Design Budgeting 101: Outdoor Rooms

Professional designers know how to stretch a buck. Joan Grabel and Katie Z. Leavy share some of their best ideas for decorating an outdoor space for less.
Colorful Outdoor Dining Room With Yellow Pergola

Colorful Outdoor Dining Room With Yellow Pergola

Paint a pergola and other architectural elements a bright color. Add coordinating Spanish tile to one wall to bring everything together. Design by Joan Grabel.

Paint a pergola and other architectural elements a bright color. Add coordinating Spanish tile to one wall to bring everything together. Design by Joan Grabel.

Decorating beautifully on a budget can be challenging. We asked top designers how they stretch their clients' budgets.

Question: If a DIY decorator had only $100 to beautify an outdoor space, what would you suggest he or she buy to get the biggest bang for their buck?

quiz-expensive-umbrella

quiz-expensive-umbrella

Katie Z. Leavy, owner of Capital Design LLC, says, "A brightly colored market umbrella."

Question: What should you not buy with $100? “Tacky yard ornaments like gnomes,” Katie says.

Landscape designer Joan Grabel, owner of Park Slope Design, says, "Do not buy things that have a short life span or that do not enhance the style that you are going for, or that is small and will not be noticed."

Accent Outdoor Spaces with Planters

Accent Outdoor Spaces with Planters

Add a large planter that goes with the style of your home. Design by Joan Grabel.

Add a large planter that goes with the style of your home. Design by Joan Grabel.

Question: If a DIY decorator had $500 to beautify an outdoor space, what would you suggest he or she buy to get the biggest bang for their buck?

Joan suggests “buying three to five fabulous, large planters with large plant materials that correspond with the look you are going for. Have a theme.”

Porch With Yellow Pergola

Porch With Yellow Pergola

Create a focal-point wall in tile. This technique is especially effective when designing a Mediterranean-inspired space. Design by Joan Grabel.

Create a focal-point wall in tile. This technique is especially effective when designing a Mediterranean-inspired space. Design by Joan Grabel.

With a $500 budget, Katie says, "There are some wonderful outdoor fabrics that can be made into cushions, pillows and tablecloths that will add a great splash of color to your space. Investing in a set of transitionally styled planters is smart as well," she says. "Plants can be changed out seasonally and your planters will last forever."

Entryway With Pergola and Blue Front Door

Entryway With Pergola and Blue Front Door

Paint the front door, and add a matching set of chairs for budget pop. Design by Joan Grabel.

Paint the front door, and add a matching set of chairs for budget pop. Design by Joan Grabel.

Question: What are your favorite decorating tips?

Joan's favorite tips involve moving or refurbishing existing pieces. “Rearrange furniture; add pillows; move planters," she says. "Transplant to have a harmonious plant design; look inside your home and see what will work outside, and paint something you have outside to give it a new look."

Cactus with Accent Lighting

Cactus with Accent Lighting

Look for existing plants that are hidden in your yard. Transplant them, and add accent light. Design by Joan Grabel.

Look for existing plants that are hidden in your yard. Transplant them, and add accent light. Design by Joan Grabel.

"Outdoor sculpture and focal water features will surely get a bang for the buck," Katie says. "Large plants and grasses with uplighting will also act as sculpture, adding interest and natural beauty to all settings. Once you determine your focal point, break up large outdoor spaces by varying landscape materials such as colorful gravels, natural and synthetic pavers; flagstones and refined wood chips; and planted beds.

Succulents and Stones

Succulents and Stones

Add stones to a garden landscape to create texture. Design by Joan Grabel.

Add stones to a garden landscape to create texture. Design by Joan Grabel.

"Drapery panels will add drama and softness to exterior and lanai spaces as well," Katie adds. "Use full-height panels of breezy, lightweight fabrics on weatherproof metal structures to frame and define exterior 'rooms.' Keep an open mind about what qualifies as 'artwork.' Architectural salvage, metal components, maritime accessories and wall-hung planters will all add unique interest and a finished feel to your outdoor rooms."

exquisite outdoor entertaining space

exquisite outdoor entertaining space

Dreaming of an outdoor kitchen? Start a savings account, and plan to tackle the project DIY-style. Design by Katie Z. Leavy.

Dreaming of an outdoor kitchen? Start a savings account, and plan to tackle the project DIY-style. Design by Katie Z. Leavy.

See more of Joan Grabel's and Katie Z. Leavy's work in Designers' Portfolio.

Keep Reading

Next Up

$100 Half-Day Designs: Create a Stunning Entryway

Make the most of your entryway with a fun floor design and sleek chairs.

Splurge or Save? Trendy Patio Furniture for Every Budget

Give your patio a facelift just in time for summer.

8 Budget-Friendly DIYs for Your Deck or Patio

Tackle these projects and spend more time outside this season.

Budgeting for a Porch Project

Knowing what you can spend and how much things cost will help you during your porch planning.

Garden Design on the Cheap ($50 and Under)

Simple, frugal gardening tips for making the most of your budget.

Create an Outdoor Oasis for Less Than $1,000

A concrete patio is turned into a Mexican-themed outdoor room.

Pretty Up Your Patio on a Budget With These 10 Projects

Get your patio ready for guests with these easy, wallet-friendly DIYs.

Taking Decks From Functional to Fantastic

With more space and the capacity to entertain, outdoor decks are being transformed from ho-hum rectangles into backyard retreats.

Outdoor Furniture Options and Ideas

Discover new options and ideas in furniture for your outdoor space.

1,000+ Photos

Browse beautiful photos of our favorite outdoor spaces: decks, patios, porches and more.

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.