Tips For Creating A Backyard Oasis

Middle-Aged House Love By Julie C.

Four years ago my new husband and I moved into our ‘forever’ house. To this day we still can’t believe we live here, nor can HE believe that we’re still working on projects. He should know by now that we’ll never be done – it’s not just home improvement to me, it’s an obsession. Call us “Middle-Aged House Love”

Most of our projects thus far have been inside, and while that constantly-evolving list remains unfinished, we both agreed that it was past time to hit the deck. Literally. Since our home had sat empty for over a year before we bought it, the acre lot was in sad shape when we moved in. We’ve worked hard to update and rejuvenate the lawn and landscaping and it’s looking great, but the deck attached to the back of the house was beyond help and had to be changed. So it was sometime back in January this year I started my Trash-the-Deck Campaign. It took a little while to get The Husband on board, but in the end he knew to fight it was a losing battle. Yep. Happy wife… yada yada. Old deck before picture

First I took my own advice and set a budget perimeter (Our budget was money saved for an Italy trip. Ciao to that plan). One thing you should know about me is that I’m all about “the Deal”. While the Husband can remember the most obscure sports facts, for me it’s where I bought it, how much I paid and what it’s really worth. So naturally, for this project, it was important to me to get the most bang for my buck and that meant prioritizing: function, looks, relaxation, shade, and entertainment. That’s my list, but yours may be totally different.

We wanted a more functional and better-looking deck, so the first step was to tear the top boards off the existing deck and then to scale back the overall size. I drew the out the plans and researched ideas to add to my backyard ideabook on This site is by far the best place to get ideas for basically anything house- or yard-related, and has a tool for you to save your favorites. To get the shade we wanted I chose to add a pergola with columns and a metal roof. deck overview with gazebo Let me tell you, I fought hard for that roof as the Husband did not agree with me. Ha! I love I told you so’s. (An added benefit of the metal roof is the amazing sound of the rain hitting it – so nostalgic!) Next, we shopped an outdoor outlet for a new hot tub to add the relaxing component we wanted. We found a great deal and added a concrete pad to the plan for the hot tub to sit on. Hot tub

Since neither the Husband nor I have any building experience (and we’re getting too old for that level of physical labor anyway), enter Our Guy (everyone needs one). He had helped with our small interior projects, but he is also an experienced house builder. After looking at my plan, he had a couple good suggestions, and in the end I gave him major credit for taking my rudimentary drawings and a couple of Houzz photos and making my vision a reality! The finished deck/pergola blocks the midday sun, the west sun is blocked by drapes (IKEA panels hung on a plumbing pipe), the new hot tub fits perfectly on the concrete slab with decking steps built along two sides, and an outdoor ceiling fan circulates the air. Perfection. finished deck

The next phrase was the pea gravel patio that I planned to enlarge the outdoor living and visual space (sort of a European look). It took ten tons of pea gravel to cover the forty-plus foot area from the deck to a small copse of trees with brick pavers used to edge the lawn on either side (This labor was done in 4 hours by Our Guy #2 and his crew. Thank God.) gravel patio Our Guy brought the electrical from the house out to the copse of trees so I could incorporate two forty-eight foot commercial lighting strings (Amazon) to give the area a beer garden look. For a little added drama I placed an uplight in the center of the trees, too. So now instead of a visual black-hole at the edge of the deck in the evening, the lit-up pea-gravel patio extends the visual line forty-plus feet to that copse of trees. outdoor lighting

We can honestly say we have no regrets spending our vacation stash and we would do it again – exactly the same way! Now that we have our own version of paradise right outside the back door, we’ve already entertained several times, had the grandkids over for hot tub fun, and thoroughly enjoyed a stay-cation. Maybe we’ll visit you again in the future, Italy, but for now we’re more than happy right here. Ciao.

About the Author:

Julie Julie Choquette must decorate! Must paint! Must re-purpose! She has retirement dreams of turning those passions of painting, decorating/design, reading, writing and photography from part-time endeavors into something grand.

Julie’s been told she’s ‘Best Nana Ever’, and works hard to keep that title! She loves being a nana, mother and wife. She really loves being an empty-nester with her husband, feeling blessed that she was given a second chance at love/happiness/life! She has worked as a director/department head & grant writer for a government/non-profit agency for 20 years, but is more than ready to see what the next phase brings.

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