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Two deck rails offer lean-back lounging.

Two deck rails offer lean-back lounging

Floating out toward the sunset, this west-facing deck helps civilize a rustic back garden in Portola Valley, California. Cass Smith of Berkeley designed and built it with owners Sue and Keith Bentz.

The 350-square-foot deck replaced a small corridor deck across the back of the house. It serves as an outdoor area for entertaining, casual dining, and enjoying the view.

Cass Smith had three primary design considerations. First, the deck had to accommodate the garden's gentle slope. A split-level plan allowed it to begin at the house's floor level, then step down. Because this lower level is only 6 to 12 inches above ground level, traditional safety railings were not necessary. This freed Smith to use the deck's boundaries to satisfy his second design need: comfortable built-in seating. The 2-foot-wide, slope-backed benches invite stretching in the sun.

Between the benches, galvanized steel planter inserts hold a colorful mix of chrysanthemums, alyssum, and asparagus ferns. The planters drain directly to the ground below.

Privacy was the third concern. Off to one side of the deck, a neighbor's pool and patio had become an unwelcome focal point of the Bentzes' yard. Now a red-wood fence effectively blocks that view. A wisteria vine will eventually cascade over the top of the fence and soften its face.

Photo: Under an old oak tree, new deck blends gracefully with vertical siding on house's exterior. Railings were designed for comfortable lounging. Solid fence along one side blocks view toward neighbor's garden
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Date:Aug 1, 1984
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