Extensions of the Home

By Avery Bathurst

Outdoor Living in Central Texas

Get outside! We hear this all the time, whether it’s your mom kicking you out into the Central Texas summer stove or your friends dragging you to an attempted snowball fight in Waco’s few days of snow. Spending time outdoors is a priority for many, and having a space to do that can make a huge difference. An outdoor area, whether it’s a deck, pool, playset or even a towel on the grass, is a space to cultivate community and deepen relationships. Of course, a deck or patio is a wonderful addition to the home and should be considered by anyone looking to spend more time outside.

Featured here is a deck in designed by interior designer JeraLyn Wilcox with Palmer Davis Design. This custom patio has beautiful and unique features tailored to the homeowners’ vision for that space and is a great example of how personal each deck can be. The design process is different for every designer and for every home.

Wilcox said this about her process: “Typically, there is going to be a jumping-off point. For the Brownwood home, it was comfort and use. I started with the furniture selections, and then we moved into the textures and colors of the fabrics and [figured out] how that could all work together with the home and scenery.”

When planning a deck, it is crucial to have a clear and explicit purpose in mind. That doesn’t mean you have to have an exact color scheme or a specific backsplash—that’s what an interior designer is for. But knowing what you are going to use that space for is extremely important. Some homeowners need a space to host friends and family, or a couple might just want a space to lay out in the sun, but being able to verbalize your intentions for this outdoor space is a huge help to designers and builders.

“She just wanted everything to be comfortable and welcoming and still look elegant and nice, but not have to be so concerned about any of the materials,” Wilcox said about the homeowner. “It wasn’t one of those kinds of projects where it’s a ‘look-but-don’t-touch.’ That furniture and that deck are going to be used probably more than the interior of the home.”

The surrounding aesthetic isn’t the only thing to consider when building in Central Texas. Various materials and features can make all the difference on a blistering afternoon in the middle of July. When designing the Brownwood deck, Wilcox made sure to have solar roller shades installed between every panel.

“It’s almost like stepping into another season if those are down. If it’s 115 degrees outside, under the deck it will be closer to 80. The shades make a huge impact, and they work the same in the winter. When it starts getting cold, but they want to be out there enjoying it, they can bring the shades down, turn the ceiling heaters on and then it’s comfortable again.”

In terms of materials, it’s important to do your research. A deck is a serious investment, and you want it to last as long as possible. For this, Lauren Locket–Summers from Austex Fence & Decks recommends composite material, a combination of recycled plastic and Polywood, as used in the decks on the following page.

“Those tend to last the longest — there’s zero maintenance on it and there’s normally a lifetime warranty with the manufacturer,” Locket-Summers said. “Wood is also a great option; it just gets a good beating under the Texas sun. Splitting, warping, all those things that happen to natural wood can happen, but sealant and staining can help. Some of these sealants have a UV protectant on them to help protect the wood against harsh sunlight. For a wood deck, we would recommend resealing every one to two years to ensure its longevity.”

There also appears to be a consensus on the most important question when building a deck: How are you going to use this space? And once you know how to ask that question, how do you find the answer?

“I’d say spend some time outside now,” Wilcox says to those considering such an addition. “The more time you spend outside, the more you’re going to understand how you want to use the space and what conveniences you want to gain from an outdoor addition. I think those are the main things: knowing what you want and being willing to work with what you have. I think people get too consumed with wanting some other deck they’ve seen, and they lose focus of the natural beauty that may already be there.”

An outdoor space isn’t just another hang out spot, it is an extension of the home and a tangible link to the outdoors.

“I think the purpose of a deck is beyond just the materials and the design,” Locket-Summers said. “It’s a great place to build community, to hang out with friends and family. Again, it’s your home. It’s not just a functional piece, it’s a place to gather and it’s a place to entertain and build friendships.”