Any deck no matter what shape or style will be an outdoor living space that will be a bridge linking the house and yard. A well designed deck will resemble such a bridge since it is suspended over the ground and because it balances the amenities of the indoors with those of the outdoors. Beside the basic elements of shape, mass, color and texture there are specific ways in which to ensure that the deck makes a graceful transition.
Where possible it is wise to avoid the use of long sections of stairway. It is more effective to use a series of landings or platforms on multilevels to step down in a manner that feels more natural and graceful. The challenge in many cases is to ensure that each different level is a usable and visually pleasing space. This can be solved by making levels cascade rather than just progressing downward in a straight line like huge steps.
Cascading levels would mean that the various levels or platforms would fall off each other at different points or even at different angles. Even if it were necessary to construct a normal stairway it could appear more appealing by simply making each step wider and each tread deeper. This would be true because a normal 36 inch wide stairway begins to resemble a ladder when there are more than 6 steps.
A stairway leading down from the deck could exit onto the lawn but a patio or path at the bottom of those same steps would be a more effective design idea. Materials such as bricks, concrete pavers or colorful crushed stone which can echo the house are good choices since they help to strike a nice balance. Materials for the patio can be both formal and rustic ranging from rough landscaping timbers to tiles set with mortar. Natural stone and brick which are midway between formal and rustic often work well. The lines of the patio should be planned carefully since they are a continuation of the lines within the deck which in turn should be tied to the lines of the house.
The configuration of plants is another element to be considered in making the deck a transition element between home and yard. Foliage is ideal as long as it is kept healthy. Almost any color combination looks great. A planter made of the same material as the deck filled with the same plants used in the yard definitely creates a link between the deck and the yard. In addition if the planter harmonizes in some way with the exterior of the house then all 3 elements are linked together.
Trees can be effectively used to assist the deck in blending into its site location. A tree close to the house can be integrated into the deck design by building the deck around it. This will allow the homeowner to retain the shade advantages provided by the tree while helping the deck link the house and yard. Trees near the edges of the deck work well also forming a type of arch from yard to house with the deck placed between them in the middle.
Outbuildings such as gazebos and sheds as well as play structures can be linked to the deck and the house. Using the same material as the deck for gazebo or shed roofing is one possibility for doing this. Using the same paint color as on the house is another way of linking these structures to the deck. In the case of the play structure it would simply be a matter of constructing it with the same materials used in the building of the deck.
The best designed decks take 1 or 2 great ideas and then work out variations on those general themes. The theme could be a gently curved line that is repeated in several locations such as the railings, a path next to the deck or the edge of the decking. A unique decking pattern might have 3 or 4 sections that break off from each other at similar angles. If the deck has a large hexagon shaped projection, a smaller version of it could be repeated elsewhere on the deck or it could be echoed by the addition of an hexagonal table or bench on the deck.
Great decks usually have stunning focal points that immediately grab attention. A beautiful tree, a lovely view or an inviting pool can be such focal points already exiting in the yard. If one does not exist then it can be supplied by adding a hot tub, a series of flower boxes or a huge potted plant. The most important thing is to position the deck and the furniture on it in such a way as to accentuate that new focal point and further enable the deck to be a transition point between the house and the yard.
The ideal result of installing a new deck on the property will be that it is not seen as a separate and distinct entity but rather it is an integral part of the total design of the whole property and is essentially an effect link or transition between the home and the yard.
Richard Vande Sompel is a professional deck builder of 35 years and over 850
decks built and is the author of "How to Plan, Design and Build a Deck from
Start to Finish". To Discover More About
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