Looking for some simple tips to transform your backyard? Here’s a before and after backyard patio makeover with a pergola and pavers.

before and after backyard makeover

Don’t you love an outdoor space that looks like it walked in from the English countryside?

Then I decided to go all Downton Abbey and create an English inspired stone paver patio.

Kind of like the Earl of Grantham meets a farmhouse meets concrete pavers from the home improvement store meets the back meadow.

It’s a little bit country and a little bit English manor house.

With extra manor.

before and after backyard from side

Here’s the overall view of the space.

This is located on our property next to the house and the pond.

See the little white arbor at the left of the picture.

It is surrounded by roses and phlox that haven’t bloomed yet and it takes you down to a pond.

It’s where Fred the giant turtle lives.

farmhouse with pergola before and after backyard

Here’s the view of it taken to the left looking at the house.

The space directly in front of you is the screened-in porch.

It overlooks the new stone patio.

flowers in spring on the patio before and after backyard

Just in case you were worried about the patio getting too fancy, just know that it started out life as a basketball court.


Dribble.  Dribble.

When we bought the property it was an asphalt slab that they used to play basketball on.

Before and after backyard makeover

This was before and after backyard was our summer project.

The basketball court doesn’t look the same anymore.

Here’s how we transformed it:

pergola with gardens before and after backyard

1. The pergola

We moved the court to the back of the property and made this into something a little more “invite the neighbors we’re having a party” kind of space.

We started the before and after backyard makeover with this pergola that we ordered from a kit.

  • we started with the columns
  • a hole was drilled into the asphalt to anchor it
  • next, the columns were attached into the holes and bolted into place
  • after the columns were assembled, we added the side pieces for the frame
  • lastly, we added the slats for the roof

diy paver patio project

2. The pavers

We had laid these pavers previously and tried to grow moss into between them and never really worked. It was a misstep and one of my decorating mistakes. So instead, we tried a different approach with the pavers. I think this part of the before and after backyard made the biggest difference. Here’s how we installed them:

  • we started with a base of sand to level out the surface
  • next, we added metal edging around the sides of the patio
  • we placed the pavers into the sand
  • we created a grid with the pavers
  • each paver is 5″ apart on each side
  • the pavers were leveled in the sand
  • after the pavers were in place it was time to add the stone
  • we purchased this marble stone from the home improvement store and filled in the spaces with it.

flower boxes

3. before and after backyard tip: add flower boxes

Once the pergola and rock and pavers were in place it was time to decorate.

I added these standing planters around the edges of the pergola.

They were really reasonable and a great option for raised beds in a space.

They have a drainage hole in the bottom for easy watering.

pergola project

4. Outdoor seating

Next, to complete the before and after backyard makeover, I added this seating area with these four chairs grouped around the fire pit.

I filled the chairs with outdoor pillows and layered in patterns and graphic design. I use this color scheme inside, too.

I also added urns filled with flowers.

black garden sphere before and after backyard

And finished everything off with a few other accessories.

Like these metal spheres and metal terrariums. I’m planning on adding DIY obelisks to the flower pots.

And then I was done with the outdoor space and it was ready for a party.


Except I needed sunshine.


And the forecast looked like this.


And it rained and rained and rained.

I felt like Noah was about to show up with the ark.

And then just as I had given up hope…

….the sun came out.

side outdoor patio

And it danced across the grass and shone through the trees and sent sunbeams twinkling across the rock.

And as I stood there with the sun on my face and the gentle breezes blowing the leaves and the birds chirping and the crickets singing in tune….

….I saw this.


The before and after backyard makeover was complete.

And my heart smiled.

And I knew that I knew…..that I knew.

It was going to be a wonderful summer. 🙂

PS Here’s a pinboard full of outdoor inspiration.

Want to know how to decorate your home for free?
Click here to get my FIVE BEST secrets.


  1. Image for Jeanne @ I Dream of Jeanne Marie Jeanne @ I Dream of Jeanne Marie

    Good morning KariAnne, What a pretty pretty area you have created in your side yard. We too, have an area that was an in-ground swimming pool. The pool was filled in long ago and we wanted to do the same thing...have bricks with moss growing between them but ours didn't work either. *sigh* Yours is just so....so... like you say, "invite the neighbors over" pretty! What did Wayfair think when you showed them your finished project? I can only imagine they loved it! Thanks for the wonderful ideas you share with us each day.... Blessings, Jeanne

  2. Image for Becky Becky

    Karianne, don't let prospective brides in your area see your backyard or you might just have to host a wedding! So beautiful. Very Downton meets farmhouse.

  3. Image for Tosha Schiffli Tosha Schiffli

    I'm wanting to do something just like this in our backyard! Right now, it looks like a 1/2 acre of mud. Or the "Settlers" yard in the insurance commercials. Not the look I'm going for:(. Thanks for the sunshine and rainbows. You brighten our days.

  4. Image for Michelle Michelle

    Love your home and yard. I tried clicking on the pergola link you provided but nothing came up. Can you send to me? I am very interested in this because we are about to build one on a deck we are built. Trying to decide on color combinations now. If we should paint the deck boards gray and the posts white (we are having black bowed ballusters) or go with the cedar color. I do like the idea of painting a pattern to look as though there is a rug there. Any input would be most welcome! My home is red brick front (very traditional/colonial two story style) with the sides and back in siding, almost a butter cream color. That is why I am thinking white will look good.

  5. Image for Lela Lela

    What a beautiful spot! It's the perfect place for an evening summer party. One day I'll come visit you and we'll sit right there and sip sweet tea and chat about everything. Happy Monday, friend!

  6. Image for cindy cindy

    Your English inspired patio is all dolled up and your ready for summer:) Not that your patio needs anything else, but I can totally see some boxwood over there;) Have a great day, Ms. Thistle!

