Deck-orating Ideas

Something strange is happening this year-something we’ve yet to experience since living in this house.  For the first time in three years (technically ever, because we always planned to pour a new patio at our old house and never got to that point), we have an outdoor space that is furniture ready without major projects in sight.


Landscaping, windows, and siding are completely finished, making the back deck the perfect place to relax.  Cue the trumpets, bring on some chilled drinks, and let’s get some comfortable seating and decorations.  Before we can fully celebrate, we do want to pressure wash and restain the deck, but that’s not grueling.  We’re checking the forecast for a rain free week to knock it all out, so fingers crossed it happens soon.  Until then, I’m dreaming and scheming ways to cozy up and create a private outdoor oasis.


On the back deck, I’d like to create different zones for eating, lounging/chatting, and enjoying the fire.  Directly off the family room, I placed four of our dining chairs in a circle with the boys’ mini table as a stand in coffee table.  These pieces are not staying here, but give me an idea of the size and layout for the furniture I still have to get.  Our dining set will sit just to the right, beneath the wide window.


This arrangement is centered on the fire pit and waterfall, allowing maximum enjoyment of all areas.

To further separate the eating and relaxing areas, I potted two arborvitae trees ($5 at Wal-Mart) in simple white $15 pots from Lowe’s.  The added height and greenery on the deck do wonders for defining the spaces, and the pots are light weight so I can move these around easily, even bringing inside for winter if necessary.  I filled two other planters I had on hand with succulents, just to add another layer, and popped them next to the trees.


For easier fire pit access, I nestled five flagstones in the rock to create a simple staggered walkway.  Sometimes, you just don’t want to wear shoes, but walking on rocks is rough.


Because we already have the two benches flanking the fire, we don’t need to add more seating over there.  Which is precisely why I want four light weight chairs to keep on the deck, but can easily get pulled over to the fire when needed.


So in place of those dining chairs, I’m considering these chairs from Lowe’s, if I can get Ben to sit in them and give his approval.

At $65 each, they’re a good deal, get very good reviews, are light weight, and stackable for easy storage through winter.  Paired with the comfortable (for me at least), lower seat, they won’t look like dining chairs either.  Though I love the comfort cushions add, I’m not the best at remembering to get them in the house before rain, so I’m happy to not sacrifice comfort with those chairs.  Once we figure out the chairs, I want to make or buy a coffee table to round out the arrangement.  Again, light weight would be nice for winter moving, but not completely necessary.


In other news, the row of grasses I plated last fall have quadrupled in size, most standing about 4 feet tall.


Flanking the wooden benches, at the end of the grass line, I planted drought tolerant, deer resistant Russian Sage.  They smell lovely and should fill in with more purple stems.


Between the house and the walkway, I created a little garden space to enjoy from the deck, but also the bedroom windows.  In the space between the windows, I’d love to add a climbing plant on a trellis.  Knowing plants attached to the house are bad, I doubt I’ll ever convince Ben, but perhaps a free-standing version that could stand a few inches away from the house would work?  Any suggestions for shade loving perennial climbing plants?


Last year’s hydrangea, on the far right in the above photo, is alive and well, with only a single bud so far.


Everything within five feet of the house gets full shade, so I schooched the hostas back and filled in with a few coral bells to contrast against all the green.  At the corner of the house, a viburnum stands guard and should grow large enough to give the back a little privacy from the driveway.


Closest to the walk, in the full sun, I alternated between cat mint and pink salvia.  Hopefully in a few years the plants will all fill in and blend together for a super lush bed.  Just for kicks, and to fully relish the last three years of hard work, here’s the back right after move in.


Broken patio, strange fountain, broken windows, trees far too close to the house, weeds everywhere, and no real place to actually hang out.  Things kind of only got worse from there after tearing off all the siding to replace windows and excavating down a foot to keep the dirt below the wood rim joist.


And this past winter, when things finally looked finished with a super beefy  reclaimed deck, windows, and brand spankin’ new painted and steel siding that hadn’t started to rust.


Now, only a few months later, we call the major components finished.  I have a hard time declaring anything truly finished, because I always get ideas to make changes later on, but nothing other than furniture (see the table just waiting to go on?) and perhaps more plants should happen back here.


Any deck plans, outdoor dreaming, or planting going on at your house?  It sure is nice to step outside, sit, and not feel like there are 1,000 things we need to work on.  It’s equal parts liberating and strange.

Butt of the Square

As our outside comes together, I’ve been furiously planting.  Almost 60 assorted plants over our property in the last few weeks.  Which spurred me to add a dose of life next to the front door.


With an 8 foot tall door, I wanted something taller, to not look dwarfed by the oversized door.  A small tree would have been gorgeous, but I didn’t want to block the doorbell.  After thinking about it, I might try a dwarf fruit tree.  We’ll see.  Before building this planter box, I looked at local nurseries, hardware, and home improvement stores but didn’t see any taller planters I liked.  DIY to the rescue.  Using four 8 foot long 2 by 4s and scrap 2 by 2 strips, I built a modern square planter box.


Before building, I decided I wanted a 17 inch square box six boards (21 inches) tall.  To start, I cut twelve boards into 17 inch lengths.  With the butt end design, opposite sides are the same length, but the adjacent pieces are shorter to fit between.  For the design to be square, I cut twelve more sections at 14 inches long (the overall size minus two 2 by 4 widths).


Based on my finished height of 21 inches, I cut four 20 inch tall 2 by 2 pieces to secure the corners to.  I didn’t want see the nails or the corners once filled.  Working on a flat surface with a square, I set my pieces together and nailed 16 gauge 2 inch long finish nails from the inside, through the 2 by 2, into the 2 by 4.  Much like hardwood flooring, getting the first row straight or in this case, square, makes subsequent rows go smoothly.

From there, adding boards, rotating the exposed ends is the name of the game.


I love the simple interest the staggered exposed ends add.


Once finished, the corner posts are tucked an in below the rim and are easily covered.


Before staining, I smoothed out the rough lumber with 80 grit sandpaper, slightly rounding the corners at the same time.


Wanting to accent the exposed end detail, I stained the box light gray.  It darken the end grain just enough to really make it pop.  To create the base support, I nailed scrap wood flush with the top of the third board down.  Then used another scrap of 3/4 inch material for the base, notching around the corner posts.  Sadly, I couldn’t find a square plastic hole-less liner to fit inside.  I improvised with four layers of thick plastic.  I really don’t want this leaking out and rotting the wood.



With the hard parts done, I got to fill it up with pretty plants my little helpers picked out.


Aromatic lavender, fuzzy lamb’s ear, a purple sweet potato vine, and a small basil plant.


With such a versatile design, I’d like to build a longer box to create a mini herb garden for our back deck.  The basil may get swapped to that one later on.  And at the end of the season, I can plant both the lavender and lamb’s ear in the ground.