plan for the deck

Marian ParsonsMy House26 Comments

Our deck has always been an afterthought.  There are times when the weather was beautiful and we would sit outside, but we’ve never been “outdoor living” people.  As the boys are getting older and I’m getting more into gardening, we are spending more time outside.  And, aside from a few tweaks and finishing touches, I’m basically finished with the inside of the house, so I’ve been “noticing things” more on the outside.  I’ve really been working on the window boxes in the front and the concrete planters.  I’ve been pruning, weeding, mulching.  We’ve even built up a sunken area on one side of our house and planted hydrangeas and peonies along the side in a mulched garden bed.  The curb appeal of our home is on the rise and it’s making me want to do more.

We’ve already been doing a bit of work to the deck.  Jeff has wanted to cut the front railing off the deck for years, but I always held him back.  I finally caught his vision for it and gave him the go-ahead.  Here’s how it looked before…


Now, without that rail, that wasn’t necessary for safety, it’s so much more open.


I found the vintage iron patio set at Lucketts and we have used it a lot already.  We eat outside anytime the weather is nice and sometimes I’ll just sit out there and watch the boys play.  It was a great purchase.  Since we don’t have any shade or covering, I picked up the umbrella from credits I had with Joss & Main.

(I originally bought a lime green one, thinking it would just blend in with the green of the trees, but it was woah-lime from the inside of the house and just wasn’t working for me.  I reevaluated and decided to approach decorating the outside of the house the same way I do the inside…antiques, neutrals, blues, whites and natural elements.

I picked up an antique wash stand a few weeks ago and decided it was perfect to use on the deck.  I even found a really neat wash basin to put on top of it.  Jeff’s going to drill holes in the bottom and I’m going to plant some herbs and lettuce in it.


I have a pair of vintage iron arm chairs that my mom passed along to me, but the cushions are a little past their prime.


Okay, a lot past their prime.  They are still “sit-able”, but they look tired and are mildewing between the cushions and obviously have some tears in the fabric.  Sailrite is sending me some new foam and fabric, so I can make new cushions for the pair.  I’ll make a tutorial as I work on those.

I also partnered with Pine Cone Hill and Dash & Albert again on a outdoor rug, pillows and a poof to add some softness and color to the space.  I’ve always liked the idea of a rug, but was concerned about one holding up to the elements.  The D&A rug I picked out can be bleached and washed with a hose so it’s fine to leave on an uncovered deck.

I’ve always been stumped with what to do with this blank wall between the glass doors and the window.  Now, I envision a potting bench.  I’m not sure what it’ll be exactly, but I’m thinking a metal rack/shelf or perhaps an old hutch that’s already been exposed to the elements or maybe I’ll sweet-talk Jeff or my dad into making something for me.


And, of course, I’ll be cleaning things up a bit, putting the old table on Craig’s List, getting a new light fixture, maybe flank the glass doors with some planters, etc.

I’m really looking forward to creating an outdoor space that’s inviting and a real extension of the the rest of our home, but something that’s not too high maintenance.

Since I’m new at this outdoor/garden stuff, any tips from the veterans?

plan for the deck

Related Posts

organizing the dining room

studio shelf reveal

painted checkerboard studio floor reveal

painting the other side of the studio floor…

26 Comments on “plan for the deck”

  1. Wow what a difference the deck looks with the railing down! I love…and I definitely agree the neutral umbrella looks great! Looking forward to seeing how it all comes together. I am sure every bit of it will be fabulous!

  2. You off to a great start!

    You asked for tips; here are a few I have learned along the way; mostly the hard way.

    Hydrangeas: When you cut the flowers off, cut right above the next set of leave down. It encourages quicker flower replacement, and makes the bush fuller. Coffee grounds sprinkled at the base of the plant a couple times a years will give you those wonderful blue flowers we all love. And last never, ever prune your bush to the ground or try and tidy them up in the winter. They look spikey and ugly in the winter, but resist the urge to tidy. If you do they will not bloom again for 1 or 2 years….trust me I learn that lesson the hard way.

    Water first thing in the morning; or right before sunset. Watering in the middle of the day wastes water (more evaporates than actually get used by the plant). And water at the base of the plant. The plant uses the water more efficiently, and no water spots on the flowers.

    Read the labels that come with your plants.

    Perennials are your friends. A little more expensive to buy, but they come back every year.

