Design a Deck that Fits
Deckscaping brings the pieces together.
Consider your view when deciding where to place your deck.
Despite the chilly weather outside, it’s a great time to think about how you’ll spend those long, sultry summer evenings after the day’s work is done. Will you be gathering with friends and family for supper outdoors, curled up with a good book or lounging in a comfortable chair with a cold drink just enjoying the view? A deck can be a perfect spot for all these activities, but to make one really fit your life – and how you want to spend your free time – some planning is in order.
All too often, decks are an afterthought – a no-man’s (or woman’s) land attached to the back of the house that holds a few cheap, pre-molded plastic chairs, a grill and perhaps a table. Usually neither house nor garden, most decks have little more than level footing to offer, and they certainly are not
welcoming to human visitors. (Patios or terraces are much the same, and the design ideas given here apply to them as well.) Decks also are commonly cluttered with gardening supplies, tools, barbecue equipment, toys, refuse or recycling cans and outdoor recreation equipment.
Whether you have an existing deck that could use a facelift or you want to add one to your home for the first time, creating a design that really fits your life starts at the same place: Begin with a careful evaluation of what you want the deck to be. The suggestions here will help you evaluate your needs and create a design that not only complements your house and garden, but also fits your life and how your family will use the space. Once you’ve done your homework, you can take your ideas to a contractor, or, if you plan to build the deck yourself, get started with construction.
Deck Design 101
Ideally, a deck should be so connected to both house and garden that you can’t imagine one without the other. That’s the way it was with our first deck, which my husband and I added to our stone-and-cedar farmhouse several years ago, as well as with the deck we’ve added to our current home. In both cases, our main objective was to carve out more level living space on a steeply sloping site, but both decks also function like an extension of the living room – albeit an outdoor one filled with plants, birds, butterflies and fresh air. Our decks started out as notebooks filled with ideas, including photographs of the house and site, drawings of designs we liked, pictures clipped from magazines, and notes about features we wanted to incorporate into the final design. Our notebook also was accompanied by a small stack of books and magazines studded with sticky notes.
Start your own deck-design notebook by making a list of all activities you’d like your deck to accommodate, such as outdoor dining, cooking, container gardening, and sitting and visiting with friends. Also estimate how large these areas need to be: Do you want to seat six at your table or 16? Don’t worry if you end up with a jumble of sketches and notes. It’s better at this stage to have too many ideas than too few.
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