25 Ways to Upgrade Your Outdoor Living Space for Almost Nothing

Making a lasting impression on your outdoor living doesn't have to make a big dent in your wallet. Here are some of our favorite ways to DIY your own deck decor using materials you may already have around the house.

By Savannah Sher and Manasa Reddigari | Updated Apr 19, 2022 10:47 AM

Spruce Up Your Outdoor Living Space

Spruce Up Your Outdoor Living Space

Whether it's a sprawling yard, cozy balcony, or something in between, your home's exterior living spaces should be prized, even cultivated, to suit your family’s tastes and habits. It’s not difficult to turn a patio, deck, or shady corner into a go-to spot for daytime and nighttime relaxation. What’s more, there’s no need to spend a fortune on new outdoor decor to upgrade the space. These nearly-free DIY projects will make you want to spend more time outdoors, all season long.


1. Favorite Hangout

DIY Hanging Chair

Snag extra seating in a pint-sized yard by installing a hanging chaise on your porch, deck, or patio. This lightweight lounger, made of a canvas drop cloth supported by wooden dowels and natural rope, is perfect for basking in the sun yet doubles as a swing for family fun.

RELATED: Buyer's Guide: The Best Porch Swings


2. Let There Be Light

DIY Tin Can Lantern

Make light work of illuminating outdoor spaces with these tin can lanterns, created by drilling a pretty pattern onto the sides of empty coffee cans. Coat the cans with primer and paint, and then place a tea light inside of each to illuminate the night.

RELATED: 7 Awesome Outdoor Lighting Ideas for Your Backyard


3. Screened Out

DIY Drop Cloth Patio Curtain

Installing a privacy screen on the porch or patio is a simple way to screen out unwanted attention. Hang a canvas drop cloth (or any fabric of your choice) from the porch ceiling using grommets and hooks or with a pole and shower curtain hooks. If plain white isn't your look, then add extra details using fabric paint. You'll attract the attention of neighbors—while keeping prying eyes out.

RELATED: 11 Ideas for Better Backyard Privacy


4. Turn Up the Heat

DIY Flower Pot Space Heater

Unused terra cotta pots offer an inexpensive way to heat a cold corner of the deck. Place lit scented candles in a glass bowl, covering them with an upturned plant pot. As the candle burns, the pot will diffuse heat into its surroundings, creating an ambiance as aromatic as it is warm.

RELATED: 9 Easy-to-Make Garden Luminaries


5. Island Fever

Spray Paint Faded Outdoor Furniture

If an island getaway is beyond your budget, bring the Caribbean into your backyard by repainting your old patio furniture in tropical tints. Spray-paint furniture in vibrant oranges, complementing them with electric blues and calming yellows for side chairs and tables with flair.

RELATED: 15 Doable Designs for DIY Outdoor Furniture


6. Crafty Cushions

DIY Outdoor Cushions

Why throw away timeworn placemats, when you can upcycle them into throw pillows for an outdoor bench! Using a seam ripper, tear the seams of a dual-layer placemat. Fill the case with bargain craft stuffing, and stitch the opening to fashion eye-catching cushions for a budget-friendly porch.

RELATED: 15 Outdoor Entertaining Tips for Stress-Free Hosting


7. Strong Stumps

DIY Tree Stump Tables

If your small outdoor space is a few tables short of a furniture set, look to Mother Nature for extra surface space. Tree stumps and upturned wicker baskets can be repurposed into attractive side tables. When adorned with home-grown planters, they evoke a truly rustic retreat.

RELATED: The Best (and Weirdest) Things You Can Do with a Tree Stump


8. Flower Power

DIY Tissue Paper Flowers

String lights aren’t the only option for elevating an outdoor space on a shoestring budget. These DIY florets, cut from tissue paper and stitched together with a needle and thread, create a luminous lantern effect when hung directly from light cords.

RELATED: 10 Classic DIY Projects for the Outdoors


9. Stencil It In

DIY Stenciled Floor

You don’t need pro painting skills to recreate this pallet wood deck that dazzles. Create personalized stencils with Silhouette Portrait, or print out pre-designed stencils. Then, using the stencil, paint the pattern over a portion of the deck to create a colorful welcome area for guests.

RELATED: 18 Design Ideas to Make Your Deck a Destination


10. Block Party

DIY Cinder Block Bench

Due to their light weight, negative space, and neutral tone, cinder blocks instantly add flavor and function to a garden. When stacked and topped with wood boards, they can provide support for you and a bevy of friends.

RELATED: 9 Creative Ways to Build a Backyard Hangout


11. Made in the Shade

DIY Outdoor Shade Awning

Shut out harsh sunlight and bugs, and create a clearly defined outdoor space by erecting a minimalist shade over the porch. Simply secure an old curtain or bed sheet to hooks attached to your home's exterior to create a chic canopy above dining and reclining areas.

RELATED: 10 Smart Ways to Bring Shade to Your Outdoor Space


12. High Lights

DIY Mason Jar Lights

Bring the regal look of a multi-tier chandelier outdoors with these mason jar luminaries. Filled with pebbles and tea lights, and wrapped with twine, the jars can be tied to a fallen branch and secured to the eaves of the porch roof to create an intimate al fresco setting.

