Our clients’ tiny raised deck limited their options for outdoor entertaining. They wanted a flexible and functional extension of their home, built for year-round relaxing with family and friends. We helped them transform a simple deck into a stylish, two-tiered outdoor living space.
The Challenge: Cramped Deck and Patio Baked by Afternoon Sun
The tiny, west-facing deck wrapped around a small, upper-story sunroom, both of which were blasted by so much hot afternoon sun they were nearly unusable in the summer months for which they were built. The deck accommodated a grill but little else, and a two-level staircase ate up valuable space on the north side. Beneath the deck, clutter tended to gather around the single hammock and a few pieces of rarely-used outdoor furniture. The plain, concrete patio was uninviting, its only real use being a way to enter and exit the home’s sliding glass doors.
Although the home’s interior space had been designed for the entertaining our clients loved to do, the exterior space fell disappointingly short. They wanted to create an easeful, inviting space, ready for relaxing and entertaining even in inclement weather.
Our remodeling goals:
- Build a flexible, multi-use outdoor space for relaxing and entertaining
- Extend the home’s modern interior style into the exterior design
- Create flow among each area of the space, from inside to outside
- Make the space comfortable to use year-round, even in the hot afternoon sun
The Solution: Reimagine the Deck for Year-Round Outdoor Entertaining
Creating expansive but interconnected spaces
The new design called for extending the deck to the north and west, dividing it into distinct but connected zones for a variety of activities. We replaced the existing staircase to make better use of the space and incorporated the tiny sunroom into a larger, enclosed outdoor room, subtly obscuring the line between indoors and out. Below the deck, we removed the concrete slab and replaced it with smaller, interlocking blocks finished to look like stone, which ties together the entire length of both the covered and uncovered spaces.
The homeowners were able to suspend two, adjacent hammocks below the new deck extension. Lounge seating nestles into the shaded area below the new outdoor room, while a new built-in, stone firepit invites family and friends to gather in the open air.
Before we started laying the paving, we also re-graded the area and our partners at Arkenau Landscaping installed a retaining wall on the north side of the home, as well as a terraced wall to the south for layered plantings. The new retaining walls increase privacy and create a sense of intimacy around the whole space.
The size of the new deck and patio areas are more proportionate to the home’s size, providing a perpendicular counterpoint to both the two-story vertical and sweeping horizontal stretch of the western wall.
An outdoor room for comfortable entertaining (despite Midwestern weather)
The upper deck’s semi-enclosed space flexibly stays open to the air or provides shelter from both the hot summer sun and the cooler fall (and even winter) weather. Using a remote, its screen walls can be lowered to block sun and wind, then retract into the ceiling when milder weather tempts inhabitants to enjoy the breezes and view. As an added convenience, we installed a matching door on the north side of the enclosure to make it easy to move freely from it to the uncovered part of the deck when the screens are lowered.
In addition to building recessed infrared heaters into the ceiling for enjoying the room on cold days, one of our talented partners installed an outdoor fireplace. The custom-made honeycomb wood-grain tile, adds an unexpected texture and visual warmth to the physical warmth of the glass stone fire. Ceiling fans on both the upper and lower levels of the deck help circulate air for additional comfort, as does a fan near the grilling and dining area.
Finally, we wrapped the whole home in an attractive, weather- and fade-resistant DryVit exterior finish in an eye-catching terra cotta.
Focusing on details that make outdoor living feel magical
We love including touches that add a bit of magic to our renovation projects. For this outdoor renovation, vertical wall sconces add soft illumination to unify the different groupings, while the glow of post lights subtly define the outer edge of the lower space.
Instead of a traditional, picketed deck railing, we opted for the lighter, more open feel of cables. The look better suits the overall exterior design.
Sometimes what you don’t see is as important as what you do see. The four massive columns supporting the upper deck also conceal downspouts, which are routed underground and out into the yard. This feat of engineering required a lot of foresight and planning as we built the deck, but the clean look was well worth the effort.
Our clients now have a stylish, year-round outdoor retreat from which to stargaze by the fire or watch lightning bugs drift across the yard.