      1. Image for Karen Karen

        Craft outlet.com I was able to find some...just in case anyone else wants some...thanks for quick reply. Decorators only had smaller ones...I was looking for large. Thanks again KariAnne. You are such an INSPIRATION!!!!

  7. Image for Nancy @ slightly Coastal Nancy @ slightly Coastal

    So inspiring! I'm in the middle of a paver patio install and am starting the process of designing for the space. Thanks for the inspiration to finish picking things out. I love those chairs around the fire pit. The pergola is to die for. I'm hoping to have my patio paver set for Hayden's confirmation later this month. It sits underneath a large sloping tree so I'm thinking some sort of outdoor chandelier is now on my "to do" list. The patio and the One Room Challenge have really been eating up my time. As soon as they are set, I think I 'll have posts for a month. Thanks for the inspiration!

  8. Image for Lisa @ Sweet Tea N' Salty Air Lisa @ Sweet Tea N' Salty Air

    A beautiful area for a starry night dinner party, I can see it all set up in mind! The pergola is really nice. I see lots of soft white Edison bulbs strung throughout with a very long table set with lots of candles and fresh cut flowers. Your guests will be having a wonderful time! Enjoy your new area Lisa@ Sweet Tea N' Salty Air

  9. Image for Patricia Patricia

    Very pretty! And a lovely place for a tea party in the style of Downton Abbey. I do have a couple questions about function and safety. Is the marble rock filler really stable (if you walk on it in heels will you trip?). Chair legs, are they tippy if not all the feet are on the solid pavers? And is the marble stone filler a magnet for weed and grass seeds? Is maintenance difficult? As you can see by my questions, I am A) clumsy and B) allergic to weeding...

    1. Image for Chris Chris

      So glad others are as clumsy as me when it comes to any rocks or gravel, even without heels, and I can knock over a chair on just a flat surface! I would have to fill in spaces between the pavers with bricks or patterned cement instead,. There is a trick to getting moss to grow, I think it's spraying with sour milk, but I can't remember.

    2. Image for KariAnne KariAnne

      Patricia, Great questions! I wouldn't walk on the rocks with high heels. It's like walking on a gravel driveway. And yes, the chair legs are slightly tippy....but we made sure the rock was up to the level of the pavers, so it hasn't really been an issue. And there's a layer of asphalt under the pavers and rocks, so there's not any dirt for the weeds to cling on to. There were some leaves from plants that fell, so those will have to be sprayed off periodically! Does this all make sense? Happy day! karianne

  10. Image for Carol Griffin Carol Griffin

    Love the setting.....so peaceful and serene! Watch out.....all the event planners in your area are going to be contacting you about wedding venues there! We basically did the same thing at our previous home in Atlanta many years ago with the 12 inch pavers, leaving a 2 inch space in between all of them and then planting the dwarf mondo grass in between all of them. Now we live on the coast (Murrells Inlet, SC) in a raised beach house and have extended a patio area with the 12 inch pavers, making the area much more usable. Eventually we will add the dwarf mondo grass between all the pavers but for right now we added crushed oyster shells in between which looks very good.

  11. Image for Susan Susan

    Oh, it's just soooo truly beautiful, KariAnne, and once the roses and phlox are in full-bloom, it's just going to be absolutely magical! I am with Becky on this one...best to keep any prospective brides at bay because this space would be absolutely perfect for an outdoor wedding! Oh, the days and the nights you will experience in this new space...there is an entire rainbow's promise of joy to come!

  12. Image for Lisa at celebrate creativity Lisa at celebrate creativity

    Wow, KariAnne, what a fabulous outdoor space. The pavers look beautiful and I can envision you and your family sitting out there enjoying an evening meal... or lunch. You definitely have the back yard for this. Pretty green space and lots of it. Just stunning and the rainbow over the entire area is just icing on the cake. Good timing on that one. Lovely pictures and always my pleasure to browse your beautiful home. Happy day, Lisa xoxo

  13. Image for Marisa Franca @ All Our Way Marisa Franca @ All Our Way

    I think the rainbow was God smiling down at you -- in approval and love. *sigh* I think that's wonderful. My Honey made a pergola next to our patio. I'll photographing it but you won't be able to see it like yours -- ours is covered with vines. And behind the vines we hide our charcoal grill -- it does so much work but I can't say it's an accent piece. :-( So next time you have a neighborhood gathering just give me a "holler"-- that's Hoosier for let me know. Have a rainbow day, my friend!!

  14. Image for Jillian Jillian

    Kari Anne, this is gorgeous. It looks like you could rent out for weddings, it is so magical. I have been debating what to do with my side yard and the pavers and stone is the way I wanted to go, now I know it is the right choice!

  15. Image for Leslie Watkins Leslie Watkins

    Oh, my goodness!! I am dancing across those pavers!! All I could think about was what a wonderful spot for a garden party or perhaps a wedding...lots of laughter and fun...or quiet evenings with gazing into a fire under the stars!! Pay no attention if you look out from your porch and there is some random person either dancing or quietly sitting...she will just be breathing in all the beauty!! Hahahaha

  16. Image for NormaJean NormaJean

    Okay, what's your secret? It's obvious to me that you have somehow found a way to extend your day beyond the 24 hours allotted to the rest of us. I know your talent was God-given, but where do you get all your energy? Another fabulous project!

  17. Image for Dale D. Dale D.

    As always, your vision become a dreamy reality. Totally love it and can imagine some sweet summer evenings around the firepit, sweet tea to sip and sharing about the day's adventures.

  18. Image for Sue Sue

    Love your new patio!!! Perfect. Thanks so much for the Wayfair info. I went to their site and found the perfect pillows I was looking for!!! xoxo

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