RELATED: 18 Inspiring Ideas for Easy Outdoor Entertaining


13. Spare Surface

Wrap an Old Tire in Rope to Make an Ottoman

Got an old tire you're ready to kick to the curb? Upcycle it into a coffee table for your outdoor living room. Nail symmetrical plywood rounds to the top and base of the tire, followed by adding four feet to the base. Once the table has been covered in rope, its humble beginnings will go undetected.

RELATED: 14 Cheap DIYs for a Better Backyard


14. Block Bar

DIY Cinderblock Bar

Give a boring patio a boost with a backyard bar. Stack cinder blocks on top of each other and place a slab of wood on top for a fun and modern bar. It also works double duty as a planter!

RELATED: 13 Projects that Prove Why DIYers Love Cinder Blocks


15. Boosted Decor

DIY Fire Pit

There's no better way to spend time in the backyard than gathered around a fire pit. Stake the area where you want to build the pit and then dig the ring, about 8 inches deep. Fill it with sand and level it, and then get to stacking stones. Once you have two levels, add a layer of gravel to the center, and then stack one or two additional rings of stones. The final step? Start a fire!

RELATED: No Money to Burn? 15 Fire Pits You Can Afford


16. Less is S'More

DIY Soda Can S'More Roaster

Skip the flint and steel, and create a miniature backyard bonfire with this DIY soda can stovetop. Cut the bottoms of two cans before adjoining them with a heat- or fire-resistant sealant. Then, add a fuel, like alcohol, into a hole in the top of the can to ignite the stove, and get the s’mores cooking!

RELATED: A Swedish Fire Torch Turns One Log Into a Complete Campfire


17. Cutting Edge

Grow Plants from Cuttings

Grow your garden without forking over any green by propagating plants—that is, growing new plants from existing ones. Cut the stems from houseplants at an angle, removing the bottom leaves and placing the cuttings in a moist pot to encourage their growth into hardy sprouts.

RELATED: 10 Houseplants You Can Propagate the Fastest for an Ever-Expanding Indoor Garden


18. Nautical Star

DIY Outdoor Tablecloth

Just because you're dining outside doesn't mean you can't dress up the table. Make a tablecloth for your patio table by adhering painter’s tape to canvas drop cloth and stippling white or colored paint onto the exposed cloth with a foam brush. Remove the tape and let the cloth dry, then set the design with an iron for a perfectly fun finish.

RELATED: Buyer's Guide: The Best Outdoor Furniture Brands


19. Unlikely Luminary

DIY Outdoor String Lights

A small yard or balcony with no room for trees poses a puzzle: Where to hang the string lights in your outdoor oasis? You can still have a twinkling sanctuary by looping the lights around a patio umbrella, balcony bars, or potted plants. 

RELATED: 13 Breathtaking Ideas for Backyard String Lights


20. Pretty Planters

20. Pretty Planters

One thing that’s sure to brighten up any outdoor living space is greenery. Rather than spending money on pricey lumber to create raised garden beds, consider upcycling something you already own and turning it into a planter. This could be an old wheelbarrow, painted tin cans, a bicycle with a basket, or any outdoor-friendly item that can act as a container. Use the planters for colorful flowers or even to grow your own herbs, fruits, and vegetables. 

RELATED: 13 Creative Designs for Easy DIY Planters


21. For the Birds

21. For the Birds

Encourage feathered friends to visit your yard—bringing their delightful birdsong with them—by creating a DIY bird feeder. There are plenty of ideas available for how to make a bird feeder, depending on the materials you have available. Examples are bird feeders made out of an old teacup and saucer, or using empty wine bottles to feed hummingbirds, as Etsy seller BottlesUncorked does here.

RELATED: Buyer’s Guide: The Best Bird Feeders


22. Pallet Daybed

22. Pallet Daybed

A backyard daybed provides the perfect place to kick back with a cup of coffee or a glass of wine to enjoy the outdoors. However, the options that are available in stores tend to be pretty pricey. Create your own by using upcycled wooden pallets for the frame. Make the cushion covers with any leftover material you have from other projects and fill it with unused clothing or bedding. 

RELATED: 15 Doable Designs for DIY Outdoor Furniture


23. Elegant Lighting

23. Elegant Lighting

Have an old chandelier or pendant light that no longer works? Consider installing it outdoors and fitting it with taper candles to add opulence to your outdoor space. Alternatively, use it as a whimsical planter for hanging flowers. To give the fixture new life, consider painting it white or a cheerful, unexpected color. 

RELATED: The Best Places to Install Solar Lights in Your Outdoor Space


24. Step by Step

24. Step by Step

Stepping stones create practical walkways that simultaneously draw the eye for visual appeal. However, you might experience sticker shock when you see how much paving stones cost. A lower-cost alternative is to cast your own stepping stones using concrete. By using this process, you not only save money on the stones, but you can get creative and add decorative flourishes like stamped patterns and glass accents. 

RELATED: 6 Creative Things You Can DIY With Concrete


25. Try Xeriscaping

25. Try Xeriscaping

Having lush plants and greenery certainly adds ambiance to any outdoor space, but many plants are difficult to maintain and require large quantities of water. Rather than a fully green lawn, consider xeriscaping for your property. This principle involves planting drought-tolerant grasses, shrubs, and trees that don’t require irrigation after their first year. The type of plants that are best for your property will depend on your agricultural zone, and you can fill in with gravel or rock borders. 

RELATED: 15 Gorgeous Rock Garden Ideas for Your Landscape


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