8 ways to refresh your outdoor space

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Are you looking for ideas to update your patio or backyard while the temperature still allows for spending time outdoors?

Local experts can help.

“Our patio spaces are an extension of our houses in Arizona,” said Phoenix-based designer and Realtor James Judge (@thehousejudge), who specializes in renovations that highlight a home’s existing features. “Making them cozy and inviting is so valuable.”

Arizonans looking to upgrade their outdoor living spaces also can find inspiration from Phoenix-based interior designer Liz Roth, who shared her spring patio refresh that included a new rug, outdoor furniture and fire-pit balls with her nearly 345,000 Instagram followers.

Phoenix bloggers Jessica Bui, who goes by @the.orange.home on Instagram, and Diana Elizabeth Steffen, aka @dianaelizabeth_, also frequently share how they are changing up their outdoor spaces with Arizona’s seasons.

From thrifting patio furniture to making your own garden trellis and adding low-maintenance plants, here are eight ideas for refreshing your patio or backyard space.

Refresh your home décor:Get ideas from these 8 Phoenix-based Instagram stars

Ideas for making an outdoor patio feel like a room

Among the tricks that Judge uses when remodeling an outdoor space on a budget are installing new light fixtures and sunshades, using textiles such as rugs and curtains and putting up artificial hedges.

Judge likes to create “walls” around the patio with white curtains because they can be bleached when washing and don’t fade from sun exposure. They provide privacy and block sunlight, he said.

He also buys sunshades for less than $25 and hangs them horizontally or diagonally as a colorful visual element that also creates privacy.

Lighting can also help define your space, Judge said. If it’s within the budget, he recommends hanging a low outdoor light fixture. A cheaper option, especially for those who have wall sconces, is to hang paper lanterns that can catch the light and glow.

An artificial hedge can create a wall and can be hung on a chain-link fence or around an unsightly utility box.

“It does add up, but it’s cheaper than another type of fencing or buying real trees,” Judge said.

To make the space more comfortable, Judge likes using rugs, pillows and blankets. He often scours the clearance section of big-box stores to see what outdoor décor is on sale.

Spruce up your apartment balcony or small patio

Judge says that making an apartment balcony your own is a little more difficult. His advice is to not go overboard to the point of standing out among your neighbors.

“Be mindful of the type of balcony you have,” he said. “Make sure to complement the style of your building.”

Rather than hanging string lights on your railing, Judge recommends finding a battery- or solar-operated floor lantern to avoid using extension cords.

As for furniture for a small outdoor space, Judge often shops at Goodwill and sees the potential for making old pieces usable again.

How to thrift patio furniture and make it last in Arizona

When shopping at thrift stores, Judge keeps an open mind to imagine whether a piece can be easily altered to fit the space he’s decorating.

He looks for metal, stone and plastic furniture for outdoor use in Arizona — wood will not withstand the elements— and isn’t afraid to use an indoor table or seat outside.

“It’s most cost effective to source from a thrift store,” he said. “A can of spray paint can revamp (a piece of furniture).”

“If you can be a little more creative, thoughtful and open-minded and create something better, it looks more unique in your space,” Judge said.

Blogger Jessica Bui shared some tips for making your outdoor furniture last. Bui recommends cleaning off dust with a leaf blower, protecting furniture with waterproof covers when not in use and using coasters on surfaces.

Make yourself a coffee table

If you’re going to attempt to make furniture, take inspiration from a Gilbert-based finalist of Season 2 of NBC’s “Making It.”

Over the past 10 years, Rebecca Propes has shared her budget-friendly DIY household creations on her blog, http://www.rebeccapropes.com. One of her projects, a wood pallet coffee table for her front porch, requires just a wood pallet, four casters, a screwdriver and some wood screws.

Propes used a spare pallet from a construction project, purchased the wheels to add to the four bottom corners and screwed them in for a grand total of around $20.

To take the project further, she recommends adding a coat of paint or staining the wood.

Backyard ideas: low-maintenance plants

Living alone? Not anymore, if you just addsome plants to your outdoor living space. And you don’t need a green thumb to do it.

Alex Evjen, a Pinterest influencer in Arizona, has a blog post athttp://www.avestyles.com dedicated to Arizonans who have a “black thumb,” or those can’t figure out how to keep a plant alive.

Agave Plant

Evjen’s picks prefer full sun exposure and are relatively low maintenance:

  • Skyflower.
  • Mexican fence post.
  • Agave plant.
  • Sour orange.
  • Bottle palm.

Those interested in skyflower should know that the berry is poisonous to humans, so the plant might not be the best choice for a household with small children. And some of these options, like the bottle palm and Mexican fence post, grow quite tall and are better suited for homes with larger outdoor areas.

How to start a backyard garden in summer

Those who do have a green thumb might want to consider planting a garden. Pam Perry, a volunteer with Maricopa County Cooperative Extension, told The Arizona Republic, “It’s never too late to plant something.”

Gardening at home: Here’s what metro Phoenix experts say you need to know

In Maricopa County, “most any type of vegetables and fruits can be grown successfully when appropriate varieties are selected and planted at the right time,” according to the The University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “The climate, the season and potential pests all impact the selection of what to plant when.”

Go to https://extension.arizona.edu/home-gardening to see a planting calendar specific to Maricopa County and other home gardening resources. April is a good time to plant black-eyed peas, cucumbers, carrots, okra, melons, green onions and sunflowers,  according to the guide.

Paint some flower pots

Of course, you will need a bed or container in which to grow your new plants.

Kathy Cano-Murillo, aka the Crafty Chica, offers crafting and DIY inspiration on her blog, craftychica.com

Kathy Cano-Murillo, also known as the Crafty Chica, has a blog post at  https://craftychica.com about how to make flower pots inspired by the game Lotería.

Cano-Murillo used terra cotta pots, paint and paint brushes, Mod Podge, craft glue and spray varnish. She first painted a base coat and let it dry before cutting out images from a Lotería card to glue on. She then sealed the images with Mod Podge, added accent colors and using spray varnish after it all dried.

Install a trellis with live plants

Give some life to a blank wall by installing a trellis.

Phoenix blogger Cassie Garcia, who goes by @neon.be on Instagram, shared that she made a trellis from scratch for less than $120 by using furring strips, welded wire fencing, spray paint, t-plates and a mount.

Blogger Diana Elizabeth Steffen purchased teak trellises to cover a blank south-facing wall and planted a climbing rose. In a blog post, she shared several tips, including how to plant a climber.

“Look for the roses that go in one direction and plant it so the branches are pointing TOWARD the trellis wall. This way you don’t have to clip a precious branch or try to swing it and damage the branch to the direction you want it to grow,” she wrote. 

Reach the reporter at kimi.robinson@gannett.com or at 602-444-4968. Follow her on Twitter @kimirobin.

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