Before & After: This Tropical Patio Started as a Pile of Pallets
See how two renters—yes, renters!—renovated their tiny patio using pallets, plants, and a lot of imagination.
With the mercury rising and spring in full swing, we’re ratcheting open the windows and stepping gratefully back outdoors. But what if your enthusiasm outmatches the appeal of your outdoor living area? Such was the case for Ananda and Jeff. Their apartment patio was of the “Grand Bland Style,” staid and uninviting. What they wanted was a lush and tropical look and feel, but as renters, the husband-and-wife team would need to find a creative, non-permanent way to make it all happen. Ultimately, the solution came in unexpected form: disused shipping pallets. Dozens of them. We caught up with Ananda, the blogger behind A Piece of Rainbow, to find out how she and Jeff managed to realize their dream space, all without directly nailing into or painting over the existing concrete and stucco. Read on!
How would you describe the outdoor space pre-makeover?
At first, we sort of took it for granted that we couldn’t make dramatic changes in a rental. So the patio was never a beloved space…. It never drew us out.
What were your main goals in revamping the area?
We had two big goals in mind. First, to completely transform the patio to our dream space without breaking any rental rules. The other, perhaps even more exciting goal was to inspire others to live their dreams more courageously. Sometimes we assume that we need to wait for the right place and the right income to realize our dreams. The truth is that our creativity is our greatest gift, and it can transform limitations.
What was your inspiration?
Our dream is to live on a tropical island with wooden boats, lush jungles, and fruits falling from the sky. We wanted our patio to evoke those magical experiences.
Nearly every part of the project involves pallets: the floor, the furniture, the living wall—even the planters atop the paneling. As a seasoned vet when it comes to working with pallets, what’s your best advice for a beginner?
First, always look for HT-stamped pallets. These are heat-treated and not chemically treated. Second, know that pallet wood is rough-sawn, so unlike those store-bought 1x6s or 2x4s, they are not perfectly square or the same thickness. Take that into consideration when designing and to get a feel for things, maybe start with a simple and useful project like pallet wood crates.
What were your go-to tools?
The tools we used most were:
• portable work bench
• Kreg Pocket Hole Jig
• cordless circular saw, plus a cross-cut jig that we made
• Duckbill Deck Wrecker (for taking apart pallets)
Without attaching anything to the existing building, how did you manage to make the paneling, flooring, and furniture look so permanent, and so seamless?
It works like a free-standing, three-sided box. We created corner posts and attached the pallet wood paneling to them. It’s further strengthened by situating the furniture pieces tight against the walls.
What was the biggest challenge?
The tools, for sure! When I took a 16-week woodworking class, I got to use all the amazing tools one can imagine. Here, when designing, we had to keep in mind the tools that we actually had. But I am so happy we were able to do all this with only simple tools, because many people do not have access to table saws and jointers. If we can do it with basic tools, so can anyone!
Which part of the new design are you most proud of?
We love the built-in look, which makes the space feel bigger, even with the deep, comfy benches. We also love the happy vibe from all the colors and greenery.
Finally, how does this makeover change how you use the space?
Before, we escaped to the beach and rarely used the patio. Now we use it almost daily. It’s a blissful place for us to eat, read, and daydream.
See more photos of the transformation on A Piece of Rainbow.