Creating Deck Style
Your deck needs to be practical, of course, but your deck-design process should go beyond the merely functional. You’ll enjoy your outdoor living space more when its style appeals to you and reflects your personality. One of the quickest ways to develop an understanding of style— and to get you going in a direction that reflects your taste—is to split the subject into two categories: formal and informal.
Formal and informal
The chief difference between formal and informal styles lies in how lines, shapes, angles, and materials are used.
- Formal designs employ straight lines, right angles, regular geometric shapes, and decorative objects arranged in even numbers. For example, a formal layout might featurea rectangular ground-level deck surface surrounded by rectangular planting beds. Pairs of classic urns or columns might enhance a deck in this style because formal designs tend toward symmetry. In many formal designs, if you imagine a line down the center, you’ll find that one side mirrors the other exactly.
- Curved lines, irregular and often free-flowing shapes, and odd-numbered groupings characterize informal decks. The goal is aStyle can be further categorized as traditional or contemporary.
- A traditional deck can evoke a feeling of a formal courtyard using decorative items such as urns, fountains, columns, and lush foliage to help achieve its effect. Think “Greek” or “Roman” and you’ll conjure up an approximate image of what “traditional” means. A traditional deck usually comes dressed in formal lines, but informal styles can be set traditionally as well. For example, in a formal garden, you might find steps built with brick set with clean, orderly edges. In an informal traditional setting, the same steps might be made of dry-stacked stone.
- Contemporary decks are cool, serene, and comfortable. A contemporary deck would be more likely to include bold shapes and colors, sleek lines, and unusual combinations of materials. Decorative items in a contemporary design tend toward the abstract—emphasizing color, texture, and light instead of representational forms.
Finding your style
The best way to discover your own personal style is to take a tour of the neighborhood and make mental notes of things you like. Jot down your impressions when you get home and file them in a manila folder. Clipping photos and diagrams from magazines also is helpful. Put them in the folder too.
When you are ready to make your final design decisions, take your notes and clippings out of the folder and spread them on a table so you can see everything at once. Discard what doesn’t appeal to you and keep the rest. Use the elements of that style in your decking patterns, fences, and overall landscape plan.
Regional elements can also add interest to a deck design or help make your deck a world of its own. Bring in unusual accents from distant places, especially items that won’t require extra cost and maintenance. A single bonsai tree won’t transform your deck into a Japanese garden, but it will provide a harmonious contrast to a Southwest theme. Adobe pavers and cacti are inexpensive and easy to care for and will add a touch of the Southwest to a Midwest design scheme.
A successful deck design combines all its various elements into a unified whole. Achieving that harmony requires an artful blending of many diverse elements, primarily the shape of the deck, the decking pattern, and the style of railings and balusters. All of these elements give the deck its form, mass, and texture, and define its relationship with the house and yard. classic cedar or charming, old-fashioned wicker.
Guidelines for Design
You need not feel constrained by rigid rules of style. Combine classic and modern styles to create a deck with old-style charm and modern convenience. Mix in different regional accents to spice up the outdoor space with surprises.
UNITY AND CONTRAST: Create a sense of continuity between your house and deck by using similar materials, colors, shapes, and patterns in both areas. Use small, carefully placed elements to contrast color, shape, or texture. Gardens, edgings, walls, colored concrete, stone, tiles, bricks, logs, gates, furnishings, lights, and decorative pieces all add pleasing and lively accents.
Interweave trees and plants in your deck design, or contain them on the perimeter of the yard with edging, fences, hedges, or planters. Don’t crowd the paved areas leading to your deck—paving is for people.
As you consider various plants, think about how their textures, shapes, colors, and mature size will complement your structural materials.
CENTER STAGE: Arrange walls, plants, and walkways so that they lead to a focal point, a destination—any object or view you want to call attention to. Place your main deck furniture around focal points to give them greater definition. If your deck is large or is made up of many smaller areas, position smaller groupings of furnishings and decorative elements in ways that won’t clutter the central area. How will you know when the design you’ve created is harmonious? It will look soothing rather than jarring. It will present a cohesive blend more than a jumbled clutter of parts, and its general impression will be inviting and comfortable.
The lion’s share of any deck is its surface—the decking itself. But just because it’s flat doesn’t mean the surface has to be humdrum. Decking patterns offer countless options for design that can improve the style of your landscape and make the deck more attractive. Even the simplest platform deck can get a big dose of style with an unusual decking pattern. Choosing patterns should be an essential part of your planning, and your choice should be indicated in the sketches you’ll make as your plans evolve.
Like other design elements, decking patterns bring either a formal or an informal sense of style to an outdoor living space. The style depends on the patterns in which the planks are laid, the finish of the wood, and auxiliary features of the deck, such as the railings and baluster configurations.
The more geometric and highly finished the wood, the more formal the impact.
Allowed to weather to a soft gray, parallel cedar decking will generally look casual. Well-sanded and oiled (or stained) decking will result in a more formal appearance. You’ll get an even fancier look with planks laid diagonally or with their ends mitered to create a box pattern. Short boards can be set in sections that resemble parquet flooring.