Over the past decade, the owners upgraded this 22-year-old Atlanta house section by section, transforming it into a stylish, comfortable home and a gracious place for entertaining — at least on the inside. Out back the unsightly deck languished, gradually deteriorating. A couple of years ago the homeowner turned her attention to that deck.
“It was dilapidated,” she says, and “we were concerned that it was becoming unsafe.” The time had come to bring the outdoor living area up to the standard of the rest of the house.
Architect and custom outdoor living specialist Rick Goldstein, co-owner of Mosaic Group, a full-service design-build firm in Atlanta, sees this pattern often.
The versatile outdoor structure with deck, porch and patio accommodates casual, family activities and indoor-outdoor entertaining. Its graceful lines and fine finishes complement the house.
Photo: Mosaic Group and Gregg Willet Photography
“If a deck misses several maintenance cycles and appears beyond repair, people tend to stop maintaining it,” he says. “Then, when it looks awful, they decide that it has to be completely redone.”
The owners of this house asked Goldstein to design a new deck and reinvent the entire back-of-house environment. The request came not a moment too soon.
“The deck was in dire need of maintenance and
repair,” Goldstein says. “It was close to the end of its useful life, it devalued the house, and it took away from the usefulness of the yard” because nobody wanted to be out there. The patio underneath, steps from the swimming pool, was nothing more than a concrete slab. Surrounding shrubs had grown large, “visually disconnecting parts of the yard.”
The clients wanted to tie the outdoor areas together and extend the indoor living space outside. They wanted a place they could enjoy as a family and when entertaining guests. They wanted the design to respect the traditional style of the house. And they required that the structure be low-maintenance.
“We didn't want to be a slave to upkeep,” says the homeowner.
Goldstein presented several design options. Mosaic's large outdoor living showroom — which displays full-scale porches, decks, outdoor kitchens, and fireplaces — helped the clients visualize the design as it progressed. After carefully considering cost and products, the clients settled on a $160,000 plan featuring a multi-zone deck, a screened porch and an enhanced, ground-level patio.
While open to outdoor breezes and views, the screen porch is designed as a stylish entertainment space.
The old deck was large — 700 square feet — but uninviting. With long planks streaming the full length, “it reminded me of a bowling alley,” says the homeowner. Goldstein shortened the deck to 540 square feet, making room for a 260-square-foot porch at one end, and visually segmented the deck itself into attractive gathering places. Angled floorboards define two “rooms” on the deck surface. A shallow deck bay echoes the profile of the kitchen bay, extending the deck surface while adding table space and design appeal.
When people gather, they find corners for conversation, says Goldstein. The bay supplies conversation corners in the heart of the outdoor space.
Goldstein specified wood-look composite decking that is rot proof and easy to maintain. The deck rails combine slim, aluminum balusters; easy-care PVC posts in large and small sizes to organize the space; and elegantly curved top rails crafted from durable ipe. The color and detailing of the newels complement the tone and architecture of the house, and low-voltage sconces provide soft, atmospheric night lighting.
“A lot of times,” says Goldstein, “people want covered porches off the kitchen because it's the hearth of the house.”
On this house, however, a kitchen porch would have blocked sunlight into the room and become part of the traffic pattern for kids heading outside to the swimming pool. So instead Goldstein placed the new porch at the other end of the deck. An elegant space designed to seat guests at dinner parties and a tranquil retreat for the homeowners, it connects to the living area via French doors.
A vaulted ceiling makes the 300-square-foot porch feel large and airy. Screened openings rise to the ceiling peak, providing views of the sky. A north-facing skylight brings more views and light, but not extra heat from the summer sun.
“The ceiling fan is a must-have for Atlanta,” says Goldstein.
Heavy timber beams in the tongue-and-groove pine ceiling give the room a “refined rustic” ambiance, he says. The elegant flooring is tiger wood, a dark, dense, virtually maintenance-free Brazilian wood that was laid tongue-and-groove with no need for screws or nails. To offset the light wood ceiling, Goldstein specified ipe for the rafters, roof beams and wall cross pieces.
The main crossbeam along the walls is standard door height, enabling the deck door visually to disappear into the expanse of screen. Transom-height beams also wrap cleanly around the room, providing structural support without obstructing the view. Locating the porch door in a corner clears most of the room perimeter for furniture placement.
The conversation piece and focal point of the room is an indoor/outdoor fireplace. Framed in a handsome granite surround, the raised fireplace with insulated glass doors lends heat and a cozy atmosphere to the porch and to the master bedroom on the other side of the shared wall.
The porch rails mimic those along the deck, providing design continuity between the two areas. With white columns on the outer perimeter and an architectural palette like that of the house, “the porch looks like it was always part of the home,” says the homeowner.
Goldstein upgraded the patio under the deck with PVC posts and a series of arches that echo the gentle curve of the railings above. Sconces light the patio, fans circulate the air and double French doors brighten the space that the kids use as a recreation room. A waterproof ceiling system keeps the patio dry; rainwater on the deck is captured and channeled to downspouts and underground.
The patio is “no longer leftover space,” says Goldstein. “It's a very inexpensive usable area that is much more inviting.”
In phase two of the outdoor upgrade, cobblestone-look pavers will be installed around the swimming pool and across the patio for a finished, unified look. Also part of phase two, a large, masonry outdoor fireplace combines with the swimming pool to become a recreation destination for the clients' teenagers and a great place for summer cookouts. New plantings tame the yard and enhance views.
Next on the agenda: an outdoor kitchen. “It's a possibility,” the homeowner says. With the new outdoor living space, “we are able to enjoy the quality of living here and enjoy entertaining,” she says. An outdoor kitchen would make a good thing even better.