The Blog by Ellen Wags

a lifestyle blog for real mamas. featuring family-friendly home decor, casual mama style, and stuff to keep your kids entertained. 

One Room Challenge – Welcome Back!

Annnnd IT IS BACK! Today officially marks the beginning of the Fall 2022 One Room Challenge.

The Wagner house is a-buzz because we are updating….our back porch! I cannot wait to share the transformation of this space over the next eight weeks. Before I share our plans, let me refresh you a bit on all things ORC (that’s what the kids are calling it these days).

What is the One Room Challenge?

The ORC is an eight-week design challenge to update one space in your home during the challenge period. Anyone is welcome to join as a guest as long as you have a place to link to when sharing your weekly progress – a blog or Instagram page.

We participated in our first One Room Challenge this spring and updated our (empty) formal dining room to a family living space. We are experienced DIY’ers, but started with a relatively easy project for our first ORC. Our projects have typically taken a good bit of time since we are working on updates between raising two kids and working full time. This time, we know what to expect, so we are yanking the bandage off and going big!

Oh Hi. Meet the Wagners

If you’re new here, WELCOME! I’m Ellen and that’s my husband Matt. I’m the blogger, photographer, designer, and project coordinator over here. Matt is the numbers man, problem solver, and construction team. We live in Alabama and have been working our way through updating this home to fit our young family’s needs and style. We’ve got two little girls that love ‘helping’ with our DIY projects in any way they can. It’s a little wild over here, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Back Porch – ‘The Before’

The Problem List

Let’s go ahead and acknowledge that there isn’t anything technically problematic about this space.

Everything is in good condition here. This porch addition was done prior to our purchase of the home. It was done by the original construction company that built the home, everything is done to code, blah blah blah. We fell in love with it when we viewed the home, but once we moved in and started our lives here, we realized it wasn’t all that we thought it was.

Here is what isn’t working for our family:

+ We rarely hang out on the porch because the open design means we are constantly feasted on by the unofficial State Bug of Alabama- the mosquito. It is legit miserable in the summer, no matter how many mosquito deterrents we use. The biting bug situation is only moderately better outside of summer – because of the heat and humidity, they stick around a while here.

+ The furniture is uncomfortable and low-quality. This set was totally a cheap impulse buy right after we bought our home in 2015, and we haven’t bothered to replace it since. The cushions were flattened and mildewed not long after purchase, and I’m always stressed a kid is going to poke an eye out on the sharp, flared out corners.

+ The layout is less than ideal and leaves a good bit of the square footage under-utilized.

+ The porch doesn’t flow with the rest of our home. It feels…sparse and un-lived in. Which is actually true. The space just doesn’t feel like “us” and it is time to change that.

Eight Week Challenge Project List

I’m a visual person so I drew up this TOTALLY ARTISTIC AND PROFESSIONAL SKETCH.

I’ll give you a moment to take in this masterpiece.

Y’all still with me?

Good. Let’s break it down.

Reconfiguring the Layout

The current location of the stairs is simply not the best place for them. Moving the stairs to the uncovered (and un-screened) portion of the porch will allow us to better utilized the 270 square foot covered space.

The pergola over the otherwise uncovered porch section will be removed. I’m gonna be honest and say I’m not even sure what the purpose of a pergola is, but it’s literally just a squirrel playground at this point.

Screen In the Covered Portion

We have to screen in the porch to make this space usable for our family year-round. I cannot wait to say goodbye to mosquitos and nipping insects. Enclosing the covered portion of the porch will help reduce outdoor debris from blowing into the space, as well as making the comfort elements (fireplace and fans) more efficient.

This will be a (BIG) DIY project, handled primarily by Matt. The process of screening in the porch will be pretty intensive, and take up the bulk of the challenge. I naively thought it was as simple as throwing up some mesh screening and a door…but nope. There are a lot of elements and regulations to consider, so we are taking our time and making sure this is done right!

Refresh and Decorate

The entire space needs a refresh. This includes power washing and fresh paint on all wooden porch elements, doors, and trim.

Once the space has been refreshed and screening is complete, I’ll extend the style of the interior of our home to the back porch. We will add high-quality, functional furniture to the space that will better serve our family. I’ll replace lighting fixtures and the fans, as well as add a storage solution for outdoor ‘kid stuff’ and entertainment supplies. Lastly, I’ll bring cozy textiles and greenery into the space, with blankets, a large area rug, and planters. If time and budget allow, we will create an outdoor grill zone on the open area of the porch.


We will have to pull up some of the shrubberies to relocate the stairs. I would love to add some more flowers to the area surrounding the porch. I think two ‘feature’ plants would be really beautiful as well on either side of the new stair location.

Inspiration Board

Using color and design cues from our home’s interiors, our porch update will feature a color palette of creamy white, deep almost-black brown, soft gray-blue, and natural wood elements.

Follow Along

I will be sharing weekly updates right here on the blog. Over on Instagram, I’ll be sharing behind the scenes of our project and exciting elements of our porch redesign. I can’t wait for you to follow along!

Be sure to check out all the One Room Challenge guest participants’ projects by visiting the ORC blog.

Join me weekly for updates on our ORC progress – join my email list here and follow along over on Instagram!

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  1. […] to week two of the One Room Challenge – ORC for short. In case you missed last week’s post, are updating our outdoor living space over the next eight weeks. The One Room Challenge is a […]

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