Friday, August 15, 2014

Patio lights

When we first moved out here in 2010, we went for a walk along the canals in Venice, and we came upon this house that had all these vintage pendant lamps hanging from a huge tree, over their patio.

The lamps they had were all amber glass, which was beautiful, but not my favorite color of glass.  Anyway, we started picking up random 70s pendant lamps for a few bucks here and there, thinking I'd put them in a tree in our yard.  We were thinking of putting them in the avocado tree, but I decided I'd really like them closer to the house.  So this week I put them up, and this afternoon we finished running the electric.

We have 6 lights, all wired so they are all on one plug.  The wires are tacked up on the back side of the pergola, and will be painted in the spring when we paint the pergola top.  We installed electrical boxes along the back joist, and then ran the electric along the back of the house.  We also added an outlet down low for any kind of power we might need, then the outlet for the hanging lights is up high, where it will eventually be hidden a little by the bougainvillea.

With 6 lights, we can get plenty of light for sitting out and reading or talking.  Along with the light on the garage, we have the backyard pretty well lit for now.  I woudln't mind picking up a few more pendants if I see something that looks fun!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Coffee table for patio

We made our patio furniture a while back, but one thing we kept looking for was a table that we could use to set drinks on, put our feet upon, etc.  We really liked this vintage cart look:

But we couldn't find a good source for the wheels - and all those we did find looked kind of cheap.  So I found some other ideas on Pinterest, and ended up liking this:
(except for the white legs).  I know I see  lot of "farm tables" on free Craigslist, so I just waited for one of them to show up -- and this weekend, there it was.  In fact, it wasn't a kitchen table, but a coffee table already!  It did, however, have a terrible shiny "maple" top with a country style edge.

So I bought a few 1 x 4s and made a new top.  Stained it, put a coat of poly and a coat of wax on it, repainted the base black and now we have a nice little outdoor coffee table for the patio.

I think it needs some plants on it, and I want to get a tray to put them on.  So that'll give me something to shop for. 

Also, we put up a light fixture on the garage.  We did have a motion sensor light out there that was useless, I took that down last week and yesterday, we installed one of the two lights that my sister-in-law gave us.  It's great--

and we hooked it up with a remote on/off switch -- I got this on, and I'm really happy with how well it works.  You basically plug any light in to an outlet, program the remote, and it works up to 100 feet away (even through multiple walls).  It came with two outlet units, and we're going to hook up the electric for the patio this afternoon.  I've got a bunch of lights I want to hang there --

So, hopefully, those will be done for my next post!

Saturday, August 09, 2014


So, for the last week or two we've been slowly working on our backyard pergola.  First, we had to clear out some of the plants growing along the back of the house (the creeping fig that covers the brick fireplace, and the bougainvillea that we are in the middle of training up high).  We actually started working on the bougainvillea last year, when we stripped most of the smaller branches and thorns on the  bottom 6', and we had zip tied them together straight up, so they were pretty ready to go.  The creeping fig needed to be trimmed in a nice straight line so we could put one of our ledger boards along the brick wall.

We had to keep bending our group of bougainvillea off to one side - they have really vicious thorns!  The part we were dreading was drilling through the stucco and into the house supports - just a lot of dusty, messy work, but we got that done, and then it was just a matter of hanging our ledger boards and the joist hangers.  We're using redwood, it's naturally weather resistant without having any chemicals added.  We plan to let it age for a year before we paint it --

At the other side, we measured off 15 feet and marked off the spaces for our three posts.  We had to use the hammer drill to set these into the concrete, another chore we didn't look forward to, but it actually went rather quickly.  Here the posts are leveled and braced.  We used 4 x 4s, but I will be building out the posts later, and adding detail.

After we got the posts up we ran our beams across, and bolted them together.  We also added some diagonal braces, but I didn't get a close up of those.

 Then it was a matter of hanging the joists in the hangers and screwing them in.  We also got the other ends measured and toenailed in.

Then came our dilemma.  We are going to top the pergola with 1 x 2s for shade, but since we want to let the redwood age (and dry) before we stain, we don't want to attach all the 1 x 2s, because they'd be easier to paint flat instead of after we put it up, so we instead added a covering of inexpensive bamboo.  We like the way it looks, but it probably won't age well. 

We also want to put some clear acrylic panels on top of the 1 x 2s, to keep it dry on our furniture.  So that's what's going to happen later in the year/earlier in the spring.  But for now, we're really  happy with the way it looks and the shade it provides both outside and in the house during the late afternoon.

From the inside of the house, it casts a slightly yellow light, probably due to the bamboo.  I like how it makes our yard look greener, because it can use all the help it can get.  If you look closely, you can see we have no grass, just dirt and plants.  Our backyard is in survival mode - just plants in a holding pattern.  We have big plans for the backyard, and we'll be working on it over the fall and winter.

 We still have electricity to run to our outdoor lights, but we got a lot of the really sweaty, tiring work done.  I am not looking forward to painting it next year, but hopefully by then, I'll be rested :). 

Our next project might be building a nice new set of steps from the sliding glass door -- we have a short set of concrete steps that are entirely too narrow - -we'd like them to run the length of the door, and to have a wider top so that we walk out of the house first, then down the steps.  By running them the width of the door, they can also serve as a bench for when we have company over.  We are going to make them out of redwood, too, and just put a clear finish on them.  Hopefully we'll get those done in the next few weeks.  We still have lots of small projects for the patio, but we'll work on them bit by bit.

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