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I'm Bri Garbani, a designer + photographer living in San Diego, California. It's here that I express my passion for dogs, design + DIY through writing + photography. If you like what you see, you'll want to check back often as I have a constant need to create + Native Blonde is my prime creative outlet.

Outdoor Sectional Seating

Outdoor Sectional Seating

While simultaneously building a backyard bar, the hubby and I also had seating on our to-do list for completing our outdoor entertaining space. We knew we wanted a sectional that could hold several guests at a time, that could be moved and rearranged when necessary, and we also wanted it to be very lounge like as well. Combine this with the size requirements of our space (there's nothing worse than furniture that isn’t the right scale, am I right?) and we had ourselves a quite the undertaking for building our own custom outdoor furniture.  Was I intimidated by this project?  Absolutely. Did I feel up to the challenge? Absolutely! We made something so unique and true to us that I wouldn’t have wanted premade furnishings even if they were given to me.  Homemade it is, so that mean’s it’s not perfect, but the satisfaction we have from completing such a large project from conception to completion was worth the time and effort it took to create.

Since I am the worst at mathematics, I let the hubby do the figuring when it came to calculating the dimensions of our four piece sectional. I simply showed him my inspiration photo and he began the planning process and determined what materials we would need to get started. What a guy!


When it came to the cushions, I got resourceful with my materials in the form of foam baby crib mattresses. They were just the right size and the right price for creating seating. For the back pillows I used standard bed pillows. Covering each plush piece is a fully encased 100% waterproof cover, and on top of that is the Sunbrella fabric that I special ordered from my local discount fabric store and sewed into covers. My college sewing machine gave out on me mid-way through this project, but with a few repairs and with the help of a friend and her sewing machine, we were able to just barely complete the first (and likely last) upholstery job I’ve ever done.

Did we have quadruplets or do foam crib mattresses make for great cushions?
Shopping for supplies at the start of the project as the store attendant comes over the speaker, "special assistance needed in the board cutting area."

Steps in this project included building the framework out of pressure treated 2x4’s, adding plywood seating, backing, and then encasing the frame with horizontal planks for a modern design element. Next, we applied wood stain by way of hand and rag that both seals and protects from the sun’s harsh rays and we finished it up with two extra layers of satin wood sealant. I worked on sewing the cushions in between wait times for the stain and sealant to dry and before I knew it, we were done!

Benefits of a degree in fashion design: patternmaking from scratch.

The addition of a few extra decorative kilim pillows that I already had along with a couple more basic linen throw pillows completed the look. But I wasn’t quite done staging the final result – I incorporated four planter boxes into the space that the hubby and I built a few summers ago. They housed vegetable plants while we were apartment dwellers, but now that we have a large garden space, he offered them up to me for use as flower boxes. Off to the nursery I went! Filled with sun loving flowers and succulents, I placed these newly painted brown and corrugated metal boxes as end caps around the sectional.  I just love their industrial feel, yet they really help to make the space feel more intimate. The final touch was hanging some Edison style patio lights between our house and the guest house for a warm glow and ambiance. Speaking of warm, how about that patio heater left behind by the previous owner? Just a tank of propane and we were in business! Once we knew all of the construction was complete, a good power washing done by the hubby on the brick pavers made the space really feel finished.

Now, let's do a little before and after shot comparison, shall we? I assume you're sitting down for this, but you may want to double check your chair for a back rest or arms to grab on to because you're going to be floored!

What changed? On the guest house we added a fresh coat of exterior paint in white and trim paint in brown, a new porch light fixture, a new terracotta tile roof, plants in the ground as well as in the brick planters in front of and to the side of the guest house. We completed our outdoor furniture build project, strung up patio lights, power washed the brick patio and we also removed the fencing that previously disconnected the back of the property from the courtyard area.  

Pictured below, we removed the old gate and replaced it with a new one we made ourselves when we did our big fencing project, the main house has been repainted throughout, including the steps. We kept a few terracotta pots that the previous over left behind and planted colorful bougainvillea in them to fill in some negative space and make the patio walkway feel more welcoming.

And there you have it! A custom built, do-it-yourself, modular outdoor sectional with plenty of space to curl up with a good book, host a gathering of friends, lounge in the sun, sit and sip a cocktail, lean back to watch some television from the backyard bar, have a cozy conversation, take a nap, stare up at the night stars or cuddle with a dog (or handsome hubby).  Those are all of the uses I’ve found for this space so far – if you think of any others, please send your ideas my way!

Urban Garden Space

Urban Garden Space

Backyard Bar + Grill

Backyard Bar + Grill