THE BACKYARD 2017. GETTING CLOSER TO PERFECT.

 

After 17 or so years of working on my backyard I think I’m finally happy.  Not with the backyard you understand, just happy in general. Which makes me far more tolerant of the things in my backyard which make me nuts.  Like the lack of storage, my possibly dying maple tree and the hellish mosquitos that have not only bit me, but bit my feet while resting on either side of a massive, potted citronella plant. Having said that, as the saying goes, this is the closest to being happy with my backyard as I’ve ever been.  There’s one more thing that would really make my backyard happiness complete and I’ll get into that later in the post.

 

 

I’m just going to tour you through these photos as if I’m actually touring you through my backyard.  K?  We’re going sort of casual today ’cause it’s a summer Monday and no one has the energy for anything else.  I.  Don’t have the energy for anything else, lol.

So here I am in my Restoration Hardware hacked chair pretending to read a book.  It’s a great book actually and I have read it, but I’m not really reading it here.  I’m pretending to read it.  It’s a fantastic floral design book called The Flower Recipe Book.  Very looks, Brooklyn style arrangements.  I also have The Plant Recipe Book which is similar but with plants as opposed to flowers.  Both are on sale now.

 

Last year I had my Restoration Hardware Furniture Hack beside the pizza oven which I LOVED because it was so cozy, but when I had pizza I had to walk it over to the other side of the backyard to slide it onto the table.  It didn’t make sense.  In the winter when I had my 8 cords of wood delivered I had to move the furniture from around the pizza oven to make room for wood stacking.  At the time my sister helped me drag the furniture over to where the dining table was and in the spring I decided it would make more sense to just leave it there and put the table by the pizza oven.

 

Still the best thing I’ve ever done for my backyard was build the pizza oven. It not only saved me a TON of money (like thousands) by building it myself, it’s created a reason for me to be outside and a reason for people to come over.  EVERYONE who comes wants to come over for pizza.  Everyone.  If you want to build your own pizza oven for about $100, start here.

My outdoor dining table and chairs were from Ikea and they feel like regular furniture which is what I like about them.  It’s nice to have something outside that you like enough you could have it inside.  I mean, I wouldn’t but … I could.

 

Those ice-cubes are fake.  For real.  They’re plastic ice cubes.  If you shoot anything outside in the summer your ice-cubes are gonna melt quick-like.  Buy fake ones and they’ll never melt.

 

You know those sales racks they have right at the check out in stores? That’s where I found this speaker.  I wouldn’t say it’s the loudest speaker I’ve ever owned but it’s great for the backyard because it’s bluetooth, has a rechargeable battery so I can set it down anywhere without plugging it in and it’s waterproof  .  It’s called a Cornerstone if you want one.  You can also get two and they’ll pair to each other and create stereo sound.  Get ’em here if you’re in the States. If you’re in Canada, the only place I can find that carries them is The Source.

 

The light fixture you see hanging in the picture below is a prototype I made using corrugated plastic.  I based it on a cardboard light I got at Ikea that obviously wasn’t going to stand up to the elements outside.  Although, like an idiot I did try.  It’s made by cutting the plastic into shapes and then scoring it so it bends. It worked well but I need to make another one that’s a tad neater.  I’ll never do it.  But let’s pretend.

 

Some time last winter I bought the fire table that sits between my chair and sectional.  The manufacturer was coming out with new styles and Rona was selling off all the old stock for almost free. I think this was about $180 regular price around $1,000.  For now I have it hooked up to a propane tank. Once I’m sure I’ve completely committed to having the sectional in this area of the yard I’ll have a gas line permanently run to it.

Hey! There’s that book I’m pretending to read hanging over the arm of the sectional.  I really commit to my lies.

 

I know and I understand that I’ve been saying for almost a year now that I’ll be doing a post on how I built my Restoration Hardware furniture.  I have not yet done that.  Here’s the thing.  I don’t use plans, I don’t even know how to read them. I just build stuff.  I make it to fit me and my yard or house.  So when people ask me how wide or deep the chair is I can tell them, but that’s been built for me.  Not someone who is 6′ tall.  That’s half the advantage to building your own furniture, you can make it the size that feels right to you.

