Our Brooklyn Backyard Makeover

I can’t believe it’s been over 2 years because when I look back at the early images of our back yard pre-renovation it’s hard to image! The garden is by far my favourite place to be, but just a few months before this pick was taken it was a bare patch of dirt and the view was-well, let’s just say it brought to mind the adage about good fences making good neighbors. Keep reading to see the steps I took to unlock the space’s potential and transform it from unfortunate eyesore into a charming escape from city life.



As you can see from this sad “before shot, the space was badly in need of definition, not to mention a way to hide the neighbors’ visual clutter.

Building The Fence

The perimeter fence was by far the most important addition we made to the garden, and it provides both privacy and a cozy feel.  We used pressure treated 4 by 4’s to create the posts and 1 by 6 pressure treated boards for the horizontal slats.

The fence project took 2 weekends to finish.  The first weekend was devoted to installing the posts and cleaning up some strange “truff”/ garbage left over from the previous owners. Our yard was actually covered in astroturf when we started, you can see a little bit of it under the fire pit in this image. Wow, was that stuff a pain to get rid of and also totally disgusting!  Once we got rid of that we dug holes and set the posts. We use Quikrete to cement them in place. This stuff sets up fast and really recommend using it, we found it by accident! The quick set up time gives you enough time to level the post but the mix is stiff enough to hold the post in place once its in the perfect spot. This is how things looked at the end of the first weekend… Still kinda bad but it’s progress.

The second weekend we got to work on the horizontal slats. We went with a horizontal plank design for its modern feel. We attached them using deck screws. The only tricky part of this was finding the high point in the yard. Even in a relatively flat yard, you need to make sure that your start you bottom course of boards above the high point to ensure even rows.

We trimmed the boards at the center of each post so to keep the look uniform. It got a little tricky installing the boards around the tree but we were able to make a few cuts and work it out.

To finish the look I painted the fence in Benjamin Moore’s Raccoon Fur mixed in an exterior grade paint. I found that thinning the paint with a little water made the application easier and thin coats are less prone to chipping. I’m sure there are

Lay the Groundwork

We knew we needed some sort of ground cover over the dirt and decided on pea gravel, which is available at all the big-box home-improvement stores. I like pea gravel in particular because the stones are small and easy to walk on. Each bag list how much square footage it covers, which makes it easy to make sure you buy the right amount.

To keep the gravel out of the garden beds around the perimeter, I sunk two-by-fours that I painted the same color as the fence. This had the added benefit of creating a nicely defined seating area in the center of the yard. To separate the yard from the concrete slabs next to the house we laid these concrete paving stones. They are very versatile and pretty easy to work work, I had to cut a couple down using and anvil and a hamer, it was surprisingly easy.

The Illusion of Space

Once the major construction was done I moved on to a few decorative projects. Indoors or out, I love a mirror! To create the illusion of more space and add a glam touch, I backed inexpensive trellis panels that I’d painted the same color as the fence with mirrored plexiglass and hung them along the fencing. To soften the look and make them feel more integrated into the space, I planted a Passion Flower vine in the flower bed directly below, and it’s already started to grow over the mirrors. To read the full step-by-step breakdown for this simple DIY, head over to Design*Sponge, where I blogged all about it.

Illuminate the Space

I added a strand of outdoor lights, it casts just the right amount of glow to make the evenings cozy. I first strung a galvanized wire from the back of the fence and secured it to a spot on the back of my house. The wire helps support the strand of lights and will keep it from sagging over time.

Outside the Flower Bed

I love using urns and pots in a small garden because they are so versatile. When we’re not entertaining I keep this guy on the gravel seating area for a little architectural interest. When I need to make more space I can move it out of the way. Urns are also a great way to fill in an empty spot in a flower bed.

Maximizing the Space

Because it would have been hard to squeeze a coffee table and a fire pit into the gravel seating area, I decided to just top off the fire pit with a small glass top I found at the flea market. It functions primarily as a casual dining spot during these hot summer months, but come fall we’ll definitely be storing away the glass and stoking up the fire.

Decorate & Enjoy!

Style is just as important outdoors as it is inside, and a dreamy hammock was a garden must for me. It’s really turned into the star of the space. To help hold it open and facilitate getting in, always a challenge with hammocks, I keep two outdoor pillows tucked inside at all times. If you need me this summer, you know where to find me.

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