my quest for visual peace in my increasingly chaotic life. I love color, of course, but you can always layer on the color to add life. On the other hand you can’t really tone down a crazy sofa with neutral pillows very well. I can highly endorse those club chairs because they are VERY comfortable and the scale is great for a larger space, with it’s simple lines. And I love that vinyl strapping.  I ordered them not knowing how much I would love them (the website shot wasn’t exactly selling them too well) but once I put them together and sat in them I was psyched.


Oh just a mid-styling action pose. The camera just caught me!

Within all the neutral furniture I wanted to have a little bit of crazy, for sure, so we added in the wicker set which is sold as 2 chairs and a side table. We used the chairs as dining chairs and then mixed in the tables as little cocktail tables. Look how cute it is:


I actually couldn’t decide between the white or navy set so we bought both and played around (and returned the set we didn’t use). Ultimately I chose the white because white is always less busy and with toys, and pillows, and accessories, I knew that it could get a little cuckoo out there if it had a lot of contrast. But the blue is very good, as well and I was very tempted. I actually like the idea of the blue more, because typically I go for feminine shapes in more masculine colors. So if it were choosing between pink and blue I would choose the blue for sure. But I went white, folks.


Then there was the rug debate – the gray and white (softer, but lighter) or the brighter and more fun blue and white?

blue-gray-outdoor rug

That was actually a pretty hard one because I think that the blue might be more durable and harder to see dirt on. And being a huge lover of color I was so tempted by that bright cobalt. But ultimately I wanted the freedom that gray always gives you – I could mix any colors on top if I wanted to, or just stay quite and neutral if I chose. So the gray one won. That picture above looks like I am giving gray the first impression rose. I think he’s the one!!!


When it comes to placing outdoor rugs, go with the same rule as indoor – if your sofa is against the wall you can float the rug in front of it, but it’s still best to get as big as possible to help create the largest conversation area and make the whole space look bigger. Desperate for more rug info? Then read my biggest rug mistakes post. 


The coffee table is one that I had in my storage from Lulu and Georgia for 2 years that just didn’t work in my house anywhere. Sadly it’s not available anymore and I’m hoping that it lasts outside (I don’t remember if it’s indoor/outdoor or just indoor). It seems to have some coating on it that might make it more durable than the ikea outdoor wicker furniture, or all the vintage I had that was destroyed within the year (and we live in LA, if that says anything). The coffee table is a bit small, but once we added the pouf if felt more in scale. Plus, ultimately, I have finally learned an important parenting lesson – less furniture  = more play area and less injuries.


Not surprisingly Target had very good indoor and outdoor pillows for the deck. I kept it in the blue world (shocking, I know) and mixed both indoor and outdoor together. It’s all about your weather and how vigilant  you are about bringing the inside pillows inside if it’s going to rain. For the shoot I brought a bunch outside just like I would for a party or for guests, but for everyday I’m just going to leave the outdoor pillows there, so I don’t ruin the indoor ones.

We have a pretty severe shade/sun issue out there, combined with the fact that Charlie and I have practically transparent skin (I had tanning lotion on in these pictures, fyi). So I’ve been torturing myself trying to figure out what the perfect shade solution is. I’ve gotten multiple quotes from multiple sail shade or awning companies. Some won’t even do the job because of the height of the deck and the wind factor. In the end, I couldn’t pull the trigger on anything permanent because I simply like the option to sit outside under the open air. And all the options were so expensive. I waived the blog card and discounts were offered, but it just wasn’t worth it. For a large sail shade or two, install would be around $2500 and for a fabric awning it was anywhere between $3k – $7k depending on fabric choices.

It ended up not mattering for the shoot (it was so ominously cloudy anyway that day).

A few days before this shoot I was rambling on about my shade situation to my friend Scott, while we were shopping at Target and he was like ‘Uh, why not just get some big umbrellas?’. Genius. For some reason I hadn’t thought of that. Probably because the first umbrella we bought broke pretty quickly and it was so heavy we couldn’t move it and it blocked very little sun. But this one is much larger and is easier to maneuver. Plus we have one over the dining table, too, and we might even buy one more to have if/when we have a lot of people out there during the day. It just hadn’t really occurred to me to get a few umbrellas instead of just one massive shade installed.

