In our Style Challenge series, we ask some of our favorite bloggers from around the web to surprise us with their ideas for creating a stylish and functional space using Home Depot products as a starting point.
We were pleased as punch when Courtney of Courtney Out Loud agreed to join forces with us to turn his small, urban backyard into a peaceful oasis. We knew that his killer style and modern edge would turn out a beautiful space perfectly suited to the Northern California aesthetic. Courtney takes us through the process of transforming his small patio into a special place for relaxing and entertaining. He shares some of his decorating ideas, and a few gardening tips he picked up along the way.
I can’t help myself but at the first signs of warm weather, I start daydreaming about dining alfresco, garden parties and lazy weekends spent soaking in the sun. Then I have a reality check remembering that (1) I live in Oakland/San Francisco, so after 6 p.m., it’s chilly; (2) I live in an urban condo with a patio, not an estate with an English garden; and (3) I have yet to spend a weekend doing nothing since moving into our home four years ago.
Like most urbanites, my partner and I found prioritizing outdoor space as a “must have” on our list when looking at homes, but when we finally did buy, the overwhelming task of pulling the interior of our home together took precedence over the exterior. It wasn’t until almost 2½ years into living in our home that we tackled the patio. In our first attempt, we primarily focused on foundational items such as patio pavers, replacing the gravel that perpetually found itself scratching our hardwood floors with moss and installing irrigation. I created what I thought was going to be the ultimate outdoor space for lounging and relaxing….and it sat unused for almost 1½ years until The Home Depot kindly invited me to participate in the Style Challenge: Patio Edition.
With this kick in the pants, I approached this second stab at creating an outdoor space much more attuned to how we truly live in our home, as opposed to trying to create a pretty space. Critical to the success of this project was reorganizing the furniture placement outdoors since we wanted to incorporate a place to sit outside and enjoy a meal.
So bye-bye went the awkward seating arrangement that found everyone balancing plates on their laps, and hello proper dining table! The Hampton Bay Northridge Patio Set was the perfect solution for our patio – small in scale, stylish color palette, and the weather resistant finish meant no maintenance on my part, which is what sealed the deal. With seating and dining taken care of, I decided to focus my attention on making this space as useable as possible. I recycled our existing umbrella and solved the need for light by repurposing a vintage chandelier into a candelabra. No need for electricity – simply light and go! The converted candelabra project could not have been easier … find a vintage chandelier that has a top ring so you can use a carabiner to attach it to either rope, or in my case, the patio umbrella. Simply place the candles where the light bulbs would go, and you are done!
I then turned to the kind folks at our local Home Depot Plant Center to assist me in replacing the tangled mess of plants in our planters. After showing them some shots of our “garden,” they suggested we prune back our succulents and replace the sedum in our raised planter with some sun loving and color providing bacopa. According to the staff, the bacopa will provide great color in the warm months, and its leaves will provide great texture come winter. When I mentioned I was a novice gardener, they suggested planting a blueberry bush and a citrus tree (miniature clementine) as a companion to my lonely kefir lime tree as both plants are hardy and love the bright light the patio received in the morning.
With the dining area set up, I turned my attention to the far end of the patio.
Aside from dining, I also wanted the patio to serve as a spot where I could lounge, kick back and just be, so I created a little lounging corner opposite the dining area. Using the loungers I already had, I simply pushed them together to create a corner seating area. A new succulent planter made from a found bowl (literally just lying there on the street corner), pillows and a simple Buddha’s head I found years ago this has become my new favorite place to do work or catch up with the other half. We kept the fire pit from our first attempt as it provides nice ambiance at night (as well as warmth) and added in multiple strings of outdoor lights to the bushes, which just adds to the magical quality of this corner.
With dining and entertaining areas set, my final goal was to set up an area where I could tend to my growing collection of cacti and succulents (notice a trend?). I love succulents for their sculptural quality and their ability to withstand my occasional neglect. Again, using the motto of using what I had (or found), I refinished a vintage kitchen cart I found on the street into a planter station for my wayward succulents. One bonus of my new plant cart is that it camouflages my otherwise unsightly garden hose.
As a last step, I created two vignettes against our fence to fill in holes where my green thumb had failed me. I moved my tree stump planter to a new location and refreshed the plants with new soil, mulch and fertilizer. I also pulled together some of my favorite outdoor objects – pottery, a large branch, an old urn with ivy and some plants to create a cluster that you see as soon as you walk into the patio. Alone, these things looked like junk but collected, they make a great visual statement that I am happy greets my guests upon entry.
A little modern, a little contemporary but 100 percent created for me and the life my family leads. I now have dedicated zones for entertaining, relaxing and gardening within the confines of my urban patio. It’s the perfect amount of nature mixed with pretty. Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I have some relaxing to do…
Many thanks to Adrienne of Photo by Adza for the beautiful photos featured in this post.
Courtney Lake is a Bay Area interior designer and the voice behind the lifestyle blog Courtney Out Loud. A graduate of Stanford University, he worked in high-tech marketing and events before launching his successful interior design business, Courtney Lake Interiors. His writing and work has been featured on television, online and in print including: Life & Style Magazine, The Nate Berkus Show, Dabble Magazine, Apartment Therapy and many others. When not designing, he can be found in the kitchen, testing recipes on his partner and playing with his loveable mutt, Scruffy. Take a look at the beautiful Christmas tablescape he created in a Holiday Style Challenge article here on The Home Depot Blog.
To create his backyard oasis, Courtney used the Northridge 5-Piece Dining Set from The Home Depot.