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Decorating Ideas: Decks and Patios

Check out my cheap decorating ideas for decks and patios!

Check out my cheap decorating ideas for decks and patios!

Decorating Ideas

With all the great weather we’ve been having here in South Georgia, I’ve been dusting off some of my decorating ideas. I haven’t done much indoors, as I’ve been focusing mostly on our deck. In the warmer months, we spend a lot of time outdoors, and in the summer, I practically live in the pool. Our pool is surrounded by our deck. We have a lot of family and friends nearby, and we enjoy hosting events on the deck. I find that much easier and far more enjoyable than having a crowd in my house. Everyone seems more at ease outdoors, and the kids can act like kids, so most of our gatherings are laid-back and casual. We recently hosted a big fish fry and shrimp boil, and I wanted the deck to look nice for that. I mean, I would have “fixed up” the deck for pool season anyway, but the party prompted me to do it a little earlier this year. I decorated the deck and refurbished the patio furniture on a tight budget, a little work, and a little creativity. I’m including some decorating ideas here, along with some photos, to get you started.

Dollar stores are great sources for cheap decorating ideas.

Dollar stores are great sources for cheap decorating ideas.

This plain white plate was $1. I added the green branch with acrylic paint.

This plain white plate was $1. I added the green branch with acrylic paint.

Cheap Decorating Ideas

I’ve been using cheap decorating ideas. We just had to spend much of our disposable income on taxes, so there wasn’t much money left for decorating and sprucing up our deck. I did want it to look attractive, though, and I also wanted it to be functional and comfortable. In my opinion, decks are for using – not just for looking at! Our deck functions as a combination of living room, outdoor dining room, kitchen, playroom, garden, and spa. You don’t need a huge decorating budget to make some big differences in the appearance of decks and patios. Refurbishing your outdoor furniture is a good way to start, and doing so it fairly inexpensive. Even small touches and cheap decorating ideas can add up, especially when your efforts are coordinated.

Before you get started, do some exploring and some planning. If you don’t have at least some basic thoughts on the direction you want to go, you’re going to be overwhelmed once you start shopping for items. Get some deck ideas from magazines, television shows, friends, and the internet. If you happen to like some expensive ideas, find a way to turn them into cheap decorating ideas, or substitute them with something similar.

We really enjoy our deck!

We really enjoy our deck!

Decks

We really enjoy decks! I heard a builder on television the other day make a statement that I totally agree with. He said decks are adult versions of tree houses. If you think about it for a minute or two, you’ll probably agree with the opinion. I always wanted a tree house as a kid, but I never got one. Perhaps my adult obsession with decks stems from that.

My first deck was large and was very well built, but it didn’t have much character. It was basically just a rectangle, so it wasn’t very interesting. Our current deck is much more interesting, and it’s also more functional. It’s a great place to cook and eat, to have parties, to sit and visit with friends, to sunbathe, to swim, and to relax in the hot tub in the winter months. Sometimes I take my coffee there in the mornings and watch the birds and squirrels at the feeders, which provides peaceful solitude.

This upper dining area is totally neutral, but that's about to change!

This upper dining area is totally neutral, but that's about to change!

after adding outdoor cushions and silk flowers

after adding outdoor cushions and silk flowers

Decorating Your Deck

Before you begin the actual process of decorating your deck, try to decide on a color scheme. Personally, I like to use two main colors and use a few accents to add another color or two. Color has a lot to do with mood and atmosphere, so you can create a certain "feel" to your outdoor living space just by selecting certain colors and shades.

Generally speaking, colors are categorizes into three types: warm colors, cool colors, and neutral tones. You don't have to choose all your colors from one category. It's your deck, so choose any hues you like! In case you're wondering about which colors are warm, which are cool, and which are neutral, I've created the following table. Perhaps it will be helpful when you're trying to decide on a color scheme for decorating your deck or patio.

