We turned a neglected pergola into a sweet little hideaway shaded by an apple tree that’s a perfect spot to entertain or sit and watch kids play.

Pergola Before

The structure of this backyard pergola was sound and well designed but the ground beneath was uneven and muddy. Once we installed a level paved floor, all we needed were comfy furnishings to make it inviting and useful.

Furnished pergola overall

When furnishing your outdoor space, choose furniture that’s attractive but utilitarian in wrought iron or faux wicker or teak wood, all materials that can withstand the elements. 
Add indoor-outdoor pillows for pops of pattern and color. Perhaps use an outdoor rug to define the seating area. Prop and hang potted plants with color to brighten the space. 
Hang a string of Chinese lantern-inspired lights to illuminate it at night. The best part is that you can do this all in a long weekend!

Table and chairs

We found this patio set on Craig’s List for $150. We loved the unique midcentury modern shape, but not the black metal frames and dated floral fabric.

Recovered and painted chair

It wasn’t this nice until we sprayed the metal frames white and found outdoor fabric in a cheery turquoise Suzani-inspired pattern to staple around the cushions.

Chair with striped upholstery

To add a little visual variety, we sprayed one chair with powder-blue paint.

Then, we sprayed the seat in white and painted with it color blocks and stripes in pale pink, mint and aqua.

Decoupaged botanical artwork

Create outdoor art with leaves and a repainted vintage frame.

Snip a leafy stem from your garden (ours is Baptisia foliage). Flatten with a heavy book for about 10 minutes. Cut a piece of thick, off-white poster board to fit inside an old frame freshly painted in cream. Coat the board with gloss Mod Podge decoupage medium. Lay the foliage over the top of the medium while it’s still wet, and brush on more over the foliage, pressing the leaves flat and positioning them. Add a layer of wax paper over the top, then a heavy book. Let it dry for about an hour or so, then pick up the book and carefully remove the wax paper. Add a finishing layer of Mod Podge and let dry. Pop the artwork into the frame and hang on the pergola wall.

Mirrors on wall

We’ve always loved the charm of mirrors outside, and why wouldn’t you want to reflect more of nature’s gorgeousness? We positioned one vintage mirror over the drinks service tray, and one smaller mirror with a frame painted gold down low, at just the right height for kiddos.

Plant basket on hooks

White metal garment hooks hold a flea-market wire basket filled with flowering annuals. We spray-painted the planter in white and the flowerpots in pink. Switch out potted plants with the seasons for a fresh display.

Hat and throw on hooks

In between the mirrors is the perfect spot to hang a hat, towel or throw on a flower hook. Find attractive hooks, with decorative mounts, at flea markets, home furnishing stores and vintage shops. Pretty and practical, they can hold hats, linens, a throw, watering cans, and so on.

Space saver tray

Salvaged architectural brackets taken from a dilapidated cottage support a portable tray beneath a framed mirror. Small accents decorate the structural beam in between.

Stenciled tray

We painted an old metal tray in hi-gloss pale pink then, used stencils to paint on garden-inspired shapes such as leaves and butterflies. Set atop the brackets, it makes a tiny sideboard.

Furnished pergola

Making a Cozy Outdoor Living Room

If you live in a small home, or if you like spending the warmer months dining and entertaining al fresco, treat furnishing your patio or pergola like you would a favorite room in the house.

Most likely your backdrop will be neutral, whether brown wood, red brick or putty-hued tile. Freshen it up with greens, of course, but then go with the colors you love both for flowers and accessories such as pillows, throws and tableware.

Along with the obvious chairs and table, add furniture-inspired accents. Weather-resistant poufs provide footrests or extra seating. A ceramic garden stool also offers extra seating, but can act as a side table or plant stand, too. Hang art, mirrors, chimes and lighting.

Get assorted planters, then place them in groups on the ground or hang them up high. Go lush and verdant. Pots are easy to replant and switch out when they’re past their prime or you’re looking for a change.


© Caruth Studio

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