    Dead head your flowers…..dead heading is removing the shriveled and spent flowers. I could explain the science (oh yes my Father is right about me: over educated, under employed; and a wealth of useless knowledge), but it’s far too boring. But the quick explanation is, leaving them in place, the plant thinks it is time to go to seed, and dies far earlier than they should. Removing the spent flowers will keep annuals blooming longer.

    Good luck, I foresee a green color developing on your thumb in the never future.

  3. I have always believed that the outside of your home should be an extension of the inside….I know it is hard to maintain both, but if your outside is lovely and inviting, you are apt to spend more time there with your family. The trick is to make it low maintenance and comfortable! I have several “sitting areas” outside and we spend a great deal of time in the yard when the family is here…just sitting and talking and “playing.” One suggestion…design your exterior space just like you would an interior. I did a little “series” here on designing a space and it can easily be applied outside! Find your inspiration, make a plan and then start taking a little bite of that plan one little project at a time! Find plants that are perennials in your zone for the beds and use pots to easily infuse color with bright annuals! I wish I had current pictures of my yard up, but there are ones from years past…the plants are just bigger now…lol! Putzing around the yard is great fun for the entire family and there seriously is NO better way to lift your spirits when you are feeling a bit blue. Sometimes I just have to force myself to put down the “project” and get out in the yard…if nothing else just walk around in my PJs while I drink my coffee…lol! BTW, if you can “draw” your space, I would bet a local nursery will help you design it to help you decide what to do and what plants you can use that will take little maintenance and do well in your area! I don’t have a live plant in the house (well, except a few succulents now) but my yard is bursting!!!!

  4. A friend nagged me for years to embrace gardening and I always ignored her. Finally she said, “But you’re so creative. Don’t you know how much fun you could have with a garden?”. That sealed the deal and I have been outside ever since. I have made many mistakes and learned a lot but it gives me great joy to step out of the front door and start puttering in the dirt. You are right to go with your color palette outside as well and vintage garden tools, sprinkling cans and galvanized buckets will add your touch to your garden. Enjoy it all. You will be surprised how relaxing it is.

  5. Marian,
    Jeff was right! The deck looks so much better without the railings…it really opened the space up. I also think the potters bench would look great in that spot on your deck and you could also use it as a food and drink station when you eat out.

    Patti gave you some excellent advice on hydrangea pruning and watering tips.

    My advice is when you are selecting perennials to use in a summer garden go with plants that thieve in the summer heat and require less watering. Some that come to mind are coneflowers, daylilies, black eyed-Susan’s and lavender. Coneflowers and daylilies come in a variety of colors and nothing says summer like black eyed-Susan’s in a flower bed. If you have some shaded areas of your yard, go with some hostas. Each of these flowers multiply so make sure when you plant them you give them space with this in mind.

  6. Marian, I love it already! Hah! Those pedestal planters are just lovely. One thought I had- do you have any plans to stain your deck? Just to prolong it’s life and keep it from splintering… I stained ours and it made such a difference- it feels like a beautiful hardwood floor now 😉 One tip I have is to include your boys in the task of gardening. I let my boys choose some annuals for their own pot (this year we planted a large garden so they each chose pansies to pot) they are then charged with helping in the watering and weeding. Some of my favorite memories as a child were gardening with my mom, and I think thats where I got my love of all things plants. It’s a family affair, and it also helps to keep things manageable throughout the season. 🙂 I can’t wait to see the transformation unfold!

  7. Whoa! It looks great! Your husband was soooooo right about removing the railing. I’m stunned at how much better it looks, i would never have thought of that. Love the little iron dining set, and the old chairs. They’re awesome. I love sitting outside on the patio, except for the part where i always see weeds to pull and stuff that needs to be done!


  8. I love the look without the rail too! We have a low deck that I have wanted to remove the rail for years but didn’t quite know how or if we would have to hire someone or not. How did Jeff remove it?I’m hoping we can do it ourselves with a borrowed tool. Thanks!!

