Townhouse Backyard Makeover on a Budget; Renter-Friendly Ideas

Hey everyone! Welcome to my very first home DIY blog, and I'm super excited to tell you the story behind our backyard makeover that is with a small budget and, of course, renter-friendly. The backyard wasn't finished when we moved to this beautiful rental townhouse almost a year ago. It was during the winter season, and the townhouse was very new, so they needed to wait for the summer to finish the landscaping, including planting trees and grass in our backyard.

townhouse backyard makeover on a budget and renter friendly ideas blog cover with an existing backyard

I remember the backyard being so muddy after the winter and couldn't imagine that it would look nice and turn into a small space to relax after they planted all trees and grass. Fast forward to today, the summer of 2022, in Calgary. We thought this was the best time to do a bit of makeover to our backyard. We are only renting our house, so we can't do any significant landscaping renovations that will alter the look of the space; we thought we needed to be careful with that part. And we will do this DIY project on a tight budget because we love challenges.

existing backyard with small tree on the corner, wooden fence and green grass

The current backyard is about 12' x 16' in size, which is not that big but a comfortable place to have group seating or an alfresco dining set-up. It is a corner backyard, making it bigger than our neighbor's backyard. All existing fences are new and made out of vertical wooden planks (of course, we cannot do any painting works, we're also avoiding nailing stuff on the fence). The developer/ landscaper planted a small tree on the corner and two more giant trees outside the wall, creating some shades. They also completed planting the grass, which made the backyard clean and ready for outdoor furniture, plants, and accessories.

Outdoor Furniture

When we moved into this house, we brought our existing patio furniture set, which consists of a two-seater sofa, two accent chairs, and a center table. They are all made out of wood and still in good condition. However, there are already discolorations on the wood and stains on cushions that we thought might not look right for our backyard makeover goal. It might work if we're going for a rustic feel; unfortunately, we are not.

existing wooden outdoor patio furniture with white cushions

We went to the nearest Canadian Tire store and bought some paints for both woods and fabrics. Honestly, we're going for a muddy green or a darker green color that looks almost like grey, but we ended up getting a glossy, vibrant green. We were initially hesitant with the color, but eventually, it grew on us, and we liked the new direction and how our existing outdoor furniture looked after painting them.

painting supply from Canadian tire which include paint brush, green paint for wood and spray paint for fabric

painting the furniture with glossy bright green including two lounge chairs and 2-seater wooden sofa patio furniture

So, here is the part where everything falls apart. The biggest mistake of the backyard makeover is the fabric paint for the existing outdoor furniture cushions. The error is 100% on me because I didn't try the spray paint on another surface before applying it to the cushion fabric. I thought the fabric color on the picture on the spray paint container would look the same when I used it on the material. It doesn't and looks horrible, almost disgusting. Don't worry, I already moved on, and this is normal when doing a DIY project; mistakes can happen, and all you need to do is move on and proceed with your Plan B.

the not so fun part of painting the existing cushions with spray paint for fabrics

The Plan B for the cushions is scrapping the whole fabric painting idea and just getting fresh new pillows from the store. We went to different superstores in the city to look for the perfect outdoor cushions that would fit our existing chairs and thankfully found the perfect size and color. It looks way better than I imagined if I continue painting the existing cushions.

Looking for the Cheapest Umbrella

After all the existing outdoor furniture fiasco, the next thing that we did was to look for an excellent but affordable canopy-type umbrella. It should be more functional and less attractive (to justify being cheap) because the backyard needs a lot of shades from the sun.

canopy type 10' x 10' umbrella from canadian superstore, cream fabric with black metal base

We found a 10' x 10' umbrella from Canadian Superstore, which only cost $85, and we thought this was the cheapest and most extensive umbrella readily available. We bought the umbrella, brought it home, and assembled it in the backyard. It's so easy to make; however, I recommend two people do it as the base is quite heavy and moving it from one place to another is not easy. And don't forget that you need something heavy on the base to counterweight the umbrella when it's fully open; in our case, we have existing weight bags with sand that we use for our pop-up market tent.

The Light

Before we worked on the existing furniture and the umbrella, I installed a few string lights on the fence. These are existing patio lights that we bought two years ago from Walmart. As you can see in the photos, they look dusty, but they are still working. I love these lights because they look different from any other patio string lights. They are bigger and have groups of tiny LED lights inside each ball, which looks magical during nighttime.

outdoor string lights with big balls and group led bulbs

As mentioned in the first part of this blog, I wanted to avoid using nails or other hooks on the existing fence, so I opted to use strings to install the lights. I found these existing strings in my party stuff box and thought I could use them to save more money. I'm thinking of adding more lights but felt that candles might work too, especially those with Citronella to repel mosquitos.

