Before & After: A Sad, Run-Down Patio Becomes a Tropical Escape for $1100

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When you live in a small home, it’s especially important to make every square inch work for you — even the ones outside. Take it from Saima Sharoff and her husband, who bought their 650 square foot 1930s fixer upper cottage in back in 2016. They hired a contractor to do work inside the house the following year, but the backyard was left untouched. “Prior to the renovation, this wasn’t even usable outdoor space,” Saima says. “It was just a small, wooden back porch dating from the 1930s where the washer, dryer, and water heater were located. It felt old and rickety.” The patio area outside of it wasn’t doing the space any favors, either, with its glum gray coloring.

Saima and her husband didn’t have any other outdoor living space, so they wanted to be able to take advantage of this one — especially since, living in Southern California, they’d be able to spend time outdoors year-round. The backyard renovation came in a few parts over a few years, all done by Saima and her husband.

To perk up their siding, Saima and her husband painted it rich navy blue with white trim —an instant curb appeal boost. Then, they built a deck over the old patio area. They first weather-treated the deck with an all-in-one stain and sealer, but the color came out darker and more opaque than they’d hoped. “Instead of a stain, it looked more like a paint,” Saima says. That finish only lasted one season before chipping and fading, “making our one-year-old deck look like it had been there for a decade,” Saima says.

This spring, her husband spent every weekend for a month sanding down the finish to reveal the natural wood so that they could re-seal it with a clear coat.”It took a lot of elbow grease to remove that mistake,” Saima says. “We’ve now applied clear Thompson’s WaterSeal to it, and we could not be happier with the result.”

The couple outfitted their deck with a mix of furniture they already had and vintage finds. Cozy couches provide a spot to lounge, while a bistro set offers a shaded spot for al fresco dining. Saima added in plenty of places for plants to perch, too, including end tables and a potting bench. Although the project took place over a few years, Saima estimates that the total cost for materials, furniture, and plants is just $1,100.

“I love that we have a private place to spend time outside whenever we want,” Saima says. “I also love how green and lush it feels. When we first started building the deck, we didn’t realize we had grape vines growing along the fence, and now every year, we have this incredible green wall that we really don’t have to do any work to maintain aside from pruning it.”

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Megan Baker

Home Projects Editor

Megan is a writer and editor who specializes in home upgrades, DIY projects, hacks, and design. Before Apartment Therapy, she was an editor at HGTV Magazine and This Old House Magazine. Megan has a degree in Magazine Journalism from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. She is a self-taught weighted blanket connoisseur.

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