See the Difference a New Back Deck Can Make

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These homeowners love modern design but wound up in a fairly plain and typical traditional suburban home. The good news: They had a fantastic backyard with a lot of potential, and they met an architect who understood their style.

Porch at a Glance
What happens here: Lounging, entertaining, reading, visiting, playing, eating, sandcastle making and sunbathing
Location: Cincinnati
Size: Upper level of 400 square feet (37.2 square meters), lower level of 230 square feet (21.4 square meters)
Architect: Ryan Duebber


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Architect Ryan Duebber began the renovations out back, where he transformed the existing deck into a modern covered porch, leveled out a new stone patio and created a separate porch-playhouse for children, complete with a built-in sandbox, which we’ll see in a minute.

“The old deck didn’t fit their aesthetic,” Duebber says. “The house’s lack of style made it easy to plan something more interesting.” Most of the existing deck was in good condition, so rather than tearing the whole thing off, he used its structure for a substantial portion of the new deck.


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Duebber expanded the old deck, squaring it off for a more modern look, and added a staircase to connect it to a new patio below.

Note how the beams extend past the deck. “I wanted to add the strong horizontal elements to balance out the verticality of the porch,” the architect says. “This detail also nods to midcentury modern style, which the homeowners love.” The pitch of the roof and the proportions take their cues from that architectural era as well.

The new patio was also part of the backyard renovation. It has room for grilling and lounging in modern Adirondack chairs, and a small water feature, shown at the lower left of this photo, provides the pleasing sound of bubbling water.

Wood lattice screens out the black hole of space under the deck and defines the patio area, while a new stone wall provides extra seating. Duebber worked the backyard plan around the existing doors to the walk-out basement, which open right onto the new patio.

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The lounge area to the left is uncovered to give the family a sunny spot when they want one.

The decking is massaranduba, also known as Brazilian redwood or bulletwood, finished with clear penetrating oil. The ceiling planks are structural 2-by-6-inch tongue and V-groove select-grade pine planks. “Select-grade pine is clearest of knots,” Duebber says. He custom-stained the structural wood and ceiling to match the color of the deck wood.

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The patio has a more casual seating area around a fire pit next to the water feature. The stone on the patio and low wall is a local Ohio Valley fieldstone.

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The new staircase provides easy access to the patio. Duebber married the original house and the new porch by matching paint from the trim on the house to the fascia boards and the stair risers. Aircraft cable rails add a modern touch and keep the view clear, while small lights make it safer to go from the patio to the porch at night.

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“My clients also wanted to create a hangout spot for the kids,” Duebber says. His solution was this smaller free-standing porch toward the back of the property. More slatted walls provide privacy from the neighbors. A bit of grading and a small retaining wall offer a level area just off the deck.

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“One of the homeowners is a veterinarian and knew the kind of havoc raccoons can wreak on a sandbox, so she was adamant that we make a cover for it,” Duebber says. He designed planks that cover the sandbox, which transforms the play porch into one with more deck space.

In the evening, landscape lighting illuminates the smaller free-standing porch. In a slip of the tongue, Duebber called it “the party porch,” so one may suspect that when the kids are in bed and the sandbox is covered, the glow beckons adults out to the fun little getaway.

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