Making it More Green

It's always great to have more plants in your backyard; the feeling of happiness that it gives you for planting and watering plants is unexplainable. Backyard makeover wouldn't be complete without incorporating plants or just a few plants to create a more relaxing and inspiring outdoor space. So, we decided to look for some plants that have minimal maintenance and will look lovely with all the elements we added to the backyard.

shopping some few plants at spruce it up garden center in calgary, hanging plants

Spruce It Up is one of the nearest garden centers to our place, and they have hundreds of indoor and outdoor plant selections. On top of the varieties of plants they sell, they also offer outdoor decors, pots, sculptures, and all the other stuff you will need to complete your garden. It was the second time I went to their store, and it still amazes me every time I see all their plants and decorative pieces.

I got some plants and am thinking of returning to get more pots and hanging plants. All their hanging plants are unique; I specifically like the trailing jade and turtle vine. I thought they would look fantastic hanging on the existing fence.

Blogs that might pique your interest. 

Traveling for Interior Design Inspiration- Kelowna, British Columbia

7 Most Innovative Products for Home Design- Interior Designer's Reviews

9 Best Color Green Finishes to Use in Any Room

How about a Prep Table?

A small wooden table in the corner where we can keep all the drinks and utensils during a party is a great idea. It's not a backyard or BBQ party without beer or mixed drinks. So, a piece of functional outdoor furniture like this is essential.

Remember that we are on a budget for this DIY, and cheap yet cheerful outdoor furniture is the only option. We looked for a pre-owned outdoor bar cart or table and went to a thrift store to see other options. Unfortunately, we didn't find the furniture's cheaper and most straightforward version. The last place to be where you'll find what you're looking for is the Ikea store.

outdoor prep table with wooden slat top and black metal legs

I found a wooden table with metal legs unit for only $34 (it was about 50% off when we found in IKEA store, not on sale on their website though), which looks terrific for outdoor storage and a food prep table. I thought it's also ideal if I want to add more plants in the backyard because you can cover the bottom part with clear plastic to grow plants that don't need too much sunlight.

Outdoor Decors

Finally, the most exciting part is to finish off the backyard makeover with outdoor decors. If you've been reading my blogs and browsing our website for quite some time now, you'll know that aside from our interior design services, we also sell our home decors. I included some of RD Home Decors on our backyard makeover because it aligns with the design concept I'm going for, and it's also an excellent opportunity for us to showcase some of our best-selling home decors.

showcasing rocabu designs home decors that can also be used on backyard design

Now, if you have existing home decors such as a vase, throw pillows, blankets, and even art pieces that you think might complement or are cohesive enough with your patio set-up, then you should use them. Just be mindful that some home decors are for indoor use only.

pillow and throws by rocabu designs that can be used as backyard or outdoors decors

Texture and layering are essential when incorporating decors in your patio or backyard. A proper balance should be between soft and hard elements such as cushions, throw pillows, blankets, wood, glass, and pots. Colors coming from these decors are also something to consider; I always opt for white and natural colors for decorations because I want most of the colors to come from plants and natural surroundings.

A Place for a Party or Relax with Nature

The primary reason why we decided to do the makeover of our backyard is for us to have our very own place to relax, have a coffee or iced tea while listening to relaxing music, and finally to feel and be with nature. The BBQ party with friends is secondary to all these reasons.

backyard makeover on a budget with reused furniture and rocabu design decors

Behind all these reasons, though, I'm delighted that we came up with this small space where we can relax and enjoy the summer season in our backyard. It might just be a rental townhouse with a backyard, and other people might be living in this house soon when we move out, but what made me joyful is our yearly backyard or even just balcony makeover for the summer season. The process of doing something for yourself and the experience behind all of it is always what matters.

backyard makeover on a budget and renter friendly showing green painted outdoor furniture, home decors, pillows and hanging plants

How about you? What is your main reason behind your yearly summer backyard or patio makeover?

Thank you for stopping by and reading my blogs. I aim to impart more than a decade of design (primarily interior designs) knowledge and experience through reviews, tips, inspirations, and DIYs. I hope you enjoy your time here as much as I enjoy writing my blogs; feel free to comment below, email me at, or subscribe to our newsletter for fresh blog updates.

Together, let's create meaningful and beautiful spaces.


Ron Butaran as a Filipino architect, interior designer and a blogger

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