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  • Writer's pictureKathryn Bechen

Our Carport Becomes a Secret Garden Getaway

Updated: Jan 26

Kathryn Bechen patio

I hope you are having a beautiful May so far, complete with your favorite flowers!

Steve and I have started a new home project recently, so I thought I'd share a sneak peek with you. We are still in the midst of it, but it's coming along!

We are doing a DIY dollarwise patio makeover, turning the space into our "Secret Garden Getaway." We have done this in other homes/apartments/condos we have lived in and had great fun with it.

This time is a bit different however!

Unknowingly at the time, I think it all started with this ...

Faux florals

I shared here that we loved a silk floral hanging pot we put up recently. It looks so real in person!

That pretty purple plant got me thinking that why not turn our carport/patio area into more of a colorful garden?

Better yet: A garden that we would not have to water, weed, or fertilize?! In other words: artificial flowers and plants. 100 %.

A secret getaway garden with romantic little twinkle lights and lots of silk/faux plants and flowers like you see on charming outdoor bistro patios etc. A bistro table area and a lounge area was sounding good too for our new secret garden getaway. Music and a water feature, here we come! (Clearly I ate a too many CA bistros when I lived there, and we always enjoyed the charming outdoor patios!)

So after I pondered this in my head for awhile I said to my hubby Steve ...

"You know how we are not traveling or eating out due to the pandemic still?"


"You know how we have our "travel & fun" fund?

He's starting to grin, knowing I was up to something ...

"Well, I have an idea." I said.

"Yes, honey?" he smiled.

"Well, I was thinking we should take some of our travel & fun money we have saved up and create an at-home secret garden getaway on our patio, like a relaxing outdoor at-home vacation!

"Does this have anything to do with that movie we watched the other night with the waterfall and palm trees in the backyard in Fiji?" he kidded.

I laughed.

"Well," I said, "Since we will be working with a narrow carport patio here and not a big backyard, I doubt there will be a big pool like the movie, or a water slide, but I think we can come up with some flowers and little faux palm trees!

"Sounds fun!" he said. "What do you have in mind?"

And so it began.

Our home when we bought it in 2018, side view.

Now, to give you an idea of what we were starting with, I pulled out the picture of our very narrow carport that was taken the day we bought our (modular) home in 2018. Our "patio carport" has gone through small yearly decor refreshes while we worked on the inside of our home, but nothing like I was thinking of for this makeover in my head, at least.

This time, I wanted a secluded secret garden getaway feeling.

Key word: secluded.

So clearly we had a lot of work to do!

BTW, I have now dubbed fixing "aesthetic challenges" as "camouflage decorating."

In other words: Find creative ways to hide anything ugly or just utilitarian!

Now, to keep this project moving along nicely, I turned to ...

Hearty home-cooked food and long tall drinks to feed and water my hubby since he was going to be unpacking and assembling lots of items we ordered on Amazon out on our patio, not to mention that it's already been in the upper 90s here recently. HOT! Since he works hard for me on the handyman part, I do my best to feed him yummy food while he works.

This was our other DIY goal due to the pandemic: Order every single thing online.

And we have.

Sourcing and ordering the goods online was my job! Sure, it's fun to pick new things, but it's not easy. Lots of measuring involved and you can't touch and feel the goods, of course. So you do the best you can. I also decided, for ease of ordering and delivery, to only use Amazon and if I could not find what I wanted on there, then Wayfair.

Not surprisingly, that brought some challenges.

Lemonade on the patio

My favorite cool tall summer drink is seltzer water with natural lemonade. 1/2 of each if you like it sweet. 1/4 lemonade to 3/4 water if you like it not so sweet. LOTS of ice! These new acrylic tumblers I bought so we could enjoy them on the patio in the AZ heat. Work great as they are very tall so hold a lot! This is much healthier than soda and a nice change from plain water now and then. Dollarwise too compared to many other drinks. You can also make ice cubes from the lemonade and just put them in the seltzer water if you wish. This is fun and pretty pink!

New ice maker Kathryn Bechen
Our new ice machine is dandy!

I shared in an earlier post that we bought an ice maker as our fridge does not have one. Update: Best purchase ever! Steve loves this thing; I think it's kind of like a boy-toy to him since he likes mechanical things. It came with a nice little scoop and he hung it on the side. It's also a self -cleaning device and I am happy about anything that is self-cleaning!

My version of Gourmet Grilled Cheese

I am feeding Steve my "Gourmet Grilled Cheese" sandwiches as he works on assembling patio goods. We make our own bread with an inexpensive bread machine like this and this bread mix. I brush coconut oil on the outside (instead of butter) and it browns just like butter. BTW, expeller-pressed coconut oil does not smell nor taste like coconut. It has NO taste or odor. I used two kinds of plant cheese and very thin apple slices. That's my version of "Gourmet Grilled Cheese." If you try this, be sure to put cheese on both sides of the apples or the bread will slide off when you try to turn these in the pan. Ask me how I figured that out! :)


Enchilada casserole.

I also made enchilada casserole since this is one of Steve's fave at-home dishes. I brown plant sausage and season with taco-ish seasonings, then add two cans of drained black beans and then I mix a can of 28 oz. enchilada sauce with a small jar of salsa and pour it over that. Then shredded plant cheese. Then crushed taco shells on top. Cover with foil. That's it! Bake for about 30 minutes at 375 degrees or until cheese melts. You can also use crushed corn chips if you wish. I used to just use salsa, but I like it better with the enchilada sauce mixed with salsa. BTW, for a 9x13 pan of this, I put the mixed sauce into three containers and I only used one container of sauce so you have enough to make two more pans later. Just freeze the sauce 'til you are ready for that. Or, you can make this up and freeze the whole pan and then bake later I would think.

