This plant-filled patio is a private oasis with creative DIY decor

A bank of wall-to-wall windows gave photo stylist Joseph Wanek and his husband, Nick Sellers, an expansive view, but anyone passing by could also see right into their Des Moines living room. “It was like living in a fishbowl,” says Joseph.


Joseph wanted to come up with a privacy solution that didn’t require window coverings that blocked the natural light. Their mid-century modern home had an L-shaped entry that offered the perfect place to tuck into a fenced-in patio. Joseph and Nick built a 16×12 foot outdoor space complete with a seating area and bar. They also turned the fence panel opposite their windows into a plant wall.


Marty Baldwin

“We love that this front patio makes our place feel more like a tropical paradise,” says Nick. “Surrounding ourselves with plants makes us feel like we’re on vacation.” Now they can bask in the sunshine on their terrace – or in their living room – without waves from anyone passing by.


An aggregate stone product called trap rock creates texture underfoot at half the price of slate paving. Joseph and Nick sloped the ground away from their house so the water wouldn’t run into the basement. Then they laid down landscape plastic for weed control, using cheap cobblestones to hold it in place. When the base was ready, they poured the trap stones on top.


Marty Baldwin

Joseph gave an outdoor galvanized steel cabinet a color facelift to turn it into a fun bar. “I painted the bar turmeric to add some color out there,” says Joseph. The living room’s color palette extends onto the terrace for a seamless look. “Our cats even match our color scheme,” Joseph says with a laugh.





The cabinet is a practical place to store entertaining supplies and extra cushions on the patio. Joseph updated this outdoor cabinet with exterior paint and then applied a clear coat sealer.


A rattan planter was transformed into a lamp by cutting out every other row of ribbons. A battery-operated lamp set hangs from a bracket and operates on a timer. Its battery pack is hidden out of sight behind the bar.



Porcelain tiles cover a remnant concrete table top to form a low-profile coffee table. Joseph, shown with Julio the cat, chose the tiles for their size so he didn’t have to cut. The table top sits on two stacks of coverings and can act as extra seating when needed.


Marty Baldwin

Most cities have structural height restrictions in front yards. Joseph obtained permission for the patio design before installing the 6-foot tall cedar fence. He originally left the cedar natural, but it contrasted too much with the gray painted brick of their home. To help the fence complement their home rather than distract from it, he applied a translucent, dark brown stain and planted ornamental grasses to soften the view from the street.


Marty Baldwin

Joseph and Nick did not want the terrace to require endless maintenance. The trap rock surface they chose only requires a quick leaf blower in the spring and fall. When the coffee table’s white tile and grout look a little grungy, Joseph simply wipes it down with Borax and warm water.

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