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'cause it's easier being a green sinner than a green saint . . .

Re-Designing the Deck

You may have already read that we're tearing apart the deck, for a variety of reasons. As is, it's a large space, but it's not very well-defined. Here's what the deck looked like to begin with (click to embiggen).

The original design of the deck

It's right outside the back door, just off the kitchen. It's large, spanning most of the width of the yard, and has two sets of steps, one down on the street side (hidden on the far side of this illustration) and another you can see here, which go down to the yard and a little side deck that holds the grill. At the very least, we knew the too-high railing had to go: it blocked the whole view of the back yard from the house.

Deck without the railing

Better already. Beyond that, Jimmy's original idea was to keep the same basic footprint for the deck, but step down various sections to break it into several "rooms". The porch area right outside the back door would stay as is. This would then step down to an intermediate level where the dining table would go. Finally, a couple more steps would send us down to ground level, where there would be a patio in the footprint of the remaining deck.

The first draft of the redesign

We liked this idea, but after inspecting the underlying support structure, this would have taken a lot of work. More time and money than we were really prepared to spend when there was a much easier solution:

Take 2 of the redesign

This option leaves the porch section and the dining area at the same level, then steps down to the patio. This was a great compromise, as we felt it kept a lot of the same structure of three separate "rooms" but was a lot easier to manage.

In fact, we started to get ideas from our compromise. The original support structure for the deck had a large beam running the entire length along the back (the side closest to us in the illustration). We thought, wouldn't it be cool to use that as a sort of "railing" for the patio, and maybe put some planter boxes on top?

Work with what you've got

Then the creative juices really got rolling, as we started to think about two things: a new railing, and what to do with the large vertical expanse of the porch wall?

We didn't want a traditional picket railing -- we were looking for something a little more unusual. But at the same time, we didn't want something that would be out of character for the 1920s American Foursquare. We ended up thinking of something like this (I just drew one section here to get the idea of how it would look):

Idea for railing

It's a series of small, horizontal slats. It's different from the standard, boring railings that everyone else has, but its clean lines and sharp corners go with the character of the house and its other woodwork. And, we can use the same motif for trellises and other elements -- a great solution for that big expanse of wall going up the side of the porch.

So, that's been our design process so far. I think there are a couple of important lessons here:

  • Sometimes, you have to compromise on a design idea because it's just too complicated or expensive. That's OK -- try to keep the character of your design while simplifying how you'll actually execute it.
  • Figure out what you have to work with and embrace it, rather than working against it. You can find some surprises that ultimately improve your design.

We're currently still tearing apart the old deck structure, and hopefully the nice weather will hold for tomorrow so we can get some more accomplished.

(PS: Interested in how I made these drawings? Find out in this post.)

Deck, DesignJonathan