I haven’t abandoned the idea of writing up a post on the basics of how to do this furniture but it’s definitely something I keep putting off.  Sorry about that.

 

I do have  the posts I did last year that show you how to hack up the arms to make them look worn, another post on how to use a natural stain to make the wood look aged, and another post on how to build the arms. If you haven’t done any of that, those posts will get you started.

 

The fish are really easy to take care of  until they get a weird disease that eats their flesh to the point that you can see their internal organs. Then it’s a real shitshow.   If you haven’t read my post on how I treated my fish that had gaping holes in their sides you really should just for the before and after photos.  Big. Gaping. Holes.  You could see their insides!

Most of you know the story behind THAT chair.  For those of you who don’t, read all about it.  It’s the reason the word fiasco was invented.

 

Yeah.  I still have them. And they’re still cute.

Before I let you go we’re going to take a nighttime tour, if you have time for that.  Come on in the back gate …

 

 

 

 

Can you imagine this backyard at night without the lights?  Probably not.  Or else you could but it wouldn’t be nearly as nice or, more importantly, useful.  I can go in my backyard any night and do anything I could do in the day.  I can see well enough to BBQ, eat or read if I want to.  Mainly I watch the Blue Jays on my laptop.

Remember at the beginning of this post I said there was one thing that would make my backyard closer to perfect? It’s a pergola.  A big, modern pergola with straight lines, stained black off the back of my house.  It hasn’t happened yet but I’m leaning in that direction.   Leaning very hard.  I wouldn’t hire anyone to do it.  That’d just be stupid.  But I won’t build it myself either.  That’d be just stupid.

I’ll hopefully be able to convince a few friends to help me and maybe they’ll have some friends and so on.  I pay in pizza.  That might not seem like enough but I use really, really expensive cheese.

I’ve never used my backyard as much as I have this year.  I started out by making an actual point of sitting in it every, single morning.  As soon as I wake up I grab my laptop, a coffee and head out back to go through my emails.  I’ve written this entire post and Photoshopped all of the pictures while … in my backyard.

It isn’t perfect but it’s almost perfect and for the moment that’s good enough for me.

HAHAHAHAHAHA.  Just kidding.  It’s not good enough at all.  I need to erect that effing pergola. I’d better start making a lot of dough.

Pizza dough.

 

81 Comments

  1. MaggieB says:

    Just Bliss, Karen! Was just deciding if I had the energy to have a full scale implosion MELTDOWN, then realised hadn’t logged on for my thrice weekly therapy session, and now am in a better place, so really thank you for that as well.

    Having followed you for, ooh forever, it is inspiring and interesting to see the changes and evolutions that the house and garden/yard have gone through. Have put cheap flights from Germany to Canada on my watchlist – kidding, or am I? No, seriously, i’m kidding …… :)……. It would be great to see a time-lapse of the pergola/pizza party/ies – just a thought.

    Right enough procrastination, off to find out where one of the kids has left some food, because went away for 5 days and have come back to a fly infestation, of almost plague proportions it would appear.

    • Karen says:

      The food is between the couch cushions. It’s ALWAYS between the couch cushions. Or is that money? I forget. ~ karen!

  2. SueSchneid22 says:

    The perfect backyard! Thanks for the tour. You are over the top creative and you get things done. I am sure we’ll be seeing the pergola pics soon and the smell of pizza will be wafting over the border…

  3. Alena says:

    I thought about you on Saturday when, on my way to Home Depot, I stopped at HomeSense which just a block from HD. I wondered how come people find all this cool stuff at HS when ours usually has nothing. I really love the round chair that you got last week (or the week before) and, in hindsight, it’s probably good that HS did not have it because I am sure I would have bought regardless that I don’t have space for it. I find that Toronto and Burlington HS stores usually have much better stuff but it’s not practical to keep driving over every weekend, with the 401 as packed as it usually is.

