Outdoor Eatery Or Your Backyard Cozy-fied?

When I moved into Sean's house a year ago, I was very excited in particular about having a deck. It was the one thing my Vinalhaven residence lacked and I saw myself in cute sundresses mingling with friends at my theoretical deck parties.

Backdeckoasis Only the thing with a deck is it needs something. Something to sit on, eat on, or even look at. Otherwise it's a big expanse of wood. Kind of dull.

While Sean tinkered with his outside project (more on that later this week), it become my goal to make the deck more habitable.

I divided the deck into three distinct areas: the dining/lounging part, the sitting around the firebowl part, and the food/grilling part. In this post, I tackle the dining/lounging area. (Other areas will follow.)

Since Sean hates both wicker and plastic furniture, I'm severely limited on what will work here. I found wooden folding chairs at The Christmas Tree Shop for $5 each last month and bought four. Extra seating, tasteful, and foldable! The added bonus is I can always spray paint them to make them any color I want, though I do like the natual wood look. I used two chairs in my dining area. ($10)

I then made a makeshift table with some leftover lumber in our basement. It looks pretty silly underneath but a water-resistant but cute tablecloth does that trick of hiding my non-handiness. Use lots of brackets to make it as sturdy as possible; remember no one has to know! ($15 for the tablecloth)

To maximize the seating, I took advantage of the bench seating along the edge of the deck. Pillows can make things more comfortable and cozy and with some leftover batting and cloth, I made a bench seat cushion for the other side. (Forgot to take the photo from that angle to show it off. ($20 for batting and cloth on the bench, throw pillows taken temporarily from inside the house)

A planter with bonsai pine tree defines the corner of the deck, and subtly alerts people so they don't fall off the edge (planter $5, tree and rock from yard)

A citronella candle keeps things bug-free, at least relatively ($5). Tea lights on the table will give some light as night falls ($1).

So for just under $60, I can now have four people over (six if we scrunch) for an outside dinner.

Nicole's Tips To A Lounge-y Deck

1. Repurpose. Don't have lumber in your basement? How about a big bulletin board resting on plant stands? Or buy a wide two by four and rest it on a bench. Think of the table height you want (coffee table vs. dining table) and start looking around your house, basement, and garage for things you can use!

2. Invest in a wipeable table cloth. A cloth tablecloth will be in the wash every five minutes. Get one in a plastic-y finish that you can wipe for the occasional spill. Has the added benefit of covering up shoddy carpentry work. 

3. Test your table before people come over. Put plates, food etc. on it and make sure it isn't too wobbly. If it is, adjust as necessary. Remember, the tablecloth will hide your adjustments.

4. Fabric adds poshness. Don't be afraid to use cushions. They're fun and say that you care about your guests' butts. Just have an area close to your deck (but protected) where you can put things when you go in for the night. And make it so you don't have to squish them into storage; if puttint them away is a hassle, you'll never do it and after a season outside, you'll have to junk the cushions. (I have a shelf in our breezeway where the cushions and tablecloth fit perfectly.)

5. Think lighting. As night falls, how will your party transition? Like you would with a room, think of a variety of light sources: candles, Christmas lights, tiki torches, solar lamps… Tea lights and the citronella will be fine in this small space but other lighting will need to happen to make the whole deck useable.

6. Delineate possible hazards. If there is a place where your deck just ends, put a big planter plant. Light transitional areas like stairs (you can do this cheaply by putting a tea light on both sides of every stair). You don't want people to get hurt at your party; it's a real showstopper to have to drive someone to the emergency room!

As the other areas come together, I'll post photos. Hope you had an equally productive weekend!

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