The most common renovations we are requested to help clients with are kitchens and decks. I was reminded of the importance of outdoor “rooms” while at a meeting of my journalling group last month. Each month we meet at one of our homes to exchange ideas about furthering our creative pursuits through journalling. We used to meet at coffee shops but found that the noise made conversation challenging. On a sunny September morning we met at D’s house in West Vancouver. With the temperature at 21°C we took the opportunity to sit outside on her deck. It’s a humble deck about 8′ wide by 12′ long with a round table placed at one end overlooking the garden and the distant view of the harbour beyond. The other end of the deck faces the street, but all indications of neighbors and cars are hidden by dense foliage which wraps around two sides, forming a natural screen. With its direct southern orientation, this deck is perfectly situated to be used for sunny morning coffee, afternoon tea and evening cocktails and barbecues. The table is always in the sun. Its modest size comfortably accommodates both a single person capturing a quiet moment to themselves, or a larger family gathering to exchange stories of their day, while sharing a summer picnic. With a table umbrella to moderate the sun and a gas heater to provide heat on cool evenings, it is the perfect three season outdoor room. With the simple addition of a covered area to accommodate the barbecue and tuck in the table, the deck would be usable year round!
Architecturally speaking, think of your deck as an outdoor room with a floor (the deck surface) and walls (the railings and the wall of the adjacent house). Choose an inviting deck surface and add an outdoor rug to define a sitting area. The railings should be higher and more solid where you want privacy and more open where you want to see the views. The building code regulates the height of railings and often the top rail is right in your view line when sitting. Two solutions are 1. To use a tempered glass railing with no top rail or 2. To create a stepped deck so that when you are seated on the upper level you look right over the lower level railing.
Add lighting on the adjacent house wall or on railing posts to allow night time use and choose lights with a soft glow or downlights which will add a romantic atmosphere to your twilight dinners.
For year round use consider a covered area large enough to house your barbeque and at least a small sized table. Ideally the cover should be integrated with the roof form and style of the house.
If you’re building a new deck, locate your deck so that at least a portion of it will receive a good amount of sun. There’s nothing like basking in the warmth of the sun on those cool shoulder season days!