10 happy and affordable outdoor spaces

outdoor bar with lemon treeWhen we put out a call to see your outdoor summer spaces, readers submitted more than 100 photos of the patios, decks, and sunporches. And oh my — seriously, one photos was more enticing than then next. Take a spin through this slide show — I chose 10 great photos to spotlight — and all you will want to do is head outside to sip a tall cold anything, or as House of Gadget says of her photo, above:

…Pick a lemon off the tree for your whiskey sour at House of Gadget’s bar.

All these spaces are so colorful and cheery. And as I look through the photos, I see that most of these backyards, patios, porches and sunrooms are furnished with vintage finds… no million dollar spaces here. Thrifty, affordable = less stress, more happy. Click on through for nine more outdoor spaces with low on pretentious, high on sane retro charm –>

patio with jalousie windowsAbove: This one is my very favorite of the entire bunch.

My porch has great jalousie windows on 3 sides and is plugged into the groovy 1960’s whole house stereo system. The patio furniture came with the house and I found the table and chairs on CL for a pittance. This view is from my fav spot in the house — the chaise lounge!!

Yum. Malm or Preway type fire cone. (no description was submitted)

old homecrest patio furnitureVintage Homecrest is the berries:

Kathryn and Robert’s Homecrest set

blue front doorAbove: Everyone went gaga in comments about Laura’s front porch — especially the fact she bought her front door for $20 on craigslist:

Laura’s front porch. Chair set is Salterini. Door from craigslist, $20.

orange soft tub jacuzziAbove: Golly, I didn’t know that soft tubs existed. Now I neeeeeed one:

Living in the mountain comunity of Idyllwild, CA it’s always a pleasure to pull out the ol’ soft tub when the weather warms up. Our little corner of our cabin deck acts as a “cozy” little vintage paradise. Although the soft tub is about 10 years old, I dig the 70’s orange!

short fence made of decorative concrete blockAbove: I REALLY like the way that Jeff has stacked decorative concrete blocks to create a little half wall around his patio space. Brilliant! Hmmmm…. do I have a place where I can do this?

Jeff’s Terrace

sun porch with plaid carpetAbove: I love the indoor outdoor plaid carpet!

3 season porch – Mark, Indianapolis

vintage patio furniture australiaAbove: I love it when we get photos from Australia and other countries!

Darren’s front patio in Melbourne, Australia

house constructionAbove: Yikes — this is heartbreaking: Un-remuddling; we have so been there. Larry, your quest is righteous… the Retro Decorating Gods will be sure to reward you…

In progress: side porch made to a room made back into a side porch like it should be…almost done! – Larry

Great photos, everyone — thank you! — So Inspiring!


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  1. Anne-Marie says

    These are brilliant and the timing is perfect. I am this very minute having my house painted and restored to its original 1969 glory. Looking at these patios gives me hope for my outdoor spaces. Thanks all for sharing!

  2. Annie B. says


    If you find that those decorative concrete sceen blocks you’ve stacked on your terrace just happen to go missing some dark night, I certainly hope you won’t think they’ve moved to MY house! Concrete screen blocks are my MCM Holy Grail. Here in my little corner of the world, they’re scarcer than hen’s teeth.

    Also love all the funky patio furniture, that insanely great blue door, and plaid cooler used as an end table. Oh, and that lemon tree (“very pretty………”).

    • Jeff says

      Hi, thanks for the kind words. The wall is now finished, sadly when these photos were taken last month it wasn’t finished yet- these were a closeout at English Gardens, a chain nursery here in the Detroit area, and were only a buck a piece- I bought all they had- 145 of them.

      Doing vertical pylons in the yard next with backlighting on the blocks. Also we have a great source here for limestone caps and rail pieces, which I ordered rail slabs for the top of the wall, replacing the pavers I had set up there! This is only one corner of the patio, the area is quite large and packed with MCM goodies!

      • Annie B. says

        Vertical pylons with backlit blocks? Talk about setting the mood with dramatic lighting. How lovely that will be. Photos, please!

        (I’m politely ignoring the fact that you have 145 screen blocks and I have only four!!)

        • Jeff says

          Yep, always a project around here….had to divert some funds to business this week, so I’ll be putting off some outdoor stuff until mid July at this point, but it’s all in the hunt, and getting stuff one can use- don’t want to be that guy with the stacks of “stuff” that started out with good intentions, but ended up with just “junk” LOL

      • says

        Are you getting your capstones from that place on Capital in Oak Park? They have a great selection. We got some to cap our chimney after it was repointed.

