Three years ago we started on a decking project in our back yard to turn a hilly section of the lawn into usable space. It looked like this, back when we first started:
Today, it looks like this:
And at night:
A few of the things we love:
- The River Birch we planted behind the deck. These guys love to soak up all the extra water that rolls down from the hill and we hope in a few more years it will help shade the deck from blistering TN summers.
- Two varieties of edible grape vines, one on each side of the pergola, trained upwards. This is their second year in and it seems like they’ve done all their work on getting roots established. They have already grown 3-5 feet this year. We fully expect to be able to wander out and grab a snack from above our heads in another year or two.
- Herbs. Everywhere. Many herbs are quite beautiful on their own, so there’s no reason to segregate them to their own planting beds. We mixed them in with abandon last year, and because the winter was so mild many of them came back up. Like our mint, which has spread like wildfire. We also have thyme, sage, and basil.
- The string lights. At night, they light up the entire back yard well enough to walk, talk, and play games. We strung them all the way up to the deck off the back of our house where we have our dining table, which makes BBQing and eating outside irresistible.
A year ago, I posted this article, which linked to a really amazing table constructed out of a reclaimed piece of butcher block and cast iron pipe fittings for legs, like so:
I’ve always loved the industrial feel of it, and when I picked up an old Kelsey Letterpress earlier this year, I knew this was exactly what I wanted to build as a work table for it.
Unfortunately, even after a ton of scouting around on Craigslist and my local habitat stores, the Husband and I still couldn’t manage to find any salvaged butcher block. We couldn’t imagine using any other material, though, so after a little brainstorming we devised a plan to make our own.
The table was not going to be huge, about 2×3′, so the material list was simple, and mostly pulled from the list in the original DIY post:
For the tabletop, we picked up a stack of 1×3 pine boards from the hardware store, pipes for the legs, and 8 flanges to make feet and to attached the legs to the table top. We also managed to snag some rub-on stain for $3.00 on clearance, some black and blue spray point to go over the legs with, and finally, a length of chain for a couple of dollars (Chain? What for? You’ll see…)
In Which We Make a Tabletop…
Back in the basement, the prep process for the butcher block itself was quick and easy. For speed sake, we decided to scrap the idea of going with multiple lengths of wood in each row (although we definitely could have gone that route) and instead cut all the boards to the same length.
Then, we began assembly, board by board. To make sure everything stayed tightly together, we applied a bead of wood glue between each new layer of wood, and used a nail gun 4-5 times on each row. Since we were going for an aged, industrial look, we even plugged some nails on the outside to help hold the outer pieces together with no plans to putty over them.
Sanding was the longest part of the entire process. Not only did we have to smooth down all the ends, but because the wood was all of slightly varying heights, we had a ton to sand down on the top, too. A planer would have made this process a LOT faster. Eventually we got so tired of sanding that we cheated and left what would be the bottom untouched.
Since we were going for an old industrial look, we actually pulled out the length of chain we purchased earlier and used it to take out some suppressed frustrations on the table top by giving it a thorough beating. We also found some old oily rags and dragged them across the top, and gouged out a few areas with a screw driver.
Then, we stained the final product and let it sit to dry.
… And Then Some Legs
We went with an H construction for our legs as well, and because they just screw together, the hardest part of the base assembly was making sure each side was even.
Since we were going for the whole vintage industrial look, we decided to spray paint the legs.
If we were smart, we would have done it before attached them to the table top, but we weren’t, so we used a garbage bag and painter’s tape to protect the surface. First went on a solid coat of bright blue paint. After a few hours of drying time, we layered on black so that there were just hints of the blue showing through. There was tape and stickers on the parts from when we purchased them, so we just left them there and painted over, to give it an even more vintage, used feel.
And the final product: We’re pretty happy with the results, and even thought about making a few extras to sell and give to friends and family.
Project Cost & Time
Though we sort of failed on the mark of keeping an exact cost on everything, the project didn’t run much more than $100 for all the materials. We went with the cheapest pine available, and purchased in lengths where we could maximize how many strips we could cut from each. The biggest part of the cost was for the legs; next time we might try hairpin legs instead.
Total production time was around 4-6 hours, but a lot of that time was sanding (which could be GREATLY reduced if you could get ahold of a planer) and the in-between times when we were waiting on stain to dry.
Last month, we decided to say good-bye to our bargain black table we had purchased from Target 3 or 4 years ago. It was solid wood, and had served us well in our various apartments, but it allowed a maximum capacity of 4 people. FOUR. And then maybe 2 or three serving dishes if we were lucky and if the dishes were small.
