Our Backyard Makeover Reveal

Well, the day has finally come! I thought I would be writing this post in mid-July, but here we are about to start fall. It’s crazy how some projects take much longer than expected. The important thing is that we made it to the finish line and we are in l-o-v-e with our new backyard.

Before we get to the goods, let’s backtrack and take a look at all of the before photos and gameplan for the space.

Our Backyard Before

Backyard of our Finn Fixer Upper
Deck before makeover
the back of our house before
Our garage before

So, these above photos are from May 2019, when we purchased our house. We were moving from a small condo, so the thought of having our own backyard all to ourselves felt magical! Yes, it wasn’t the prettiest space on the block but it was all ours! Not to mention, we even had another half lot of grass, which is a large amount of space for a city home!

Sharing our new landscaping and patio updates
Our deck one year later
Our new white vinyl fence

Over the next two years, we didn’t exactly prioritize the backyard, but we did make a few upgrades…

We lived with that for the past two summers while we dreamed and schemed of all of the cool stuff we could do back there.

Our Backyard Gameplan

Last winter, we decided that the backyard would be a Spring/Summer 2021 project so we got to work making a gameplan. This was our first time tackling an exterior, so we decided to bring in the pros and hired Yardzen to mock up some renderings of our ideas. Here are their awesome plans…

Our Yardzen backyard design plan
Our Yardzen backyard design plan
Our Yardzen backyard design plan

This was super helpful as we narrowed in on the exact changes we wanted to make and figured out our priorities for the backyard. It was also a great tool to show these images to prospective contractors and landscapers when we were hiring out the project.

These renderings helped us narrow down our ultimate goals for the backyard space…

  • Build a smaller and more open deck area.
  • Add stone so we could utilize the space better.
  • Keep all of the grass in the side yard for the kiddos to play.
  • Create a dining zone and a relaxing zone.
  • Add trees, plants, and greenery!

All of the Projects…

The slope of our backyard

The crew got started in May and demo’ed the backyard completely. They then slowly started to build it back up, putting in a new drainage system, adding the stone, and rebuilding the deck. Here’s a list of all of the blog posts I’ve written this summer outlining the entire experience…

And that brings me to our backyard makeover reveal. Let’s take a look around.

Backyard Makeover Reveal

Our backyard makeover reveal
Our new backyard makeover reveal
Our backyard makeover reveal
Our backyard makeover reveal

It’s kinda hard to believe that this is our backyard. It feels like a fancy restaurant when we sit at that table, or a cool hotel when we lounge on the couch at night. I am over-the-moon happy with how it turned out. It wasn’t easy getting here, but we made it to the finish line.

Plus, we were able to hit all of our goals for the backyard. Let’s review them one by one.

Build an Open Deck Area…Check!

building an open deck down to the patio
Our new deck

Yep, I’d say we definitely accomplished our goal of creating a more open deck area. Now, these wide stairs go all the way down to the patio and it doesn’t feel as closed off as before.

Our new deck in our backyard makeover reveal

I’m really happy with the color of the deck (“Pecan” from TimberTech), and I like the look of the black contemporary posts. It feels like us!

Our new deck space

The deck itself, isn’t huge and that’s exactly what we wanted. We’d rather have more patio space for our large outdoor table than an awkwardly sized deck that no one uses.

Our grill fits perfectly up on our deck

Our grill fits perfectly up on our deck, as we made sure that we could scoot it right in here. Finn has some ideas to potentially do a more built-in look with the grill, but that would be a 2022 project.

Our new deck in the backyard

It’s also nice that the kitchen sliding door opens directly down to the stairs. We can easily come in and out of the door and the flow is 100 times better.

Our outdoor chairs from Article

I didn’t know what we’d put up on the deck, but I’m so happy we opted for these gorgeous chairs from Article. (I shared all about them in yesterday’s post.) It’s a nice spot to just sit and relax, drink coffee, or a cocktail, and look down at the patio below.

Add Stone…Check!

Adding stone to our backyard
Adding stone to our back patio

Boy, oh boy, did we add stone back here! Before, it was allllll grass, which was fine, but it wasn’t very functional for our family. I’m so happy that we opted for these pavers from Techo-bloc. (The color is “Greyed Nickel” in the modular pattern.) It makes the space much more useable.

