Party Alcove Tile

Abeautifulmess_partyalcove (click through to learn more) I love how this little alcove turned out. One of Elsie's major strengths is having a vision for making something beautiful most others wouldn't even consider as an option. As you can see, this space was perfect for a great hang spot. The first thing I did with the space is lay down some paving stones. I'm going to tell you briefly how I did it and share some tips I picked up on the way; it was my first time doing it! Since this was my first time, it may be more about what NOT to do. Let's see.

Abeautifulmess_partyalcove before   (click through to learn more)Supplies:
-paving stones
-leveling paver sand
-pea gravel


-measuring tape
-elbow grease

Abeautifulmess_partyalcove_before (click through to learn more)Abeautifulmess_partyalcove_before (click through to learn more)Step One: The first thing I did was prepare the ground. It had some bigger rocks and junk that I removed. I probably could have just poured the sand on top of the grass and went from there, but that would have been way too easy! I took my shovel and hacked all the grass off, then laid a tarp down since I didn't want grass or weeds growing back up through cracks. This is a good time to measure your space so you'll know how much material to purchase.

Abeautifulmess_partyalcovetilesStep Two: This is where I really got my workout. I initially just laid out all of the stones right on top of the tarp. I thought I had leveled the ground enough and it would be fine. I was wrong. The tiles were all disheveled and wonky. I almost just left it, but it was so bad I couldn't stop thinking about it. Plus with the tarp, they probably wouldn't have settled much more, so it would have been eternally terrible.  I went and got several bags of leveling sand, removed all of the tiles, and started over. Above is how I laid out the tiles, but before I used sand.

Abeautifulmess_partyalcove  leveling sand (click through to learn more)Abeautifulmess_partyalcove  leveling sand (click through to learn more)Abeautifulmess_partyalcove  leveling sand (click through to learn more)Abeautifulmess_partyalcove  leveling sand (click through to learn more)Step Three: Lay down leveling sand, preferably before you put down the tiles, unless you really like putting down and picking up heavy things.The amount of bags you use depends on your space. You want around half an inch of coverage. There is info on how many bags you'll need on the bags, so just give those a gander when you're out buying supplies. The great thing about the leveling sand is that it anchors the tiles in place, which makes for a stable walking surface, which is always nice!

To lay out the sand, I just threw the bags in a couple of general areas, broke them open with the shovel, then raked it out as level as I could. Once the sand was nice and level, I laid the stones down, again. I just tried to keep the first row as straight as possible (the stones nice and snuggled close together), and the rest of the rows stayed pretty straight. Of course since I did the right thing and laid down the leveling sand, the stones were 87% more straight and stable. To top it off, I poured some pea stone around the perimeter.

I'm so happy that I redid the stone with the sand. It really didn't take much time to remove them and put them back, and it was worth it. One more no-brainer hint: the kind people at Lowe's (or wherever you go to buy your supplies) will help you carry and load this many stones, probably with a forklift. I had a cart filled with close to 70 12" paving stones, and boy, did I feel a bit ridiculous as I struggled to get them to the register. Oh well, I got a workout out of the deal. 

Leave your questions, tips, hints, or landscaping stories in the comment section below!

Abeautifulmess_partyalcove (click through to learn more)Happy building, and remember to lift with your legs. -Josh

Credits // Authors: Josh Rhodes. Photography: Josh Rhodes and Sarah Rhodes. Photos edited with Piper from the Signature Collection.

  • I love this project so much! Showed it to my man and he’s quite enthusiastically on board to fix a dingy little area of our yard that our baby is always trying to play in. I can’t wait! Thank you so much! And may I ask, where did you find that fabulous rug?

  • thanks for some great ideas! i am going to “upgrade” my small balcony this weekend and I got some great tips from this!


  • Where is that rug from? I’ve been obsessing over it since I first read this article!

  • great post! thanks josh + sarah– you two are the dream team


  • I actually work part-time at a garden center that sells landscaping paving stones and such, so I have the list on the supplies they recommend down pretty solid by now! So here’s what I usually tell people to do if they want to put down a patio area:
    -about 3-4″ of crushed stone, tamped down to make it level. (The type they sell here is called crusher run, and it’s basically a cheap grey stone with a lot of dust in it.)
    -About 1″ on top of either sand or stone dust–the stone dust is a little cheaper, and easier to camouflage if it comes up through the cracks for grey stones!
    -Paving stones on top of that.

