Five Easy Affordable Ways to Create an Outdoor Living Space

The 2017 GMC Canyon Denali pickup truck was the perfect assistant to help me transport large items for my DIY projects. I could easily maneuver this truck through the canyons back to Malibu after piling up the truck with used furniture, wood planks from Home Depot, and tall plants and outdoor chairs from Home Goods.

Since we don’t own our small “bungalow” in Malibu, but have a large backyard space backed up to a canyon and miles of nature, my dream was to create a cozy outdoor living space without spending a lot of money. Here’s how I turned what was once a blacktop filled with leftover junk into a livable area to work, relax, and play, ALL on a dime.


How to Create an Outdoor Living Space on a Dime:

Use what is around you, like the natural environment.

In California, many plants grow wild so it is easy to find plants in the desert or canyons (birds of paradise, succulents) that can be potted to look nice. There were many forgotten plants behind our home that were left to die, so with a little sprucing and love, I repotted them and helped them regrow. I spray painted some of the old pealing pots blue that were in the neighborhood junk pile. We had many orchids that were once inside our home that had died. We had left them outside with hope they would re-sprout, and in a few months, they did. After trimming their ends, all of the orchids bloomed white, so next to our outdoor bench I placed the orchids in and around our bougainvillea plant.


We live across from the beach so we used large pieces of collected driftwood (left over from the storms) as decor by nailing the faded beach wood slabs into the base of shipping crates to cover the shipping crates for a rustic beach-y feel. The beach wood was also used to make the back of a bench and a large piece of canyon wood was used as a seat after making a base stand. An old kid’s flyer wagon was filled with beach rocks and shells, then I had a cut piece of glass made to fit the top of the wagon to make a table. We placed mini succulents in driftwood to make arrangements, then nailed the driftwood plant arrangements onto beams to decorate the back wall behind the bench.

Paint can make anything look better.

I bought a can of white and blue spray paint for less than $10. An old dirty rusted table with a glass top that was sitting behind our home was made new by spray painting the ugly green chipped paint white and cleaning the glass. The blue paint was used to paint several old plant pots that had pealed and chipped. Next time I will try cement or blacktop paint to either design a painted rug on the concrete or paint the whole cement area navy.

Reuse or up-cycle junk or items. Look at items with new eyes.

Look at items that you may think to discard. Look at what you think might be junk in another way. Use an older dresser as a bar. Use an old crate flipped over as a side table. Use a door as a bar top. We used an old kid’s flyer wagon as a coffee table. We found old Crate and Barrel chairs in my storage that would have been thrown out, but were perfect for an outdoor seating area, since it rarely rains in LA. Old white vases in different sizes from past orchid purchases were used to repot various succulents.

Visit a Restore, a yard/garage sale or a thrift shop near you.

So many stores offer regular sales on outdoor cushions and other fun items. Our favorite places to search for deals are World Market, Home Goods, Target, Marshalls, and TJ Maxx. We found all of our gorgeous outdoor pillows on sale at these stores. But sometimes the best most unique finds come from yard sales, thrift shops, and used stores.

The Salvation Army in the right location (say Beverly Hills) will surprise you with what is dropped off and many items can be redone, stripped, or just painted. Restore was a new discovery for me that had many treasures, from rattan furniture, vintage artwork, tiles, bed frames, old dressers, and more. Restore is a store that offers used goods and furniture for next to nothing with proceeds benefitting Habitat for Humanity. We found two wicker tan chairs that matched the canyon environment for about $30 total.

Use free shipping crates found behind warehouses or loading docks.

I’ve looked online and seen amazing ways people use shipping crates to make outdoor furniture. We turned our two shipping crates into a large square bench with aqua cushions by placing the shipping crates on top of one another, nailing beach wood around the base and placing four aqua cushions on top.



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