We replaced it with the fantastic industrial table from West Elm (the shorter one, we still live in a relatively tiny house with no dedicated dining room):
The new table comfortably seats six and it feels like there’s just miles and miles of space on the table top. The only problem is that we’re still using the 4 black chairs that went with our old table. Chairs, it turns out, can be as expensive as a table when you need to by them en masse.
We were a bit bummed that West Elm didn’t sell any benches that naturally matched the table (our original thought was to save on costs by purchasing two benches and 2 end chairs) and we couldn’t find any elsewhere that seemed to be the right size/style combo, so we set our sites on finding some awesome vintage (or reproduction) industrial chairs.
I think our dream chairs are these hammered copper-finished ones from Anthropology:
See how nicely they go with the table that almost looks like ours? Unfortunately, at $198 a pop, that works out to around $1200(!!!) for a set of six. Which is way more than our table even cost. Ouch.
So then The Husband remembered eating at a local restaurant that had somehow gotten a whole of a dozen or so old wood & metal school chairs. They look something like this…
(via Apartment Therapy)
…and apparently were made by a company called Vintage American Seating Co. They are also, so far, proving to be pretty much impossible to find.
So back to the possible and the affordable.
Though there are some vendors in the US, all of them fall under the category of prohibitively expensive. But, after a little digging, I found two very similar options:
Option 1, the Jackson Tub Chair from World Market is by far the more budget friendly option at just $89 a pop, but neither of us are sure about the relative comfort of these, or whether they would be able to slide underneath the table completely because of the arms. The nice thing is, if they have them in stock locally, we can actually give them a try and see how they look up close and personal.
Option 2 is from manufacturer Industry West, called the Marais Vintage Chair and runs slightly more at $145.00 each. Defiantly more expensive (and would have to be shipped), but I feel like they might be better quality than the World Market Options.
Honestly, we’re still not 100% sold on any of these options and we’d really love to find something that’s actually vintage rather than new. Right now, we’re just holding off and scouring ebay and the local craiglist. Have you picked up any awesome industrial chairs lately?
So last Sunday The Husband and I built a pergola. Well, we almost built a pergola. There’s about 9 top stringers standing between us and the sweet, sweet taste of victory. Why you ask? Well, we ran out of time and daylight last night and it’s been nothing but rain all day today.
And technically, this whole project started LAST year, about 5 months after be bought this place…
Because when we first looked at it, there were a lot of things we loved about the back yard. It was small, but fenced there would still be a lot of room for our dog to run around, and there was a perfect spot to add 3 raised garden beds. There wouldn’t be a huge amount of lawn we would have to mow. There was a huge shady tree that helped with the oppressive Tennessee summer sun.
But there was also a ton of things we didn’t like: our yard was mostly weeds. There were clearly drainage issues, compounded (we think) by some not-so-considerate drain pipes installed some time ago by a neighbor up the hill.
And, oh yes, our yard is on a hill. As in, significant slope-age down to the right of our house.
As in, if we got snow in the winter, it would be awesome for loading our dog on a tiny sled and pushing her down the hill; the fence would stop her when she got to the bottom!
But since we hardly get much snow, the hill sucks.
Before we put the fence in, we actually priced out how much it would cost to have a retaining wall put in and the ground leveled. Unfortunately, it was WAY more than we willing to spend for our budget house.
So spring of last year, the fence went in! Unfortunately, if you are standing at any of the high points in the yard, you can see clear across into neighbors yards. And more importantly, we still had a large area of the yard that wasn’t exceptionally usable since it was on a such a slope.
But by the time last summer rolled around… we had come up with a plan. We decided to fix part of the usability issue by installing a 10×10 deck above the lowest grade in our back yard. Just to give you an idea how much our back yard drops off, see how the front of the deck is almost level with the ground, but the back is raised by 3-4 feet?
The new deck instantly created usable space where there was none (some chairs and a fire pit perhaps?), and gave us a nice focal point around which to put plants that will eventually help disguise the hill even better (and whose roots will hopefully help suck up all the water that makes our ground squishy).
… The deck looks a little lonely there, doesn’t it? The Husband thought so too, and as soon as it was up started talking about adding a pergola above it. I also wanted to add some trees or bamboo behind it, too, to help hide the dip in the fence and create a sense of privacy. But alas, it got too warm last summer to do anything and we left our deck pretty much looking like that all through the winter (although we did manage to edge out some garden beds, as you’ll see in a minute).
So fast forward to this past weekend, when we finally put a winter’s worth of debating and planning into play. We had drawn out a rough idea of what we wanted for the pergola (based on a huge one we saw outside of Home Depot earlier), and were ready to hit the store to pick up materials and supplies.
The whole almost building-a-pergola-in-a-day project is for part 2 of the post though, so for right now, here’s a sneak peek of our work:
Check back soon for our run-down on how we built the whole thing and some final pics of how amazing it looks!