Okay, back to the secret garden in-progress ...

Our carport patio

Like any home project, it always looks worse before it looks better!

That's totally normal.

Steve Bechen patio makeover

I got the "bright idea" to put up a floral drapery "wall" on our cabana like we had done in a past apartment to cover up a window and that had turned out well by using a tight steel cable. I wanted this floral drapery hung up because on the other side of this space is a vacant lot I don't like looking at, to say the least. Plus, I wanted it to feel more like a "room" for the lounge area. The drapes are so pretty in person and really heavy. Steve put a cable in the bottom and tightened it to the cabana poles so it became a "wall" rather than flow-y curtains blowing in the wind! The final result here turned out great, is sturdy, and will be easy to just hose off. He put the drapes back to back so that from outside it looks like flowers too instead of ugly blackout fabric as I want to be considerate of what neighbors might view.

However ...

Steve Bechen patio makeover

At one point the drapery wall was a challenge as the drapes were much heavier than we anticipated so we had to come up with something else other than cable, which Steve did.

He does not give up easily when there's a challenge!

Plan A, Plan B, Plan C!

What worked? A rod!

Go figure.

DIY home projects require oodles of patience, problem-solving, and ingenuity. Pivot when necessary is our motto, and don't expect everything will go according to plan, because it seldom does.

Steve Bechen patio makeover

DIY also requires lots of assembly!

Steve Bechen patio makeover

And lots of tools usually.

Steve Bechen patio makeover

And more assembly!

A snafu: These planters had a STRONG cedar scent and I am highly scent sensitive so Steve had to spray them with non-toxic cleaner, rinse off with the hose, and repeat again and then he set them in the sun for a few days to air out. That worked quite well. xxoo to Steve for that extra work!

Arizona sun does lots of wonderful things for me as I air out lots of products outside that have odors when I buy them. Like home goods and clothes. It's called the "bakeout method" or some such thing according to my (many) allergy doctors over the years. Good thing I live where the sun gets to 120 degrees sometimes as that "bakes out" about anything! :)

Steve Bechen patio makeover

Another online ordering snafu: They sent tan pots instead of white. They came with the planter and I didn't want to bother with a return so I will be camouflaging this tan color with faux plants to draw the eye away from the tan color. Another alternative would be to spray paint them with white paint made for plastic, but we didn't want to go to Home Depot to pick up paint nor deal with the smell, so camouflage decorating it is!

Steve Bechen patio makeover

New rugs helped camouflage some spots on our concrete that are still stained even after power washing.

We work around it and keep the final result in our mind for motivation: Lemonade and snacks on the patio!

Rugs also make it possible for us to walk barefoot out there which we can't do on the concrete in the AZ heat.

The rugs we ordered I really like, but one of them had to be re-ordered in a complementary pattern rather than exact matching pattern so I just went with it and called it creative! I actually like it. One also had a flaw so we placed it where you can't see it.

Did I mention pivoting?! (I'm not into sports but this is starting to sound like I might be a coach!)

Steve Bechen patio makeover

Steve also had to power wash the new rugs because they smelled like chemicals and I could not tolerate the smell without getting a headache. Even outside.

More sun!

Steve Bechen patio makeover

Whenever we do a DIY home project we first repurpose everything that is still in good condition. We repurpose to keep things out of the trash/landfills, and to save money too. Plus it makes you creative to think of new uses for old things. And for me, it's already been "aired out" so it's one less allergy odor for me to deal with so I can um, breathe!

Our bistro table is being transformed with a new tablecloth that won't blow off in the wind as it has elastic around it. Brilliant, whoever thought of that! Later this summer we will paint the table leg and base brown, but it is good enough for now.

Steve Bechen patio makeover

These white trellises are part of the planter box with the tan pots and two of them were the perfect width in front of Steve's car to create privacy, with most of the secret garden all behind them. Sorry, but I no longer see these planters anywhere for sale online.

Vines and plants are currently being placed.

See those chains anchoring the sunshades to the ground? They have to stay there due to wind. I am coming up with camouflage plans for those though, trust me, as I don't do ugly well. :)

Another snafu of online ordering was the large floral painting I ordered to mount on the outside of our house inside the lounge area was lost in transit so I got a refund, had to choose a new painting, and pay more.

The new one will arrive in a week or so. I like it better than the first one, so that worked out!


Patio makeover

If the rest of this project goes well we should have all the decorative elements in place within two weeks or so. Soon we will be hanging all the little white lights, adding floral pots, vines, plus adding rocks to the pots, and more. The rugs will eventually be un-rippled. We are looking for something for privacy from the street for our step rungs. So far, nothing is looking good, or the right size, without lots of cutting. Since I hate to have Steve have to do even more work, I'll keep looking!

We are getting there with our ultimate goal though: patio privacy, getaway vacation feeling, romantic, and easy to just wash everything off with a hose since in the desert we have lots of everyday dust, wind sometimes, and oh yes: haboobs. Well, I guess they don't call this the Wild West for nothing!

I will show you the finished project in a future post.

After we take a little at-home vacation that is, and hopefully no havelinas will crash our patio party. :) Unlikely though, since we moved here nearly four years ago only one of them has been seen in our housing area, walking down the street, pretty as you please. Well, they were here first, so maybe we crashed their party.

Wishing you a secret garden getaway, wherever you live, if that's what your heart desires!



"Celebrating the art of simple, charming, dollarwise living"

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