A Guide To Deck Design

A deck should be an integral part of a house and complement the yard. It should entice guests to explore the landscape, admire the view or enjoy a BBQ.

Think about your specific utility needs. Consider “rooms” for dining, lounging and cooking, and comfortable traffic pathways between them. Plan for a ramp for friends or family with limited mobility.


The space you have available on your deck will determine the size of the seating area, grill, furniture and other elements. It also determines how easy it will be to move through the deck and to get from one end to the other. Whether your deck will be used for dining, cooking and lounging or for mingling with friends and neighbors, it is important to plan for comfortable traffic pathways that can easily get people from point A to point B. Changing the direction of decking or adding steps can help create aisles to guide movement.

A deck’s style can be as unique and personal as its owners, but some basic design principles should be followed. Contrast and continuity are key in creating a cohesive look.

Contrast can be achieved through color, shape and elevation. Decking materials that are lighter than the home’s siding or trim can create a dramatic contrast. Changing the angle of decking boards or adding curves to railings can also add visual interest. Decks that run along the side of a house may have to deal with the structural system that supports them, so it’s helpful to try to hide the deck support posts as much as possible. Some homeowners choose to use partial skirting or post caps that are stained a different color than the rest of the deck.

A new deck can seem out of place when it doesn’t integrate with the existing architecture of a house. A colonial house, for example, may feel like a deck that was added to the structure later in life and doesn’t quite fit. Adding the right deck accessories can help bridge this gap and make the deck feel as if it’s always been part of the home.


A deck might seem like a simple wooden platform jutting out into a backyard, but with the right design it can become a fabulous al fresco family room, outdoor dining area or hangout spot to kick off your shoes and relax. Decks can also offer beautiful views of surrounding natural scenery. To capitalize on this feature, consider orienting the deck to maximize scenic features or incorporating railings and other design elements that frame the view.

To make a deck feel like an extension of the house, it should be designed to complement the house’s style and colors. For example, a round window on the house may inspire a similar curved element on the deck.

Overhead aspects like trellises and awnings can help control sun exposure as well. For instance, if a deck faces south and receives direct sunlight throughout the day, a trellis can block the sun as it moves across the sky in the morning and evening. Awnings can work the same way, blocking out the sun when it’s high overhead in the middle of the day.

Another important consideration is the deck’s connection to other parts of a home, yard or garden. For instance, a deck should have easy access to the kitchen and other frequently used areas outside. It’s also helpful to consider how stairways will be located on the deck to ensure safety and convenience.

Decks often require a permit to build and should be built according to local building codes and standards. A professional can help you navigate the permitting process and make sure your deck is built safely and to code. In addition, a professional can help you plan your deck layout to be aesthetically appealing and functional.


If your deck gets too much sun during the hottest parts of the day, it can be uncomfortable and cause furniture and fabrics to fade faster. Adding a shade structure like a pergola can help shield you and your outdoor living areas from the sun while also adding a lovely design feature to the space.

Incorporating lighting into a pergola or other shade structure is an easy way to extend the use of your deck into the evening. A few hanging lanterns or strands of string lights can cast a warm, romantic glow to your deck and add another element of style.

Other lighting options include recessed and pendant fixtures that can be installed in the ceiling or walls of your deck. These can be set up to create a cozy reading area or used for dining or entertaining, depending on the desired atmosphere and function of your deck.

The natural light that hits your deck can be enhanced with the addition of plants and greenery. Using vines, flowers and other trailing greenery on your deck is an easy way to bring a little bit of nature into your backyard oasis. It is also a great way to cover up any unsightly or unused areas of your deck and create a sense of privacy.

Decks can be simple flat spaces with railings, grills and a few deck chairs, but there are so many creative ways to add character and style to the space. You can draw interest and gushy compliments from friends and neighbors with the use of reclaimed wood or other unique and interesting materials in your deck covering.


If you live in a busy neighborhood or your yard is visible from the street, privacy may be one of the most important considerations when installing a deck. After all, you want to be able to enjoy your deck without being disturbed by neighbors or distracted by the view from your house. There are a variety of ways to add privacy to your deck. Some are more permanent and imposing, while others are more natural or even decorative.

A basic privacy screen can be created with a fence or a lattice wall. This can be a very attractive feature, especially if the latticework is made from flowering plants that will add to the beauty of your deck.

Another way to add privacy is to plant fast-growing shrubs and vines around the edge of your deck. This will quickly block the view and create a more private space where you can enjoy your deck. These shrubs can also be planted to add color and fragrance to your outdoor living area.

You can also use a trellis or awning to provide shade for part of your deck or all of it. This is a good idea in sunny regions where the sun can become oppressive and you don’t want to overheat on your deck. These structures can also be a great place to hang a few baskets of flowers for added color.

Lastly, you can add more privacy to your deck by using a louvered privacy wall. These walls are more substantial than lattice designs but still allow light and air to pass through. They are also very functional, protecting a seating area from strong gusts of wind and the hot rays of a sunrise or sunset.


A deck should be a comfortable and inviting space for relaxation, entertaining, dining, and gatherings. Whether it is a small deck for soaking up the sun or an expansive multi-level outdoor living space, a well-designed deck can serve as a focal point for a backyard and add value to the home.

A good place to start designing your dream deck is by assessing the lifestyle needs of you and your family. Do you want to have a cozy conversation pit, a grill, dining area or an outdoor kitchen? Once you have an idea of the type of entertainment features that will be on your deck, you can start thinking about incorporating other design elements such as stairs, railing and skirting.

One of the most important aspects of a great deck is that it should be a natural extension of your house, a transition between a wilder, more natural outdoors and the more sheltered indoors. A deck that doesn’t fit this purpose is likely to be used sparingly, or not at all.

For this reason, it is important to carefully consider where the entrance to the deck is located. Ideally, the deck should be close to the house door, so it is easy to walk out to get a drink of water, check the weather or admire the view.

Decks can be built in a variety of styles, ranging from simple square or rectangular designs to more elaborate structures with angles and curves. Although these designs require more work to build, they can add a unique touch and personality to your backyard retreat. Choosing unique deck railing and floor patterns can also add visual interest. For example, wood decks can be stained to enhance the color and protect against weather damage, while patterned designs like herringbone or diagonal deck boards can create a more dynamic look.