    1. Hi Gina,
      A saws-all power tool will cut right through the nails & remove that rail quickly!
      Good luck! Tonia

    2. Yep, he literally just sawed it off with a reciprocating saw! It took about 15 minutes and it was done.

  9. Marian, this is such a beautiful canvas to work with. I think Jeff was on to something when he suggested you remove the handrails, because the deck looks so spacious. I love decorating with galvanized buckets, and crocks are great outside too. I also agree with Teresa to invest in some perennials. I am in western PA and bee balm, coneflower, and salvia are just a few that do really well with little water, plus they attract pollinators and hummingbirds. Ana White has a great potting bench pattern if you’re interested in a build-your-own. Looking forward to seeing how this space develops!

  10. Ooh, it looks like a great start to a beautiful outdoor “room”! I will chime in with some advice about outdoor plant choices: try to start with as many pest-resistant ones as you can. That way, the disappointment factor will be lower during this “newbie” phase. By “pests”, I mean everything from aphids, spider mites, and weevils, all the way up to voles, chipmunks, rabbits, deer, etc. Your local university extension website usually has a section addressing gardening in your area, so that’s a good place to start. Also, look for “Master Gardener” websites for your area. There are plants that are (supposedly) deer-proof, gopher-proof, mole-proof, etc. For instance, certain types of Impatiens, Chrysanthemums, Narcissus, and Bee-balm (monarda) are “deer-proof”. Also, Narcissus are supposedly gopher-proof, so you can avoid two pests with one plant, which is economical. It’s no fun to plant a newly-purchased beauty, then go outside the next day or weekend to find it eaten! I hope you feel well-loved, not overloaded with all of our advice.:-)

  11. Marian,
    My wife an I replaced our oversized table,chairs and glider with a better scale vintage set and now have more room for other pieces.
    We are repaining a metal bakers rack to set plants on and use for drinks when we have friends and family over. Look for them in the resale shops, ours was $20 and has 5 shelves
    With all the furniture we picked out my wife finally convinced me to replace the weathered deck floor with composite. She said I will like not having to stain it all the time. The down side to having a very shady deck is clearing all the maple leaves.
    If it ever stops raining We may finish our project and share photos.
    If you have places for hostas ask around, when they get devided some may come your way.

    1. I second the baker’s rack. I have 6ft very solid vintage one outside my door, loaded with annuals, interesting pots and lanterns. I also think if you got your hands on a vintage treadle sewing machine (sans machine) you could remake it into a great bar or drink island. Maybe hang some of your less valuable and rougher plates outside. There’s all kinds of interesting vintage architectural stuff that would look great on the deck. I could also see climbing plants in large planters at the base of that wall with trellises. Like one commentor said, make your outside an extension of your inside, using the same style.

  12. I suggest purchasing an umbrella base for your new umbrella. It will give it stability and weight. The slightest wind can do a lot of damage to an umbrella (or the people around it)!
    Everything looks lovely.

  13. Jeff was right. He gave you sight lines out into your yard. I don’t care for deck rails as I am too short to see over them when seated!
    It does appear your deck boards need some stain to preserve. We did a really dark stain on ours that may fade in time, but so far a year out and they still look great! There are many new colored stains available so you may find a grey-blue or greige that you will like!
    Enjoy the process of learning to garden, as it is a life long process. I have been gardening forever, but my challenge in our yard is too heavy shade. I have very little success with anything planted directly in the ground as the trees suck up all the water and nutrients from the soil, but I do have pretty container gardens!
    Have fun! Enjoy the moments outside.

  14. Marian tell Jeff taking the railing off was genius! A potting bench would be great, how about a set of weathered shutters above it for color and height? You have it off to a great start!

  15. I am a huge believer in furniture covers (inexpensive at Big Lots) to maintain your cushions for years. I used them when my furniture was exposed to the elements and I lacked storage space. (I still use them in the winter months for my metal pieces.) I’ve also used a large, outdoor storage bin to store pillows, etc.

    Saw a clever idea on Pinterest too. They took a huge galvanized feed container, cut, stained and “waterproofed” a round piece of wood as a tabletop and turned it into an outdoor coffee table . They stored the cushions in the container when not in use! Really clever idea.

    Keep us posted on your progress. Our patio is currently my favorite “room” here. We have little white lights, lanterns and candles for nighttime. Great place to hang out with family and friends. Our latest addition is a round, outdoor fire pit (propane) with reflective glass. We put it on low, and it wards off the bugs but provides great ambiance. Too bad it’s close to 100 degrees here today!

    Love to incorporate herbs with my other plantings!

    Good luck and have fun with it!

