Use the Principles of Design on Your Outdoor Deck

Don’t just put your furniture out for the summer and walk away, spend a little time making your deck an outdoor room that you will wnat to spend time in and invite friends over to enjoy! 


I  have to admit that it didn’t take long for me to convince Matt that actually decorating an outdoor space was a good idea. You really only have to see one before and-after-scenario, and you’re hooked! To make that happen is easy, in fact, the process is very similar to decorating an interior room.


A boring, dark, uninviting deck like this one is the perfect “before” deck.  It gets you inspired to do something about it to make it welcoming, bright and functional. So let’s go through the steps so you can follow along and get your deck in tip top shape this year.

Matt always begins our decorative projects by scoping out the shell, or the bones of the room. For a deck, you may want to begin in the spring, when the outdoor furniture is still stored away. Begin by checking the structure of the deck. Are there any boards that need replacing? Any painting or staining that needs to be freshened up?


In one of our recent projects, we took this opportunity to add a new handrail all the way around the deck. To make it stand out from the decking and blend in better with the house, we painted the spindles in the home’s trim color, a white, and the handrail in the house color, a cool gray.

The next step is to get your research underway and begin thinking about function. To research our deck, we did a couple of things.

First, we visited model homes in our area, as well as the homes of friends whose decks we already admired. This was a great way to actually be on a deck and get a sense of how the decor felt.

Next, we bought all the deck and outdoor living space magazines we could find. This gave us tons of ideas for color, furniture style, furniture arrangement and planters and planting materials.deck3

Once the dust had cleared from ripping out so many pages, we organized our collection of tear sheets and started thinking about how our deck should function. Dining al fresco, grilling, rocking and reading became the major functions. To determine where the seating should be in relation to the grill, we stoked it up and got a feel for the direction the smoke would travel on any normal day. Once this was established, it was clear that the dining area would have to be at the far end of the deck. It was a defined destination, so that made sense.


Next, the grill was put in position along the railing instead of against the house, of course, and so the rocking chairs were closest to the door to the house. With the furniture in place and the deck functioning well, it was time to start the real decorating. We began with the large additions, which were still geared towards function.


This is when the umbrella was added so the table could be used at all times of the day. Then we brought in a coordinating side table to put in between the rocking chairs. Now this area will be nice for reading and drinking iced tea.


Across from the rocking chairs we added a bench. It was located right as the steps go down from the deck, and beach towels could be folded and handed out from there. The bench could serve as additional seating or used to rest a plate or oven mitts while grilling.

The last items we added were a combination of pieces that would stay outside all the time, and materials that would survive better if they were pulled indoors in the evening or when the deck wasn’t being used.


The items that would stay outside included all sorts of pretty potted arrangements. We used everything from flower boxes screwed into the top of the handrail to small model bicycles with attached wagons that carried a bouquet of pansies.


The additions that weren’t really weather-worthy included a jute rug in a fun terra cotta color, and a layered effect with the table dressings made up of fun striped placemats with coordinating napkins.

The finishing touch was the hammock between two large shade trees. It was the clincher to a fun weekend afternoon. The family for whom we designed the deck was thrilled and at the same time depressed about their new outdoor space. They felt it was perfect and would satisfy so many of their entertaining and relaxation needs, but there was once thing we couldn’t do for them: make summer last all year long!


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