Budget Breakdown: A Weekend DIY Turns a Neglected Garage Into a Backyard Hangout For $13K

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By Melissa Dalton
In Portland, Oregon, an experiential designer transforms half of his decrepit garage into a screened porch over just three days, creating a laid-back, outdoor room.

A year after Ben Carstensen moved into his 1925 bungalow in Portland, Oregon, he had a mission: to get his backyard ready for the summer. "It was just filled with weeds and an old, dead tree," Carstensen says of the space. "I tore everything out and started with a blank canvas." 

The focal point of the backyard redesign is his conversion of half of the detached garage into a screened porch. At 540 square feet, "the garage was large, and underutilized," he says. "I used it as a woodshop and for storage, but I didn't need all of that space." 

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Budget Breakdown: A Weekend DIY Turns a Neglected Garage Into a Backyard Hangout For $13K - Photo 1 of 11 -

Since the backyard is on the smaller side, Carstensen needed a solution that would expand its footprint, as well as an "additional outdoor space that could be utilized even on a rainy Portland day," he said. "The screen porch approach was the answer." 

Over a long weekend in May of this year, he and his parents tackled the project. They framed up a wall to divide the garage in half, then removed the interior and exterior wall cladding on the screened porch side in order to replace it with screening. The result? "The absolute best space to relax in during the evening," said Carstensen, who likes to hang out there with his two dogs on the regular. 

A view of the detached garage and neglected yard before.

A view of the detached garage and neglected yard before.

Carstensen landscaped the backyard and added a simple firepit circle with chairs. This seating area merges easily with the new screened porch.

Carstensen landscaped the backyard and added a simple firepit circle with chairs. This seating area merges easily with the new screened porch.

Carstensen purchased the vintage Malm fireplace in Los Angeles on a work trip and had it shipped to Portland. He's hoping to install it in time for the fall season. The interior of the porch is outfitted with a mix of furnishings, both vintage and new. The rug, shelf unit, and loveseat are all from the locally based Schoolhouse Electric, as are the ceiling lights: Factory Light No. 7 in Green.

Carstensen purchased the vintage Malm fireplace in Los Angeles on a work trip and had it shipped to Portland. He's hoping to install it in time for the fall season. The interior of the porch is outfitted with a mix of furnishings, both vintage and new. The rug, shelf unit, and loveseat are all from the locally based Schoolhouse Electric, as are the ceiling lights: Factory Light No. 7 in Green.

The new dividing wall was sheathed in sanded pine plywood and includes a door for easy access to the other side of the garage.

The new dividing wall was sheathed in sanded pine plywood and includes a door for easy access to the other side of the garage.

The screened porch is just a few steps from the back door and deck, making for easy circulation between the different areas.

The screened porch is just a few steps from the back door and deck, making for easy circulation between the different areas.

The back porch before.

The back porch before.

Carstensen updated the deck, replacing the vertical posts with screen to create a more open feeling.

Carstensen updated the deck, replacing the vertical posts with screen to create a more open feeling.

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Schoolhouse Electric Factory Modern No. 6 Outdoor Sconce
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The updated deck got a new eating area.

The updated deck got a new eating area.

A view of the new screened porch from the driveway. The light is the Factory Modern No. 6 Outdoor Sconce from Schoolhouse Electric.

A view of the new screened porch from the driveway. The light is the Factory Modern No. 6 Outdoor Sconce from Schoolhouse Electric.

Carstensen painted the body and exterior trim on the garage the same color, in order to "make the house look slightly more modern, without losing character," he said. The color is a discontinued shade, called Evening Canyon, from Behr, that he had mixed at Home Depot.  "I tried so many before landing on this one," he said. "This one ended up being my favorite, because it maintains a nice warm tone all throughout the day. Others would end up either looking too cool (almost navy blue) in direct sunlight, or just look brown."

Carstensen painted the body and exterior trim on the garage the same color, in order to "make the house look slightly more modern, without losing character," he said. The color is a discontinued shade, called Evening Canyon, from Behr, that he had mixed at Home Depot. "I tried so many before landing on this one," he said. "This one ended up being my favorite, because it maintains a nice warm tone all throughout the day. Others would end up either looking too cool (almost navy blue) in direct sunlight, or just look brown."

Project Credits:

Design: Ben Carstensen

Furnishings and lighting: Schoolhouse Electric

Photography: Alex Creswell/Schoolhouse Electric

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