So far, it’s been 2 weeks, and the umbrella has offered AMPLE shade, is easy to open/close, and looks awesome. I’m just so glad that I didn’t pull the trigger on the permanent awning that the lovely man from King Awnings almost convinced me of. I think for the right house and the right function a fabric awning can be so smart, but when you sit up there with the view and the trees, and the sky you just don’t want a ceiling on the space unless you absolutely have to have one, at least not one for $5k. We have a wind issue up there as you can imagine though, so I may need to buy a crazy heavy stand for the umbrellas or else I have to be so careful about laying the umbrella down at night.


The only thing I haven’t properly gushed over are the cement planters. This shot (below) was from an Instagram I did debating between the blue pots and the cement ones.

cement planters

I finally decided to just use the cement pots because the gray looked best on its own or mixed with other mid-century white pots. But how wonderful are those pots? If you are in LA I’d suggest going to the Burbank Target because the Pasadena and Eagle Rock were out of them, but last I checked Burbank stocked a ton of all the pots (including the cement ones).

So lets move to the other side of the deck – the dining area.


This area is a bit tricky because the exterior of the house just needs help in general – and nothing really that some cool plants can take care of. But we haven’t tackled that yet (new siding? paint current siding? splurge on pretty wood cladding? WHAT DO WE DO THAT WON’T COST $25K!!!!). But that doesn’t mean that we can’t decorate the space to be happier until we decide, right?

Ok, so the pergola was depressing, and the water heater in there was disgusting but I’ll get to that area tomorrow (that is the area we turned into Charlie’s play ‘backyard’). We started collecting play stuff, toys, etc, anyway, and 2 months ago here is what we were working with:


I wasn’t going to get arrested for how bad it was, but it certainly wasn’t a fun/inspiring/pretty place to hang out. And for that above photo we really cleaned it up, too. Typically all the toys were strewn all over the deck in a not-so-classy way, if you know what I mean. I now see how it happens. You throw one plastic ride-on toy in your front yard, and soon you are the people parking your Chrysler Le Baron on the grass. So we were desperate for a designated play area, because while some of the plastic toys aren’t my design inspiration, Charlie loves them and they make sense for outside. That tee-pee, by the way, stayed white for approximately 14 hours. It might have been more of an inside tee-pee than an outside one.

So here we are now:


There you go – where we eat, chat, and drink and then back there is the play area (again, check back tomorrow for that reveal).

It actually kills me that there is no sun dappling in that shot because it’s such a happy deck that looks so flat without sun casting pretty shadows throughout and bringing out all the colors. Of course it’s the one day that it doesn’t break through!  By the way, for a shoot you don’t actually want full sun because it would be too harsh, with really strong high contrast shadows, but a sun that peaks out behind the clouds creates light the way nothing else can.


Just happily placing my cherries on the table. Also next time you see Charlie, please ask him to say both ‘cherry’ and ‘charlie’ and you’ll get a ‘Chaorariieeee’ that is just so incredibly adorable you’ll want to eat his face.

Those dining chairs are awesome. I’m not sure what they are exactly made of, but it’s not just wicker – it’s basically coated in plastic that looks like wicker, and they come with a cushion (not the blue one, but the gray pad). I was worried that they wouldn’t tuck under the table but they do, it’s awesome.

The table itself is the only thing I would switch out. I actually really like it (simple, durable, inexpensive), but it was ordered when we were going to stain the deck a mid-century wood tone, and it would have looked good with that stain color. Then, it turned out that we all liked the raw finish of the wood (once it was power cleaned) as much as the stained wood, so we figured why spend the time/money. But when the table arrived (days before the shoot) I realized the tone/vibe of the wood wouldn’t look good with the deck, so we threw a tablecloth that I’ve had forever over it. It’s not my favorite thing I’ve ever done, but it doesn’t bother me. If I find the right table, great, but I’m not concerned about it.


