Our New Outdoor Living Room & Patio Cover

Our house is wonderful in many ways. What is not wonderful, however, is our backyard. Yes, we back to a pretty creek so we have really nice views of the trees from inside. However, it's so shaded that we can't grow any grass. And anything that does grow is promptly demolished by our dogs. An army of squirrels is always on our roof, tossing leaves and acorns and all sorts of debris down on our wooden deck. We have always been embarrassed to take people back there because it's just a roughed up wooden deck covered in branches on top of a glorious dirt pit. Can you say unattractive?

Anyway, we finally got fed up with it. We decided to bit the bullet and invest in a big project - a custom patio cover - so that we could spend time outside and actually enjoy ourselves. Now we have this beautiful space to relax with a glass of wine in the evenings!

Let me start at the beginning. This is the biggest project we've ever undertaken, so it's going to take me a long time to explain. Get comfortable!

This is what the deck looked like when we bought the house:

Before we moved in, we painted that minty green railign brown to match the rest of the deck.

We tried various furniture arrangements back there and it would look cute for a day or two before all of the leaves and debris ruined it again.

Our first step in the backyard was to remove a few trees. Our neighborhood was built on land that used to be a tree farm, and the trees are really our special feature. However, we have learned there is a such a thing as too many trees. Especially when your house is literally built around the existing trees (we have holes cut into our roof line to accommodate the trees) and those trees have outgrown their spaces. We had to fork over a lot of money (so painful!) to have some trees removed, including the tree closest to the deck. 

Once that was done, we had a few companies come by to give us estimates for the patio cover we wanted. We figured that we can't prevent leaves from falling on the deck, but we can cover part of the deck so that we can use it year-round despite the falling debris. We thought it was a worthwhile investment because the backyard is our worst feature and this would go a long way with potential buyers. Still, we experienced some sticker shock when we got the bids back from the companies who came by to provide estimates. They wanted $10-$12,000; we had a budget of $5,000. Something had to give. 

So like he normally does, the husband got resourceful. He reached out to our roofer to see if he knew a good framer ("Those guys all know each other," he told me) and sure enough, he did. Those two guys came over and we described what we were looking for -- a gabled cedar deck cover that extended our existing roofline -- and sure enough, they were confident they could do it. We would draw the plans, get the permits from the city, and buy the supplies. They would build the structure and put on the roof. We would install the electrical features - the fans and chandelier. Together, we would come in right at around $5,000. And sure enough, we did!

Who got stuck drawing the plans? Me, of course. I love to draw, but I have never done any "architectural renderings." Of course these aren't professional, but they were good enough to get the thumbs up from the city to get started. PHEW. One hurdle crossed.

Once the permit was approved, Scott purchased all of the lumber and the framers got to work. It was amazing how quickly they worked. I had a great view from inside the back door, enjoying the air conditioning with the twins while Scott and these guys melted outside in the July heat.

This project required 3 inspections from the city. Scott was in charge of that part. The first inspection involved examining our concrete footers for each post. We were worried, but we passed the inspection. Full speed ahead!

On the next inspection, we ran into a problem. They wanted to see how we attached the structure to our roof. We did it differently than we originally proposed in our plans, so they made us resubmit more drawings with our new method. Let me tell you, that was tedious to illustrate. I didn't really understand how they did it (I don't speak contractor), so I did my best. Thankfully, they looked at our new plans and then came back for another inspection. We were super nervous, but we passed. We literally did a happy dance. We looked ridiculous, but we were so happy!

The posts were installed and we sailed through our final inspection, so the roofer and framer were officially done with their part. Now it was time for Scott to install our light and fans.

The light is quite possibly my favorite part. It was my job to find the perfect chandelier, and I couldn't find anything that I thought was the right fit. I decided to search Craigslist on a whim. My search term was "huge chandelier." I figured I needed something really big to look right with the proportions of the gabled ceiling. What popped up? This amazing, HUGE, 50" Camino Vintage Candelabra Restoration Hardware chandelier

It retails for $1,120, but we paid $400. That's not exactly chump change, but the chandelier ended up being SO perfect for the space. Anything smaller would have looked silly. Scott installed it on a dimmer so we can adjust our mood lighting, which is so nice. I think it really makes the space.

The husband also bought some oscillating fans because it's just SO hot here. Without the fans, we wouldn't be able to use the deck during several months of the year. They were a must have. This goes without saying, but Scott saves us so much money with his electrical skills. He never fails to impress me. I would never have the patience for any of this intricate work. Thank goodness he does.

Oh, I forgot a step! The gutters. The stupid gutters! Scott had to teach himself how to install new gutters since the old ones were part of the former roof line. It took him a little while to figure it out, but he did. Is there any project less sexy than installing a gutter?

I'm tired just writing this. This project was sooo long! And you can only imagine that we were trying to balance work and watching the twins, so we worked on this when we could. It felt like it would never end.

The last step was to stain and seal the new cover, paint the new gutters and put a fresh coat of paint on the deck. We decided to choose a darker color for the deck, so we used our favorite color - Valspar Hematite. It's the same color we used on our front door and our shutters.

I think it feels like Portland with the rich colors and lush greenery. It's dreamy. It helps me ignore the dirt pit below!

We used stuff we already had to decorate, including 3 stumps from the tree we removed in the back. Shout-out to my mom for giving us the rug from her extensive rug stash!

Citronella candles everywhere, but the mosquitoes are still a problem. Can't wait for some fall weather!

So there it is, our new outdoor living room! One fun element is that we now have a really pretty view from the den, too. 

Just for fun, let's take is all the way back to see the full transformation. 

It wasn't cheap and it wasn't easy, but it was worth it. This is where you'll find us every Saturday night this fall. Can't wait!

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