    I cancelled my Style At Home subscription a few years ago because I got frustrated with it – mostly due to the font being so tiny and so thin that it became entirely illegible for my eyes. But the one issue I can’t toss out is the one with your garden in it. I will probably be buried clutching that issue in my stiff fingers.
    I only wish I had your trees and also your amount of rain. I get nothin’.
    Not that I don’t have trees but they are mostly in my neighbour’s yard and on the wrong side of my yard. They are aging maples that overhang so much into my lot it’s me who gets most of their fallen leaves and other craps that keeps falling from them.

    So I have a question for you – let’s forget your pristine garden and tell me honestly how often you have to sweep. Because it seems to me I can sweep twice a day and there is always crap on the patio. I always took as necessary evil but this it’s really weighing on me as I have a damaged shoulder (and it looks like it’s a permanent problem so I guess my garden-building days are over). Also, where do you store all that furniture? Are you leaving everything outdoors over winter or do you put it in the shed? (I assume the RH chairs stay where they are because they are too heavy to be moved elsewhere.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Alena. I sweep sporadically and it really depends on the season. I partly swept yesterday, got bored, and only swept half the backyard. I do a quick sweep when I come out every morning. Sometimes a good one where I scoop everything up and and put it in the compost. Other times I just sweep into little piles and leave them hidden behind the chairs, lol. The furniture stays outside, the cushions come inside in the winter for storage and the black dining table breaks down and goes in the shed. Dining chairs stay outside covered with a tarp. ~ karen!

  4. jaine kunst says:

    What a beautiful, cozy backyard retreat! I think the first time I saw your blog you were in the process of digging up the slate pavers and I thought to myself, this is one badass broad and I better follow her to see what amazing stuff she’ll do next. You have never disappointed. Thank you, Karen for the tour; I can almost taste the pizza.

  5. Kelly says:

    We used your furniture as a jumping off point – I watched the video of how you put the arms together, and it wasn’t hard to figure out the rest. We just used brackets and boards for the seat and back, and made sure to angle the back to 100 degrees. Now I want to put lights all around my backyard. And maybe convince my husband we need a pizza oven, though that will probably be a hard sell, since he already uses a charcoal grill for pizzas.

    • Karen says:

      NO, no, no. He HAS to build a pizza oven. There’s NO comparison. Every single person who has had the pizza out of this oven (granted homemade dough, sauce etc) has said it’s the best pizza they’ve ever had. It’s incredible! ~ k!

  6. Leisa says:

    Absolutely amazing! No wonder everyone wants to come over, it’s beautiful. Enjoy!!!

  7. christine says:

    Holy crapola! That is the best ever.I am about to recover some cushions.I bought black and have been freaking…do they show dust so much I will have to cover them?

    • Karen says:

      They do get dusty Christine. I sweep them with a broom every morning before I sit down. I also have a very small shop blower (like a leaf blower but tiny) that I use on the cushions once in a while to get the pollen off. ~ karen!

  8. Tigersmom says:

    Your backyard is stunning. I have looked and looked for outdoor furniture with arms that you can rest a drink on.
    One word of warning on the pergola (although you are clever and resourceful enough to find not only a solution, but a solution that looks amazing): I have heard that pergolas become favorite perches for birds and where they perch, they poop. I hate to rain (or rain poop) on your parade, but I would have hated to see you get all those friends to go through all that work just to have some crow poop on your dining table.

    • Karen says:

      Eep, lol. I don’t know. I have a 2 trees over the whole backyard and now that you mention it, I rarely see poop. Maybe I have non pooping Canadian birds or something. :) ~ karen!

  9. Kari in Dallas says:

    It’s perfect for you. Best money we’ve spent on this 80 yo house is on the pergola. Like you, I’m out here every morning listening to the Anoles chirp their death threats at each other and smelling the green. I do recommend installing UV panels on top of the pergola. Let’s the light in, and I can use it when it rains. Which is lovely.

    • Karen says:

      I’d love the clear panels Kari, but my concern with any sort of clear roof iss how dirty they would get and dingy. Have you found that to be an issue? ~ karen!

