sarah keenleyside backyard builds

Four quick tricks to give your backyard a facelift

The co-host of HGTV's Backyard Builds on how to make the most out of your outdoor space

As an interior designer that has ventured into exterior design on my show Backyard Builds, I know better than anyone that the backyard tends to be the last place that people prioritize renovation work for their homes. However, it’s interesting how much that has shifted over these past few months.

More than ever, people are seeing the value of their precious outdoor space and realizing that they have been underutilizing its potential. Seeing as we will be spending more time than ever at home this spring and summer, here are some quick and easy tips to give your outdoor space an instant facelift.

Paint it black

Do you have a shed, garage, or fence in your backyard that has seen better days but still has a lot of life left in it? Consider painting it black! I know that may sound scary, but black really shines in the backyard for several reasons. An opaque black stain is a great way to make a discoloured fence look like new. Black paint on a shed disguises a lot of wear and tear and instantly makes it look more contemporary. Best of all, your greenery looks extra vibrant when anchored with black.

Outdoor drapes

A quick and easy way to add instant glam to your backyard is adding outdoor drapery. I love adding white gauzy panels to each corner of a pergola and tying them back. The soft white fabric really softens the harder lines of the lumber and makes you feel like you are on vacation. Consider installing some simple aircraft cable on the underside of your front porch or balcony and use that to hang seasonal drapery with clips. You will want to make sure you are using outdoor fabric that is mould resistant. Alternately, white mosquito netting is a great cost effective way to get this look.


Make the most of your outdoor space by using it at night. Outdoor lighting is the best way to set the tone in your backyard. Get rid of any harsh florescent style lighting and opt for warm toned soft lighting. Don’t worry about hiring an electrician, there is a lot you can do with simple plug-in lighting. Anyone that knows me knows that I am a huge fan of LED Edison bulb style string lights in the backyard. They are a great way to illuminate your space and give off a soft warm glow. On a sturdy branch, hang an open weave basket shade on an exterior rated lightbulb cord set and you have an outdoor pendant light. I love doing this over a dining table to create an intimate outdoor dining room.

Bright white

White outdoor cushions sound like they would be a bad idea right? They are not and believe me, I live in an urban area where the racoons might outnumber the humans. A good quality white outdoor fabric is a great investment. A white base cushion is a timeless complement to any and every accent pillow. The sun can be very hard on coloured fabric and naturally bleaches colours out. White has nowhere to go but whiter! White fabric can also be bleached, so at the end of each season before you pack up your outdoor cushions, give them a good wash with some bleach and they will be looking as good as new.

Catch Sarah Keenleyside as co-host of HGTV Canada’s Backyard Builds on Thursday nights at 9 p.m.

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