Photos by Hillary Ehlen | Nighttime photos provided by Erin Dahl
There’s nothing like going to a drive-in movie. Unfortunately, there aren’t many outdoor movie theaters around these days, but Erin and Rex Dahl have something even better. Behind their 1926 home, just minutes away from Downtown Fargo, the Dahls have created a personal movie theater in their own backyard. That’s not all. They also have a cabana, hot tub, bar and garden. The best part is—they designed and built it all themselves. Learn how these weekend warriors turned this outdoor space into a fun getaway for their entire family.
Meet Erin and Rex Dahl. Erin Dahl is the housing coordinator for the YWCA women’s shelter and Rex Dahl is a manager at Corelink Administrative Solutions. They have three kids: Alexander (11), Andreas (6) and Georgia (3). Before starting work on their backyard getaway, if you combined their landscaping expertise, the Dahls would have had zero years of experience. However, they made up for it with their tenacity and enthusiasm when approaching each new project they undertook.
summer of 2016
When the Dahls bought the home in 2014, the yard had been left unattended for some time, but they could see its potential. Then, in the summer of 2016, Rex Dahl built a bar, patio and pallet board stadium seating. They also strung up outdoor string lights and installed a floating tent for the kids. Finally, after searching far and wide for stadium chairs, the Dahls found exactly what they were looking for at IKEA.
“It’s funny because when I was younger, I would never have touched a power tool or built anything, and I just love it now.” – Rex Dahl
“In the summer months, we put up a big screen so we can have an outdoor movie theater.” – Erin Dahl
summer of 2017
In the summer of 2017, the Dahls attacked their side yard and the outdated pergola that was attached to the back of their house. “The pergola came down and we just started building. Our neighbor, John, was instrumental in helping Rex,” Erin Dahl said.
“Sometimes it was a two-person job. The boards were 20-feet long, so having another set of hands was pretty helpful,” Rex Dahl explained.
In addition to adding a new patio, the Dahls also installed a new hot tub, industrial bar and cabana. They were also able to relocate the overgrown plants and now refer to this area as their “secret garden.” Meanwhile, the Dahls have dubbed the entire backyard their “urban oasis.”
The Big 70th
The Dahls had a deadline to meet for completing their backyard, and they finished just in time to host a 70th birthday party for Erin Dahl’s father. They hosted 90 family members and guests for this party and the evening was a great success.
“We were lucky, because the person that lived here before us was a master gardener.”
– Erin Dahl
DIY Tips from the Dahls
For homeowners who plan to do DIY work in their own backyards, Rex Dahl suggested, “Drink a lot of water and use sunblock. It sounds cheesy, but safety is important. Wear safety goggles.” Then, on another practical note, Erin Dahl said to make an inventory list, which would eliminate unnecessary, time consuming trips to the hardware store.
Last, but not least, the Dahls encouraged inexperienced homeowners like themselves to be fearless and attempt that DIY project they’ve been thinking about.