DIY Backyard Makeover

Originally published in 2012, our backyard makeover remains one of the best things we’ve done to our house almost 3 years later! We use it during the warmer months and look at it everyday, so it was a good use of our time and money, to say the least. I’m republishing it as we look towards spring to hopefully inspire you to tackle some outdoor projects of your own – they really do give a great return and don’t have to cost a lot!

backyard reveal

Hi there, friends! I can’t believe that I’m finally able to share with you our finished diy backyard makeover “deck-to-outdoor-rooms” project that we started way back in February of 2011. Yep, that’s a year and a half ago. I guess I don’t need to reiterate that DIY projects take awhile, do I?

We worked on it when time and the weather allowed, so even though it took awhile I’m IN LOVE with the results! It’s everything I dreamed about as I’d stand at our kitchen window and look at this:

DIY Backyard Makeover - Huge Rotting Deck

What a waste of space – I simply could not figure out what to do with that huge expanse of wood. Look how lonely the pots look.

And don’t even get me started on the upkeep or expense of replacing it. I understand decks for houses that need them because of height issues – but this was just two feet off the ground. I simply didn’t get it.

DIY Backyard Makeover-Gazebo Herb and Gravel Paths

Now we have this beautiful area. Ahhhh. Just makes so much more sense, don’t you think?

Here are a few before-and-after shots:

DIY Backyard Deck Makeover Before and After


We had to place our dining set towards the end of the deck to try and get away from the western sun at dinner time. Now the step leading to the gravel “dining patio” makes it seem like the table and chairs belong there.

Backyard makeover before and after- French doors

We had added an outside French door to our master bedroom when we did our big remodeling shortly after moving in which included the garage conversion and installing the double set of French doors to the deck as well. It was the door that led to nowhere for seven years. Ahem. Now it has a small deck and step like the entry deck and connects to the space with a gravel path. Sweet, right?

Before the house and deck loomed out over the yard instead of being a part of the yard. With the pathways and planting areas it now helps connect the yard to the house.

DIY Backyard Makeover-Gazebo and Paths Before-After

Here’s the view from the other side – and if these areas are “rooms” then this gravel pathway that connects everything from the mudroom door all the way to the master bedroom is the “hallway”. Or whatever you want to call it. :)

So, to recap, our huge deck became four rooms:

DIY Backyard Makeover- Gravel Patio

1. A dining area on a gravel patio with room for the grill and a new flower bed which holds, among other plantings, my new favorite shrub along with a concrete bird bath.

Which the birds actually use – sometimes when we’re out there. Major fun (OK, for us – remember we live in the country).

Oh – I’ve been wanting to mention that the umbrella still looks great after spray painting it summer of 2011! I thought for sure I’d have to touch it up, but I didn’t even need to. Just regular old spray paint. Amazing.

DIY Backyard Makeover-Herb Garden

2. An herb garden with a path to the back door  which is closest to the kitchen (you can go here to read about the transformation of the herb garden with before, during and after pictures). It’s been wonderful to be able to run out and clip fresh herbs for meals – and they do so much better for me in the ground that in pots.

Oh, and see the finial? Brian cut a piece of wood for the cap, we attached a wooden curtain finial ($6 for a pair) and then I coated them in a water-repelling stain. SO much cheaper than fence post caps – I couldn’t find any cute ones for less than $10 each!

DIY Backyard Makeover- Herb Garden-Entry Deck

3. A entry to the backyard. Connecting to the herb garden is what I refer to as the “entry deck.” We reused the posts and 4×6 beams from the original deck and added a wide step down to the gravel.

DIY Backyard Makeover- Gazebo-Gravel Patio

4. And finally the gazebo, our outdoor “living room.” If you missed it, be sure to read all about the gazebo makeover and get the whole scoop on how it changed from a weird shed-like oddity in the corner of the deck to a fun place to hang out.

So…can you tell how much do I like our new space? What about you? Do you think of your outdoor space as rooms?


I’m linking up to the Something to Talk About Link Party.



  1. says

    I think I’d hang outside all day in a backyard like that! If you were in these parts your yard would be on a garden tour for sure. It looks great — and even better than looks, I”m sure it “lives” great.

    Our brutally hot summer slowed down our backyard reclamation project (from chickens, who are now fenced off in the back) considerably, but I’ve got the new coop half painted, and we have decided to spread pine straw all over the bare ground of the shady yard (shaded by a HUGE maple tree, with gnarly shallow large roots that stick up) rather than try to grow grass. Grass just seems like a loosing proposition, between deep shade and our increasingly dry and hot summers. So I figure we’ll do like I’ve seen down on the FL gulf coast — pine straw, with pockets of flowers here and there.

