One Day Outdoor Room Makeover

By Kate Riley May 7, 2013

Hey everyone! Today I wanted to share a one day makeover I finished for my friend Cheryl over the weekend. You remember when I painted her piano last year? We were  hanging out in the backyard by the pool and discussing the sitting space – they have a fabulous pool and a nice pergola but her outdoor seating area was not as pretty as she liked and didn’t have any real sun protection.

We conspired how to change all that on a budget, work with what she had, and finish in a day. I shopped for a few things and added some DIY outdoor curtains made of canvas panels and grommets.  You can see the “before” below with their wood pergola and sectional, and the “after” once I added the curtains and accessories.

arbor before

outdoor room with canvas panels


She already had a great outdoor sectional they bought earlier this year with Sunbrella cushions (from Costco) the set just needed some color. I stopped by Lowes and Target and another local shop for a few supplies and pulled it all together for her in an afternoon. She wanted to include the blue tones from the backyard pool so that became the dominant accent color.

outdoor sectional with pillows


The bins and pillows are from Target (the floral pillow is from Lowes) and the rug used to be mine, but ever since I resurfaced our upper patio last year I wasn’t using it anymore so I gave it to my friend (originally from Crate + Barrel, seen here).

outdoor sectional and end table


Their yard gets really bright sun in the afternoon which is great for the pool but not so much for lounging, and Cheryl was saying how just one corner of protection would help. So we decided to add panels to that one corner to block the sun and more panels all around so it looked balanced and also enveloped the space.

I used inexpensive painters tarps from Lowes in natural canvas to create sailcloth style outdoor window curtains that don’t break the bank! At only $14 each, they’re a great deal for so much fabric. They can be painted too if you want to get creative and add thick stripes or a stenciled pattern.

diy grommet top outdoor curtains


Making them was so simple with canvas tarps and two grommet kits available at Home Depot. To replicate, you’ll need a grommet kit, hooks to hang the panels (or a rod), canvas tarps, a hammer, scissors, and a big ol’ wood block to pound the grommets into place. I followed the instructions on the kit, but instead of the little tool they give you to make a hole, I used scissors to make a quick snip. Each panel takes about 15 minutes or so.

grommet top curtain steps


The 6 x 9’ panels were the perfect width and length to hang from small hooks and the grommets keep them in place. There are 7 grommets that are a foot apart but the hooks are only 7 inches apart so the panels gather to look more like an indoor window treatment. You can see where Cheryl’s husband also added bamboo fencing to the top of the pergola to filter sun – such a great idea!

grommet top canvas panels


We hung the panels from the top of the one beam and the bottom of the other so they look even – I adjusted the placement of the grommets on the canvas panels by an inch so they’d be balanced.

pergola with outdoor canvas panels

I think I earned a few hours by that pool.  :)

Now their family has a great “room” where they can lounge and entertain for the summer season!

pergola with panels

outdoor room with canvas panels

Amazing what just a few accessories and creativity can do in a single day!



  1. Beautiful!!! Brilliant idea with the tarps!!! I’ve been wanting to get some curtains but don’t want to spend a fortune!

  2. Looks fabulous! I’ve been planning on using those drop cloths for porch curtains this summer, but never thought about grommets. Great idea! Question, what size hooks did you use?

  3. I made my dining room curtains from drop clothes a couple of years ago. I get compliments on them all the time. My husband thought I was crazy when I bought them. We have 10 ft ceilings so I saved him lots of $$$. He likes them now. :-)

  4. I love it! I would spend all weekend on that patio (and in the pool :) It’s amazing what a difference adding curtains, colorful pillows, and a few accessories make

  5. I really want a pergola exactly like that! I think theirs would look really great if they power washed it and either stained it or white washed it. I really like that drop cloth idea. Is there anywhere you can buy great big grommets? I never never ever see the big ones in any fabric store or Michael’s, etc., they just have the smallish ones. By the way, IKEA has some really long cotton canvas curtains in different patterns with big grommets. I bought a pair to use in my bathroom. I was surprised at how awesome and well made they are for the price, around fifteen dollars.

    • Hi Jackie, you can find larger grommets at Joanns or online.

  6. LOVE the use of the canvas tarps. Funny you used them as outdoor drapes. I was painting an outdoor project just recently and kept looking at the tarps and thought there must be something that these can be used for in an “unexpected way!” You did it. Great job.

