Produced, designed, written and styled by Brian Patrick Flynn with photography by Sarah Dorio
So the economy totally sucks. You’ve outgrown your current home, but you can’t reach for the next rung on the property ladder without taking a major loss. Space is so tight that hosting a dinner party involves a phone call to the local Red Lobster, the words “reservation for eight” and small talk about cheddar biscuits.
How the @$%& do you properly entertain in this spatially-challenged house without a costly addition?Do you just sell the joint and kiss away $$$ equal to your school loans or your spouse’s former addiction to department store credit cards? No need to bother leaving a key under the pillow for the Square Footage fairy – her position was eliminated. Shazam! – there IS something you can tap into for instant space, my friends, and it’s sitting right outside the door.
The carport! This often forgotten space is usually inhabited by your four-wheeled friend but by simply putting your car into reverse and parking outside for the evening, you’ll uncover a space packed with wonderful, entertaining-savvy traits.
For starters, a carport’s lack of walls makes for an open, airy environment in which guests won’t feel cramped. The roof will protect you from the sun and allow you to entertain regardless of weather. Also, the concrete floors are super forgiving if drunk-ass Adam spills his merlot leaving you with red puddle marks and surprise shards of glass [again]. The configurations are endless depending on what your party calls for.
Frustrated with my own lack of space, I gathered my team to test my own carport and discovered just how simple it is to add 300 square feet of entertaining space with minimum cost and only a day’s work.
Show your stripes
Take candy-striping to a whole new level. Add a serious “wow” factor to your carport floor by painting it a bold, graphic pattern. The team transformed the existing cement surface first by painting the entire area solid white with Porter Acrylic Floor Enamel, then taping off 11 inch stripes. For a tri-colored pattern, paint every other stripe until dry; reposition tape to paint the third color. Stick with your existing house colors to give the space a more cohesive flow. Die-hard drivers may need something more hardy and in that case, this site is a great resource.
Be a metalhead
Why spend it if you won’t see it? Even mid-grade drapery hardware can run you $75 and up. Consider galvanized metal pipe and flanges instead. Make a beeline to the electrical section of your home improvement store where they can be cut to size. Install the flange to your surface with four screws, then thread the pipe into place. Each set of flanges and pipe cost a cool $9.00 [less than a fancy cocktail].
Pants don’t have a monopoly on pleats. Clip rings are your best choice for hanging temporary outdoor pleated draperies. You’ll need an average of seven rings per drapery panel. Slide all the rings onto the pipe before attaching the flange to keep them in place. Then simply take the panels down and back inside post shin-dig. If your party place is totally covered, indoor pewter rings from Allen & Roth are a great option. Not covered? Well, save money AND withstand the elements by choosing IKEA’s plastic RIKTIG clip rings. In addition to black, they are also available in white and silver and come in packs of 10 for $2.99.
The ripple effect
Let’s face it: store-bought drapes tend to look flat and cheap. A great trick is to hang them as triple panels to create a high-end, spiffed-up and gathered look. Enlist a seamstress at your local drycleaner to hem and sew single panels into triple-ripple-aplenty panels for a mere fraction of what custom window treatments would cost. We chose IKEA’s RITVA panels which are 100% cotton and come in packs of two for $29.99.
Being used never felt, or looked so good. Flea markets are the most cost-effective source for unique outdoor furniture. We scored these rather comfy 1960’s Asian scroll back chairs for $25 each.With some sanding, priming and high-gloss white spray paint, the team revitalized the entire set’s graphic lines. I always splurge on custom, professional cushions to assure a comfy seat and save by spraying the bases myself [and by myself, I mean my carpenter]. When shopping for upholstery fabric, keep in mind that a yardage chart is your budgetary BFF.
What lies beneath
Aunt Fanny’s recipe ain’t the only secret at this table! Although flea markets are ripe with unique vintage furniture on the cheap, there’s always the downside of finding table bases without tops. The quickest and easiest fix? Use a pre-cut piece of plywood and cover it with an eye-popping tablecloth.
If you know how to push a pushpin, you can handle this. Hang inexpensive paper lanterns above the table to ground the space and erase any memory of this traditionally being a car’s home. Is my carpenter, Brian Bell, tacking these up for me because I am insanely lazy? No. Is it because I am accident prone and have a fear of ladders? Yes.
Bordering on style
There’s a shortage of cool looking tablecloths out there. To give any standard table cloth a custom touch, simply add a 2 inch solid border to the existing edge to lengthen the overall cloth and create instant posh detail. Got enough skills to sew a custom cloth yourself? IKEA’s MINNA fabric is only $6.99 a yard, its 100 percent cotton and super durable. In addition to orange, it also comes in blue, light green, red and a bleached effect.
To add another layer of the indoors to your outdoor area, use a masonry nail to hang art on the exterior wall. This project is pretty hard to mess up; the only tool necessary is a hammer. I commissioned this graphic, Americana-inspired piece from New York City artist Rodney White back in 2006. Rodney juxtaposes the look of weathered storefront signs with messages scribed in stunning typefonts.
Take it outside, fellas
Forget dashing in and out of the kitchen and interrupting conversations; keep it all within reach. Add a chic and functional serving area or bar to the fete for free. By temporarily moving a dresser outside, you instantly add a sideboard to keep drinks, ice and garnishes close at hand.
While the crisp draperies add a dramatic, enveloping statement, they also offer VIP privacy from nosy neighbors.
Friends in low places
After a day of creativity and light labor, relax and enjoy your newly claimed square footage. Temporarily replace four-wheeled confidants with warm-blooded friends. And until tomorrow, no cars allowed.