Like literally everyone in the summertime, I long to spend more time outside. This is especially true during the summer in the Pacific Northwest where it is non-stop gorgeous, humidity-free with the longest stretches of sunny daylight (and no snakes, a thing for which I am truly grateful). Being inside is either a nice temporary relief for your eyes or a place you don’t want to be.
When we moved into this house last summer I knew we were going to transform the weird little cement paved area on the side of the house into an outdoor living room and that we were going to do it on a budget. We didn’t have plans to get anything professionally landscaped or to buy super expensive furniture, but I definitely wanted it to be a room, just like any room inside that is welcoming, inspiring and bold.
In a way this was easier than any room in the house because we started with nothing. We weren’t working around existing furniture too new to upgrade. We got to do whatever we wanted, and that was really liberating. It has been nothing short of life changing, soul-enriching, and joy increasing to live in this space this summer, so I wanted to share what we did.
The goal was to create a space that would feel outdoorsy and modern, but also have a little whimsy and fun too. As always, I started with some mandatories:
- I want at least 2 comfortable chairs for us to chill and a place to prop my feet.
- I wanted to be able to eat and entertain outside.
- Nathan had pretty much one mandatory: a hammock.
We built some walls
To make the space feel more finished and modern as well as create an anchor point for the hammock, we built a slat wall across the length of the concrete pad right up against our neighbor’s fence. This helped make it feel like our room, rather than the side yard. I painted it in an ombre color scheme using 2 colors: Sherwin Williams Baked Clay and Pueblo. Pro-tip: Nate sunk the post over 18” deep to make sure it could support the hammock.
To extend the “room” we built a smaller privacy wall perpendicular to the fence in the same slat style which also provides the second hammock anchor point. I painted this one Sherwin Williams Marea Baja which is a nice contrast to the clay color. I also brought this color into the living space with the dining bench and the artwork.
We added some comfy places to lounge
We actually considered building our own outdoor furniture but decided for the cost and time it would take to construct a frame and sew upholstery (which would be pushing my sewing skills well past their limit) we bought moderately priced chairs which took the biggest chunk of our budget, but worth it. Nathan’s hammock is an ethically sourced, simple and comfortable Novica hammock.
I made side tables out of a couple of cement planters from Target, adding a top from some salvage wood we had painted in Baked Clay. This had the added benefit of giving us some good hidden storage which comes in really handy for stashing things when it rains.
We made a fun place to dine al fresco
I fell in love with this table from Ikea and bonus it folds up for storage. I found this bench from Target that is a near perfect match in color to the blue wall. Pro-tip: Check out Target.com frequently. This bench was never displayed on the floor at my local target, but they had it in stock and even helped me get it to my car. The chairs are a couple I have hauled all over the country with me and have lots of sentimental value as my first Craigslist purchase over a decade ago.
We decorated like it’s real room
Just because you are outside, doesn’t mean you can’t have artwork! I painted the fun tropical leaves and quote using exterior paint (and a few acrylics) all of which are durable enough to withstand the elements in the summer. We added a few accessories and even a hanging lantern which make it feel more like a room. Pro tip: You don’t HAVE to limit yourself to the outdoor section when searching for outdoor accessories. You likely will be covering or storing it all anyway when it rains, so you might find something cheaper that looks awesome like we did with our $8 clearance hurricane lanterns.
We did a little bit of DIY
This was a very time-consuming project that used an obscene amount of hot glue, but I don’t know how I could have found anything this substantial and sturdy for just the price of a few rolls of sisal. I found a couple of examples of this on Pinterest and it proved to be really easy, just a bit tedious. We got a free cast-off truck tire from a local used tire store, cut and bolted on a round salvage plywood top, coiled the sisal around it bit by bit, gluing it with hot glue. We covered it with a clear polyurethane and we have an ottoman, cocktail table and stool for 2.
Here are the details
Our budget was roughly $1000 (and we went over by about $250) from plants to furniture to the actual walls. While this is not a small amount of money, it disappears lightening fast when creating an entire room, so we were conscious with every decision how it would impact the budget.
2 loungy chairs from World Market (I bought these at peak sale of course) $150 ea | $300
2 DIY end tables made from cement planters (bought buy one get one half off) | $45
3 decorative pillows from World Market (again with the sale!) ~$25 ea | $75
1 Outdoor rug from World Market (see above) | $15
1 Outdoor dining table which we lucked into getting the floor model because Ikea had just sold out of it when we got there (and saved 15%) | $68
1 Outdoor bench from Target (on sale) | $69
1 Hammock from Amazon | $70
1 Privacy wall (paint, wood, cement) | $100
1 Feature wall (paint, wood, cement) | $125
Lights (solar string lights, lantern, spotlights) | $60
Decorative stuff – Candles, candle holder, lanterns | $76
Planters and plant | $140
Sisal + hot glue for ottoman | $40
Artwork | $0
Tips for creating a comfortable modern outdoor room on a budget
- Think about it as a real room and start with the same fundamentals you would inside: what are my colors? What will my anchor pieces be? How do I want to use the space?
- Create privacy and real sense of purposeful space by building walls, adding screen or planters with tall plants or trees
- Add real artwork and decorative accents that tie it all together
- Don’t be afraid of color
- Invest in the key pieces and be persistent about finding lower cost alternatives, try some DIY, upcycles or bring something from inside that you think would work.
- Never ever buy anything that is not on sale. There is virtually no such thing as a retailer who doesn’t cycle products through sales. So be patient, keep track and you won’t have to wait long.