Color Schemes:

Warm ColorsCool ColorsNeutrals

yellow

green

white

red

blue

black

orange

turquoise

taupe

brown

violet

true gray

gold

silver

khaki

rust

slate gray

ivory

peach

aqua

beige

one of the lower tables and chairs

one of the lower tables and chairs

sunning area

sunning area

bird and squirrel feeders and shelf

bird and squirrel feeders and shelf

lower dining areas

lower dining areas

cooking area

cooking area

built-in above ground pool

built-in above ground pool

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hot tub and stairs

hot tub and stairs

my new sitting area

my new sitting area

Deck Ideas

Before we added a deck onto our home, I got some deck ideas from books, magazines, and the internet. I had some of my own ideas, too. I found out quickly, however, that my husband and I had very different visions when it came to decks and patios. Since he was building the entire structure by himself, I agreed he should pretty much have free reign in the deck design.

We already had an above-ground pool, and we wanted part of the deck to be built around our swimmin’ hole. Hubby did that, so it’s like our pool is built in. You can see what I mean from the photos. Basically, our deck area has three levels: the ground level, the first level, and the second level. The ground level is covered with brick tiles, and we use it for cooking. Steps from the cooking area lead up to the first level of the deck. The first level includes a sitting area, a hot tub, and a dining area with two tables. One table is shaded by a patio umbrella. Leading from the first level, steps go up to the second level. The second level includes the pool, an area for sunning, a bird and squirrel feeding station, and another table, chairs, and umbrella.

The cooking patio is the perfect place to use the charcoal grill, the gas grill, and the fish and turkey fryer. It’s also where we fire up the big cooker for boiled shrimp, Low Country boils, and crab boils. Because this area has a brick floor, we don’t have to worry much about fires. Also, the area is adjacent to our kitchen door, which makes it handy for preparing food. In the winter, we sometimes use this area for our fire pit. At such times, we place some deck chairs around the fire to enjoy a cold night outdoors.

Part of the deck is enclosed by a wooden privacy fence, and the rest is flanked by a railing. We can close off the pool area and lock the gate, which is safe and convenient when we have toddlers around. Hubby used treated wood, and we haven’t painted it. I prefer the look of weathered wood to painted wood on decks. I think it reminds me of my favorite ocean pier.

Deck Ideas:

Spray paint revived this old table and chairs.

Spray paint revived this old table and chairs.

The pink chair is the "before."

The pink chair is the "before."

the "new" kiddie chairs

the "new" kiddie chairs

Patio Furniture

If you have a deck or patio, or some other outdoor living area, you probably have patio furniture of some sort. After all, you have to have somewhere to sit and relax. Otherwise, what’s the point of having decks and patios? Of course, some decks have built-in benches and tables, but if yours doesn’t, you’ll need some outdoor furniture.

Patio furniture can run into some big bucks, depending on what type you get. Some sets can cost thousands of dollars and be extremely attractive and elegant. In my opinion, the patio furniture should be in keeping with the deck. In other words, if you have a big fancy deck, you’ll need big fancy outdoor furniture. If you have a more rustic deck, you can get by with cheap patio furniture. Another strategy is to have a mix of cheap patio furniture and a few nicer pieces as focal points.

Before you invest in patio furniture, be honest with yourself about how often it will get used. If you spend a lot of time in your outdoor living areas, nice patio furniture can be a worthwhile investment. On the other hand, expensive outdoor furniture that will rarely be used is a waste of money. You need to remember, too, that just because outdoor furniture is more expensive doesn’t make it more comfortable or more functional. Keep that in mind when you’re shopping for outdoor furniture.

What pieces of patio furniture will you really use? You’ll most likely get a lot of use out of a dining table and chair set. If you enjoy sunbathing, you’ll get good use from a lounger. If you enjoy kicking back and relaxing on the deck, Adirondack chairs are hard to beat. Be careful with more “specialty“ pieces, however. I know several people who have laid out a lot of money for fancy bars and bar stools, and they never use them. The same goes for hammocks, swings, and gliders. If you’ll actually use such items – fine. If you won’t, though, your money and deck space will be better spent on something you and your family will use and enjoy, even if they’re not as trendy or fashionable.

