Build an open-air dining room
Four large, plant-filled pots form the corners of our 10-foot-square open-air room. Each pot holds a vertical section of PVC pipe in the center, which forms a sleeve for a bamboo pole. (When the framework is removed, the planted pots can be placed anywhere.) Seven-foot-long panels of mosquito netting hang from horizontal bamboo rods to create a sense of intimate enclosure. At night, soft candlelight or twinkling string lights make the walls glow with a satiny sheen.
DESIGN: Peter O. Whiteley
TIME: Two to three days
COST: About $200; varies with type and size of pot and type of netting
• Four 24-inch lengths of 1 1/2-inch schedule 40 PVC pipe
• Four 1 1/2-inch T-couplings for pipe
• PVC glue
• Four 6-inch squares of 1/2-inch plywood or scrap lumber
• Eight 2-inch deck screws
• Four flowerpots 16 to 20 inches tall and wide
• Potting soil and plants
• 32 yards of 54-inch-wide mosquito netting. (We paid $3.50 a yard at a camping supply store. You can find other sheer fabrics, such as tulle, at fabric and sewing centers.)
• 120 feet of standard-weight no-sew fusible bonding web tape (about $2 per 20-yard roll)
• 54 feet of lightweight chain
• Eight 12-foot-long bamboo poles, 1 to 1 1/4 inches in diameter. (We paid $3.00 per 1-in.-diameter pole; Bamboo Accents; 800/783-0557.)
• Wood for shims or 16-penny nails
• Sisal twine
• Brown spray paint
• Four wire coat hangers
• String lights
Tape measure, hand saw, drill, Phillips head screwdriver, scissors, iron, wire cutters, needle, and white thread
1. Using the PVC pipe, the T-coupling, and the PVC glue, assemble four sleeves for the bamboo poles as shown in sketch. Making sure that the pipes are vertical, secure each sleeve to plywood or scrap wood base with two screws. (When covered with potting soil, the base will keep the pipe from tilting.)
2. Center a sleeve in each pot, fill pot with soil, and tamp. Add plants. (As an option, you can paint the exposed end of the pipe before adding plants.)
3. Cut mosquito netting into 12 8-foot lengths.
4. Fold under 6 inches at top and bottom of each panel; iron in place. Secure raw edges with the fusible bonding web tape to create a pocket. (You should have 12 sections.)
5. Cut 54-inch lengths of chain. Slip a length into the bottom pocket of each panel and tack in place with needle and thread. (The chain keeps the lightweight panels from blowing in light wind.)
6. Cut four of the thickest bamboo poles to 8-foot lengths.
7. Position pots so sleeves are at corners of a 10-foot square. Insert 8-foot poles in sleeves, checking that poles are vertical. Shim in place with slender wood wedges or 16-penny nails. Mark a point 6 inches from top of each pole.
8. Select a 12-foot bamboo pole and slip it through top pocket of three panels of mosquito netting. Repeat for three other poles and remaining panels.
9. With the help of another person, use the sisal twine to lash these rods to the upright poles at the marked locations, centering them between the poles.
If you're planning to add string lights around the perimeter, cut coat hangers into 6-inch lengths and bend into S-hook shapes so one end can slip over bamboo poles. Place the S-hooks between the panels and hang lights on them, draping gracefully.
The space enclosed by this framework is large enough for most patio tables and chairs. If you want more elegance, borrow some of your indoor dining furniture for the meal. (Run long tables diagonally across the square.) For drama, consider adding low-voltage uplights in each pot, positioning them so light washes across the mosquito netting.
More: See another DIY cabana