      • Kari in Dallas says:

        Surprisingly, no. And we can see the top of the pergola from our living room. (House is on a hill) I think it looks better a little dingy, when it was new it was very shiny…now it just sort of blends in. I will take a photo of the top of it and post it on FB for you when the sun comes out today.

      • Alena says:

        My neighbour built a sort of an pergola that serves as an extension of the roof (it was already there when I moved next door 12 yrs ago). He used the clear corrugated plastic panels as the roof, and underneath, he put the wood lattice panels. The pergola gives his patio a very nice filtered light and yes, I guess the panels are dirty (we live close to a highway) but maybe nobody really notices because of the lattice panels underneath or it’s not a problem. I think he hoses them down at the beginning of the summer with a power washer and that takes care of the worst.

  10. Mary W says:

    Many years ago I came across a Pinterest post for a DIY lighted garden orb – from a light shade. I have followed you ever since so looks like we’ve come full circle. Your backyard is gorgeous – my favorite day picture is the first one – who would have thought that black can look cozy and welcoming? Then, like the firework finale, your night time open gate scene is a treasure. I’m sure it stirs many to wish for such elegance and wonder – me? I just get worried about spiders. In FL we have some 6″ nighttime ninja spiders that can run faster than I can. They drape between telephone lines making webs that no horror show can master. They hide under cushions, behind plants, in bushes and yes, even swim in our pool. So I will take your gorgeous nighttime pictures and use them for dreaming – like Idris – it won’t be happening in my back yard but I can rest happy knowing that somewhere up north of the border, this amazing “living yard” really exists and is welcoming and comfy and filled with the aroma of baked pizza. Question: what are those clear tubes under the Buddha head? Is it another water feature? Oh, and the variety of light sizes are genius – giant orbs, nice classic strung lights, tiny twinkle lights and then minuscule reflected lights – pure genius!!!

    • Karen says:

      I had to go back and look to see what you were talking about Mary W. Ha! Those tubes are a garden hose. :) ~ karen!

    • Catherine says:

      Your comment about spiders reminded me of an article I read a couple of years ago about the spiders in Texas who teamed up to spin giant webs. https://goo.gl/images/JVsyR1

      So glad I live in Canada.

      • Karen says:

        I can’t even click on that. Can. Not. ~ karen!

      • AnnieVee says:

        Me either

      • Mary W says:

        We also have what is called a wolf spider – related to tarantula. It doesn’t bite humans with much poison but will charge you with it’s two front legs up, ready to strike which is enough to give me a heart attack. They do come out at night and lots of them stay on a black top road so when you drive you can see their red eyes in your headlights. GROSS! I wonder how so many spiders can live in a tree like you show pictured and still get enough to eat? Maybe they just get one cow a year and share.

    • That’s the article which led me to this blog, too, Mary!

      In the States, every single state has its own unique terror. Florida, however, has the rare trifecta: scary insects, scary creatures, AND scary “Florida Man”. As in, “Florida Man Covers Himself in Ashes, Says He’s a 400-Year-Old Indian, Crashes Stolen Car”, “Florida Man Killed 5 Gators, Ate Them for Super Bowl Dinner”, or “Drunk, Machete-Wielding Florida Man Chases Neighbor on Lawnmower”, all of which are REAL HEADLINES from the first three months of 2015 alone. Ah, Florida :-)

      • Mary W says:

        LOL That would be Florida. We moved to a very rural area in the seventies to raise our own food, vegetable, etc. It was so much fun BUT we ended up both working so we could afford to live that way. Weird. I don’t let my kids (grands) near rivers or lakes that aren’t closely monitored due to alligators and moccasins. Now we have to be worried about the anacondas that have taken over the gators. The bears, wolves, wild hogs, cougars, wild dog mixed with coyote (chupacabra) and foxes with rabies. The wildlife is fun to photo but the mosquitoes blur the pics LOL. We have deer in our backyard with brought ticks and lime disease. Spiders are inside and outside YUK. BUT it is also gorgeous and no snow! Every location has it’s downsides but I do think I’d love to stay for awhile where I don’t sweat if I step outside. Can live without heater but not without AC.

