Deck Design Tips
Railing designs and deck-board patterns can improve the view from (and of) your deck.
A deck extends your home’s living space to the outdoors, creating a backyard oasis for grilling, dining, reading, or socializing. Although building codes tell us how to build a safe deck, there’s no guarantee that it will be pleasant to look at or enjoyable to use.
Shaping the view from your deck improves the experience: If there’s a great view, you want to take advantage of it. If you’re not overlooking a bucolic backyard, you might need to direct people’s gaze away from an urban scene or shield the deck from passersby.
Deck-board patterns and railing designs have a tremendous impact on the view. Together, these features either guide your eyes outward to the landscape or focus them inward.
Most people think of their deck as an outdoor room, a space that blurs the boundaries between the sights and sounds of the outdoors and the comfort and function of indoor spaces. However, there are times a deck doesn’t feel comfortable because the sense of exposure is too great. Despite, or even because of, a great setting, you feel insignificant without a ceiling or surrounding walls because the horizon defines the scale. Railings that help to preserve the view, like the wire-cable version shown here, can exacerbate the problem. A post-and-beam exoskeleton preserves the view but adds human scale, a sense of enclosure, and hence, security.
You can use the orientation of the decking to manipulate where people look when they’re on the deck. Whether the wood is warm, rich ipé or utilitarian pressure-treated southern yellow pine, our eyes are drawn unconsciously along the length of each board. To direct eyes to a particular view, orient the boards in that direction. Be careful with long, narrow decks running the length of the house, however. Such…