    I too have used IKEA drapes for outdoor rooms with clothesline as the “rod” and also used tension rods. I’ve also used the drapes from IKEA as tablecloths for outdoor dinners. However, the whole use of canvas tarps opens up a whole new creative avenue!

    Great job!

  7. This looks AMAZING!! I’m hoping to add a pergola to our back deck this summer & would love to add the canvas curtains like these! They add so much to this space and really make the space feel more like a room! LOVE it!!

    Shared this on my facebook page!

  8. I saw this on Tonya’s FB page and WOW…such an inspiration! I love that you took something that was plain and made it fabulous! Seriously…great job! I am really needing to spruce up our patio by our pool and this truly gave me so many ideas! Thanks!

  9. I love the idea of the grommet rather than using a rod, I might have to consider that.

    Curious to know what is used on the top of their pergola…..the sun beats down right through ours and I’m considering ALL options right now that won’t brk the bank…..thx!

    • Hi Dawn, they minimized the impact of the sun through the beams with bamboo fencing, it really does cut down the amount of rays but still allows for light to pass through, such a clever solution!

  10. Wow! I love it!! The pillows and accessories are sooo pretty and the drop cloth curtains were a fabulous idea. I really need to get an outdoor rug for our deck this year. Fabulous job:)

  11. It looks beautiful as usual anything you have a hand in does. Cheryl is very fortunate to have a friend like you. I love their pergola – did they build it or have it professionally done? I also love the idea of the bamboo cover for more shade. Where can you get those?


  12. Neat! I have a pergola and I’ve been wanting to put curtains on it. The only Lowes around here is a bit far, I wonder if Home Depot has tarps like that too. We have 3 Home Depots around here and no Lowes.

    Last month I also update my patio set with cushions and a table, plus a rug and plants. But, really, those curtains would make it even more awesome!

    • Hi Monica, another reader mentioned she found similar ones at Home Depot. :)

  13. Kate every time I read one of your design posts, I gasp. Bottom line, you are wonderful.

  14. How wonderful and generous of you. It’s quite amazing how just a few little changes had such a big impact. I love those curtains too. I may think of making something like that for our house!

  15. LOVE the idea of the drop cloths. I usually wait to find long curtains at the thrift store or garage sale, but the drop cloths are heavier – looks like I have a weekend project! My area has a hot tub in in, and I like the bamboo above the top beams. Just tore out all of the 1×2’s that had eventually rotted away last year & it is a bit too sunny now. Perfect solution! Thanks!!

  16. I’ve always wondered what people do when it rains and they have outdoor couches and pillows.

    • Hi Aria, I store my outdoor cushions in the garage during the wet season. If you have metal furniture, you can let it sit out in the rain but wicker, rattan, and wood should be covered in moisture proof covers, find them online at a lot of those outdoor furniture retailers! And I’m pretty sure places like Target, Walmart, and Kmart sell versions of them.

  17. You did a great job! I love the color combination of the bins and pillows, canvas tarps, everything! It looks so cool and refreshing. Truly a masterpiece! :-D

  18. OMG Kate I especially love the final shot with the exact shade of the pool repeated in the blue cushions! Such a great idea for the drop cloths! Your creativity never ceases to amaze, I really love following your blog!

  19. Kate,
    You’ve done it again! Just amazing!
    Question: What happens when it rains? Do the drop cloth curtains get wet and STAY wet? Do you think they could go through the washer & dryer?

  20. So beautiful! I dream of an outdoor place like this in a few years. Definitely keeping this in my inspiration file. But for now–we rip out the kitchen :).

  21. You’re a living, breathing genius. Beautiful job. So creative.
    Love the colors and patterns of the pillows.

  22. Can I just say that you are a genius! I would never guess the curtains started as painters tarps! I mean really, really, great idea! The outdoor accessories can cost a fortune and that was a great way to save a lot of money. Your friend is very lucky!

  23. Kate can you tell me what area of the country you did this in? I have the same exact thing in my back yard in Cleveland Ohio.

  24. Very nice! We have a pergola and I just purchased canvas drop clothes at Home Depot to do just this thing (even bigger savings – a TWO pack of 6’x9′ clothes was just $10.98!). My husband thinks I’m nuts but I’m going to prove him wrong. :) I have read these can get mildewy so if anyone has any suggestions for keeping them clean, let me know!