Patio Furniture:

an old bench

an old bench

I painted the bench olive green.

I painted the bench olive green.

Cheap Patio Furniture

Most of our outdoor furniture is cheap patio furniture. I picked it up at discount stores, thrift shops, and from yard sales, for the most part. I have no problem with plastic or resin patio furniture, as long as it’s sturdy. Stains and nicks don’t bother me, as they can be cleaned and spruced up with paint. The same goes for wooden and metal pieces.

To paint plastic furniture, I use spray paint. I don’t skimp on the paint, as good spray paint is going to hold up a lot better than cheap paint. For best results, use spray paint that’s made especially for plastics. For my recent deck projects, I used Rustoleum and Krylon. I chose a couple of different shades of two basic colors: red and green. First, I rinsed off the furniture, then I scrubbed it with soapy water and a brush. I then rinsed the furniture well and allowed it to dry completely. Place the furniture on a large drop cloth. I always turn the furniture upside-down and paint the bottom first. Shake the can of spray paint well, and hold the can about a foot or so away from the piece of furniture. Use a back-and-forth motion for painting, applying a thin coat of paint. Once the first coat is dry, apply another coat or two. For the top side of the furniture, I usually apply four or five coats because that side will get more wear and be more visible.

You can use basically the same process for painting wooden deck or patio furniture. I had an old bench that had belonged to my mom, and it looked pretty bad. I had to sand some bad places in the wood first, and then I had to really scrub it hard to remove years of grime. I used an olive green spray paint on the bench and dressed it up with two small outdoor cushions. I now use it in a sitting area, along with a glass-top wicker coffee table and two chairs.

And speaking of wicker furniture, it looks great on decks, but real wicker doesn’t hold up well outdoors. I have a wicker and glass table I use on my deck, but it’s treated to be more weatherproof. Hubby sprayed the wicker with several coats of polyurethane. Also, you can find faux-wicker outdoor furniture that’s made of a type of plastic or vinyl, so it’s much more durable outdoors than natural wicker is.

A couple of outdoor pillows added a lot to the old bench.

A couple of outdoor pillows added a lot to the old bench.

Outdoor Cushions

Nothing dresses up patio furniture like outdoor cushions! That’s especially true with cheap patio furniture. Using bright outdoor cushions and throw pillows in otherwise ho-hum furniture takes the focus off the less-than-attractive furniture, itself. Bright, attractive cushions can really make tired old patio furniture “pop”! Comfy cushions make decks more inviting, too.

I found some cute, inexpensive outdoor cushions at Walmart and Kmart. For my lounge chair, which is used a lot for sunning, I bought a full-length cushion with stripes of red, green, and cream. For the two Adirondack chairs that flank the lounger, I found two red cushions with a muted print.

My glass-top dining table and large plastic chairs on the upper deck are monochromatic and “blah.” Even the umbrella on that table is taupe, just like the chairs. I really don’t want to paint the chairs, so I decided to place colorful cushions in them to provide a splash of color.

If you want your outdoor cushions to be part of a special theme but can’t find just the right ones, create your own. If you can sew, that’s great. If you can’t sew, find solid color cushions and apply your own designs with fabric paint. Stencils work well for this. You can find stencils and fabric paint in the craft section at Walmart.

In the fall and spring, while it can still be a little cool outdoors, you might want to add a cheap throw or two. Fold a throw neatly and drape it over the arm or back of the patio furniture. If you want to enjoy being outdoors on a brisk day or chilly night, you’ll be all set!

Outdoor Cushions:

I use outdoor plants in a range of sizes.

I use outdoor plants in a range of sizes.

I mostly use shades of reds and yellows.

I mostly use shades of reds and yellows.

These grew from last year's seed pods.

These grew from last year's seed pods.

yellow petunias

yellow petunias

I like the contrast of red and green.

I like the contrast of red and green.

another red flowering plant

another red flowering plant

This one was a gift.

This one was a gift.

I like the natural landscaping provided by the wisteria.

