Published on June 23, 2020

Sophie Carpenter’s Los Angeles backyard was previously a hodgepodge of rosebushes, mulch, and stone pavers, with a sad, lattice-covered pergola at the very center of it all. At the time when the accountant–cum–design blogger and her musician husband, Isaac, purchased their home, they couldn’t afford a huge renovation of the interior—but updating the backyard was something that was within reach. With the help of artist and landscape designer Bradley Duncan, they switched from a high-maintenance lawn to decomposed granite, peppering in drought-tolerant plants such as cacti and agave. “I wanted it to be just like the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs,” says Carpenter. “I’m known by my friends for killing plants, but I’m happy to say everything outside remains alive.” 

Still, there was the issue of the ugly pergola. Even after updating the yard, the couple found themselves sitting out in the driveway, mainly because no matter what furniture they tried, nothing looked good against the blah-brown deck. So leading up to their annual National Rose Day soiree a few summers ago, they decided to give it a bright refresh, complete with white paint and a brand-new bamboo sheet roof. 

Revamping the Bones

To kick things off, Carpenter hired a friend to paint the deck white to match the exterior of the house. A few coats of the crisp hue instantly made the space feel breezier. Next up: getting rid of the dated lattice roof that projected strange shadows onto the floor. “It looked very grandma to me,” says Carpenter. She ended up replacing the cover with two sheets of bamboo reed garden fencing from Home Depot (around $25 total), which she says only needs replacing every few years. 

Promising Privacy 

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Photography by Sophie Carpenter

Fortunately, when the couple moved in, there was already a large hedge blocking the views of the neighboring apartment complex. But to really achieve luxe hotel vibes, Carpenter bought white curtains made out of Sunbrella fabric and hung them from a standard curtain rod. “It makes it feel like a cabana,” she says. Now the pair can play cards, host socially distant happy hours, and swim in their adult-approved inflatable pool in almost complete seclusion. 

Mixing Up the Furniture 

Carpenter’s main objective with the furniture was to avoid a matchy-matchy setup. Her anchor piece? An armless sofa from World Market, which she bought secondhand for $400 from her friend Molly Madfis of Almost Makes Perfect. Whenever the couple isn’t actively using the pergola space, they throw painter’s drop cloths over the couch so their dog, Rascal, doesn’t get the white fabric dirty. When she’s craving change, Carpenter will swap out the side tables and accessories, usually sticking to affordable finds like IKEA’s Gladom tray table and plain jute rugs

Lighting It Up

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The $70 basket weave pendant lamp is one of Carpenter’s favorite outdoor discoveries. The fixture is hooked up to a hardwired rope, plugged into an outlet by the garage, and set on a timer so it comes on around 7 p.m. and goes off just before midnight. “We never have to worry about fussing with it,” she says. She also hung up commercial-grade string lights with large bulbs that drape nicely across the roof. “It’s an instant mood setter.” 

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