Deck makeover; LAHRGHDT day in Austin

LAHRGHDT day has arrived! “Let’s All Help Robin Get Her Deck Together” day is hopefully not going to be an annual holiday; more like a once in a decade occasion.

I wish I could say that I had a covered porch, I covet those who have that. (Yes, covet, okay?) Or, to tell the truth, actually I covet those who have a screened porch with a ceiling fan. But since I don’t currently have that, I want my existing deck to be as pretty as possible. And while I’m in the truth-telling mode, I admit that I love the pictures in all the decorating books, and on HGTV and DIY and all those other ridiculous stations that I watch too much of. I want a fantasy deck!

While I normally get a vision for what I want indoors and create it, I just can’t seem to accomplish that with the deck. I have a moderate-sized deck space, but a majority of it is pass-through or pathway areas. I have a grill that must be there (I use it easily 3-4 times a week), and my outdoor “closet” that contains all my gardening supplies.

The grill against the house

The grill against the house

tall, light blue storage closet opposite the french doors from the grill

tall, light blue storage closet opposite the french doors from the grill

For my birthday, I got this gorgeous gazebo from Breed’s Hardware that I had been jonesin’ for. I hung a chandelier in the top that is gorgeous at night. I like the gazebo’s small coziness, and a larger one would have encroached on the walking areas of the deck. Last spring, I added the new cobalt blue cushions to my existing patio chairs to replace the tattered ugly ones that were there for years. Woohoo! (By the way, it is not really teetering at an angle like this picture shows. I took the pics before I had solidly stabilized it to the deck.)

view from side nearest deck edge

view from side nearest deck edge

Chandelier in top of gazebo

Chandelier in top of gazebo

My vision is to create a shabby chic, beach cottagey, southern-style inviting deck. A place that seduces you into sitting out there for no reason at all but to sit. But my brain is spitting sparks, rather than getting new ideas. So far, here is what I have considered:

1. paint the metal on the outdoor chairs off-white
2. add sheer off-white curtains to the support poles on the gazebo
3. put hanging baskets (of what?) on 2 or 3 of the sides of the 7 sided gazebo
4. I considered painting subtle blue stripes (two boards wide per stripe) on the off-white deck
5. I considered stenciling a “rug” pattern on the deck where the chairs are (though that sounds more ambitious than I usually might undertake!)

I can’t go crazy with too many potted plants, because they just die in our heat.

view from opposite side, house is to the right from this angle

view from opposite side

I need your suggestions and ideas, please! I can’t seem to pull this project together so that it seems cohesive with the house. And it needs to be VERY budget friendly, as I’m about to embark on a kitchen remodel (I’ll blog that story during the process, complete with pictures and kvetching, I’m sure.) I want coziness, as this patio from last fall’s Austin Garden Tour exhibits:

Mine if I had more talent!

Mine if I had more talent!

I know that you gardeners out there are very creative, and many of you have an excellent eye for design. Throw those suggestions into the mix! Don’t hold back, there are no bad ideas in this forum. (I’m a writer, I’m used to being edited. You aren’t going to hurt my feelings if you need to critique something you see or don’t see). I promise to post before and after pics, so you can see just how much you helped create my fantasy.


28 thoughts on “Deck makeover; LAHRGHDT day in Austin

  1. g’day

    I think painting the wood with a white or a whitewash (watered down white paint) could give you the white shabbyness you want and would contrast the black of the iron and the boldness of the blue

    I don’t know if I would paint the iron, it kinda gives definition

    I think what is lacking is tieing it all together – completely clear off the deck of all pots, hanging bits, tables etc apart from the main feature and see what you are left with and see how you can unify it, at the moment it’s a bit of a mismatch.

