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5 Ways to Use Your Cedar Deck

Outdoor Living RoomWhile the kitchen has traditionally been considered the heart of the home, a recent trend toward outdoor living has placed increasing importance on the cedar deck, especially in spring and summer. In a recent national survey, 84 percent of people ranked decks or patios as the top feature they want in their next home, while 67 percent placed outdoor living rooms or grilling areas at the top of their list of preferred living spaces.

In the past, the function of a cedar deck within a home was often limited to a place to grill a few hot dogs or send the kids out to play. However, the widening availability of patio covers, weatherproof fabrics and other deck design options has led many homeowners to view the deck as an extension of the home. In the rainy Northwest, for example, moisture is a top concern when building a cedar deck. Portland homeowners may feel restricted by the weather in terms of how they can use the space, but by planning the deck’s function in advance and carefully choosing a deck design, they can create a fully functional outdoor room instead of just a place to go outside.

Following are five ideas for how to turn a cedar deck into an outdoor living space with purpose.

1. Outdoor kitchen. Grilling is one of the most common ways to entertain outdoors, but hauling food and dishes back and forth between the kitchen and deck can be a nuisance. One solution is to create an entire outdoor kitchen. Today’s cedar decking can incorporate not just grills, but sinks, refrigerators, food prep areas, stove-top burners, cabinets for storage and even hand-built brick pizza ovens. Include an al fresco dining area with comfortable seating, ambient lighting and some sort of shade, such as a pergola or aluminum patio cover.

2. Outdoor living room. Sofas, rugs, throw pillows, candles and even flat-screen TVs are being brought outdoors to create cozy lounges for entertaining or hanging out with the family. Anchor the room with an outdoor rug and sofa, and accent with lighting, textured fabrics and other accessories. Don’t be afraid to swipe items from the indoors, as this will help create a sense of continuity with the rest of the home. A patio cover, gazebo or oversized umbrella can provide your cedar deck with the necessary protection from the elements, while a fire pit serves as a strong focal point. When using a fire pit on cedar decking, be sure to surround it with a non-flammable surface, such as deck tiles.

3. Private retreat. With its natural wood glow, cedar decking makes an ideal setting for a private outdoor oasis. Make the seating luxurious – consider a hammock or oversized chair – and add calming elements such as a water fountain, wind chimes and lots of plants. Hang screens or lattice for privacy, and choose lush fabrics in soothing, neutral tones.

4. Party central. A cedar deck with a built-in bar, sink and mini-refrigerator can take a large portion of the work out of having an outdoor party. Plan for extra seating – deck benches around the perimeter of your cedar deck, accessorized with playful cushions, are an efficient way to utilize space and minimize crowding. Lighting is also important, especially if you plan on hosting evening parties. Provide enough ambient light to see by without brightening the space too much. It also helps to install a patio cover so you don’t have to plan on moving the party inside in case of rain.

5. Multicultural getaway. A cedar deck is a great place to experiment with daring themes and styles you’re hesitant to use indoors. If you’ve had your eye on Morocco’s striking colors and patterns, Tuscany’s Old-World charm, the stark peacefulness of a Zen garden or the island exotica of the Caribbean, go all-out on your deck. Begin with a bold rug, which will help define the space and inform your choice of accessories. Choose weathered furniture – the patina of age adds depth and texture to the décor – whose lines complement your theme.

Every room in your house should have a distinct function, including your outdoor living space. By determining in advance how you plan to use your cedar deck, you can create an outdoor room to rival those in the magazines.

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