Landscape architect Joann Schwarberg leads us through a weekend action plan for transforming our dead-leaf-riddled outdoor spaces into true retreats. She recently tackled her neighbors' porch and patio so the couple will be set to host a class reunion.
"Like many of our homes, these areas needed to be ready for adult entertaining and relaxing," Schwarberg says. "They needed cleaning from the crud of winter. Furniture had to be upgraded, pots needed to be bigger and color needed to be added through cushions and plants."
Friday after work: Make a plan
Determine the project's scope. A weekend makeover can be as simple as positioning furniture and redistributing accessories. Truly updating the space can cost a little more, says interior designer Stephen Saint-Onge in his book "No Place Like Home" (Wiley; $20). "This is something you could do alone, as a fun family project or with a group of friends," Saint-Onge writes. "Instead of a book club, how about forming a makeover club?"
Take digital photos. Schwarberg documents projects by taking photographs from different angles. The "before" photos help pinpoint problems. For example, even though her neighbors' covered porch is attached to the house, it seemed a little removed.
"One way to give it more of a cocooning feeling is to use simple outdoor drapery panels," Schwarberg says. "Fabric envelops the space, makes it more welcoming."
Make a list of tasks and supplies. This includes the fun: new pillows and plants; and the mundane: cleanup.
Early Saturday: Clean like mad
Empty pots and clear out furnishings. "They need to be out of the way so you can clean the area and visualize something new," Schwarberg says.
Spruce up. Prune nearby trees and shrubs. Clear the gutters. Power wash or hose down the area of the house getting the makeover, including the walls and pavement.
Saturday afternoon: Shop around
Assess your furniture. "If the old stuff has to make it another year or two but looks pretty run down, consider painting it with one of the special spray paints made for metal or plastic furniture," Schwarberg says. "Remember to clean it thoroughly first, or the paint will flake and chip."
Consider new cushions and pillows. For cushions, Schwarberg advocates a solid neutral color.
"That neutral could be a blue, lime green or whatever," she says. "You want the cushions to be fine for any type of party, whether it's a luau or fiesta. So the (accent) pillows can be the fun patterns, but you don't want to get sick of the cushions."
Buy pots, plants and rugs. You might already have an outdoor-grade rug in your house that you can use on the patio.
Sunday after breakfast: Race to the end