      • Alberta Karen says:

        I am happy with snow after reading about the horrors of Florida!

  11. Kathryn says:

    I had decided yesterday that I was going to start sitting outside on my deck in the morning to drink my first coffee and read my email. But it’s pouring down rain. The dogs sensibly had the shortest possible walk and are back in bed.

  12. Debbie D says:

    Absolutely FABULOUS! Now how about this light for your new pergola? No, I have nothing affiliated with this blog, etc., just wanted to show off this light that I think I will be making this upcoming weekend (once I get a fabulous pergola as well—which is on my bucket list for my patio) http://club.chicacircle.com/repurpose-flower-baskets-into-a-glowing-chandelier/ In fact, I might have a couple of them in the pergola.

  13. Maggie Van sickle says:

    Beautiful Karen. U should be very proud of yourself. I just hope u have lots of company to enjoy that back yard otherwise the masterpiece is just that, a masterpiece. It needs to be seen and enjoyed. Love it!

  14. susan says:

    It looks wonderful but you know darned well you’ll never be done. Your tastes are constantly evolving and nothing sucks up money more than owning a house and not wanting to live in a time capsule.
    I’ve never quite got the point of pergolas. Except the ones with the retractable shades, of course. They don’t keep the rain off your head, they provide a stripey, dizzying kind of shade so if you don’t move around you get a really weird tan and they are so big they look like an elephant in a small back yard. I have a dream of SOMETHING for my back deck; something so that I can sit out there and get fresh air without being eaten alive. Just haven’t quite figured out what the something is, yet.

  15. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    OMG girl…I could live in your backyard…lol…I. also realize how much work you put in to make it that gorgeous!..I would sit there any day and fake read!..I am so proud of you!

  16. Grammy says:

    Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. I could spend all day in your back yard (of course I’d sneak in and enjoy myself while you are out working at the community garden or something, so it wouldn’t disturb you). But at night, oh my oh my oh my. What a deliriously wonderful place. Beautiful!

    • Karen says:

      I sat out there last night Grammy and wouldn’t even come in when it was raining. I mean, realistically, it wasn’t a pounding rain, but still … it was raining. ~ karen!

  17. Carrie says:

    Karen, I want to be you when I grow up! LOL
    Seriously, love your backyard wonderland. Makes me want to grab a book,sit right down and do some fake reading of my own.😀
    As I only have two outlets outside right now,I’m in a bit of a solar light obsession.
    Fire table for $180?????
    How come I never come across deals like that? Lucky!
    Thanks for the tour,if you need help with that pergola, I’m always up for good pizza with expensive cheese!!👍👍👍👍

  18. Elaine says:

    Simply stunning, Karen!! You should be really, really, REALLY proud of yourself! It’s beautiful and stylish night-time or day-time!

  19. Catherine says:

    This is lovely, you have made so many great sitting nooks and it all goes together brilliantly.

  20. MrsChrisSA says:

    I love love your back garden.
    At night it looks like a fairy wonderland.

    I can but dream……………………..

  21. Valerie says:

    Your yard is simply gorgeous Karen. I love it – its stylish yet so comfortable.
    You won’t like this question but here goes anyway; have you ever though of painting the outside of your pizza oven in a dull black to match everything else?
    I just knew you wouldn’t like this question.

    • Karen says:

      Ha! No, the thought never occurred to me. I wouldn’t do that, I like the natural look of it. :) ~ karen!

  22. Deborah Burns says:

    It looks perfectly wonderful to me!
    Nightime is magical in your backyard, well done!

  23. TucsonPatty says:

    Very awesome – all of it! I especially love “That Chair” and desperately need to know if it is comfortable enough to sit in and read for long periods of time?
    Gorgeous yard, especially at night.

  24. Marilyn says:

    Sometimes good enough is enough…enjoy it ..it looks peaceful …

  25. Jane S says:

    LOL. I can’t believe that you bought fake ice cubes and I made them. I am so not crafty.

    Love your yard. It looks like a place to live.

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