Five Fab Outdoor Summer Projects
Enjoy some easy summertime livin' with a refreshed outdoor living space.
Isn’t it always a great moment when we can stop saying “Winter is coming,” and start saying “Summer is HERE”?
And what a change a year makes. As things slowly get back to normal, we’re gathering together again and doing all of those things we traditionally do in this glorious weather. So what better time to get out there and get your yard, garden, and patio ready for fun—whether that’s backyard BBQs and holiday parties, graduation parties and wedding receptions, playing catch in the yard with the kids, or just relaxing with a good book and soaking up the sun.
Here are few quick projects you can do to beautify your backyard oasis—and then kick back and relax!
Perk up your patio and deck
When it comes to your deck or patio area, a few quick chores can get it ready for entertaining season!
After testing in an inconspicuous spot, pressure wash your siding, patio pavers, deck floor and posts, and sidewalk to blast away stubborn dirt, leaves, cobwebs, or muck. If you don’t own a pressure washer, you can rent one at most home improvement stores. You’ll be surprised at the difference a little power from the pressure washer makes (and how fun it is to use!).
When it comes to your furniture, plastic, vinyl, and simulated wood/wicker are easily maintained with some soapy water and a garden hose (and in many cases, that same pressure washer). However, metal and natural materials like wood, wicker, and rattan will have more specific maintenance requirements. Bob Vila has some great tips on how to care for your outdoor furnishings here.
Fire it up
If you’re looking to tackle a bigger project, with longer-term use, consider installing a fire pit. (Always check local regulations on what is allowed in your area/neighborhood)
A fire pit serves as both a lighting element and a decorative focal point, as well as makes for a warm, inviting space on chilly evenings (and, for our warm-weather readers, creates a festive bonfire-like ambience even when the nighttime temperature is moderate). A fire pit will help you relax, and will help initiate conversation between you and your guests.
For those who don’t have the yard space (or the inclination) to dig/build an in-ground firepit, a gas fire table or fire bowl is a great choice. These come in myriad sizes, from table-top sized, all the way to dining room table dimensions, so no matter your space, there is an option to fit. Outputs range from minimal BTUs more suited as an accent piece all the way up to units that can warm a patio or deck without much effort.
Size. Consider both the width/length (or diameter) of the table, as well as the height. If it’s just two people on a cozy patio, a full-size dining table may be excessive. If space is tight, a round table can tuck nicely in a corner and still have seating room. Make sure to budget enough room for furniture, as well as for moving around in the area. Houzz’s experts recommend 5-7 feet around the table to accommodate seating and walkways.
As for height, if you want to be able to rest your feet on the table edge, then choose table that is even with or slightly lower than standard seat height (typically 18 inches). And remember, Fire pit height compared to seat height also affects reflected warmth, so if you want the table for warmth, as well as general ambience, aim for a lower pit—18-20 inches, experts recommend.
Fuel. Wood, gas, and propane are the primary sources. Wood fire has an unbeatable atmosphere—crackling flames, the scent of campfire—but there are also safety concerns and more limitations on where it can be placed. Plus, it takes time to get going and to extinguish, and in many areas, wood-burning fires are increasingly regulated due to environmental concerns about air-polluting smoke. Propane and natural gas may lack a bit of the drama of a “real” fire, but they are smoke-free and instantaneous—you can switch them on and off at basically the push of a button. And, of course, many types allow you to choose your medium—lava rocks, different types of stones, decorative glass, etc.—so you also have a design element with them. Natural gas will require a line to be put in, so your placement and size options may be constrained. With propane, the tank is portable and refillable, but you will have to consider a spot (or a table model) that allows you to conceal the tank/keep it out of the way. (Many designs have storage for the tank built into the unit, or have a separate storage unit that doubles as a side table.