  16. Hi Marian!

    Your outdoor space looks as pretty as your home – great job!!
    With regard for your deck I notice that it is untreated. While I love the weathered look, I would make it a priority to water seal it to prevent the wood from splintering. I learned this the hard way & decking is extremely expensive to replace. There are tinted waterproofing stains and Restore deck treatment drone Home Depot works wonders on old wood.
    Can’t wait for your further adventures!

  17. I am wondering if you wouldn’t like to eventually add boxwood all the way around the bottom edge of your deck, in the ground. It seems like your style and it would soften the edge and bring in some fresh color. Boxwood is so easy and, bonus!, it stays green all year!

    Also, another thought would be to add a couple of strings of patio lights. It looks like you will need to add some type of post on each of the two outside corners and then attach the lights to the house as well. We did this on our last house and the nighttime ambiance went through the roof! Every time we turned the lights on we felt like we were at a beautiful dinner party in Paris!:)
    Have fun!

  18. Marian, You’re off to a great start!! Jeff was sooo right to eliminate the rails. Others above mentioned the condition or your deck; I agree. May I suggest taking a look at Lou Manfredini’s Home Smarts site.

    He is Chicago’s “Mr Fix-It” on WGN radio for over 15 years, and makes monthly appearances on the Today Show, and Kathie Lee and Hoda. He is a wonderful person and has been involved in construction all his career as well as owning a hardware store. He always talks about the best products to use to restore a deck – and unfortunately since I don’t have one I don’t remember which product to use. If you can get WGN radio online, he could even answer your question via call-in or texting during his Saturday morning call-in show, 7-10am, central time I’ve met him and he is the best..

    Totally agree on getting a base for your umbrella. One bad wind and your table will be tipped with a possible broken umbrella. Mine has never been blown over even in 40mph winds.

    And, yes, boxwood border would be just the right touch for your style and provide a beautiful winter scene.

    Finally, go to Harbor Freight ad get yourself a box of their 100 blue nitrile gloves; they are hands down the BEST garden gloves. I double them and toss when finished. Can’t tell you how much money I’ve wasted on ‘garden’ gloves until I discovered these.

    Can’t wait to see how your summer unfolds….have fun!

  19. Marian,
    Just fyi – if you get lettuce, plant it really soon and keep it in only part sun. When it gets hot ( and it’s been in the 80s already in western NY) the lettuce will bolt (turn bad, taste bitter) really quickly! this can be discouraging.
    Also, as you build your garden, I always find it nice to ask friends if they have any plants to share. This is the best way to know what grows best in your area and us “plant people” love to share.
    Finally, do not get discouraged if you plant something and it dies. This is just an opportunity to get a new one! it’s just a plant. When I first starting planting, I would buy three smaller ones and try them in three different places and see where they looked best.
    Your local cooperative extension probably has some classes or a master gardener that could lend you some advice too 🙂
    Happy planting! (we have has such hot temps and rain, rain, rain, that it feels like all I am doing is weeding)

  20. Removing the railing changes the whole feel of it!

    My advice is to experiment. (I started my 1st blog in 2009 to keep track of my gardening…successes and failures.) Containers can accommodate everything from annuals to perennials to veggies. Right now I have some beautiful Romaine lettuce growing on my deck in containers. I say beautiful because slugs can’t get at them in containers the way they can in the ground. They’ll be ready in about 10 days so I am planting seeds in that pot so there will be a constant supply. Well that’s the plan anyway because gardening can really be an experiment.

    I have both perennials and annuals in containers as well. I do the same thing in the garden.
    Perennials in the ground with annuals sprinkled around for constant color – some in the garden in containers too!

    I do veggies are in containers and a raised bed as well. Very easy to do and beats digging down into the soil. Pumpkins would be fun to grow with the kids but don’t do what I did the first time…I planted them in a container on my deck and it took over the deck! They need room to grow!

    One last thing, do yourself a favor and plant bulbs (tulip, hyacinth, etc.) in the Fall. When the snow melts in the Spring you’ll be glad you did.

    P.S. Although I’m not an expert, I am only a zone away from you (I think), feel free to email me if I can help.

  21. Looks great!! Can’t wait to see it all finished and together 🙂 I like the idea of the metal rack, stacked with outside accessories/flatware or stacked with a bunch more plants!

    Lauren Baxter | LB Designs

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *