Landscape cheaply the area around pool? Any ideas?

 

We have an in ground pool to the top of a small rise. It is in a flat area, With A crappy wire and fence post around it. Very shabby (not chic) ??looking. The surrounding area inside the fence, outside the pool is dug up of all Currently it’s grass. Just made a mess When mowed. We have one small area / corner Which We Added some decking Where We place our bistro table and chairs. The rest of the area on two sides Which is about 2 ‘wide, and the third side Which is 3’ wide is blah. We have a shabby chic / recycle type around the yard decor, pool house and house. We are on a very tight budget so re-purposing and recycling works best for us. I need help with Ideas to Make this area look interesting. I Had an Idea of ??small squares Perhaps some sort of edged with timbers and Then with plants in the area Them spaced around here and there (I can transplant plants from my garden Some to fill THES). I do not know what we Could do With The areas in between though. We do not want to use mulch, or due to too much rock to keep the cost Trying down. I Thought maybe something with old pallets? This is not an area we walk in Either, it is Purely for show. I can not find any pics for Ideas on line. I am open to all suggestions and nothing too outlandish Will Sound for me. We live in the northeast area is Greatly So This Used During The months of May-September. Then the brutal weather sets in.