It’s been four months since we moved into our midcentury modern dream home, and the magic of a new space—this space, in particular—still hasn’t worn off. Every moment we’re not traveling, we’re at home tinkering with this, fixing up that, and there are just so many possibilities, so many avenues to explore. But given we had two dozen(!) visitors over a six-week span, we had one big priority for summer and that was: starting to get our backyard in order. And we managed to do so just in time for our big Bonnaroo backyard party, the first of many for the summer.
Here’s the thing I’ve learned about homeownership: You tackle things in stages, you make priorities and a long-term plan, but you do what you must in the interim to make the space livable. Unless you’re the type of homeowner with deep pockets, a credit card with no limit and have an ace interior designer at your disposal (I am none of those things), then it’s going to take time—months or, likely, years—to get your space in order.
When it was time to work on our backyard, we had loads to do, mainly because the previous owners left the home in such a state of neglect that the yard hadn’t been mown in what seemed like a year, nor did they collect the leaves from last fall, meaning they ruined parts of the grass. So first things first: We spent a full weekend removing all the leaves, mowing our 1.5-acre lawn, weeding, pruning trees, trimming crepe myrtles, the whole nine yards. In fact, the first three months we lived here, if we weren’t on the road, SVV was out in the yard. (I don’t think he hated it)
How about this giant snapping turtle he encountered during said yard work?
The results were worth it. While we’re in no way where we want to be, it’s a vast improvement from when we moved in in March. We have since had our friend who is a landscape architect come over to survey the lot and make a long-term game plan for us, so we can plant this fall and spring and start to create the oasis we’ve always dreamed about.
But in the meantime, we’ve had several backyard parties with anywhere from 25 to 75 attendees. We knew that the friends and family attending wouldn’t judge the lawn given we’d just moved in, but we did do a few things to make it more comfortable for our guests.
We hung up string lights. It had been my dream at the Victorian to have twinkling lights in the backyard, but we simply had no structure that would support such an idea. Enter: the Cedar House. We have so many great trees and an awesome back patio, so we purchased three strands of 52-foot, weatherproof string lights from Amazon, attached them to a durable cable we bought at Lowe’s, then strung them out to a meeting point on one of the closest trees to the house.
We de-bugged the yard. SVV had been droning on about getting a Mosquito Magnet ever since we experienced the magic of a mosquito-free backyard while in Sweden a few years ago. Our yard is so big, we technically need two, but I didn’t want to throw down that kind of money until we knew it worked, so I got him one as an early birthday present. It’s worked great so far and kept those Southern summer mosquitos at bay! You can pick one up here via Amazon Prime. We also had cans of family-friendly insect repellent placed around the yard for those who needed them and citronella torches as a backup.
We torched all the weeds. Do you know if you have rock or gravel that an easier and more pain-free way of de-weeding the weediest of yards is to do so with a blowtorch? Neither did I until SVV did just that and managed to undo the awful state the previous owners left the beds that lined the perimeter of the house. This torch he used is also available on Amazon.
We removed all poison ivy. There was a bit of poison ivy and Virginia creeper climbing up one of our trees right by our swing, and SVV torched it as well to make sure none of the kiddos walked away itchy.
We purchased lawn games. While at Home Goods last month, I came across a number of wooden lawn games, like ladders and Jenga, that I purchased for $10 to $20 each. Best investment I’ve made all summer! If you can’t find any quality games at your local Home Goods or TJ Maxx, Amazon sells giant Jenga, cornhole, Bocce ball and other lawn games aplenty.
We hired a band! OK, this is kind of not true—they just happened to be staying with us and were very kind in taking us up on our request to do a backyard jam so we could invite our neighbors and close friends—but how lucky were we that our friends, the Wailing Loons, happen to be a bona-fide band? They broke in the Cedar House Stage and, as a result, gained another 75 or so fans in the process! We’re already planning to make next year bigger and even better.
We made sure any of the interior you see is in order. One of the first things we did when we moved in was unload SVV’s plant family into this little dining area nook and add more members to the fray. We also bought six of these tall concrete planters from Crate & Barrel and repotted some of his favorites (he has one plant that’s been traveling from home to home with him for more than 30 years!). The result is magic, both from the inside and out. During the concert, our friends were staring back at the house, and this is really the only area you can see into, so we wanted to make sure it looked awesome.
CB2 has a lot of other great planters of various sizes available, as well. Here are some of my favorites.
Add seating. With 75 people coming to a party, we asked everyone to bring their own lawn chair so we ensured we had plenty of seating. We also borrowed 30 stackable plastic chairs from our neighbor Beverly and have a few built-in seating areas like stone benches in our yard already, so there were plenty of options for seating.
We have a couple loungers and some lawn chairs from the Victorian, but one thing I’m waiting to do via end-of-summer sales is buy a full-on circular couch like this one. Both Overstock and Target have had some pretty sweet deals lately, and here are some of the sets I’ve had my eye on:
More Cedar House updates
I plan to do a full house tour soon so you see what we’re working with now that we’ve moved in, but in the interim, here’s where my master bedroom lies. I purchased this bed frame in Katonah Pink via Target, and I’m in love! It is on SUPER SALE today at less than 50 percent of what I paid. It also has a matching loveseat I might need to buy, as well.
I also bought a pair of these Project 62 bedside tables from Target in smoke green, and they’re my favorite new item we’ve purchased for the Cedar House. This dresser from Pottery Barn Kids is on its way to my house in August, and I can’t wait to continue designing this pleasing space. Our comforter is Marimekko and available here. The table lamps are available here in matte teal or pink.
I still need to remove the fan and replace it with a chandelier and buy a mirror and art work for the walls—I’m really digging this hex mirror and these overlapping diamond mirrors from West Elm—but baby steps!
Do you want to see more updates about the Cedar House as we continue to renovate it?
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WOW! You have such a stunning backyard. Seriously, you should rent that out for weddings. And the string lights really make it so magical. Sadly, living in Vancouver, owning a home with a yard like that probably isn’t a reality for me. But I’ll live vicariously through your photos!
Thank you so much, Riana! We are definitely lucky to have found an amazing house with so much land for a total steal!
What a wonderful space you have for a house concert. So fun! I love the string lights! I’ve had a handful at my parents house but haven’t done one in years.
Thanks, Briel! I definitely think the string lights are the cheapest and easiest way to make a dramatic impact on a backyard.
I love watching a home grow and change, so yes, please keep posting home reno updates.
Have you seen the blog SoPo Cottage? They are doing a big reno on what they call the MidMod; it reminds me of your new place.
I don’t, but that sounds totally up our alley, so I’ll definitely check it out. We LOVE mid-mod style (obviously!). Thanks for the tip, Ann!
This is so American, and I love it!! I can’t imagine anyone throwing parties like these in NL 🙂
Ha, really? How so? Do you Dutchies not have backyard parties?