I like the natural landscaping provided by the wisteria.

I used painter's tape and craft paint on this clay pot.

I used painter's tape and craft paint on this clay pot.

Now it looks great with my throw pillows!

Now it looks great with my throw pillows!

Landscaping - Outdoor Plants

Landscaping can be a big part of your deck decorating ideas: natural plants and trees and/or potted outdoor plants. One side of our deck is lined with tall shrubs. There’s a wisteria vine that drapes over the privacy fence at one end, and I think it adds a nice touch. The old man has wanted to eliminate the vine several times, but it’s really pretty when it’s blooming with clusters of purple flowers.

I use outdoor plants in pots, too. Some are in the form of hanging baskets, some sit on tables, some are in wrought iron stands, and some sit on the deck floor. I use plants and vines with different shades of greens, and I use flowers in reds and yellows. I use a variety of planters. I found some small plastic planters with prints in the colors I’m using, and I placed one of them on the small dining table – the one that doesn’t have an umbrella and gets full sun.

Here’s another idea for outdoor plants: paint your own clay pots. Natural clay pots are inexpensive, and you can give them some pizzazz with acrylic paints. I did one in green, red, and cream, in sort of a block-striped pattern. I used painter’s tape to guide me. You can use acrylic paints and brushes or paint pens to decorate clay planters. If you’re not good at drawing or painting, you can use stencils, geometric designs, or very simple motifs. With a round sponge brush, for example, it’s super easy to create polka-dots. By the way, you can paint plastic painters, too.

You can also use some interesting “planters” that aren’t actually planters. Over the years, I’ve used old metal coffee pots, barrels, crockery butter churns, large crocks, cauldrons, and big metal milk cans. If the container doesn’t have any holes for draining, you’ll need to add some pebbles or gravel at the bottom, under the soil. This layer will allow excess water to drain away.

You probably have a railing around at least part of your deck, which you can use to your advantage with landscaping. Last year, I had a few flowering vines planted in pots next to a rail, and they grew up and around the railing and spokes. The outdoor plants made a bold and interesting display! Unfortunately, they died over the winter.

You can also use outdoor plants to create privacy. Use tall evergreen shrubs in large planters around the edge of the deck, or use a tall trellis and plant vines to climb the structure. Another idea for this is the create a tall vertical garden. You can even use a metal baker's rack and fill the shelves with flowers and/or foliage. For larger areas, use two or more matching baker's racks or outdoor shelving units. If you have some sort of structure or header over the area that needs some privacy, you can create a simple "privacy screen" by hanging lots of plants at different heights.

When you’re using outdoor plants for landscaping your deck or patio, it’s often best to stick to one or two basic colors or color families. That will provide some unity and “flow” to your outdoor décor. I pretty much stick to shades of red and yellow flowers on my deck, and they help bring out the colors in my other items and provide a continuation of my decorating ideas.

Outdoor Decor:

ceramic sun sculpture

ceramic sun sculpture

metal sculpture

metal sculpture

sun dial

sun dial

gazing ball

gazing ball

Make your own garden totems!

Make your own garden totems!

Use some items from nature.

Use some items from nature.

I stained this natural willow wreath with acrylic paint.

I stained this natural willow wreath with acrylic paint.

I used the stained willow wreath in my candle grouping.

I used the stained willow wreath in my candle grouping.

This metal frog hanger was $1.

This metal frog hanger was $1.

another dollar store find

another dollar store find

This was at the dollar store, too.

This was at the dollar store, too.

cheap metal gecko

cheap metal gecko

Metal thermometers work well on decks and patios, too.

Metal thermometers work well on decks and patios, too.

Hubby's favorite thermometer

Hubby's favorite thermometer

cheap decorating with plates

cheap decorating with plates

I painted this small willow wreath green.

I painted this small willow wreath green.

Make this super easy tabletop fire pit.

Make this super easy tabletop fire pit.

Use the fire pit for dining under the stars!

Use the fire pit for dining under the stars!

Outdoor Decor: