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Cinder blocks are probably the last thing you’d want to lounge on at the end of a long day, but step onto India Shannon’s porch and you’ll start to look at the construction material in a whole new light. The Apartment 528 founder and shop owner built the base of her outdoor sofa out of the heavy concrete stuff, using stained slabs of wood for the benches and cushions from Target that she cut down to size. “I love that it can be configured a million different ways,” says Shannon. 

When Shannon and her husband, Jerome, started renting their place in Chicago’s East Garfield Park neighborhood almost three years ago, it was the first time they had a private outdoor area to themselves. (While they share the backyard space with the other tenants in their two-unit building, the porch is their private getaway). Over the years, Shannon has tackled DIY after DIY and infused the area with her primary color palette. “It was fun making the outside of our home as colorful as the inside,” she says. 

In need of a proper place to store her extensive collection of vintage bowls, ice buckets, and planters, she got rid of her old, flimsy plastic storage cabinets and built a bright orange shed. One side of the cupboard houses all her various containers; the other is for wood scraps for all her ongoing projects. 

“I’ve always loved charcoal-colored houses,” says Shannon of her decision to paint the facade a cool gray tone (with permission from their landlord, of course). For a pop of color, the couple lined the window and door trim in an electric shade of blue. “Our upstairs neighbors coordinated and painted their trim red and orange,” she adds. 

Almost everything out on the deck is enjoying its second life. In addition to buying most of her greenery from places like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace (“It’s my favorite way to find mature plants at affordable prices,” she says), Shannon thrifted the dining setup and immediately painted the table fire-engine red.

The coffee table is an old terracotta planter flipped over with a round piece of wood on top. “I glued the whole thing on top of a rolling plant tray so we can move the table around the space as needed,” she says. 

Having only one solid wall to decorate wasn’t enough, so Shannon filled the empty space facing their neighbor’s house with trellises. The grids, which her husband painted blue to match the trim, are the perfect spot to display graphic works of art, like the paintings by General Public Designs, all while enjoying the breeze. 

Introducing Domino’s new podcast, Design Time, where we explore spaces with meaning. Each week, join editor-in-chief Jessica Romm Perez along with talented creatives and designers from our community to explore how to create a home that tells your story. Listen now and subscribe for new episodes every Thursday.