    I’m thinking maybe you could add some white or blue and white stripe dress cushions to the chairs and then add the same stripe to some placemats, coasters…to give it a bit more beachyness, and soften the blue, at the moment that pops the eye a bit

    The edge of the deck needs some kind of ‘end’ – like some big pots and plants to give it more of an enclosed feeling…I did this, bought the cheapest large pots I could find in black and added drought hardy cordylines (these are great, hardly need any water, are quite large and move really nicely in the breeze for depth and texture), then place these pots at intervals to the edge and then perhaps to each large pot add one of your smaller blue pots that are dotted around

    hope that helps, I’m about to do a bit of a mini makeover on my deck too been thinking about it for a few weeks…


  2. Sarah, thanks for all your ideas. You are right, nothing is tied together right now. That’s what it needs, for sure. Good idea for clearing the space except for the gazebo – that’s what I would do if it were indoors. For some reason, the outdoors is confusing me, maybe because I don’t have walls to confine things. Thanks for checking in!

  3. What a lovely back yard you have and how I envy you all the privacy. I would be out on the deck grilling several times a week, too. Your idea of stripes for a beachy feel is great. Have you considered doing the striping effect on the back of the house instead of on the deck? It would create a lovely backdrop for your gazebo and pots. Good luck, I’ll look forward to seeing the progress.

  4. Hmmm. I like the idea of white gauzy curtains on the gazebo, and that might help with mosquitos, too. I’m not so sure about hanging pots on the gazebo, though. It’s small, and I for one might be afraid of sitting so close to something large and heavy hanging above my head! I do have one suggestion for tying everything together, though. Have you thought about painting the metal of the chairs and the metal of the gazebo the same color? Maybe a shade of a blue that would look funky with the blue cushions on the chairs? Or maybe just painting the chairs to match the gazebo if it’s too hard to paint the gazebo?

  5. Oh,and I would also put a rug or something under the furniture in the gazebo, to further define the space. Barton Springs Nursery sells some outdoor rugs in funky colors & patterns that might work. IKEA gets some cheap cool stuff in its spring/summer collection as well.

  6. Oh, gotta love IKEA! Defining the space is a good idea. And I see what you mean about making the chairs and the gazebo the same color. Thanks, Lori!

  7. Robin

    I saw your plea for help on a beach cottage and then saw this slideshow on a beautiful website and thought of your deck. It’s not exactly a deck but the first shot of the gazebo has some lovely elements and thought it might give you some inspiration.

    Check out this slideshow: “Showit Web Presentation” at

    Of course Sarahs suggestions are wonderful….she is the style queen.

  8. Oh, Janice! Great pics, thanks. It is really about adding fabrics and layers, isn’t it? Giving it some depth and interest. Okay, my work is cut out for me…

  9. Oh, and I wanted to say that I second what Sarah said about the deck needing to feel enclosed. Large pots are a good idea, and if there’s any part of the view from the deck you want screened, bamboo muhly would be an excellent choice for a pot– that’s what I use it for. 😉 You also might want to plant something a little taller than the ginger by the side of the deck, maybe something that comes up to about the height of the chair arms since there doesn’t look like there’s enough room for pots on that part of the deck. Or you could just put a really large pot right up against the deck where the ginger is now, surrounded by the rest of the ginger, maybe in a blue that would match the chair cushions, which would also help tie the deck to the garden.

    I can’t wait to see how this all turns out! I’m also a sucker for all those HGTV before-and-after shows. 😀

  10. Yes that’s it.

    Fabric, layers, depth, interest.

    I couldn’t find the words to describe what I was loving on the slideshow

    but that’s it.

  11. Lori, that’s a cool idea about a pot in that bed – I thought the ginger might get tall enough after seeing Diana’s, but mine is in the shade so it probably won’t. And I didn’t think about Bamboo Muhly in a container – that needs some sun, right? I have a large brown pot that I could whitewash and use for that, I think. Cool!

  12. Bamboo muhly does just fine in part sun. The more shade it’s in, the more of a weeping form it’ll develop. I have some in a pot on my front porch that only gets maybe an hour of sun a day, and it’s fine, but it’s definitely much more of a shorter, weeping form compared to my very-upright privacy hedge of 6′ bamboo muhlys in full sun in my back yard!

