Maybe you’ve admired Cait Pappas’ style on Instagram: As @Nest.Out.West, the wife, mom, and design blogger gives her 72,600-plus followers tips for smart DIYs, irresistible product picks, and pretty spaces from her own home in Arvada. Among those projects: the renovation of her back patio, which she and her husband, Jason, undertook last spring as part of Better Homes & GardensOne Room Challenge, a semiannual online event that invites design influencers to update a single space in just six weeks (or eight, if you happen to be in the middle of a pandemic). Here’s how the Pappases transformed their outdoor room from a cracked-concrete jungle to a charming oasis.

Step One: Lay the Groundwork

To start, the Pappases tackled the 7-by-15-foot lower level of the patio. Because they didn’t have the budget to jackhammer out the concrete and install a grassy yard, they laid a patch of pet turf to give the illusion of grass. Then the couple revived the dingy concrete patio nearer to the house, giving it a good power-wash and some TLC in the form of backer rod (to fill cracks) and a self-leveling sealant. They painted it with Clark & Kensington exterior paint in a hue color-matched to Benjamin Moore’s Swiss Coffee, and Cait (with help from her mother and mother-in-law) stenciled a geometric pattern from Royal Design Studio onto the surface.

Step Two: Build It Out

Their canvas complete, the Pappases undertook a trio of DIY projects: To balance the scale of two different-sized windows, Jason built two sets of shutters and then installed a flower box under the smaller window; Cait filled the boxes with UV-resistant faux flowers from Afloral. Jason also crafted four pine-and-pavestone benches that form a casual seating area under the pergola.

The pièce de résistance is the handsome wood surround for the gas grill and mini fridge, complete with plywood waterfall countertops painted to look like stone. “A project like [the grill surround]—it reminds us of how satisfying and worthwhile it is to figure out how to create something that is beautiful and works well,” Cait says.

Step Three: Add the Finishing Touches & Enjoy

Peppered among the big tasks were smaller ones: Cait planted Limelight and Strawberry Sundae hydrangeas (inspired by what she calls her dad’s “magical” garden in Wisconsin) and arranged the furnishings (including an all-weather wicker dining table from Pottery Barn). She also hung a string of lights under the pergola to cast a glow on summer nights.

Where they once cringed to look, the Pappases now spend as much time as possible. “It feels so peaceful here,” Cait says of the new patio. “It’s surrounded by trees, and in the summertime, when the breeze is blowing, it’s the best place to be.”

Photo by Kimberly Gavin, styling by Natalie Warady

Week-By-Week Breakdown

How’d they do it? Cait Pappas shares her (ambitious) timeline for renovating her patio. Head’s up, DIY-ers: There’s still time to take cues from Nest Out West and transform your outdoor space before the summer really kicks in.

Week One: Paint the exterior.
Sometimes, one small project kickstarts a much bigger one. For the Pappases, the patio reno prompted the couple to repaint their 1999 home’s exterior. Cait had her local Ace Hardware team mix up Clark & Kensington’s exterior satin paint in three Benjamin Moore colors: Edgecomb Gray for the main color, Swiss Coffee for the accents, and Black Night for the trim.

Week Two: Prep the concrete, select and install the artificial turf, order the stencil for the concrete, buy the paint.
It’s not sexy to power-wash, fill cracks in the concrete with backer rod, and apply the self-leveling sealant, but the prep work is necessary to get a smooth finish when you paint. Stenciling the concrete gives it an updated look for a very small price tag (but a hefty investment of time). Cait used the Ranae Geometric Floral pattern from Royal Design Studio Stencils.

Week Three: Order the plant material; paint the concrete.
Can’t find the plants you want? Consider ordering them. Cait found her perfect hydrangeas through Home Depot. (Check with gardening guides to make sure the plant varieties you’re selecting will flourish in our semi-arid climate.) And while Cait painted the concrete during her toddler’s nap times, she wishes she had just devoted a day to the job and been a wee bit more meticulous with the edges.

The Pappases created a small “yard” by covering a portion of the concrete with artificial pet turf. Designated spaces for eating, relaxing, and cooking make the small patio a highly functional space. Photo by Kimberly Gavin, styling by Natalie Warady

Week Four: Build, stain, and hang the shutters and window boxes; gather the supplies for the benches.
Paying attention to easy exterior details—like shutters or window boxes—helps give a patio a polished look. Take a cue from Cait and use such features to visually “fix” mismatched or oddly sized windows. And don’t forget that half the motivation to start a new project is having the supplies on hand. If you set aside a day just to gather the goods, you’ll be more apt to start the project when the weekend rolls around.

Week Five: Craft the seating; gather supplies for the outdoor kitchen.
Cait promises the modern benches her husband, Jason, built are “super easy.” They’re also far more affordable than buying new patio furniture, especially if you’re just looking for a spot for people to lounge before dinner.

Week Six: Begin the work of building the outdoor kitchen; consider the finishing touches for the whole space.
Breaking a larger DIY project into two or three segments can make it feel more manageable. Jason tackled building the outdoor kitchen’s frame and surround first to ensure he had everything constructed properly before moving to step two.

Week Seven: Finish the outdoor kitchen.
For the second half of this project, Jason built the plywood countertops, finished it with a textured spray paint that resembles stone, and sealed it with a clear coat .

Week Eight: Sweat the details.
Cait wrapped up her project by installing her plants, adding throw pillows to her teak furniture (which she already had), laying her outdoor rug, hanging lights from the pergola, and generally making the space feel homey and warm.

This article was originally published in 5280 Home April/May 2021.
Hilary Masell Oswald
Hilary Masell Oswald
As the former editor for two of 5280’s ancillary publications, Hilary Masell Oswald split her time between the vibrant design-and-architecture scene in the metro area for 5280 Home and the always-changing field of health for the annual 5280 Health.