Home and Garden What’s Up? Magazine
Divine Decks & Perfect Patios
APR. 17, 2020
What if you could rub Aladdin’s lamp or wave a magic wand and your home would expand by one additional room? How would that room serve you? Would it be a space to get away from the demands of family and work, a place to nap and daydream? Visualize feet up, pillows, and comfy hammock or lounge chair. Would your new room be an entertainment area, a place where friends and family would gather to eat and talk? Would you enjoy hosting cocktails at sunset for a few friends and neighbors or firing up the grill for a summer barbecue?
Where is this extra room, you ask? Imagine your deck or patio as a bonus room. April is the perfect time to examine your outdoor spaces and decide what you have available to you.
Before getting too involved in the pleasures of choosing paint, pillows, furniture, and lighting, take a serious look at the structural integrity of your deck or patio. Is the deck fundamentally sound? Are the railings secure and safe? Do you need to add electrical fixtures, perhaps even some plumbing for a small sink? Is the area sufficient in size? Would your patio benefit from some extra pavers or perhaps a platform added for a small dining area? If you’re unsure, call a professional. Safety is not to be ignored. Expand
Advantages & Limitations
Once your outdoor-room is deemed safe, take some time to think about how the area has been used in the past. Were you happy with the comfort level? Did the patio become a dumping ground for sports equipment and dirty shoes? You may have to plan for a storage area where that equipment can reside without taking over your outdoor living area. What about sun and shade? When is that patio in direct sun? Do mature trees shade the deck? Don’t forget about rain and wind. How will inclement weather affect your deck and its furnishings?
Once you’ve refreshed your mental picture of that patio, let your imagination entertain ways you might enjoy your out-of-doors area even more.
When we think about the advantages or limitations of a living space, it’s possible to turn a limitation into an advantage with just a little creative planning.
Location: Does the sun beat down on your patio with its southern exposure? A perfect setting, perhaps for your relaxing spa. Imagine sunbathing in private behind a display of succulents and cacti, beneath a striped awning and decorative palms.
Time: Only a month until you host that baby shower for 30 guests? May is a lovely month for showing off your garden’s azaleas, rhododendrons, tulips, and daffodils. With a quick coat of deck paint and some new furniture, you’ll have the perfect setting for your guests.
Budget: Can you budget for a few new pieces of all-weather furniture? Or, will it be wiser to buy some paint and freshen up the table and chairs you’ve had on the patio for years. Adding a few pillows and some new plants may be just the solution you’re looking for.
Size: It is possible that your deck, which runs the entire length of your house, may seem ungainly. Do people find it difficult to gather there? Like any large room, think about breaking up the space into areas devoted to activities; a table for cards or games in one area, a few comfy chairs and an ottoman clustered for reading or conversation, and a third area for outdoor cooking.
The Big Picture
Okay, you’ve evaluated the safety and sturdiness of your deck or patio. You’ve thought about Nature’s impact on the area—sun, rain, wind, vegetation. As you begin your repurposing of that outdoor area, allow yourself to think again about that patio room as a space you will use more often if it meets your needs and expectations.
When designing the layout of your deck consider the aerial view from upstairs windows or other upstairs decks. The use of pure form in your layout will provide an aesthetically pleasing geometry when viewed from above.
Go upstairs and look down at your deck. If there were four walls, how would you decorate that area? Imagine looking at your patio from your neighbors’ second-floor window. What will be seen? The question of privacy looms here. You may want to use awnings, curtains, shutter-screens, and plants to provide privacy if neighbors and casual strollers are too near. A clever and attractive awning can be constructed from painters’ drop cloths. You can add a design or leave them white. Drape the cloths over bamboo or curtain rods to shade all or part of the deck. Sheer curtains that flow with the breezes provide privacy and a diaphanous mood. You can buy ready-made stands in different lengths to hold your curtains, or install shower rods in some areas. Another option might be to purchase wooden screens, usually 3-part hinged, that can be set-up and taken down as needed. Tall Florida shutters hinged together add a tropical feel, and can be louvered open or closed for breezes and privacy. And don’t overlook some of your beautiful, potted plants. Bring them outside too. Let them bask in the sunshine. Clustered, they’ll make a natural screen to protect you from prying eyes. Like the screens, plants can be easily moved and repositioned as circumstances demand. And, in stormy weather, they can be taken in and safely stowed.
So, looking down once again from our second story, we’ve established walls for privacy and definition. What about the floor? Those wooden deck planks, would they look better stained or painted? Maintenance is always an issue—the less, the better, I say! You want to enjoy your new room, not spend all your time keeping it looking fresh and tidy. So, choose a deck floor treatment that will be easy to have underfoot. If the deck is already finished or has a permanent treatment, you might have fun considering the addition of area rugs. Bold geometric designs? Or cool colors? Simple, old-fashioned, woven sisal area rugs are popular for a reason. You’ll probably want to avoid textured rugs. Dust, soil, and mud will eventually challenge your rugs, and cleaning them should be easy.
Your patio may be stone or pavers. You may want to give them a good scrubbing. Mold can dull the patina of slate. You might want to have a small rug beneath the café table area or the comfy reading chair and ottoman to differentiate those areas.
And, speaking of “under foot,” what about pets—yours or your neighbors? Will there be dogs and cats sharing this outdoor living space? If so, there are bound to be accidents. Be sure your floor treatment can handle a good scrubbing and that it doesn’t trap odors, as some material might.
Well, here we are. That dream-room is beginning to come together. Maybe it’s do-able! You can see the layout of the deck’s activity areas, or the patio’s theme. You’ve figured out the privacy issue, and now you’re looking at your budget. Will you want simple, clean lines? No clutter? Or, do you want lots of personal touches on the interesting tables you found at the consignment shop? Do you want to plan for some storage cabinets, perhaps old wooden or clean, plastic ones, to hold the sports equipment, jigsaw puzzles, and patio-designated dishes and glasses? Look for an interesting cabinet or stackable boxes that can keep everything reasonably clean and dry until they’re needed.
Have fun locating the perfect table and sofa. Add some lanterns and throw pillows. Maybe there’s even room for a hammock and stand for that afternoon nap. This part is easy. The only cautions I would offer are (1) consider size. Don’t buy pieces that are too large for the space. And, (2) mind your budget. A few, well-designed and manufactured pieces will be wise investments. The pieces you use on your deck or patio will get hard use from people and from Nature. Choose material designed to take rain and wind, and an occasional good scrubbing. You don’t want to end up spending too much time on maintenance.
A Final Tip: Beat the Bugs
One final tip for your new room. You may not want to screen in your patio or deck, but you also may not want to spend your outdoor time swatting mosquitoes and flies. Yes, I know, Citronella candles and torches work, sort of. But I may have a better solution for you. Pedestal fans! Place a pedestal fan, or two or three, near seating areas. When you’re outside, turn on the fans. The breeze they produce will be pleasing to humans and hazardous to bugs! Flies and mosquitoes will be whisked away! You’ll be free of those pesky intruders. (Now, unfortunately, I have no remedy for ants. They just go with summer, I’m afraid.)
It’s April! We can smell the earth awakening, see the buds forming, hear the birds singing, feel the sun warmer on our faces. Soon we’ll be sketching new designs for some of our flower beds, opening up those promising seed packets, and beginning the bustle of gardening. But for now, there’s still time to sit quietly and plan how to enhance that outdoor space you may have been overlooking—your deck or patio.