The one-day garden makeover
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Summer Lovin'1 of 14
By Natasha Burton
Need a little help turning your neglected backyard into the kind of place you'd want to actually spend time in? We asked interior design experts and DIY advocates Betsy Burnham and Max Humphrey, founders of instant/space, to show one couple how to take their backyard from meh to amazing. Steal their tips to do the same in your own yard.
The Everything Yard?2 of 14
The homeowners moved from a tiny apartment in New York City to a spacious townhouse in L.A., with a real backyard. Now that they're settled in and summer's approaching, the couple's turning their attention to the outside. Their goal? To make their 250-square-foot yard into a space that can be used for entertaining and storage, and be kid-friendly at the same time.
Tidy & Tailored3 of 14
Burnham and Humphrey took inspiration from the grounds of a Parisian hotel and went for a tailored, European vibe when re-thinking the yard. "Since the space is small, and the owners want multiple uses from it, we think it's best to go tidy and symmetrical. The space should look manicured, but still be relatively low maintenance. Luckily, it's just about editing and simplifying what's already there," says Burnham.
Dining Out4 of 14
The homeowners want to be able to entertain a group of up to eight people in the space, but worry that the existing table is too large for the yard. Not necessarily, Burnham and Humphrey say. "We suggest removing the tree in the center of the right side, and moving the dining table down there. We'd love to see the table and one bench painted a creamy white." Then, they suggest adding three additional woven dining chairs to add some texture while still keeping the look sleek.
Soft Spot5 of 14
Add a pop of color or pattern with chair cushions or pillows. A graphic French blue print with red piping, on these bolsters, reinforces the European feel. Choose durable, outdoor fabrics that can be left outside and will withstand the outdoor elements.
Rocky Road6 of 14
Put down a layer of inexpensive, small gravel—typically found around European walkways—under the table and chairs. Since the area is mostly shaded and growing grass in the past has been difficult, this will eliminate having to try and grow it and maintain it.
Hedging Your Bets7 of 14
Burnham and Humphrey suggest removing—and then gifting or recycling—all the existing plants, which are a little overgrown. Replacing them with boxwood hedges will outline the yard and better define the space.
Lemon Aid8 of 14
The design pair suggests adding some low-maintenance citrus trees. "Not only do they add a splash of color, but they smell wonderful when they bloom," they say. Available at your garden center or online, the trees come in various sizes and can easily be potted in planters. Simply move the trees indoors if you live in a colder climate during the fall and winter.
Hip & Square9 of 14
Beautiful pots will infuse a fun design element into the space. "Match them, to keep the design simple and elegant, and place two on either side of the door, filled with two lemon trees or ferns, flanking the edges of the tiled area, and at the back of the yard by the dining table," Humphrey suggests.
It's Electric10 of 14
"We'd splurge on an electrician, and add sconces on either side of the door to the house, on the outside wall." They suggest classic fixtures with clean lines. Electricians typically charge by the hour and their rates usually start around $100. If you have more electric work to be done, try and negotiate a day rate—you'll save yourself money in the process doing everything at once.
Twinkle, Twinkle11 of 14
For a festive look perfect for entertaining, Burnham and Humphrey suggest the homeowners string lights from the house to the fence above the newly placed table—similar to what you might find above outdoor French café tables.
Light The Way12 of 14
For added ambiance, use lanterns in various sizes, Burnham suggests. "They look great grouped in clusters on the ground and even on top of the table as a centerpiece." Because small children may be around, use flameless candles for safe, cool-to-the-touch candlelight.
Grill Time13 of 14
One of the couple's concerns was the effect of too much smoke in the backyard from grilling. Burnham and Humphrey say an electric grills, for those willing to part with the standard charcoal variety, is an option. A portable tabletop version (that could be stored in the house or the garage while not in use) will keep the backyard more streamlined.
Storage Solution14 of 14
While the homeowners were interested in potentially adding a basketball hoop for their child, they don't want to make their yard a total kid-nasium—plus they still need some kind of backyard storage for tools. The designers' verdict on the matter? "Choose either tool storage or a basketball hoop, but not both. There just isn’t enough room," Humphrey says. "If tools trump basketball, then a storage container can go where the table was located." (If the opposite, they suggest putting a freestanding hoop in that spot instead.)
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