How to get a great patio set on a budget

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I’ve been wanting a patio set for 6 years now. When we lived in the house, we said we’d buy some each summer. Then summer would roll around and we’d say we couldn’t afford a set. (Instead we’d haul our kitchen chairs outside and use cardboard boxes as a table. We’re classy like that).  Then we moved to the Shoebox and we thought we didn’t have enough room out front. We did have these great stone-and-rotting-railroad-tie steps to sit on, after all. They would do. So for two years we’ve been spending our outside play time perched on low stone steps and ruining our backs. This year I said enough. This is the summer I got my cute patio furniture. Read on to discover how we bought and customized an old metal bistro set for under $50.

Find an old set. I browsed online until I found a patio set that would gracefully fit the space we could spare and that had the basic structure we preferred. (Thrift stores often have sets like this, but they get swooped up fast.  So you’ve got to have the swiftness of a mongoose to score them). I loved the sleek, curvy bistro feel of these pieces because I sometimes like to pretend I’m in France sipping café.  I opted for a metal set because it seemed like it would last a while. Then one stormy evening I lost my senses and packed up both kiddos at dinnertime and drove 40 minutes across town in rush hour traffic to look at this patio set. Don’t ask me what was going through my mind. I imagine it was something like “Must.Have.Outdoor.Furniture.Now.” For all the trouble I went through to get to look at them, I probably would have bought the furniture if the chairs only had three legs and the table wobbled like a weeble. Thankfully, the pieces were all in great condition. And the table didn’t wobble. I used my bargaining shrewdness and whittled that unsuspecting seller down fi’ dolla. $25 and two hysterical, hungry children later I had my furniture. As I drove home, I think I saw the clouds part a little bit and a chorus rang from sky.

Choose refinishing materials. Caveman and I were going to decide on the colors/material together, but one morning when he came home from a meeting I desperately needed time away from the littles I love so much. Caveman was gracious enough to watch the boys for an hour while I escaped to the fabric and hardware stores. He is wonderful like that. I chose to decide on the seat fabric first, because it would be easier to find coordinating paint after I knew what the main focal point would look like. That, and I just had to get rid of that old seat fabric ASAP; I am positive it matched an old floral bedspread I used to have in the 90’s. And I don’t do 90’s floral. The new seat fabric was also very important to me because I needed a design that would easily represent each season. You see, I am that girl who loves to enjoy each season fully in its own time. I eat pineapple and coconut in the summer and only then. I can’t stand Christmas music in June but joyfully play it non-stop in December. I love a bright teal and originally imagined painting the metal a lively hue, but then the color would have driven me mad in fall and winter, when darker earth tones reign. So I chose a poppy red and white large-petal design that easily celebrates spring and summer, but the red can easily fit into my head’s autumn color scheme. And in winter, the red and white are perfect Christmas colors. It makes sense in my brain. Anyways, I was pleasantly pleased to find that the outdoor fabrics were 50% off, so I got away with a yard for $9. (In the height of summer, you’ll find that many stores have their outdoor fabric on sale, so if you’ve got a project like this in mind, go NOW!) I also chose a black satin matte spray paint to cover that sorry peeling green, $10 for two cans.

Get busy. Caveman took the seats off the chairs, and we spent an afternoon outside as a family sanding the rust and old color off the metal. Red thought that the sandpaper was awesome; he spent an hour screaming gleefully and “helping.” Number two took it easy in the shade. Once we finished sanding we gave the chairs and table two coats of spray paint each and left them to dry while we recovered the seats. We probably should have torn out the old padding and put new fluffiness in, but we didn’t feel like bothering with that. It took Caveman, me and a borrowed staple gun less than half an hour to stretch the new material over the old. We were very impressed with our handiwork. We took some time to pretend they were cymbals and shields before screwing back into their final resting place because our lives are fun like that.

Here is the finished product.

Bistro set after our handiwork

Not bad for only $42, right? We knew we’d love having chairs outside, but we have even been impressed with how often we find ourselves sitting here—at least three times a day. This is one project that we should have conquered a long time ago, say, 6 years.

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  • Jessica
    July 26, 2012

    Seriously. Inspired. I love how you give details on how to do it, now I have a DIY project to undertake! Lets see more of this 🙂

  • Evelyn
    July 26, 2012

    Glad you like it! We’ve got a couple more DIY projects lined up but I”m not sure when I’ll get to them. 😉

  • Jane Sasser
    July 26, 2012

    I love your blog, Evelyn! And this furniture set is adorable. Great job.

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