In case you are wondering if that deck is kid-proof (as in can Charlie fall off of it?) come back tomorrow and I’ll address it.

The view, the seating, the quiet color palette – I love this deck so much. We added a bbq along the white fencing (the one in the before photo was disgusting and broken) and have already had people over for a casual 4pm – midnight bbq. It’s like we just added 600 square feet to our house. Charlie doesn’t really have to be too precious anywhere in the house, but out here he can really be a kid and do his worst.


All the furniture is outdoor furniture so he can’t ruin it, but it’s all kid friendly – so it can’t hurt him. I never realized why parents baby-proof their homes – it’s not really for the kid, the kid will generally be fine if they bump their head or run into a corner. It’s so we, the parents, can sit and relax without constantly having to brace for the fall. I’m of the camp where you just create a safe place for them to be totally free, then let them do whatever they want.

Before_After_Opposite_Side_Dining_Area copy

Just a quick note about the landscaping. We hired two different companies (Salt and Viola Gardens). It was not my favorite way to spend money because the thing about landscaping is that you have to plant it so it can grow, so it’s always a bit underwhelming when it first goes in. I think it looks good and I think that by next summer it will look great. The crazy monster that was there is gone and instead it’s a simple California style succulent and agave garden. Also, you want to know another really boring way to spend money? Irrigation … you can’t even see if but you need to buy it and have it installed in order to keep anything alive.

So here we are: Me, Charlie and that puppy that was clutch in the whole ‘making Charlie smile and look happy’ quest.


NO ONE loves dogs more than Charlie Henderson, so when Sonya cruised by with her King Charles puppy it dramatically changed the vibe on set.


There you have it – the deck is now open for business and I get truly happy every time I go outside. Or, as Charlie calls it, ‘pay aousiyde’.



1. Selvedge in Canvas Granite 2. Patio Furniture 3. Mini Bowls 4. Arrow Lumbar Pillow 5. Woven Strap Patio Chair 6. Chevron Lumbar Pillow 7. Rug 8. Throw 9. Pouf 10. Wicker Ottoman 11. Wicker Patio Chair 12. Tray 13. Ikat Dot Pillow 14. Diamond Throw Pillow 15. Umbrella 16. Outdoor Dining Table 17. Decorative Throw Pillow 18. Iris Planter 19. Wood & Rope Candle Holder 20. Hurricane Vase 21. Mini Cement Planter 22. Printed Napkins

See the deck over the years: Our First Home, Part 2 + Our Deck Progress + come back tomorrow for a look at Charlie’s new play area. Here’s a sneak peek via Lonny:


*All photos by the lovely Tessa Neustadt c/o Lonny Magazine. Hair and Makeup by the always lovely Danielle Walch.

P.S. 3 random things you shouldn’t know about this shoot:

1. My shirt was accidentally on backwards the whole time. Whoops. 

2. We photoshopped the sky to have a tinge of blue in it because it was depressingly gray that day. 

3. We cut a slit in my tablecloth to the insert the umbrella through – not the best nor worst solution, but in case you wondered why that looked strange to you, that is why 🙂 It’s still like that, by the way. 

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9 years ago

Love this deck! I dream of spaces like these. Don’t have one and am pretty sure I wouldn’t know how to put one together like this. But I can be inspired, right? Also, am I the only one that can’t stop looking at your great shoes? Love them!

9 years ago

What a gorgeous transformation! And with your LA weather and year-round use, it really is like doubling your living space! Your comments about the landscape, irrigation, and new plantings had me in stitches. I live in Seattle and have five outdoor “rooms” in my garden. The growth of our landscape is shocking and inexorable. Despite our reputation for precip, we spend over $1K per month for water via irrigation June-Sept. All of my furniture is wrought iron (duh) so to see all your luxurious seating is delicious. Why would you even come inside except to use the bathroom?

