The weather hasn’t exactly been the most summer-like lately, and the rainy weekends have seriously cut into my fun time. It seems I’ve been spending most of my time indoors due to work and school or due to the fact that I’d rather curl up on the couch with a book than try to figure out if I should wear shorts and a tee, locate my winter jacket again or brave the outdoors in monsoon gear while going about my busy day. However, June 21 has passed and the summer has officially begun!
You know what that means: Cheeseburgers and cold draft beers! Well yes, but before the food and drinks, we want to turn our boring back deck into an outdoor paradise, or at least a space that we can be proud of and comfortable in.
It means it’s time to clean up the front balcony or back deck and make use of the best room in the house. The best way to design an exterior space is to treat it just like any other room in the house—just one without as much wall space. Before you begin, find out from your landlord or condo association if there are any rules regarding outdoor grills. Some places specify the use of electric grills only and prohibit gas or charcoal grills. There also may be some rules regarding the use of candles. So take note of any restrictions before getting started.
Envision Your Space
Begin by making a list everything the deck will be used for. Although it’s much more fun to come up with a fantasy list, you’ll save yourself heartbreak and wallet-ache if you stay firmly grounded in reality. Think about the number of people who will use this space and what they will do in it. Would you like a quiet space for coffee and catching up on the daily news? Or do you plan on cooking, dining and entertaining? Will children or pets be using the space and how will they be using it? It is a lot to think about so take your time.
For ideas, browse through some design magazines like Dwell or Livingetc for ideas or take a look at some design websites such as Apartment Therapy that are geared toward smaller homes. Websites like Houzz or Pinterest are also fun to use because you can look through designs and then save pictures to an Ideabook or Pinboard.
Plan Your Space
Measure the back deck and make a space plan. If there is a deck above yours, it might be helpful to know the height of the space you have to work with in case you decide to string up some lights, hang a lantern or even a piñata just for fun. You can be very precise in this process by sketching in spaces for chairs and tables on grid paper created using MS Excel, or you can be flexible and draw loose circles showing where you want to place the grill, dining set or gardening pots.
Plan a Budget for Your Space
Set a budget and stick to it. Really. Allocate the largest portion of your budget for the grill or the furniture. These are pieces you will want to keep for a long time, so buy the best quality you can afford. Allocate the smallest portion for accessories such as cushions or lighting. Keep in mind that outdoor fabrics and outdoor lighting often can be more expensive than their indoor counter parts. Have an open mind about materials, colors and patterns. Being too rigid with your plan might mean blowing your budget, while being flexible might mean some money left over.
Shop for Your Space
Now that you have your inspiration photos, your space plan and your budget together, it’s time to go shopping. Shopping can be the part of your design project that is the most fun or the most stress inducing. Regardless, deciding on a budget before you begin looking at prices tags will lead to a better shopping experience. Trust me. It will spare you tears and wasted time spent rationalizing why you decided to spend the entire budget on that “must-have” item.
Smart shopping begins at yard sales, thrift stores, resale furniture stores and by using Craigslist. If you have more time and patience than you do cash, and you don’t mind doing a little cleaning or repair work, it’s an excellent way to make your money go further.
Fortunately, Logan Square has many budget-friendly shopping options including Threads Etc. (2327 N. Milwaukee Ave.), Reform Objects (2620 N. Milwaukee Ave.), A Touch of Vintage (2506 N. California Ave) and Salvation Army (3837 W Fullerton Ave).
We also have several big box stores like Home Décor, Target, Joann Fabrics, Harlem Furniture and Home Depot, all conveniently located along Elston Avenue between Diversey Avenue and Fullerton Avenue.
With careful planning, a thoughtful budget and inspired shopping, you can create the perfect back deck barbecue space. Have fun and enjoy!