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Making the Most of a Small Deck

Making the Most of a Small Deck Video

You know how tons of new construction homes have those silly little Juliet balconies which at first seem kinda smart, then never get used since they just take up indoor space with both doors pulled open? No? Okay, then what about a teensy-weensy deck, so short on space that it leads to a Sophie’s Choice situation having to sacrifice comfy seating for a BBQ or vice-versa? Well, for a young Los Angeles couple, this second situation was in full effect when I checked out their 9X10 deck just a few weeks before summer kicked in.

The couple, Greg and Mariette, live in an amazing neighborhood called Los Feliz which has pretty much everything they need within walking distance. In addition to all the urban amenities, the area offers some of the best views in Los Angeles. At first, they planned to use the deck as a place to have dinner outdoors; however, after running out of space inside their 500-square-foot cottage, it made more sense to utilize the deck as their outdoor living room, especially since it’s sunny and dry about 350 days out of the year in Los Angeles. After sourcing 100% of the design materials on, here’s how we turned the lackluster deck into a full-fledged outdoor living room. Everything here came from, with the exception of the to-die-for view which I believe comes courtesy of the planet Earth.

In its existing state, Greg and Mariette’s 9X10 deck was pretty much a depressing case of colorlessness. It made me very, very sad for them. Then the sadness turned into madness, and I wanted to punch their deck in its face.

No longer punch-inducing or colorless, Greg and Mariette now have a fully functional outdoor living room packed with seating for up to five, along with storage, privacy, ambient lighting, and a $%& load of lush, green life. Part of the reason the space now truly feels like an actual room is its color. To make a deck feel like an extension of the house, I often paint it the same exact tone as the house’s exterior. In this case, it’s an earthy, warm terra cotta from Sherwin-Williams called Clay Pot.

To add a focal point to draw Greg, Mariette, and their guests into the outdoor living room from its entrance, and also create a starting-off point for the space’s accent color, we suspended a Blue Quarter Medallion Iron Indoor/Outdoor Wall Set from the eaves of the roof just behind the back railing.

Contrary to what most people may think, going big with furniture in a small space is actually the best way to go. This totally seems counterintuitive; however, it’s totally true and very, very good. Larger, expansive seating takes the most advantage of a small room, maximizing its seating capacity. My team and I stuck with the RST Delano Sectional which is eco-friendly, as well as UV- and fade-resistant, plus its neutral upholstery allows Greg and Mariette to change up the color scheme however they see fit down the road.

Lighting can make or break a space, especially when it comes to outdoor rooms. Sure, Greg and Mariette are blessed with the best weather and sunshine in the country; however, when that sun goes down, they’d simply be dealing with the entry light beside their front door, which is 12 feet away from the deck. That light would be very unflattering so for proper ambience, we added the Royce Branford Indoor/Outdoor Chandelier, which not only makes everyone look as attractive and classy as they actually are, but it also helps ground the space.

One of the reasons most people fall in love with rooms found in shelter magazines is because those rooms look well-collected and fashionably lived in. A key element in achieving said look is to avoid buying things in full sets wherever possible. Although the sectional came with a coordinating coffee table, Greg and Mariette are using it elsewhere, mixing it with a few older pieces. In its place, we brought in an X Box Cube Planter which, thanks to my carpenter Michael, is now a storage-packed table. To turn the planter into a storage cube with a useable top surface, he cut a piece of pressure-treated plywood to size, stained it with dark walnut stain, then sealed it. Now it keeps outdoor accessories stored neatly inside.

In California, pretty much everything thrives outside ALWAYS, so it would have been a missed opportunity not to integrate plants and flowers into the design. By combining two different types of planters, the Alfresco Home Twister Planter with the Copper Zinc Square Planter Set, the greenery is grouped and gathered in varied heights and widths, something designers suggest doing when grouping items together to achieve proper visual balance. To ensure low-maintenance greenery care for Greg and Mariette, my team stuck with hardy succulents and grasses. Isn’t “succulents” a fun word to say?

No longer confined to a small dining table and uncomfortable steel chairs, Greg and Mariette are now taking full advantage of their deck’s new identity as a colorful and cozy outdoor living room.

Greg and Mariette have two small rescue dogs who, at any given time, most likely can be found outside basking in the warm California sun. The upholstery of the RST Delano Sectional is a perfect fit for homeowners with sofa-loving dogs since it’s stain-resistant, plus it also resists mildew and sun-fading.

Since Los Angeles is packed with A-List celebrities, it’s very likely Greg and Mariette may or may not have a huge TV and film star living directly next door. And that is all I will say about that; do not ask me to name names. Just like celebrities, everyday homeowners like their privacy, too. In order to add separation between Greg and Mariette’s deck and the neighboring yards, we installed eight Outdoor Decor Belize Grommet Outdoor Curtain Panels and curtain rods on three of its four sides.

With only 90 square feet of usable space, it was important to go vertical wherever possible with the decor of the deck-turned-outdoor-living-room. To squeeze in another layer of lush life, my carpenter Michael installed Black Rectangle Coco Liner/Mild Steel Canterbury Adjustable Deck Railing Planters along the railing. The best rule of thumb for adding plants and flowers to window and/or railing planters is to stick with three different styles: species which grow tall and upwards, short colorful flowering plants, and species which drape and cascade downwards.

A super quick way to add personality and a bit of that perfectly lived-in look to any space is to simply add wall hooks for jackets, hats, and/or bags. The items hung on the hooks help tell a visual story about the people who live in the space.

In order to keep the color scheme of terra cotta, blue, and taupe consistent throughout the space, we added warm and cool contrast to the neutral sofa with Morgan Cardinal Outdoor Water Repellant Corded Fiber Pillows and Jiti Moroccan Blue Square Outdoor Pillows. PS – One of the hardest conversations for decorators to ever have with a dude whose house their working on is one that involves pillows. Most of the time, I just tell them “These are pillows and they go on the couch. Keep them there.”

Although Los Angeles gets about two weeks of rain a year, I still wanted to sneak a rain chain into the redesign of Greg and Mariette’s deck simply because rain chains are awesome. We used the Good Directions Bluebell Rain Chain which has the perfect turquoise shade of patina to coordinate with the space’s languid blue accents. Once the rain finally comes, for like 10 minutes, it cascades down the chains and gives off a really peaceful sound.

Since Greg and Mariette’s outdoor living room is guaranteed to receive its fair share of parties, it was wise to add string lights around the perimeter. Instead of bare bulbs, I stuck with the Royce 10 Light Lantern String Lights set which has small twinkle lights encased in lantern-like cages.

In its new terra cotta state, Greg and Mariette’s colorful, privacy-packed outdoor living room fits right in with their cottage’s architecture. And how about the way the orangey California sun adds that perfect glow to the terra cotta paint? And that’s not even photoshopped!

Here is the same view as above, but before the makeover. Doesn’t it make you sad? 🙁


Once seated in the outdoor living room, Greg, Mariette, and their guests get to look at this. Don’t you wish you were friends with Greg and Mariette?

With my team’s full day of work complete, I stayed behind for a few hours after our shoot to enjoy Greg and Mariette’s outdoor living room myself. Whoever their designer was must be very smart and tall [and writing this post].

The end.


Making the Most of a Small Deck Video

Brian Patrick Flynn, HGTV designer/producer; Decor Demon

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