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How to Overhaul Your Backyard

HGTV Magazine shares how one couple transformed their drab backyard into an exceptional double-porch sanctuary.

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When Sarah and Peter Love moved to Birmingham, AL, in 2008, Peter was set on finding a property with a great backyard like they'd had in their old Charlotte, NC, home, with a nice grassy area for playing with their dog, Grace, and outdoor space for lounging around and hosting parties.

What they found instead was a 1940s cottage with a good layout inside but a sad situation out back. "There was one measly uncovered deck and some seriously spotty landscaping," says Peter. It wasn't at all what he had in mind, but he was confident it could become the backyard of their dreams.

Fast-forward five months, two decks, and a lush lawn later....(read on to see for yourself)

Double-Decker Porches
With the addition of one open and one covered deck upstairs and a screened porch below, the Loves added 850 square feet of outdoor living space to their house. Smart move: Mild winters mean they use these areas, connected by an outdoor staircase, year-round.

Arched Iron Gate
A wrought-iron gate that looks like gates the Loves saw on historic homes in Charleston, SC, replaced a shoddy wooden one. "Switching out just the gate was an easy, low-cost way to revive the fence without replacing the whole thing," says Peter.

A Spot to Read and Relax
The screened porch offers privacy and protection from bugs.

Evergreen Lawn
Patchy, half-dead grass got the boot. In came a sturdy mix of bluegrass and fescue that gets trimmed no shorter than 3 inches. (Most grass, when mowed, is left a little shorter.) The longer length keeps the lawn looking lush.

A Place to Eat
One thing Peter and Sarah knew they wanted in their renovation: an outdoor dining area. "When the weather is good, we eat breakfast and dinner here as much as we can," says Peter. This part of the cedar deck is about 200 square feet.

Table, Chairs, and Lighting
The Loves chose an umbrella-topped Crate & Barrel teak table and four matching chairs. Outdoor sconces are attached to the back of the house for proper lighting, but for ambience, the couple hung wire lanterns with candles from Crate & Barrel from the umbrella spokes.

A Space to Entertain
The upper porch floors are stained the same shade as the hardwood floors inside, making the adjacent spaces look more connected. Sarah and Peter filled the "room" with comfortable, durable furniture. "We head here anytime friends are over," says Sarah.

Furniture, Floors, and More
The Restoration Hardware teak sofa and chairs have mildew-resistant cushions that can be zipped off and thrown in the wash. The indoor/outdoor rug from Dash & Albert is UV-treated to resist fading.

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