    Hope that helps!

  • STUNNING!!! great job guys as always!!!


  • Wow, I love how you’ve created a whole party patio from a seemingly useless little corner of the yard! Fantastic job on the pavers, Josh! Will you be writing a tutorial on how to build those bench seats? They look so great, but possibly very difficult for a DIY beginner (me) to do.

  • Good question Kate, and funny you should ask, because I just called the city development office today for a future project I am super excited about. As far as I know we don’t have to get a permit for something this small scale. In regards to my future, secret project, it had to be over 100 square feet to get a permit. The alcove was only like 50, or something. It’s always good to check your city regs though!


  • GAH! Ya’ll make this look really easy. The hubby and I just bought some pavers and have yet to put them down anywhere.

  • This new outdoor space looks so cozy and welcoming! I love the wrap around seating, it leaves the center space super open and easy to move around in.

    I’m curious to know about your experience with permits while building this? It’s possible that where you live it might not have been necessary. However, every place that I’ve lived tends to get high rainfall. Because of this its usually required to get a permit whenever you change the penetration of water in any particular area on the land. What was the “legal process” like for you, if you chose to follow it..?

    Thanks for any advice and experiences you can share 🙂

  • It’s amazing to see you do so many renovations by yourself! Thanks for sharing how you do it, it’s really helpful! 🙂

  • I’m hoping your next tutorial will be how to make the bench seats! 🙂

  • The tile turned out fantastic! I love seeing these awesome diys that you guys are doing!!


  • Elizabeth, fortunately the stones fit great without having to cut it. But yea, for this space, I probably would have just filled in spaces.

  • This looks like hard work. When can I start?! I love anything that is outdoorsy and combines a good work-out too 🙂 Nice job!


    Laurali Star

  • Sarah, that’s one of those great, why didn’t I think of that?! tips. Awesome. thanks!

  • This space looks amazing! You completely transformed that space, Josh! It looks like such a fun spot to hang out.

    PS: Your cutoffs are fantastic (totally serious).

  • This looks great! I love seeing a different member of the ABM team every once in a while. One question, did you have to cut some of the bricks to fit the space? It doesn’t seem like you had to but what if the space wasn’t a square? Would you have just filled it with the pebbles?

  • Big high-fives all round for a job well done! 🙂


  • What a huge improvement! So great to see small spaces revitalized. A little tip on leveling, from a contractors daughter that has had to do this numerous times, use 2x4s! Make a pivot point and scrap across the dirt surface while evenly applying pressure across the board. You can lay a level across the 2×4 in different areas to check how much more work you have left to do. Follow same process with sand. It fills in all the low points and scraps off all the high points so over time you won’t have as much shifting. Works like a champ no matter the size of the space.

  • Awesome awesome job. The process seems rather tedious but the end result is simply spectacular. :] // ☼

  • I love getting the mistakes with this! Sometimes tutorials make me feel like I suck because I assume they magically know how to make things perfect the first time. This has given me the gumption to tackle my backyard project! Keep ’em coming!

  • Great job on your walkway! It rains a lot where I live so the extra layers of gravel and sand are a must for me. Thanks for sharing!

  • This is the perfect tutorial for me. I have a deck in my backyard that I need to tile. Thanks!

  • It turned out very nicely so the extra work was worth it! One more little hint for you : We bought a bunch of paving stones from Home Depot and for a small charge they delivered them right to our driveway, the next day. It was very handy because they are so darn heavy, right? I still found it grueling moving them all to the back but the direct delivery was a big help.


  • Josh,

    I like your conversational writing style and the fact that you were willing to share what you didn’t do correctly. We like your human side!

  • I turned out so nicely! Great work!
    Much Love, AnnCates xx

  • Thanks! Now to tackle the MUCH bigger patio in the yard. womp. womp.
    Love your posts! Looking forward to more!

  • That Josh is really amazing. What can’t he do? I think I have a crush. 🙂 -Sarah

  • Hooray Josh! Let’s plan a party. Like NOW.

    You’re the best!

  • Hey Yeni, for stones, leveling sand, and tarp, I spent just around $100. Not to shabby!