9 years ago

I think this is my very favorite outdoor space. It’s gorgeous- form and function.
And you look gorgeous too, glowing!

9 years ago

What an amazing transformation, well worth the wait and a great space for the summer, enjoy.

9 years ago
9 years ago
Reply to  Liz

Thank you! How do you find this stuff?! Perfect doppelganger.

9 years ago

Stunning – what an amazing space and incredible view. Wow!

9 years ago

Look what you’ve done to that outdoor space! Really incredible. So inviting and functional. Can’t wait to see Charlie’s space. Plus, the humor you insert makes it so much fun to read.

Jess Hartnett
9 years ago

What is that amazing plant in the plant stand? The one with the pom-pom-like ends??

Susie Q.
9 years ago
Reply to  Jess Hartnett

I know! I love that one. It’s very “Dr Seuss.”

9 years ago

GORGEOUS!! I want it all! Do you feel overwhelmed to keep it clean ready for use at all times? That’s the biggest problem I have with outdoor spaces, they inevitably become covered with leaves, spider webs, and shmutz.

9 years ago

Awesome post! Excited for tomorrow’s post! So much inspiration!

Nina D
9 years ago


Years ago I had this gauzy, Indian-type tunic that I loved, loved, loved and wore constantly. One day, while doing laundry, into the laundromat walked another chick wearing my same blouse. Except, backwards. “Look at that dummy wearing my shirt the wrong …. oh …. wait.a.minute….” Yep. I’d been the dummy wearing it backwards for, like, a year!

The deck looks fab, Emily.

9 years ago
Reply to  Nina D

Such a funny story! Hah!

Breanna Kion
9 years ago

Amazing job! You had an incredible space to work with and now it’s so inviting and comfortable and stylish! You’ve totally inspired me. I’m one that dreams of a luscious deck and garden, but has no gardening skills, so seeing your low maintenance plants and planters is reassuring that it can still look great and be easy to take care of. Thank you!

9 years ago

What a great place to hang out with your family & friends – so inviting. And those views! We here in Southern California get to enjoy the outdoors all year long – you just added a couple of rooms to your space.

9 years ago

Beautiful! I wish I could convince myself and my husband to spend this much (or even half!) to make our deck this beautiful. We have the great space, but not the balls to drop the dough! Thank for the inspiration though. It’ll be good eventually!

9 years ago

Awesome transformation! I’d love to get some details about the toys that Charlie plays with out there. We need some for our outdoors space and I have no idea what to get. Would rather not go overboard and turn our yard into something that would resemble the Clampetts…

9 years ago

Seriously fabulous, commented on Lonny wondering if you could come to Toronto and help me replicate this in my yard?! It’s just terrific and makes me mourn the loss to Target in Canada. Enjoy it and all the best when # 2 arrives 😉

9 years ago

Pretty please, will you promise me that you’ll always love navy blue? You’re my go-to source for navy eye candy! You’re also really inspiring me to mix up my personal style + go more modern. And I’m with ya on the gray + navy ‘thing’. I don’t know if this is permitted, but here’s a (short) blog post which demonstrates my gray + navy quest!

Katie T.
9 years ago

This might be a silly question, especially in LA, but what do you do with all of those nice things when it rains? I just bought a small outdoor set from Target and find myself running everything indoors when it rains, because typically when it rains it pours in LA and gets windy and dust and dirt get on everything. What is your rain plan?

9 years ago

haha! well your shirt looks cute like that anyway! p.s. i LOVE the whole back deck – it’s freakin adorable and looks amazing to hang out on. i think i’d much rather have that than a back yard, no mowing or weeds. super cute!

9 years ago

I love your top where did you get it????

9 years ago

i absolutely love how you styled your deck. I sit and study your photos trying to see how I can get your look with things I own. Sure wish I could find a magic genie to wish you to my house for a fun tweaking party! Btw- that Charlie boy is precious! My Charlie boy just turned 25 and I wondered where did all the years go! Just drink him up while you can!

