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Spring is around the corner and I’ve hatched a plan to create a magical little space in my backyard.

Naturally, living right downtown means “backyard” in my world is about eight-foot-square.

So little room, so much awesome to accomplish.

Magic, for me, means creating a simply little bistro setting for myself. Room for two to dine, or possibly four. Some ambient light, a table, some chairs.

small backyard wood outdoor furniture

Table and chairs

From cast iron tables with floral motifs and their fancy chairs through to fold-able cedar tables and chairs, you have an awful lot to choose from, and that’s great.

At this time of year, it’s often easy to get gently-used furniture at a bargain as people seek to upgrade for the coming season. If you’re on a budget, then go for it. Next year YOU can be the guy upgrading. This is how I’m going since it’s my first year with a yard and I have much I need to buy — from plants and lighting on up — to make it pretty and fab. Thus, I found a cedar table and two chairs like new for $50 through a Facebook friend, and another is delivering it.

Even here at Build Direct we offer bistro sets and smaller outdoor sets in addition to larger, grander sets. Take a look around and find something that suits you.

Lighting

If you’re like me and there are no outdoor plugs for lighting, it limits your options. Fortunately, solar-powered outdoor lights have exploded in variety in recent years, and what were once quite expensive to purchase can now be found in all budgets. We love solar!

Motion-activated solar-power lights are great for the evenings for when you need a lot more visibility and you’re entertaining, but some can be annoyingly “on” all the time, so make sure it’s something you can turn on/off, if need be too.

outdoor string lighting

There are some string lighting options available with battery power; rechargeable batteries make this slightly more enviro-friendly, but solar is, of course, the most Earth-friendly option for outdoor lighting and we’d encourage you to investigate all the options.

Plug-in string lighting offers some wonderfully romantic, old-fashioned options, like the old bare incandescent bulb reminiscent of Parisian cafes at night, like these, and if I could hang them out back, I would.

Especially popular now are torch lights and other “plant and play” varieties of solar-powered garden lights.

Candles

Lots of outdoor candle options exist, including lanterns. There are also lots of wonderful DIY projects you can create magical settings with through candles.

Take, for example, the ageless art of the hole-punched tin-can with a tea candle or a votive. This terrific tutorial from the Grow Creative blog shows you step-by-step how to make the loveliest tin can candle holders, perfect for the backyard (but read the comments for additional helpful tips). A little time, virtually no money, and a beautiful end result.

tea lights

A large carrying tray and great dishes

Make it a truly special place where it has its very own dishes and everything. Find a nice drink pitcher, some summery glasses, and get a great tray you can use for carrying everything out in one step.

I’d probably stop at the drink setting for getting the dedicated “bistro” dishes, since I have a small kitchen and I have to be realistic. The odds are pretty good that more than half the time I’ll spend out there will be just with drinks or small snacks anyhow. Think of when you’ll be out back the most and get the dishes best suited for you. Are you the grilling type? Or are you a book-and-tea type? If the former, focus on BBQ-friendly platters. If you’re after a good reading and tea spot, find a great teapot and cup (with a lid so leaves don’t float down into your tea) perfect for your moment of Zen.

And More

From a bird bath and feeder through to decorative plants and aromatic herbs for atmosphere (lavender or rosemary bushes, anyone?), there are lots of small ways to keep building up that French bistro patio feeling.

Start from the seating and lighting and build out from there. Just imagine how much time you’ll spend out there, how relaxing it’ll be to have that kind of space at home, and I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s worth a little splurge and effort to bring that kind of blissful place into existence.

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Steffani Cameron

Steffani Cameron is a Victoria BC-based writer on a variety of topics. Here on the BuildDirect blog, she specializes in writing about smaller, urban spaces. How do you make the most of your smaller space? How do you decorate it to suit you? And how do you wage the war against clutter and win? This is Steff’s specialty.