Back Portal Redesign Phase 1

Working with what you have...

When we were looking at houses in Santa Fe, one of the things that was high on our list was being able to take advantage of the outdoor lifestyle that we envisioned – so a courtyard or back patio was a must, and a view would be a big bonus.  The available houses with “the full package” were out of our price range, so the compromise became an L-shaped, covered back patio, which in Pueblo architecture is called a Portal.  The space is large, and thankfully we had wicker furniture from the porches in our previous home, so we were able to start enjoying the portal right away.  We literally had dinner out there every evening from May-September.  We tried several arrangements with our wicker furniture, and the portal became more than a back porch – it was our second living space.

Our starting point...

I flipped through catalogs looking at outdoor furniture ideas, and we brought home more than a few indoor/outdoor rugs to try, but nothing was quite right – so many outdoor spaces have either a tropical vibe or a nautical theme, which is definitely not what I was going for here.  I tried some bright southwestern pillows, but the intensity of the sun faded them so quickly, and while I found some great furniture options, the truth was that our outdoor wicker furniture was still in great shape, and I couldn’t justify spending the money on new pieces.  We’ve learned that sometimes it’s best to stick with what you have for a while.  Andy made a coffee table by cutting down the legs of an old kitchen table that we had gotten when we were first married, and I painted it with Navy blue chalk paint – this became the anchor of our seating area as well as the inspiration for our color scheme.  More than once I thought about painting the wicker to provide a contrast to the never-ending tan, but something stopped me each time.  I love painted wicker, and think it’s a great choice in many situations, but I wasn’t confident that it would be the right choice here (and there’s no turning back once you’ve painted wicker!). 

While you don’t see much painted wicker here, you do see lots of painted wood pieces, and I had a few odds and ends hanging around.  An old oak cabinet (literally from a neighbor’s trash pile about 30 years ago) and mirror with a carved wood frame got a new look with turquoise chalk paint and a brown wax finish. Once they were painted and had new hardware, they looked like a matched set! So that became our starting point…tan wicker, a navy blue coffee table and a turquoise chest and mirror…

Odds and ends become a set!

The design evolved organically.  We had been in our home for about a month the first time we had friends over for dinner, and of course we were outside.  As the sun was setting, the light was intense  – something that was easy to work around when it was just the two of us, but not so much when we had a group and all of the chairs were occupied.  Before the next gathering, we decided that outdoor curtains would be a practical solution.  Installing the curtain rods (plumbing pipes and brackets) became one of our first frustrations that we laugh about now – it turns out that drilling into a massive beam that has been baking in the NM sun for 15 years is not as easy as you might think, and Andy literally broke 6 drill bits before all of the curtain rods were up!  I selected tan panels, made of an outdoor fabric (found them for a great deal at, so they would blend into the stucco columns when they were open.  Mission accomplished, in that we had a solution for when the setting sun was the most intense.  But I had not expected the impact the curtain panels would have on the space – they literally turned it into a room!

Then, on a random trip to Home Depot, we spotted two outdoor area rugs – navy blue with turquoise borders!  There were only two – one large, one smaller – and we guessed that someone had returned an on-line order because there wasn’t anything else like them.  The colors and sizes worked perfectly…now we were getting somewhere! Portal Redesign Phase 1 – complete! The next two phases were much more involved, but I think it's important to remember how much we enjoyed the portal from the very beginning, even when we were "making-do"!

If you missed the Intro post, you can catch-up here Intro

To see the next phase of the project (and the fabulous outdoor fireplace...) Back Portal Phase 2

If you'd like to chat about a design idea for your home, please give us a call!

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Deb Tisler

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