Adding stone pavers so we can have an outdoor dining table

Even though we had a fairly large yard before, we didn’t have a spot for a large outdoor dining table. This is my favorite part of having a backyard…eating dinners (or really any meal!) outside. In fact, Rory is obsessed with dining al fresco. For every single meal, she pounds on the glass of the sliding door to request to eat outside. We usually oblige, unless it’s super hot or raining, and then she is one happy girl!

Our new dining table from yardbird

It took a bit of time to arrive, but our table and chairs from Yardbird finally came in and they’re fantastic! The table officially seats six, but we could easily fit up to eight out here – and we have! I made sure to protect the new teak table by sealing it and you can find that full tutorial right here.

Our dining area in the backyard

And I’ve gotta mention our new outdoor TV which really makes the dining experience even better!

Adding an area near our garage
Adding stone pavers near the garaage

Adding stone to the side of the garage was also a great call. Before, it was a grassy mud pit that was really tough for Finn to mow because the slope was all off. Now, it’s another useable space for our family.

Our new outdoor sectional from Article

I raved all about our outdoor sectional in yesterday’s post, so I’ll spare you those details again. Just know that we love sitting out here as a family. I’ll often lounge on the couch while Rory runs all around the patio. It’s a great spot to keep my eye on her while resting this very pregnant body of mine.

Keep Grass in the Side Yard…Check!

Because we were adding so much stone back here, it was extra important for us to keep the side yard full of grass. This is the ideal spot for Rory to splash in her baby pool or water table and to just run all around. I’m sure as the kids get older, we’ll be out here throwing a ball and doing sporting activities.

Most Chicago lots don’t have this side yard, so it was a big selling point when we bought the house. To be able to have the backyard just as we want it PLUS the grass is really one of the best parts of our home.

Add Trees & Greenery…Check!

Adding trees and planters

It’s still wild to me that our 100-year-old home had zero trees on the property. Not one! We ended up adding five trees, plus lots of plants, bushes, and flowers. It feels nice to actually have some greenery out here!

Adding hornbeam trees to our yard

I outlined all of the plants and trees we used in this blog post if you want the names of everything.

Our Patio at Night

Our backyard at night

Ahhh, our backyard makeover reveal…but at night. Holy smokes, somehow this space is even better when the sun goes down. I’m telling ya, it’s those string lights! They make any outdoor patio feel magical.

Our backyard at night

Between our string lights and the solar lights on the fence, we have more than enough lighting out here! We’ve spent lots of warm nights sitting out here catching up on shows, hanging at the table, and just lounging together.

Our outdoor sectional at night

The back corner, cozy area is dark and moody at night, which we love! We just have the glow from the lanterns and the lights on the solar fence and it’s perfect.

My favorite landscape lighting ideas

I’m trying my best to enjoy every single nice night out here before the temps drop too much. But you better believe we’ll be out here all bundled up, making the most of the space when the cooler days come.

You can find all of the details for lighting our space at night in this blog post.

Before & After

Now, time for my favorite part of any big project…the before and after shots!

Backyard shot before
Backyard shot after
Backyard of our Finn Fixer Upper
Our backyard makeover reveal
Our garage before
Our backyard makeover reveal
Our chain link fence before
Our dining area in the backyard
Our deck before
Our new deck in our backyard makeover reveal
Our deck before
Our new deck
Our rotting fence
Our backyard makeover reveal
backyard before
backyard drone shot overhead
Backyard before
Our backyard makeover reveal

Backyard Sources

Our backyard after
Our backyard makeover reveal

Lanterns // Solar Lights // DIY Tabletop Fire Bowl // Tiki Torches // String Lights // Outdoor Smart Plug // Battery-Operated Candles // Garage Door Color, Benjamin Moore “Blue Note” // Pavers (color “Greyed Nickel”) // Composite Decking (color “Pecan”) // Black Contemporary Railings // Outdoor Dining Table & Chairs // Umbrella // Umbrella Base // Grill // Outdoor Sonos Speakers // Outdoor Sconces // Lounge Chairs // Side Table // Planters  // Outdoor TV // Chaise // Sectional // Coffee Table // Palm Print Pillows // Striped Pillows 

More Backyard Posts

Our backyard one year later

Come see our backyard one year later. How is everything holding up? How are the plants doing? You can find my big update right here.


Our backyard makeover reveal

Catch Up On Our Backyard Renovation

The Year of Casey

Hey there!

I’m Casey Finn, the voice behind The DIY Playbook. I’m a Chicago gal teaching you how to design, DIY, and maintain your home…by yourself! Learn more about me right here.

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