Sledge Hammer Stories Part 3: A New Backyard

If you remember way back to when I first introduced our little ole’ outdoor room (aka backyard) to everyone earlier this year, you might recall how much work we had to do to get to this:

Here’s a quick link to Part 1 & Part 2.

Our *dream* backyard included an outdoor grilling area, fireplace and big comfy sectional. Evenings of smores & stargazing, afternoons of hamburgers & cold beer – who could ask for anything more?

Here’s the backyard mid-project:

I couldn’t be more proud of my handy husband who I’m pretty sure knows how to fix anything and everything known to man. So… weekends of pulling up brick, tearing down walls and much MUCH cement, stucco, and tile later… here she is!

This DIY project was a monster – but isn’t it beautiful! We opted for a shade sail for added coverage (a throw back to our love of sailing) and it was an economical option when we found one on ebay for less than $50. The grill and ice bin were Craiglist finds, and the sectional was my hybrid Pottery Barn & DIY project (follow the jump for more on that).

Can you believe this used to be a carpeted, walled-in room?

To keep the outdoor kitchen within budget, we used our favorite site Craigslist and Home Depot coupons for everything from cement block to grout to our counter top tile.

While Kevin took on the bulk of the redesign, my big project was the future seating area. I fell in love with a Pottery Barn sectional (see above inspiration board) and thought that surely I could replicate the find on a local, more inexpensive level. After searching every store here in the area (including the plethora of online options!) I came up with a hybrid solution that involved sewing, stuffing and Sunbrella galore.

For the cushion DIY project,

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Friday Guest Blog Interview: Second City Soiree!

Today’s Friday Guest Blog interview brings us to the heart of Chicago – and over to the blog of a delightful hostess who shares her favorite tips, tricks and etiquette know-how on a daily basis at Second City Soiree. As an event coordinator with some of Chicago’s major venues, Jen artfully intertwines the expertise of hostessing large celebrations with her love of smaller events at home. was founded in 2008 by Jennifer, a Chicago native who considers the seemingly simple task of “having people over” a fine art (that can be fun, engaging and creative!).

Whether you’re hosting a party, dinner, luncheon, shin-dig, shower, barbecue, tête-à-tête, fiesta, or yes – even a soirée – you’ll find helpful ideas and tid-bits to pull off the perfect event. One of my favorites: how-to videos that share delicious cocktail recipes and even a helpful reminder on how to properly set a place setting (does the bread plate go on the left or right side…)

When not writing and researching for Second City Soiree, Jen authors lifestyle articles for the popular Chicagonista site, a series on Gals’ Guide called First Time Hostess, and features on luxury goods and services for Simply Magnificent – the blog of the Ritz-Carlton Residences on Michigan Avenue.

One of my favorite SCS tablesettings:

Up next, Jen’s clever answers to PDB’s four interview q’s, including three party killer don’ts, the elements to planning your own soiree (and where you can and can’t cut costs) as well as secrets to where Jen finds her SCS inspiration!

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PDB is Guest Blogging Over at b*spoke Today!

Ribbon Necklace Tutorial 2

A couple of weeks ago Bethany asked me to guest post for her lovely blog, b*spoke. I was so honored and thought it the perfect opportunity to expand on another {design favorite} of mind: wardrobe inspiration. Jump on over to see two easy tutorials on turning simple strands of beads (and old necklaces) into modern & stylish ribbon jewelry!


On that note… I’ve been ever-so *wishful* that one day I might be able to expand PDB’s daily design inspirations to encompass everyday fashion too – expanding from the home & entertaining worlds to encompass all three of these ‘loves’.

What do you think? Is it too much? Do you come to PDB just for home inspiration, entertaining ideas, or both? Are blogs best left to their niche – and to what they do best? Hmmm… I’d love to hear your thoughts on what direction you’d like to see Pepper Design Blog go, or where you’d like it to stay! Do share.

Ribbon Necklace Tutorial 1

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