Style. From vase-like containers for your tabletop to concrete bowls; metal obelisks with open sides to tables that can convert to firepit or cold beverage storage; portable to built in… Fire pits come in a variety of materials, designs, and styles including stone, metal, concrete or a mixture of multiple materials. Choose a material that suits your taste, coordinates with the design of your space, and allows you to use it in a way that fits your entertaining style. Location, space constraints, safety concerns, and any housing/zoning regulations will also play a role in your choice.You can read the full article here.
Liven it up
Looking for a way to beautify your patio, make mealtimes fun and homegrown, AND find something you can do with the kids? All in one? One deliciously decorative idea is to use edibles as accents. Plant a selection of herbs and garnishes or vegetables such as tomatoes, dwarf eggplants, or peppers in patio pots. Use pansy bowls or long and low deck-box-style planters to make living centerpieces; taller pots can serve as accents around the deck or patio.
Not only will you have functional décor, you’ll also have fresh produce right outside your door. It’s a great interactive way to get your guests (or kids) involved with dinner prep. And, as an added bonus, your garden will be easy to move during inclement weather to help protect it! No more losing your future salsa ingredients to an ill-timed summer hail storm.
Looking for some ideas for creative container gardening? Whether you want to go big, with multiple plots; or if you want to do a micro-sized garden (think tabletop aquaponics), we've got ideas in this garden slideshow.
Reuse, Recycle, Reinvent
You don’t need to make a lot of large-scale purchases to bring new life to your space. You can easily change up the look and feel of your patio with some elbow grease, a bit of paint, and some creativity. Get into the upcycle movement and repurpose flea-market finds, such as using old metal bed frames as outdoor seating surfaces. Old pallets are another great starting points for making all types of functional items—from chairs and benches, to tables, dog beds, and garden workstations.
Everyday discarded items make great accent pieces, too—turn an old wheelbarrow or a kids’ wagon into a patio pot filled with flowers. Make a hanging planter with an old tire, some spray paint, and rope. Get the most out of your furniture by selecting pieces that can multitask. For example, take an upright potting bench, give it a coat of fashionable paint, and it can easily do double duty as a sideboard or drink cart ideal for entertaining.
Get your gleam on
Your windows are the heart and soul of your home (we may be biased, of course), so you want to make sure they shine so you can see that great outdoors you’ve been tidying up, right?
Let in that summer sunlight by getting squeaky windows with these cleaning tips.
Insect screens: For standard aluminum insect screens: remove insect screens and give them a spray with a garden hose or swish in a kiddie pool for a quick clean. To give them an extra shine, use a mild (think gentle dish detergent) soap and water solution and scrub them gently with a soft fiber brush, then rinse with a hose. Be sure to do one at time and rinse thoroughly to avoid buildup.
For those of you with the Andersen exclusiveTruScene® insect screens: less is more! DO NOT use a gardening hose. Instead, remove the screen and simply use a feather duster to clean your screen. Easy peasy!
Want more information? Check out this video for a visual guide on cleaning your window insect screens.
Window glass: Ready to brighten your view? Follow these steps to clean the glass surface:
For more tips, check out our piece on easy spring cleaning hacks, featuring tips from HGTV personality and RbA Ambassador, Laurie March.
Light up your life
Your patio is all cleaned up, accessorized, and ready to go. Take the makeover one step further with a lighting plan. It doesn’t need to be Christmas in July to enjoy seasonal lights. Year-round use of string lights is a popular trend and can be a chic addition to anyone’s outdoor venue.
Bring parties outdoors under warm, intimate lighting by stringing lights above your patio, around trees, or within fencing. Draping strands over a pool will create a reflective appearance family and friends will find very attractive.
If your backyard has any secondary structures—such as a shed, chuppah, or gazebo—string lights are great for accenting them and provide just the right amount of light for your backyard activities.
They also make great pathway markers. Light the way to outdoor structures or create a enchanting walkway through the garden by stringing a guide of lights. This will create an illuminated path that is bright enough to avoid obstacles but subdued enough not to be blinding (to you or the neighbors). Set them on a motion sensor, and you will never need to carry a flashlight.
Check out our feature on designing with string lights for even more inspiration.