  13. I too like the idea of gauzy billowing curtains or something similar. I love the cobalt blue cushions. I have a gazebo myself. Spend a lot of time out there. To make it cozy, the curtains would help. Just some feeling of enclosure perhaps. Maybe a nice water fountain???

  14. Do you have a photo of your gazebo on your blog, Brenda? I would love to see it. There actually is an existing fountain in the pond, it just isn’t pictured in those photos. Curtains are definitely the first addition, I think.

  15. Oh, and speaking of outdoor curtains, I read somewhere that if you make your own, it’s a good idea to sew fishing weights or washers or something else small and heavy to the bottom of the curtains at regular intervals so they don’t blow around too much.

  16. Lori, I’ll probably go to Walmart and see what kind of polyester ones they have available. But I have been known to put pennies in my indoor curtains for that reason, so thanks for the reminder.

  17. Hi Robin,

    We have a long narrow covered front porch, which I dare to call a veranda, but it’s too shallow to use as a room, so I also covet covered patios/decks and screened porches. Your gazebo looks like a pretty good solution, as long as it doesn’t blow away in the winds we’ve been having this weekend! I have no decoration ideas – just like to read what other people do and think the chandelier is fun.
    This is a recent photo? Doesn’t your variegated ginger freeze over winter?

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  18. Annie, my ginger is fairly protected by a fence, and it’s on the south side of the house. Yes, the photo is recent, though now one of the gingers has a few brown leaves from the end of January freezes. I guess you DO get a lot colder than we do in South Austin! It’s amazing, isn’t it? And there’s Diana, whose yard is tropical compared to mine, only a few miles south of me.

  19. Hi Robin, I have a similar low wood deck/patio. I’ve found that large pots on the corners helped soften the transition to the surrounding planting beds. BTW – Lowes has big palms, meant for houseplants, on sale for $6. I’ve used a couple and found they really helped make my deck feel like an outdoor room. For that price, who cares if they might freeze next winter. I’m wondering where you got the chandelier? I’ve been looking for one just like it.

  20. Jacqui, nice idea about the palms, I just don’t think I can spend the time to give them enough water to survive here in a container. The chandelier was purchased a couple of years ago at Bombay, who I believe is now out of business. I fell in love with it when I saw – perhaps you might find one online.

  21. Okay I will not hold back:)! My focus will be on structure rather than the fun bit, planting.

    Your back deck is prepped for an overhead structure that incorporates the entirety of your back deck. Think substantial posts around the perimeter corners (perhaps a couple may be required inbetween) of your existing deck woodwork that would connect visually (though not structually) to your house via a simple overhead light “trellis”. Think Manuels restaurant on jollyville rd, or, ZTejas house on 6th street but on a much smaller scale, open on the sides, perhaps vines over the top? The Gazebo would make a great focal point and desination to a staging point somewhere else in your yard, a retreat of sorts.

    This new structure (not expensive) would create a much larger “living and lounging” area and would naturally integrate full use of your available deck space, in turn, making your immediate outside living space seem much larger. The Gazebo is currently creating an “island” on your pre-existing deck and therefore is not optimizing the space you have, but limiting it perceptually. I know you love this structure, but it could also be appreciated at the end of a stroll with a glass of wine to look back toward your house, or at some other satellite desination in your yard?
    Those are my musings, don’t hate me! 🙂
    My regards,

  22. ESP, I certainly don’t hate you! I love your input, and if I weren’t spending all my big bucks on my kitchen right now, I would replace the old deck boards with limestone and create that beautiful structure you describe. And that pretty gazebo would look absolutely gorgeous next to my daylilies. $omeday…sigh…

  23. Hi Robin. Thanks for the comments on my fledgling blog. Check in again. I should have another post before long. Yes, I am slow at this.

    I like the blue cushions on your deck chairs. They really stand out in your garden. Looks like a great place to kick your feet up and enjoy your favorite beverage. I will be checking again to see what you are up to.

  24. Pingback: Update on LAHRGHDT Day « Getting Grounded

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