Transforming a Patio – An Outdoor Living Space That Looks Like Home

The Challenge

I was asked to decorate the bluestone patio space for the Baltimore Symphony’s Decorator Show House this spring. Normally I ‘decorate’ gardens, not patios, but I was up to the challenge!  The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra chooses a house every year that is usually vacant and/or for sale, and invites interior and exterior decorators to design their own unique space. It is an honor to be asked and always a great deal of work! The houses that are picked are very different and have their own unique idiosyncrasies.

The 36th annual Show House is a fundraiser for the Baltimore Symphony Associates and gives decorators the chance to promote their businesses while helping out a great cause.

Information flyer for BSO Showhouse

Laying the Groundwork

I visited the Eck House at Cromwell Farm, in February, to look it over and see what the house and grounds looked like. As usual at that time of year, it was a dreary day and the surrounding fields were barren looking but I could see the possibilities.  The patio was a great size, 14′ x 22′, and in decent shape.  It was very dirty and needed to be power washed, but that is easily remedied. The view off the patio was wonderful! In the distance were fields dotted with large trees and a distant stream bed which I could see would be beautiful in the spring. So, the bones were good –  I just needed to dress it up! So, I looked around for sponsors to help me out with the larger items that I needed to make an impact.

My first look at the patio in February
Patio in February

Walpole Wood Accents

The first thing that I noticed was the very high stone wall facing the patio and I knew exactly what I wanted to put there –  a Cameo trellis from Walpole Woodworkers. I have worked with Walpole Woodworkers in the past on several installation jobs and admired their products.  I had purchased window boxes for my house from Walpole and loved them! So, I called my rep from Walpole, and asked if the company would be interested in providing some pieces to decorate the patio to promote their business. Walpole agreed to provide a trellis, a bird house, an obelisk and two estate planters which I knew would make the patio stand out.

The cameo trellis

Dressing it Up With Furniture

The next item of business was the furniture.  I have always admired Watson’s Fireplace and Patio Furniture in Timonium and after talking to the manager there, she agreed to provide some beautiful furniture. These included a comfy sofa, a glider with an ottoman, and three assorted tables to finish off the ensemble. The coffee table was a stunning mosaic creation that reminded me of crashing waves! The “wicker”  was a resin wicker in a dark pecan color with teal cushions that were designed for outdoor wear. I thought these pieces would be perfect to make the patio a welcoming space.

Furniture from Watson's

Icing on the Cake

The fun began with the accessories! Once I had the framework, I could place unique and funky pieces on the tables and patio.  Succulents are really big this year, so I knew that I wanted to do something with hens and chicks, jade plants, sedums, etc.

I decided to make a succulent sphere from an assortment of the fleshy leaved oddities that would be placed on the large mosaic table as the focal point.

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Succulent Sphere

I picked up a globe-shaped base of coco-fiber with a wire cage at a nearby nursery and filled it with moss.  After wiring it together, I poked holes in the base and inserted my succulent plants into the moss.  To make the job easier, I shaved off most of the soil and the roots from the succulent leaving just enough root to insert into the moss and start growing. To keep the plants firmly attached to the base, I inserted fern pins, U-shaped wire fasteners, into the plants down into the moss. These pins would keep the succulents in the ball until they rooted in and started to grow.  After getting all the succulent plants attached, I covered up the coco-fiber with moss to give it a more uniform look. To finish off the sphere, I elevated the globe by placing it in a terra-cotta pot.

Finished succulent sphere
Succulent Planter

I made a smaller matching succulent ball that I set on wire mesh in a rustic wooden bowl that I had picked up at a flea market.

Smaller succulent sphere in bowl on wire mesh

Herbs and Veggies

I don’t think any patio is complete without planters of herbs and vegetables. Earth Boxes are perfect planting containers for these, as they have a reservoir in the bottom that is filled via a water tube, and the plants wick up the water from the roots. It is a complete self-sustaining system for growing a good amount of edibles without digging in the garden. Go to

Earth boxes with veggies and herbs

I also like the concept of cooking in the kitchen and running out to the patio to grab a handful of lettuce or herbs, rather than traveling out to a distant garden and having the greens at the mercy of bunnies!  So I potted up three of the Earth Boxes with an assortment of greens. Wanting to display them in a unique way, I found an idea on Pinterest. Someone had posted a simple three-tiered plant stand made out of stair risers from the hardware store.

Plant stand Idea from pinterest
My improved version of the stair step plant stand

The picture from Pinterest was a great starting concept.  I improved on it and made it much sturdier by making shelves out of strips of wood that gave it some support, because the shelf would be free-standing on the patio.


I wanted to add some fun items to accessorize the space and found some antique wrought iron plant stands locally. I filled these with containers and flowers.

Antique plant stand
Another plant stand with head planter

Long planters from Watson’s Garden Center  were planted with early spring colors of pastel pink, yellows and blues.  I added the Viola ‘Etain’ to my planters as this is a personal favorite early spring flower.

The estate planters were filled with a golden hued arborvitae surrounded with the Viola.

Viola Etain

Finally, I made up some miniature gardens to sell. The mini gardens were perfect to place on the steps leading down from the patio and on the stone walls surrounding it. Some were made of hypertufa which I explain how to make in

Mini Garden
Hypertufa planters on steps
Funky head planter

Go to,0,1822756.photogallery to see pictures from the whole house.  I think this year’s house is one of the best that I have participated in as the decorating ideas are very do-able. In past years, some of the treatments were over-the-top and just didn’t translate well to your own house.  But this year, the ideas that I took away are definitely going to show up at my house!

Finally done!

10 Replies to “Transforming a Patio – An Outdoor Living Space That Looks Like Home”

  1. Claire, absolutely loved this “garden diaries”! You did a beautiful job on the patio and I will certainly pay a visit to this home! Also got some ideas for my patio! Thank you so much.

  2. i see you sent me a comment which was only your link which is awesome. You are a grand designer…love it so much. My expertise is indoors but i use my same technique based on my skills outdoors but not to your level – i would guess most decorators use some of the same tenants for basics. i only write blogs about tips and hints like this. Thanks for sharing your blog. i will possibly include your link in any other blogs i write about outdoors and great gardening.

  3. Looking for ideas for a garden obelisk and planter that I have inherited from a friend, and found your blog. Lovely ideas for patio!

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