  • Thanks Courtney! Yep, after took the stones back off ( I don’t recommend that step) I just poured the sand right on the tarp.

  • Hey Rebekka, sounds like you knew what you where doing! I didn’t get that involved with the compacting and leveling, just because the space isn’t that big. Another reason was that it isn’t going to be getting all that much foot traffic, its kind of a secret little nook. I think if I had done an actual path or big patio, I would have spent more time getting the ground prepared. Thanks for reading!

  • Hey Jazz, good catch! I did trim the tarp off after laying all of the stones. The pea stones covered whatever was left showing.

  • Awesome! I’ve been waiting for this after I saw the preview on IG because I have a similar area in my back yard. Last summer I dug out all of the weeds and junk and laid weed barrier and mulch. Not my smartest move with two little dogs. I think I have more mulch in my house than in that spot at this point. (If ya don’t know, now ya know..) So yeah, I would love to lay tile and gravel down there instead and make it a hang out space!

    “Unless you really like putting down and picking up heavy things,” made me laugh… this is totally something I would do and have done in the past. Thanks for all of the tips and reminders here. You’re a great addition to the blog! 😀

  • Hi, Josh! It looks pretty and it is very practical. I would like to know how much you spent in the whole materials! Thank you very much!;)

  • It does pay to put in the extra sweat, I feel like you can enjoy the space more when you do it yourself.

  • Nice job on your walkway! Using the tamper was a pro move.
    Thanks for reading.

  • Looks fantastic! I’ve helped with a few basic projects a bit like this, but I didn’t even know leveling sand exists! Did you still use the tarp with the sand?

  • We also added a new little patio to the back of our house, last summer. It’s been such a great addition!
    Did you consider renting a compactor to get the ground really level and packed? We prepped the ground, laid gravel – which we compacted (after spraying with the hose), then laid the sand. We leveled the sand using a long 2×4 as a rake, then laid the pavers in sections. Once they were all laid, we compacted again to make sure they were all really in there good! Compacting it ensures they aren’t going to shift around when people step on them.

    Your party space looks so fun!

  • wow! I would have never thought that the stones would be stable enough to walk on just by laying it on top of some tarp and sand! I guess if they are heavy enough they are hard to move and budge around…
    I thought this process would have been more complicated and intimidating but you did a great job of showing that its really not.
    Beautiful work, Josh! Thank you for sharing!

  • Thanks, love this! So did you cut the tarp to size afterwards? The little animation still shows it longer than the paved space

  • We also recently did this, to make a more stable surface for our picnic table! This is such a lovely space–thanks so much for sharing!

  • Such a great tutorial! I love seeing other members of the ABM team. What a great idea, and how fun to feature such creative people on this lovely site! Keep up the rockin’ work, you guys!

  • We (meaning my boyfriend) just did this in our backyard. We had giant tree roots and holes that we had to fill in and level out around. We ended up having to build up the area with sand 6″ for it to be completely smooth and level. But knowing that you did it the right way not only shows, but also feels better in the end. This looks great! We went with the red pavers, but now I’m wishing we had done the gray.

  • This is so great! I love all the ideas you have shared with this space.
    I also just made my own stone walkway and blogged about it. It’s super hard work, but totally worth it and makes a great space to enjoy summer and fall!

  • That’s some manly work going on there, I can’t see myself doing this anytime soon, haha. Thanks for another great tutorial!

  • As tempting as it is to go the easy route you’ll be so glad in the long run for doing it properly. No weeds to worry about and less chance of tripping on them. It looks amazing finished! Great job Josh!

  • Wow.. that’s so cute and functional! Great job! I’m finding out how much work all that can be. I’ve started cleaning up our property in AZ. Using a small chainsaw, raking. Etc.. It keeps us young or younger. LOL Thank you so much for the helpful tips.

  • I totally agree with Amanda Marie. I love Josh and Sarah! I think they bring so much to the ABM team and they seem like such fun people. Y’all are so lucky to have such charismatic and diverse group of good people to work with! Good job Elsie and Emma…you truly built yourself a dream team. xoxo

  • Can I just say how much I love having Josh on the ABM team? I love all of his ideas and learn so much from them too. Great tutorial Josh(and Sarah)!

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