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Aside from lying, cheating, being unkind, violence, excess noise and the color of egg yolks, there’s nothing I detest more than those bought-on-sale-out-in-front-of-the-supermarket, made-to-look-old-but-really-brand-new, matchy-matchy patio sets. In fact, I’ll tailgate on plastic coolers before I’ll pop a squat on those posers. NOTE: I don’t do sports. Where the hell am I going with this, and why all the ranting? Well, a few weeks ago, my team and I gave a summery makeover to a lackluster patio deckspace in Atlanta. The patio and deck were quite beautiful; the patio furniture was another story. Our mission? To de-matchy-matchy the run-of-the-mill patio set, then set it up for summer entertaining… all in a single afternoon.

In order to make this happen, we stuck with three locations: BJ’s Membership Club, a discount fabric store and a flea market. This unexpected combination works quite well, and let me tell you why: one-stop-shopping and bang-for-your-buck. Membership and wholesale clubs have just about every brand new, buy-it-in-bulk thing you could need under one roof times twenty; flea markets have uber-affordable, that’s-so-cool-where-did-you-find-it type stuff with a one-of-a-kind designer touch. By hitting up discount fabric stores, you’re certain to find excellent outdoor fabric on clearance. Wanna put a new, affordable spin on your own matchy-matchy patio set without an entire weekend of laborious do-it-yourselfing? Then check out my ideas. Perhaps some of them are right up your deck or patio’s alley. Wait, decks and patios can’t have alleys, can they? Oh well, you get the point.

Here’s what the deck looked like after my team whipped it into shape:

Brian Patrick Flynn - After Patio

How do you like the vibrant new blue umbrella, mismatched chair-stool-and-bench seating, a graphic outdoor tablecloth made from discount indoor/outdoor fabric and outdoor tableware from BJ’s Membership Club. Not bad for around $200, three hours of shopping and a couple more hours to set it all up. Next comes the part where I break down what my Decor Demon team did and how. Well, after I show you what it looked like before, that is.

Brian Patrick Flynn - Before Patio

In its original state, the deck space had absolutely no personality whatsoever. We decided to incorporate the vibrant green from the lush landscaping into our color scheme to unite the deck space with its gorgeous, natural surroundings.

Brian Patrick Flynn - Bench

Green made its way over into to the dining area, starting with the seating. We found this white, cottage-style painted bench at Highland Row Antiques for next to nothing, ditched the lame matching set’s chairs altogether, then dressed the bench up by grabbing indoor throw pillows and temporarily using them outside. If you’re gonna pull your own throw pillows out onto your patio space, just stay away from delicate ones that could easily be ruined by water (silk, suede) or a sudden gust of dirt-filled wind (solid ultra-white anything). If you’re gonna incorporate wooden bench seating into your patio space, make sure the wood is pressure-treated. If not, it will rot faster than you can say “Jack-O-Lanterns in the trash pile”.

Mixed Stools

Mixing seating styles is unexpected, original and offers up tons of different configurations. If you decide to mix stools into your table seating mix, make sure they’re adjustable. Grab one too low and your friends will feel punished. Grab one too tall and they’ll grow a superiority complex. Oh, and see the vibrant lime green flatware? Acrylic: a step up from plastic + more practical alternative to fancy silver.

Place Setting

The overarching design hero, color, made its way onto the table scape in many different forms. Our outdoor tablecloth sporting blue and white stripes was made from two-and-a-half yards of outdoor fabric at $9 per yard. Although the plates kinda-sorta look ceramic, they’re actually made of super shiny disposable plastic with a metallic band around the edges which dresses them up. My theory for plastic and/or disposable tableware is to always balance the throw-away pieces with something made of cloth or fabric. In this case, we opted for dishtowels instead of paper napkins. A ten-pack from BJ’s Membership Club was less than $12. The napkin rings and place holders are made from discount bin drapery rings (you can usually find them at fabric stores), paint swatches, stick-on letters and twine.

Drink Dispenser + Mason Jar Glasses

Summer entertaining can be grueling, especially with temperatures upwards of 100 degrees. Two words: acrylic dispensers. They’re ideal for letting guests keep themselves cool, and they add a decorative touch. Much more durable than glass, they pretty much have the same look but won’t be a disaster waiting to happen should a guest sip too much hunch punch at your summer showdown. Mason jars are an excellent way to bring a summer entertaining touch to cold drinks, but if they’re too much of a hassle, colored acrylic drinkware offers a similar, shatterproof look.

Metal Tubs for Drinks or Towels

While plastic coolers are acceptable for college, it’s wise to graduate to something a bit more grown-up once you’re old enough to own your own patio. Metal tubs are an excellent upgrade. They can be used for drinks or for keeping towels nearby and can help carry out the overall color scheme. These cuties were less than $20 a piece, are stackable and are easy to store in a closet when not being used.

Soup Can Vase

Last but not least: repurposing. Leave the good glass vases inside. Instead, get creative with everyday items like soup cans. By simply taking off the wrapper and Goo-Gone’ing any sticky residue, you’ll instantly have a vessel that’s one part vase and one part conversation-starter.

Okay, enough of my summer showboating. Anyone else have success de-matchy-matchy’ing their own patio set and/or try their hand at outside-the-box outdoor entertaining?

