How to Decorate your Outdoor Space without Breaking the Bank

Noted English clergyman Sydney Smith (1771-1845) is quoted as saying, "Economy in the estimation of common minds means the absence of all taste and comfort." But finding thrifty ways to decorate your outdoor living space doesn't mean you have to sacrifice either of those things. Here are some ideas to help you:

  • Forget trying to find that perfectly matched 9-piece patio set at the first garage sale you stop at. If a matched set is what your heart truly desires then by all means seek until you find. But you'll have far more success if you open your eyes to the possibility of mismatched pieces.

  • Consider all the sources of inexpensive pieces, not just garage and yard sales. Browse flea markets, country auctions and thrift shops. Keep your eyes open when you pass the bulletin board in your neighbour store. Check the classifieds. Rove the aisles at discount retailers or dollar stores. If you're serious about certain pieces then be bold. Let your favorite restaurateur know that you love his patio pieces and if any need replacing, you'll be glad to take the old ones off his hands. Ask your friends and family if they have spare pieces stored away. And don't overlook "curb picking" before a major trash pick-up. Many great items are put out because the owners simply can't be bothered with a minor repair or they just don't have the space to keep them.

  • Accept substitutions. Instead of one large dining table consider several smaller ones. Instead of a loveseat, use that great bench you found or several different side chairs. Just be sure there's at least one GREAT comfortable seat.

  • Imagine other uses for common items. For example, use a large wooden toolbox as a magazine rack, a wooden door mounted on brackets for a shelf or table, or an old mailbox as a planter. Vintage garden tools make interesting wall art. Used wrought iron gates serve as a great patio wall. Old porch balusters can be fashioned into candleholders or table legs.

  • Fabric covers a multitude of sins. Pick up large fabric remnants at a salvage center or buy used sheets, bedspreads and drapes at a yard sale. New chair covers, a table runner, and cushions created from this yardage tie all your odd furniture pieces together. Hang some extra yardage as an outdoor curtain and you'll wow your visitors.

  • Paint is also a unifier and will do amazing things to most furniture. Spray paint a junk store chandelier and hang it filled with candles. Here's a set of 94 citronella candles that will allow you to fill and refill that great lighting fixture without breaking your budget. If you think that your furniture odds and ends are just too, well, odd then try mixing and matching paint color instead of painting all pieces identically. For example, try one chair with a green seat and white legs, one with a green back and white seat, and one with green and white stripes. Celebrate diversity.

  • You might also think about using a certain theme for your outdoor decorating, such as French country or Caribbean. The design interest will draw attention away from any mismatching in your furnishings.

Economy in decorating your outdoor space does not have to result in the absence of taste or comfort. You might have to work a little harder but think how much satisfaction you will derive from a space that you made work for next to nothing.

About The Author

Debbie Rodgers owns and operates Paradise Porch, and is dedicated to helping people create outdoor living spaces that nurture and enrich them. Visit her on the web at and get a free report on "Eight easy ways to create privacy in your outdoor space". Mail to

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