    • Jami says

      That sounds like a great solution, Diana, for a difficult area! I had a hard time the first year getting anything to grow under the huge fir tree in the corner. It was a combo of being consistent with the soaker hose (sometimes watering that area even if it was sprinkling, ’cause the tree keeps all the light sprinkles away), and finding plants that like dry shade. Some of my favorites: “Jack Frost” brunnera, bishop’s weed, epimedium, and ground-cover phlox.

  2. says

    It’s all so charming and inviting. I love the gazebo living room! I could spend hours there reading a book and relaxing. We have just the opposite problem…our back yard is only about 12 feet deep. Just along strip not big enough for anything, really. So we added a deck to make it usable space. You’ve done some amazing landscaping here!

  3. Jennifer Barker says

    Beautiful- it must feel wonderful to have it complete and still able to use this year! Would you share with us any tips you have on selecting and buying the various plants and shrubs you have throughout your yard? I never know what to get and where the good deals are!

    • Jami says

      That’s a good question, Jennifer! I see a whole blog series about that…;) This would be great to do in February and March when we all start thinking about our gardens again – so stay tuned, I really will do this – it’s a wonderful suggestion. Thanks! :)

  4. says

    It all looks so nice! How nice to have a dream come true.
    I’ve got a few outdoor areas that are like rooms. Our massive front porch is one. We also have hammocks and chairs in our orchard. With the firepit, it’s like an extra family room. I also have an outdoor tub hidden in the grove out in the pasture. It’s my secret hideout.

  5. HA says

    Nice results….and with a presidential roof on the house, gives much character. You
    have done extensive work on this house, i am sure the husband is in the trades. Presently,
    we are remodeling the kitchen, extending the existing second story deck to the new roof line
    for more deck. Large potted trees and shrubs along with another art room of sorts will
    finish off the wonderful views of the 18 hole course. Like all projects, much planning and
    patience is a requirement… :) Your endeavors show the labor of love for your ‘new’ home.

  6. says

    Wow, this looks so amazing and I love that you up-cycled some of the old decking materials. This now looks like its perfect for a magazine cover and its obvious that time and patience paid off for this project! Job well done my Oregon friend!

  7. Esther says

    What a wonderful job. I wish I could say mine is finished and crossed off the list. Not! Working on it though. Your yard looks so at peace . Love it all, the little yellow cottage with the French doors and beautiful yard with the rooms… Ahh

  8. Karen says

    Oh my, what a beautiful job you & the family did! It is so inviting now.

    Our backyard is drab and we are slowly making changes to it to living it up.

  9. Janet says

    I totally agree with you about the changeover from giant, time-consuming upkeep deck to the smaller decks with gravel and plantings around them. Much prettier, more natural, less upkeep. What’s not to like?

  10. Babs29 says

    Love this redo, every bit of it. Our problem in GA is the bugs. So we need a screened porch. Love the gravel, your flowers. My daughter got me to check this site out, and now I know why!
    A Georgia Fan of Oregon Cottage

    • says

      Thank you so much, Babs! I would love, love, love a screened porch and if money were no problem I would’ve added one to the back of our house. Maybe in our next house…sigh. :)

  11. Alyssa says

    Hi, gorgeous backyard! We’re considering putting in a gravel patio in a LARGE area of our yard. How do you like it? I’ve heard mixed reviews, the cons being that it moves around a lot and it’s comfortable to sit on with a table/chairs. How do you like it – would you use gravel again there? Thanks for the info!

    • says

      I love the gravel, Alyssa! Though I’d probably love a stone patio, too. :) The gravel is installed over landscape fabric, and it moves some, but not a lot (I think we rake portions of it back in place a couple times a year). We just move our table and chairs until they are level and I’ve never noticed that it’s uncomfortable to sit on – and no guests have ever mentioned that either.

      The HUGE benefit of gravel, though? It’s cheap and super easy compared to anything else. And I do like that European look it gives to the garden – seems like so many patios I see from Europe are some type of gravel. The gray color is really cool-looking, too, in warm weather – a nice contrast to the green.

      I have considered in the future adding a circle of flagstones under the table and chairs – just settling them in the gravel. But so far, I haven’t cared enough, as it works fine for us. Hope that helps some!

    • says

      Thank you, Jackie! We used a 3/4 crushed gravel without fines (the important part – if you get it with all the ‘fines’ it creates a nice dirt layer for weeds to root in, which we learned the hard way with our raised-bed paths. Sigh.) :)

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