    • Hi Dori, fab idea! Yes if they get wet they can mildew but a quick run through the wash and a touch of bleach should solve the problem. :)

  25. Are the painters tarps hemmed on all 4 sides when you purchase them?

  26. Obsessed!!!
    This is beyond awesome.
    I dream of the day when I can get a pergola. :)

  27. Wow, Kate, I actually gasped when I saw the “after” photo- such a huge difference! I’m so impressed. Definitely bookmarking this page for later work on our outdoor space. Thanks for the tutorial on the curtains!

  28. You really are Centsational! Those curtains look like they are from a cabana in Hawaii. All I can say is Wow!

  29. This is absolutely lovely! I love the creativity and the color combinations! You have such great style! :) I do however have a question about how one would go about cleaning those canvas curtains. I’m assuming after a few months of being outdoors, they will get super dusty…are they washable, hose-able??? Will they fit in a standard sized washer?

  30. Beautiful! I love that this post shows how a few small changes can make a huge difference. It’s amazing the difference a few accent pillows and some curtains can make. My outdoor space is nothing like that (it’s a shared back deck off a condo) but now I’m thinking that some curtains would be a great way to break up the space and perhaps even add some privacy.

    The only thing I might have done in the above is to pull through some of the lovely color into the ties for the curtains.

  31. Ahhhhh! I love this so much! I need a pergola… and maybe my own backyard to go with it :P You rock with those drop cloth drapes.

  32. Okay, I just have to ask: Is the weather so dry there that fabrics and furniture don’t mildew and eventually rot?

    I’m in Va and am so jealous of these fabulous outdoor rooms. I have a spacious deck and patio, however, that sort of furniture and pillows and such would last one season here before getting mildewed.

  33. Ive never seen the grommet kit. That’s the ticket! very cool! All I need now is the pool in the back yard! Seriously, I’ve been wanting to do this on a front patio for a couple of years. This would work beautifully! Thanks for the tips!

  34. Wow, this is definitely proof that a few simple changes (and a small budget) can make the world of difference. The space is so much more inviting now, I imagine your friend will be spending all summer in that lovely space.

  35. You have such a wonderful eye for color! I love this design. It looks like a place whee I would want to hang out!

  36. Why don’t I have any local friends like you…willing to come over and help out like that!! :) You’d earn an entire weekend by our pool for those curtains!! :) happy mother’s day…enjoy your down time! xo

  37. What a beautiful outdoor space! Could you please give me the name of the sectional your friend bought at Costco? It’s the perfect size for my outdoor patio.

  38. Everything came together nicely. I love the canvas curtains and that pop of blue in the pillows/accessories looks great in the pool photo. I would love such a space for entertaining!

  39. Amazing! Kate…if you ever decide to move to the Chicagoland area (or want a little getaway) I am happy to be your friend and let you lounge by my pool as often as you like if you can give my patio an update too! (ha ha!) Love it all!

  40. I live in Seattle, we have rain and moisture!! I use drop cloths on my patio as curtains and just run them though the washing mashing every once in a while, I’ve left them up through the end of October, threw them in the wash with a small amount of bleach and put them away until spring. They are great. Mine came with a salvage edge on the sides and have a hem on the top and bottom. It works for me.

  41. Adding fabric panels to our pergola is one of our summer projects, so I’ll definitely be referencing your how to! Thanks, as always, for being an inspiration for our house!


  42. I loved this idea and finally did it in September. I love it! We made the curtains, along with the bamboo and bought a new rug. We just had 2 days of rain and I left them up to see what would happen. They now have little black mold spots on them. Just ran 1 through a regular wash cycle and it is a little better but not gone. Won’t bleach make white spots on the curtains? I will now take them down when I know a big rain is on the way.

  43. Wow! That looks really nice. What a transformation. You really did a great job over there. The outdoor curtains really spruced up the space and i love the pillows and the rug as well. We really don’t have to spend a lot, it only takes the right colors, right stuff and they will look better. That is some great extended living room you’ve got over there.

  44. I just bought a client an
    outside sectional from Costco to achieve this same look. Do you know the name of this sectional from Costco. I adore this particular sectional-great size and look of the cushions seem high-end. Thank you -it looks amazing no detail overlooked.The idea of the grommets could be used in several projects that water would be an issue. Thanks for all your wonderful ideas.

  45. The sky is the limit on pergolas and how you can dress them up! The curtains you added make a great statement while still keeping the space casual! Nice work!

  46. What an incredible transformation! LOVE IT!! My son just built me a pergola and I will attempt to copy your style.
    Would you happen to know the color and brand stain used on this pergola? It blends in so well with the surroundings

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