Natural Path Landscaping: Creating A Natural Work of Art Right Outside Your Door
We design decks with clean profiles, transparent guardrails, substantial vertical posts and a clear understanding of the proper relationship between a deck and patio. On this page we tell the story of several stunning deck projects and a few that took interesting turns from deck improvement to deck replacement with elegant, artistic patios.
Project #1: Complex deck and patio
This photo of the completed project shows a double-level deck descending to a bluestone patio, providing the needed functionality and the desired look. The entire area under the deck was graded and covered with a 3-inch thick layer of rounded brownstone to eliminate unwanted growth and contribute to the clean look underneath. Twelve 12"x12" granite posts embedded at least 4' into the ground support the decks.
Already happy with our first two projects-a front walkway and terraced garden walls-the homeowner asked if we would be interested in designing a new deck for the back of his house. The photos that follow tell the rest of the story.
During our initial meeting, we determined that a smaller upper deck was needed. The upper deck would serve as an exit from the kitchen door, and would then descend to a larger, lower deck. This lower deck would exit to the driveway in one direction and also to a new patio connecting to the basement sliding door. We also discussed the need to minimize any dead zones under the upper deck. We took dozens of photographs and measured the house including window and door placements and accompanying elevations.
Next, we drew the house using AutoCAD and roughed in the decks, patio, stairs and the means to move between these spaces. Once we got the basic sizes right, we focused our efforts on making everything look great. We quickly concluded that arcing one end of the decks and patio delivered the desired look. We also decided to use 12”x12” granite posts to provide the necessary support from the ground. The granite posts were an easy choice since they look so beautiful and their installation required basically the same excavation as a concrete sonatube. We are very good at installing heavy granite so the cost difference between concrete sonatubes and granite posts is reasonable— and non-existent when the benefits of granite posts are taken into account. We also used granite to separate the deck or deck steps from the ground. The design iteration was carried out efficiently by emailing PDF design files to the homeowner and discussing ideas on the phone. The photos that follow tell the rest of the story.
Please scroll down for more photos of this project.
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Steps make a 45 degree bend to add interest and provide a better connection to the full-color bluestone patio. Base granite steps provide a better garden interface and eliminate the complexity of building the angle from wood with footings.
Custom mahogany and anodized aluminum baluster guardrails coupled with composite decking delivers a low maintenance and a quality look.
Mahogany lattice conceals the concrete house foundation and a cantilevered granite step with bluestone walkway leads to the driveway.
Project #2: Another Deck-Patio Combination
We were approached by another homeowner who was very unhappy with the house's current deck & patio which was too small, too narrow, and not working in a number of ways. An existing rock retaining wall posed one constraint, along with wanting to blend the new deck with a reworked patio. They had contacted numerous builders concerning a new deck but were not impressed with their suggestions. We quickly determined what size deck was needed and suggested that we cantilever it over the existing wall to simplify the construction and provide the most dramatic profile. A highly transparent guardrail was also a design criterion to allow the best views of the surrounding forest. The design process produced a curved deck with curved steps leading into the house and a larger landing at the door. The decking is a composite while the trim and handrails are constructed from cedar.
Composite deck blends perfectly with the
patio using large granite to provide structure.
Curving cedar handrail combined with curved deck provide a distinct look.
Project #3: Deck Alternative
This homeowner's interest in replacing their deck with a new patio illustrates why a patio often is the better choice whenever a deck's elevation is not high. Compared to the deck, the patio puts people in more direct contact with the surrounding gardens and yard, and they don't have to look through a guardrail to enjoy the outdoor experience. This deck offers just one egress to the yard and, by default, creates unusable spaces in the yard adjacent to the guardrail. By contrast, anyone on the patio can walk on or off from any side, enjoy the entire patio, and enjoy the entire yard. As for maintenance, this wooden deck was aging - a reminder that patios offer lower maintenance and far longer life.
Patio replaces an old deck to provide a much improved outdoor experience.
Project #4: Screened Porch replaces Deck
The back of this home had an unusable deck and a collapsed above-ground swimming pool. The homeowners wanted a screened porch to replace the deck, and a low maintenance landscape to provide an attractive view from the porch. The steel spiral steps were to be reused and the space under the porch was to be an enclosed storage space with a new opening into the basement through the foundation wall. Our design featured an exposed heavy tongue & groove pine roof sheathing, a bluestone walkway connecting the porch with the driveway, and a set of curving granite steps that leads to an 8' diameter cobblestone focal point below.
Project #5: Deck designed for future conversion to a screened porch is part of this relaxed backyard design.
At this home the owner wanted to reduce the size of very large back deck that extended to both sides of a set of French doors. Our design incorporated a curved granite entrance with adjoining deck to one side, plus a patio and walkway down to the pool. The result is a beautiful update to the home, and a most pleasing way to connect the deck and patio to the pool area. In the future the deck can become an enclosed porch-a reasonable way to manage the budget for this rather large project.
Project #6: Rebuild the deck and add a shaded patio.
The deck at this home was in rough shape. The decking and guardrails were pressure treated wood that was splintering, warping and had seen far too much sun. Our solution was to rebuild the deck by reusing the existing deck support structure and adding a raised patio further down in the backyard partly under the shade of a large maple tree. The new deck used an owner chosen PVC decking and trim for low maintenance plus cedar guardrails with anodized aluminum spindles to produce a much richer look. The lower lever of the deck was replaced with a granite landing, granite steps and wooden steps from the deck. Since the backyard dropped steeply, the patio was raised 3' using a curved wall and given an elliptical shape that followed the wall. The patio was made permeable to avoid water runoff against the wall plus assuring the large maple tree's roots experienced no change in the surrounding groundwater.
Project #7: Remove the deck & patio, rebuild the screened porch and add a new patio/walkway.
This was another case of pressure treated decking and guardrails that needed to be replaced with materials that were more pleasant to both see and touch. We used composite decking for the rebuilt screened porch and added a larger paver patio with granite steps and a walkway connecting to it.
Project #8: Replace a deck with a permeable patio.
This deck isolated the family from their back yard and needed yearly maintenance. The permeable paver patio with its sitting wall allows rain water to penetrate into its crushed stone base. The patio design blends seamlessly into the backyard. This family now enjoys eating outside on a regular basis.
Project #9: Remove the deck and construct a patio.
This patio with its granite steps, fire pit and seat wall are a huge improvement. Notice how the space now opens into the backyard and the view from inside the house is no longer impaired by the deck railing.