Courtney Warren is a Texas-based interior designer whose work has been featured in Real Simple, Better Homes & Gardens, Good Housekeeping, Apartment Therapy, and Today.com. She is a frequent consultant on Fox 4 TV’s Good Day program in Dallas, was ranked in the top 3 percent of interior designers in the US by Houzz.com, and starred in the Dallas episode of TLC’sFour Houses. She delights in helping overwhelmed clients create beautiful spaces—and will never turn down a warm chocolate chip cookie or Diet Dr Pepper.
A lot of us have been in the house much too much this spring and summer, so the opportunity to get outdoors at home is a godsend. To make your outdoor spaces as welcoming as can be, I’d love to give you some tips on how to beautify your backyard on a budget without sacrificing on style and comfort.
Our backyard and pool area were not exactly swoon-worthy when we moved in to our current house. When we bought the property, it had been on the market a while and the backyard had started to get a wee bit overgrown. Well, that’s probably an understatement. I should say MORE than a wee bit. It was more like “Yikes!” But since it was winter and I had major reno going on inside our cute Tudor cottage, I didn’t have the time or money to think much about outdoor living spaces at the time.
Check out these befores…
But when spring rolled around, I realized we needed a major cleanup and spruce-up in the backyard and pool areas. Seriously, we looked like that spooky house the neighborhood kids avoid. We are very social and we looked forward to being the hub of kid activity. Something–actually several somethings–had to change. Our place was badly in need of a makeover, but a lot of the budget was being spent on my soon-to-be-adorable kitchen renovation inside!
Hmmm. We needed a lot of change for not a lot of change, you see. I had to put on my bargain hunter’s hat and get the most outdoorsy bang for my buck. Luckily, I’m a seasoned veteran of stretching my resources, reusing what I can, and sniffing out the best buys. And that’s what I did to make our backyard and pool area an oasis for the guys and their friends. Let me show you how I did it! Then you can steal my ideas, enjoy the rest of your summer in your dreamy outdoors, and you’ll be all set when spring rolls around again with these low cost yard makeover ideas.
Are you ready for your back-to-school pool party? Want to make a backyard oasis with a pool?
The clock is ticking. and it’s nearly time to wrap up the dog days of summer and start buying school supplies. (We certainly hope that school districts everywhere are figuring out how to bring kids back to school with optimum safety for all.)
Have you noticed in the stores what gets clearanced to make room for school supplies? That’s right: every kind of summer seasonal stuff! All those retailers with terrific patio furniture, cute outdoor pillows, planters, umbrellas, and summer serveware start CLEARING IT ALL OUT after July 4th to make room for backpacks and notebook paper.
So, my first tip for decorating your outdoor spaces on the cheap is:
In our yard, item #1 on the list was how to manufacture some shade. Texas summer sun beats down hard, people, so umbrellas were my first purchase. Even if I’m not in the pool, I need to be outside monitoring the boys. Peppering umbrellas around the yard turned the too-sunny spots SHADY (and cute besides). Now, I can bring a book outside (or as often, my laptop for business emails) and not roast while I supervise the kids. The bold black and white stripes of my umbrellas brought an instant chic that I repeated with striped pillows and paired with turquoise and green throw pillows. So look for umbrellas on clearance.
My second free backyard makeover tip will really speak to my fellow pennypinchers. Those metal lawn chairs that came with the house had a certain vintage charm, but they were so tired and faded. Enter the DIY queen with her handy-dandy can of turquoise spray paint! A little bit of washing down and sanding, followed by a nice round of paint, and what do you know? All that lovely seating to coordinate with my scheme. (Would some of your outdoor furniture benefit from a color refresh? I’ve often said that paint is the cheapest change you can purchase for your decor.)
The rundown old shed in the back became my shabby but chic pool cabana.
Pool and patio decor: some cedar trellises, a few potted plants, some chaises and towels. TA-DAH! Instant resort style.
I do only a little gardening: what have you been planting outdoors? Succulents seem always popular and require little care (or water!) I don’t know the difference between a petrichor and a pollinator, but almost everyone can grow pothos or devil’s ivy. And aloe vera is handy to have around to use its stems for burns and stings. I’ve heard of hemp and jade plants, but what are “vipers bowstring” and neem trees??
String up some clearance outdoor lights. Hang a poolside sign or jumbo vintage letters. Let the FUN begin!
Part of entertaining kids is having plenty of food and drinks on hand, so make sure to have both. See why I’m trotting to H.E.B. all the time? Do these kids ever stop eating?!
Shopping estate sales, garage sales and flea markets is second nature to me, and this trait came in handy when decorating our outdoors areas. I used an old inoperative drink cooler and a vintage stove! If you don’t have a built-in outdoor kitchen, you can get the same storage and serving surfaces with a secondhand cabinet, buffet, table, or dresser. You can use rustic pieces in all their rustic splendor and not worry about them being out in the elements. Or you can give them multiple coats of poly or keep them under a patio cover. Next step, just set out some colorful plastic tubs for icing down the drinks, and it’s party time.
Sure there are times when you just have to have paper goods. but why spend money on throw-away paper if you don’t have to? And besides, it’s more ecologically responsible to reuse. So since all the summer tableware is on clearance now, too, so grab up some bright and colorful serveware that will take you through the rest of this summer and for years to come.
Now, since you’ve saved all that money on clearance furnishings and accessories, you can splurge on something that will make your backyard one-of-a-kind. One of my treats to myself is something I have done for my design clients, but never for me. I commissioned an amazing local muralist to paint an enormous custom sign for our back porch. My sons love seeing their name in big letters, and the twinkle lights hanging from the ceiling make it feel magical at night.
Needing some porch or patio inspiration? Or maybe you’re already thinking ahead to the interior projects you want to start once the kids are back in school? I just happen to know an interior designer! Let’s talk!
Email me to book a call time!