Tell me in the comments below.

29 Responses

  1. mishi says:

    I am so loving this! Can your Decor Demon team come to my house and add some life to my patio? Love the tips but I just dont have the design eye… Or it could be that we just don't have many options in the middle of the sea :( I'll go ahead and try this :) Next project, yay!

  2. reetsarama says:

    Well damn me to hell, I have a couple of matchy-match sets on my two seating areas. LOL Geez dude, lighten up. Summer is about relaxing and a lot of those sets are comfy. Some people choose to put their creativity and energies elsewhere.

  3. DJL says:

    Ever thought that some people might just like "matchy-matchy". I can think of a lot worse things. Styles and opinions change, so do whatever makes you happy.

  4. jezme says:

    Using what we have already in repurposing is fun, creative, and certainly without the $200 price tags (I could repurpose that amount into several options which are about necessity in these times). I love using teapots and chamber pots for planters, granite containers for ice buckets and serving vessels, jars for glasses, mix-and-matching pillow prints and tablecloths coordinated with various dinnerware patterns and colors–thinking freely for a casual and always new/comfy old look. Our porch evolves through the warm season from the potting shed to gathering place and outdoor dining space; all the things we love about the season could certainly include enjoying everyone's style and not overthinking the details… and does casual dining really require place cards? Cute, but I would rather not spend the time on that—unless there are some happy young people who could fellowship and craft them while you and a guest gather an impromptu bouquet from the yard's bounty–to put into a granite coffeepot or watering can… so many choices, so fun to share the spontaneity!

    Wicker baskets to hold (and protect from all but the worst weather) are great for magazines, crosswords, table games. They could also hold tablecloths and pillows for seating instead of removing things from the evening damp or rain–just put them in ziplock or storage bags…

    The sheer curtains seem like a wonderful touch for elegance and privacy—every year I do think I could get around to that, but so far that has not happened. Do they snag and catch on things in the breeze?

  5. SCS says:

    Wow! I have to say that there are lots of things you could do with their patio furniture to make the area POP. The busy mismatch is very unsettling to me. I like calm and tranquil with colors flowing. It seems like we have run out of good ideas and that "odd" or "mismatch" is in. Not in my book.

    • D. Pelletier says:

      I agree. I want a place to relax and enjoy the outside. The mismatched bright color scheme is not for me.

  6. jezme says:

    Rereading the original blog and all the comments has been fun. This designer has also a dislike for the color of egg yolks—hm, but used practically the same color repeatedly in the table scheme. What a thing we create when we criticize others' tastes and find our own under scrutiny. The access to those who write 'guidelines' for us less tasteful people to follow is pretty amazing, perhaps educational. Perhaps we will evolve into kinder and more respectful people who are nonjudgmental. Perhaps we can learn to offer without putdown, for while we are all much more alike than different physiologically, we are also gloriously unique. Thanks for the insights.

  7. Martha jo says:

    I enjoyed Brian's article and ideas. Years ago I had a french door put where a window was from my bedroom & a deck redwood deck made and left unpainted to naturally turn gray. On the deck are two of the old medal porch chairs from the 50's gotten at an auction, I think, with the green paint getting old. Between them is a small table made from an old ?singer sewing machine bottom with a glass top found at a yard sale. There is an old metal chair (similar to one Brian used) without a bottom that I put an old blue enamel pan in to fill with planted flowers, there is an old short rickety step-ladder with pieces of old things I found hiking, in junk piles, etc., there is an old medal patio glider (40's-50's) bought years ago in an antique store. The round table and chairs are more modern (passed on from my mother who is gone now). On the wall I found a mirror with a wide wood frame and on that has glued, screwed old found pieces of silver ware, etc. There are two old wire baskets on one portion of the wall with unique bird houses, old nests, old blue mason jars, etc.. From this patio there is a redwood walkway to the rear of the house where french doors come out from the kitchen and another patio. This patio has a BRQ, two sets of cypress patio chairs found in Ky. years ago. There is a rectangular glass table found at a thrift store and four chairs with wood backs and a carved cross cut in center, all painted different colors found at a thrift store. I also have pieces of an old picket fence, grey, found along side the road someone was throwing away for the monthly trash pick up to separate the two sets of cypress patio furniture. I do have the patio storage lg. containers to store patio stuff that are modern, but mostly out of site that I store all the cushions and rugs in. I, too, use galvanized pans, and a wash tub for drinks with ice, etc. I have old 40's-50's cotton table cloths to use, enamel plates etc. I have a collection of misc. stuff, pots, pans, etc. I have collected from old junk piles. Oh, yes, around the deck from my bedroom are hung misc. old lanterns.
    All of it needs a good cleaning now as AZ recently had the most worse dust storm I have seen in 54 yrs, and my house trim does need repainting as soon as I am able, but I understand Brian and love the thrill of the find of something unique and old! Outpost66

  8. Nina Butt says:

    What's with the whole lemons just floating in ice water? I'm not sure I get that design element. Where is the function of that?

    Anyway, I like the look but I'm with those who say using the existing set is more green and financially smart! But it's too cool for me….I like warmer colors. for Patios…preference, preference.

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