Renovating With a Purpose: Patio Meets Nature

After living in a tiny dorm in college and a terrace-less apartment for a total of eight years, the fact that our house had a small porch and yard was a major bonus.

The little outdoor deck was simple, a little worn out by weather and time, but none of that mattered, because I had big plans; I imagined all the ways that we could fix it up (even had a Pinterest board dedicated to it), and was giddy about all the warm, magical nights we’d spend out there,  sharing a blanket and a bottle of wine, some mellow jazz filling the space around us.

Sadly, none of that happened.

We moved in four months before I gave birth to Liam, and, as you can imagine, life got a tad crazy after that. We baby-proofed the house and fixed up the essentials (like outdated plumbing and old boilers), but never gave our old porch a second thought.

A mere three and a half years later, I decided to take on the project – I had a vision in mind and decided to go for it. I craved a cozy space that would complement our natural surroundings… An immersive experience of some sort.

I should mention that our house is pretty unique, as it shares the property with a giant granite rock. Plants, vines, and wildflowers have grown on and around it, and, although the rock does make our yard a bit smaller (and less practical for kids… especially two young boys), it’s really what gives our home its charm. I’d never dream of changing it.

I should also mention that I grew up in the Caribbean, in a house with no walls. Well, not exactly no walls, but a very open construction that meant everything but our bedrooms was outdoors. Breathing in fresh air and being outdoors is something that I don’t only want… I need it.

Before I could bring my Pinterest board to life, however, there were three relatively big projects that had to get done: we had to renovate the flooring, set up waterproof blinds (to shield the patio from pine needles, pollen, and rain), and make an under-deck ceiling system for the space to be rain and snow proof. We decided to do it all ourselves, DIY style, and I’m super happy with the final result.

We chose these modern, teak wood flooring tiles by Thirteen Chefs (which arrived promptly with two day shipping on Amazon!) We didn’t want to redo our entire deck and this was the perfect alternative – the tiles were easy to put together (in less than an hour) without any drilling, since all the pieces snapped together. It’s a major plus that the pieces were also super easy to cut. We were able to make them fit our deck perfectly.


We went with white fiberglass panels and wood for the under-deck ceiling. Joe and I ended up being a good team and everything got done relatively easily, without any major bumps in the road (or too much bickering, as a matter of fact.)

Once flooring and ceiling were completed, the fun began. First, I chose wicker furniture (Wayfair), and waterproof wicker storage bins (a small and a large) byBabylonfor the white sectional cushions.


A cute little herb garden was part of my “vision” for our outdoor space, and I fell in love with these custom, rustic wood planters by KEJ Woodworks. I love that they have storage underneath for our watering pail and other gardening tools. FYI, dog people: Kyle also makes the most adorable wooden raised dog feeders.


In terms of herbs, I started out with greek oregano, parsley, thyme, and lots of basil, my favorite.


Oh, and how cute are these little planter tags by DesignsByHuuR? I’m so glad I found them. They complement the planters and herbs so well!


I’ve always wanted string lights and loved the ones we got from Hometown Evolution. They’re waterproof, sturdy, and surprisingly super bright! They don’t require any additional lighting and really create the ambiance I was looking for.

To customize the space, I added three custom hexagon planters for decor on the siding of the house. I went with these sleek, simple ones by Rustic Natives. They’re just perfect.



To cover up the standard red pillows that came with our sectional, I got the cutest pillowcases from 3BModLiving. I love this print so much and really thinks it adds that “pop” of fun that was missing without them.


I wanted a witty little doormat and settled on this beautiful one by SweetJJDesigns. I think it echoes my vision really well… I want this space to be charming, warm, and inviting… and this doormat says it all.


Finally, I was dying for an outdoor rug. They just look so chic and add so much to a terrace. However, everyone around me told me it was a bad idea. Rugs get soggy, dirty, and take forever to dry, a shelter for all kinds of bug and snails. Well, I found the perfect compromise with this polypropylene rug by Green Decore. It’s literally zero maintenance, waterproof, and has been super clean ever since I got it a few weeks ago, despite pollen, rain, and dirty dog paws.



Everything came together rather quickly, and to say I’m in love is an understatement. I’m basically living outside, now, in case you were wondering.

Thanks to the vendors mentioned throughout this post, this has been my favorite home renovation project to date! Thank you!


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Johanna Riehm teaches in the department of Communication and Media at Manhattanville College and in the department of English at Mercy College. She teaches courses in the history of communication, public speaking, and social media, as well as creative and technical writing workshops. Johanna’s work has been featured in Graffiti Literary Magazine, The Write Place at the Write Time, The Bangalore Review, Cactus Heart Press, and the LaMothe Review. She is working on her first longer work, a creative nonfiction novel called We Carved Our Names in Tamarind Trees.

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