Elon Musk can have Mars; for me, I just want a patch of lawn in my backyard and a tarted-up deck for three-season merry-making. And I finally got it! Two years ago, after replacing all 25 dreary windows in my Georgian house in Toronto’s west end, I decided to create a cut-out to the backyard. The sliding door was a game-changer, allowing access to the garden. The only hitch? It was two feet up. This meant jumping down to the existing deck (sad and on dirt), which wasn’t graceful nor easy, especially when carting a couple of cocktails. And so the deck project took hold. It took two weeks to build alongside Jeff Walsh of Rocwal Design & Build. And I learned a lot along the way. Here’s how my deck remodel came together.
When Lighting Strikes
Don’t forget to add an electrical plug to your new deck. So glad I did! Lighting is a mood-maker, creating a dreamy ambience. It extends your deck’s use into the night; if you’re adding stairs, it’s a safety feature, ensuring no one goes toppling off the thing. Mine defines the perimeter of the deck, with two lights strategically placed below the glass panels to cast a glow on them and ones in the steps to shine light out into the garden. Black string lights add another luminous layer. My only regret? I should have added more inset lighting to the deck floor since they’re visible from the sitting areas — I don’t get to enjoy the others as much.
Good-Bye Aged Deck On Dirt
The old deck rested right on the dirt. To access it, you’d have to jump out the window. Stairs might have done the trick — or a slide. Fun! But I decided to splash out on a raised 12 x 12-foot deck with two glass panels inset on the railings to allow sight lines into the garden, as well as a privacy fence so I couldn’t see what the neighbours were having for dinner and vice-versa.
Out With the Old, In With The New
Consider sight lines when planning a deck. While my beloved lilac put on quite a show in spring with its fragrant purple flowers — that’s the spiky shrub in front of the Japanese maple — it was sacrificed because it was in the way. We’re planning to plant hardy perennials to work around the new deck, and fill in the area with a native ground cover.
It’s All About That Base, Bout That Base
Contractor Jeff Walsh, and his sister, Samantha, as well as Tony and Pamela (both not pictured)constructed the deck in 30-degree heat. Bravo! The joists are pressure-treated MicroPro Sienna. I like the budget-friendly price point (relatively speaking) and rugged texture, though I know the lovely honey hue will fade in a few seasons and have to be stained.
Budget For Extras
Always, always have a reservoir of funds in case you decide mid-way to add to your deck’s design. Originally, the stairs were a small set that led to the garden. But we ended up switching up and spreading them along the deck. The stairs could act as seating at a gathering, and a spot for small pretty planters.
Privacy Fences Make Good Neighbours
You know what’s picturesque? Wet wood. This was taken after a sudden, violent flash of rain. I love the grainy detail and the faint smell of wood. Ok, back to the serious stuff: We went with slim straps of horizontal wood on the privacy wood to reinforce the contemporary vibe. And we went tight, so it was truly private. Oh, and don’t be a schmuck — always finish your neighbour’s fence in detail on the flipside as well.
Get Yourself a Tony
This is my other half, Tony, assembling patio furniture, which luckily was easy to build. That’s the glass panel behind him that took over a month to arrive. Save yourself the hassle and consider other options: airplane wire could have worked, or maybe spaced-out horizontal pieces of wood. Despite the wait, I love the glass because you can see right into the garden.
Everybody Must Get Stoned
Once a tangled mess of plants, this area is now an oasis for a lounge chair. My neighbour Nelson joined Tony over an afternoon, tamping down limestone remnants that were in the garden to make it level. Then they filled in between-spots with gravel. A mix of materials — in this case cedar and limestone — creates a dynamic look to an outdoor space.
No Red Wine Ever!
OK, so seeing the deck come together was awesome, but you know what’s better? Buying stuff for it. I purposely stayed away from chunky wicker or anything too embellished because I wanted a clean, Miami vibe. This set is from — drumroll, please — Home Depot. It’s chic and contemporary. And I love it to pieces, except no one is drinking merlot here ever. The mustard pillows and subtly patterned rug are from HomeSense. They establish a living-room feel — key because we plan to hang here well into the fall.
A Word on Furniture Placement
The chairs have a striking silhouette that make them look super swish. Because they’re boxy, I measured my deck to make sure they’d sit far enough away from the edge. Aways measure your pieces before buying. I originally wanted a four-piece dining set, but it felt tight, and besides a lounge-y vibe just felt right. Who doesn’t like eating off their laps?
Forget Manscaping, Try Tablescaping
Any deck remodel is downright boring without jazzy accessories. Get yourself a sculptural, organic-looking vase that has some heft so it won’t blow off the patio. This gorgeous black one from EQ3 will look even better when filled with Billy Buttons. I recommend a tray — this is rattan and Mother of Pearl, from HomeSense — to keep everything neat and tidy.
This Snazzy Stool Doubles as a Seat And Sculpture
Accessories bring a deck to life. One of my favourite pieces is this quirky three-footed Bongo Stool from EQ3. It’s perfect for plants, or an extra seat in a pinch — my favourite is to use is as a low drinks table. The grey cement planter from HomeSense adds height and drama. Play around with your planters and other accessories until they feel right! Looking for more ideas to decorate your deck? Check out this DIY palette herb garden.
Related: 55 Beautiful Backyard Ideas
Storage: One of Life’s Small Luxuries
This last-minute addition just made sense. Jeff suggested having access underneath, which is perfect on a skirted deck. More places to shove items out of sight!
A Three-Season Hang-Out
I’ve been reading, working, entertaining and using the deck both during the day and the night. Our deck remodel was totally worth it. Next up: patio heaters for fall. Only a snowstorm will keep me off of it. Then again, snowmen look kinda cool on a deck, no?
Add Character With Vintage Chairs
Shake up matchy-matchy deck furniture with vintage pieces. This 1950s pressed metal chair is a classic, but the peeling paint had to go. Here it is in the garage getting prepped with a brisk scrubbing for its makeover with spray paint.
And the Charming Revamp!
The chair turned out amazing, bumpy bits and all! I used Breezeway, a light blue from Behr’s new line of premium spray paint. They have tons of thrilling colours in the line-up, like Flirt Alert (a punchy red) and Electric Grape. The paint is rust-resistant for the outdoors, too. Phew! Well, that’s a wrap. I’ll be hanging in this chair all afternoon if you need anything.
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