9 years ago

Love it Emily!! Great job!!

9 years ago

Are you by any chance selling the rattan bucket chair from your before photo? I’ve been looking for an affordable Nanna Dietzel replacement.
Please let me know if you still have yours or if you have any ideas for finding something with that look.
thanks so much for sharing your patio! The indigo and white looks so greek and summery:)

9 years ago

Amazing work and all the inspiration I needed to “Keira Knightly” our back yard and soon-to-be deck. Your blog is still the most amazing thing on the internet. Thanks again Emily.

9 years ago

Beautiful transformation. You look great too!

9 years ago

Lovely patio! Especially loved the back corner transformation – looking forward to seeing Charlie’s play area. And I like the use of more than one umbrella – cost effective and flexible. Just another reason why I love this blog.

9 years ago

Yowza! Emily! It’s so lush and beautiful. In love with the pom-pom plant in the white pot. It’s almost like a conversation piece in and of itself. The green really makes the white furniture and blue textiles pop.

9 years ago

Oh my goodness! This is beyond gorgeous, Emily!

Christine |

9 years ago

I LOOOOOVE how transparent you are! 😀 Absolutely beautiful space- as usual…

9 years ago

Such an amazing transformation! Love the 3 litte side notes at the end! 🙂

9 years ago

I pretty much bought everything on get the look and now I’m broke for the month. Thanks a lot Emily. I want your shirt too. Details pretty woman ! 😉

9 years ago

wow, this IS a happy space. i’m really glad you didn’t do some sort of awning because the view is spectacular. i love how easy you make it seem to pull of white and plants and healthy does of blue. love it! 🙂

also, those crazy ball shaped plants? so neat! i guess those are just manicured shrubs? plants don’t grow in ball shapes?!??? haha. and of course that fiddle fig! AH the fiddle fig! obsessed.

9 years ago

This is so gorgeous – maybe my favorite “room” of yours ever? And despite having a big fenced in backyard for my 1 year old, I wish we had outdoor space like this. Love love love it!

9 years ago

It looks so great! Such a huge transformation and I know that if this were mine, I would use it all the time!

9 years ago

Love the new look, but loved the old look too. Happy to take the old pillows and throws off your hands??!!??? Saw them in Domino….seriously,not joking. Live in Pasadena and would happily buy them. Thanks for all your inspiration. Always great to log onto your site and see such beautiful, but attainable looks.

Joanne Brown
9 years ago

Did you recover the cushions/pillows that came with the sofa in the Sunbrella fabric or buy new ones?

9 years ago

Beautiful deck and looks like a very pleasant view for extra fun.
What I don’t see is any screening to keep a little boy from getting his head caught in the bars…they do that. Believe me they do some of the wackiest things that scare parents to pieces.

9 years ago

Love the makeover, Emily!
(Your round wicker made me think of Wisteria’s Seagrass pouf – they have a square coffee table, too.)

9 years ago

Emily I think you’re in trouble! When your using a white wicker furniture set for “a touch of crazy” I think thats a dangerous sign that you’re headed into the land of bland chain store conventionality! Where is the emily whose “crazy” and “weird” uses to actually BE crazy and weird!!! The space looks very happy and stylish but not super unique or different to something you would find in a catalogue- which may be a compliment if that’s what you were going for 🙂

9 years ago

Fantastic! having seen it in person before, I am now dying to see it in person after. The whole thing is gorgeous.

9 years ago

This deck is amazing, with or without the sun. I could live in this deck!

9 years ago

Hi Emily.
Love your style and blog. My 1st time posting…I need your opinion.
I am trying to put together my outdoor space and really like the 3 piece wicker set from Target. Here’s the issue…my deck is wood, picnic table set is wood (same as deck color), outdoor sisal rug in diamond pattern, umbrella is off-white canvas w/ wood. I also have 2 butterfly chairs off to the side with off-white canvas w/ black frames. My question is…the white option…is it really white or off-white? Or should I add some color with the blue? Thank you!