        Annie, where are you? I was just noodling around Google when I found St. Vrain and quit looking. There might be more sources. My contractor in Florida seemed to think he would have no trouble getting blocks like this for my porch rebuild.

        • Annie B. says


          If you’ll pardon the old southern expression, I’m at the “a** end of nowhere”; aka, the Southern Outer Banks of North Carolina (a tiny community called Pine Knoll Shores).

          I’ve kept hoping that some concrete company in Raleigh (a three hour drive from us) will get smart and start producing these blocks again. Raleigh is filled with MCM homes and MCM aficionados, so it possibly could happen.

            • Annie B. says

              Wow, Elaine. You are GOOD! I’ve actually called or e-mailed several of these suppliers and manufacturers, but I see new names on your list. I shall continue my search! Thanks so much for your help.

          • Jeff says

            Look for a place in Orlando, Florida, the name escapes me, but I remember a place that has them there, it may have been “A-1 Block” but I can’t be sure, just ad-libbing here…..

        • Jeff says

          The capstone comes from Redford Building Supply on Plymouth Road. I will look into the Oak Park location as well, always looking for new sources!

    • susan behrman says

      We have a 40″ tall decorative patio block screen around the backyard of our 1959 home & want to add height for privacy. I cannot add more block due to structural issues and difficulty in finding the blocks! Any ideas would be much appreciated.

      • pam kueber says

        Susan, we have a story with a big roundup of places to find decorative concrete block — use the search at the top, it will come right up.
        Alternatively, you can submit this as a Retro Design Dilemma – again, use the search to get to instructions to submit your question.

  3. Corrie Varga says

    I’m tickled pink to see our “House of Gadgets” a.k.a. HOG patio bar on the homepage of MY FAVORITE BLOG! We moved in to our garden apartment in San Francisco’s Mission District this winter and I’ve trolled through Retro Renovation everyday for 2 years for emotional inspiration while we trudged through the nightmare of finding an affordable renters space in SF where we had outdoor living space and our Pug, Loretta, would be welcome.

    The DH already had a serious love-affair with retro design when we met years ago and it was no small ordeal of editing in order to fit our life and our invariably oversized MCM collections in the 400ish indoor square feet of our new home. Not to mention adjusting to, I mean, falling in love with, the huge orange wall that makes up the majority of the apartment. We hemmed and hawed about how to fit in the bar – our favorite piece – albeit its desperate need of a restored laminate top. Moving the bar outside has been glorious. Our menu this summer is all original cocktails featuring fresh ingredients from the fruit trees and herb garden : )

    This site continues to inspire me everyday, thank you Pam and all of the brilliant readers for sharing so much of your lives.


      • Corrie Varga says

        Pam et al –
        suggestions on retailers or DIY to replace or restore vintage laminate on furniture? (wood grain pattern in grayscale)

        oh, and I keep coming back to the orange hottub to drool… and drool…!

    • Kathryn says

      Hi Elaine!
      I found this site that helped me identify my Homecrest pattern as well as give a good history of the company. They still make replacement cushions for the vintage furniture though not in any of the original patterns. And, they are really, really expensive (to me). But, check it out. My pattern was listed in the 1984 catalog.
      Thanks and good luck!

      • says

        Thank you for the link! Great idea to get the cushions made by a company that actually knows what they should look like. I have a vintage glider that came with my house that has the original plastic cushions in an orange floral print. I had a cloth set made for it by cjscozycushions. They use Suntech fabric, or will use the fabric you send. The print I picked is the closest I could come to the colors and mid-century look. I was thinking of having them make a matching set for my chairs when I get them. As you say, they aren’t cheap!


      • Elaine says

        EEK! Those catalogs!! Just wonderful. Those particular swivel rockers are listed in the 1963-64 catalog. Our house was built in 1963. How perfect is that?

  4. tami says

    What I really love about Jeff’s Terrace are the elements with similar greys but different patterns/textures: corrugated, nubbly, and geometric.

  5. Molly says

    I love this blog. It introduced me to the word “Homecrest” which I had been trying to figure out since I found 3 pieces for $20 on a garage sale. I was jumping up and down excited that day – but now that I know what it’s called, I really know what a great deal I got….if only I could figure out what my patio table and chairs are.

  6. says

    Those spaces look great, we can’t forget outdoor spaces. I need to put pictures up too. I’ve got a vintage camper trailer and a vintage metal outdoor umbrella in my yard. I really like the soft hot tub too anyone know anything about those?

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