Summertime feels like it’s finally here.That means the arrival of all our favorite warm-weather staples: From flip flops and tank tops, to long, lazy days at the swimming pool and meals out on the deck.
During this time of year, the deck becomes a second home for some families, intent on getting the most out of Iowa’s seemingly too-short summers. It’s the spot for simply grilling on a weekday, enjoying a cup of morning coffee or a throwing a big party.
Three families in Clive open up their decks to share their unique outdoor entertaining spaces, including a covered deck, one with a retractable awning and a combination deck and patio setup.
Deck, patio make a successful combo for entertaining
The deck was a big sell for Jenny and Dan Nielsen, who, along with their four kids, moved into their Clive home three years ago.
With built-in seating to comfortably fit about 20, a devoted space for a grill, a bar and ample space for guests to mingle, the Nielsens were already envisioning the entertaining they could do.
“We thought, ‘That’s where we’ll have our graduation parties,’ ” Jenny Nielsen says.
But there’s much more to this space than the roomy deck. The home came with a beautifully landscaped backyard, which features a patio, two fountains, a stream and a fire pit. A small grouping of trees helps to enclose the property, giving the Nielsens’ backyard a bit more privacy.
The deck is made of stained wood, with built-in benches along its perimeter. The grill and bar sit on one side, opposite from a low, mosaic table where guests can place their drinks. A built-in cooler makes for handy beverage storage.
A couple of flower pots, which usually hold geraniums, flank the steps leading from the deck to the patio. Built-in planters near the grill typically have begonias in them.
During parties, Jenny says, they’ll put up tiki torches, lights and lanterns, which add to the lighting under the deck’s benches and the front of the steps.
A sound system has also been set up outside, with two overhead speakers. During parties and events, they’ll usually hook up an iPod for music.
While their deck gets a lot of use, it’s the combination of the deck, patio and surrounding landscaping that makes for an impressive entertaining space.
A bridge connects the deck to the patio, where there’s a table and chairs and additional seating. Vibrant perennials and annuals, some sitting in pots and planters, surround the immediate area, and can be found in colorful clusters throughout the backyard.
“There’s always something blooming,” Jenny says.
Along the patio’s perimeter, a stream gently gurgles beneath the bridge, connecting two fountains that sit on either side of the patio.
Nestled in a back corner by one of the fountains is a cozy fire pit with a grill top, with six big stones placed around it, serving as seats. Dubbed the “s’mores pit,” it’s been a popular spot for many birthday parties and gatherings, Jenny says.
The Nielsens take advantage of their outdoor space whenever they can, whether it’s grilling, an outdoor movie night or hosting a big party with a band.
“We love spending time with our friends and family, and it’s a great gathering place,” Nielsen says.
Rain won’t spoil a party with this covered deck
It’s around noon on a Monday in June, and the day is starting to heat up.
But step out onto the covered deck of Pam and Jim Hagenbucher’s home, and it’s instantly cooler under the shade, with relaxing breezes wafting through the comfy outdoor living space they’ve created.
Pam Hagenbucher settles into a seat, looking out into her backyard, which backs up to the Greenbelt Trail. It’s mostly quiet, save for the twittering of birds, the rustling of leaves and hum of a mower in the distance.
The woods, along with a blue spruce pine planted on one side of the deck, and a river birch on the other, provide the Hagenbuchers with some privacy. Wild animals, including deer, turtles and different birds, provide entertainment.
It’s a serene scene that Pam can’t get enough of. They’ll use the deck from the spring through the fall.
“We live out here,” she says of her family, which includes their daughter in high school and son in college. “We are out here all the time. It’s our favorite spot for coffee and the paper in the morning, and a glass of wine at night. We eat a lot of meals out here.”
They replaced the deck made of treated wood about seven years ago with one made of cedar, with metal balusters. They chose to stay with wood, rather than Trex, a composite product made of wood and plastic, because they wanted a tongue-and-groove cedar ceiling for the deck, Pam explains.
“It probably requires a little more maintenance than Trex, but not a lot because it’s protected” by the roof, she says.
Having a covered deck was important to make the space more usable, in rain or shine, whether for a barbeque with friends or just a place for the family to hang out.
Amenities such as a ceiling fan, lots of seating options and recessed lighting are complemented with decor and foliage that changes with the season. Now, shade grasses and lobelia fill planters, impatiens sit in a hanging basket and different ferns are placed around the deck. Pumpkins will come out in the fall.
It all creates a space that invites you to sit and enjoy the outdoors for awhile.
“It feels like you’re on vacation when you’re out here,” Pam says.
Ample room makes for great party space
Last summer, Jill and Tim Simplot hosted a neighborhood party at their home with about 50 guests. Finding the space to entertain that many people wasn’t an issue, thanks to their considerable deck.
Measuring about 25 feet at its widest point and 35 feet long, Jill Simplot says the spaciousness of it is what she enjoys the most.
“There’s plenty of room, and we can bring in as much seating as needed,” she says.
Its unique shape offers room for little pockets of seating throughout. Tucked in one area is a patio set with chairs, adjacent to two concrete chairs that sit against the house. On the opposite side, under the shade of a tree, are two swivel rocking chairs, along with the grill. Next to the entrance to the kitchen are two chaise lounges, each adorned with a plump, colorful pillow.
There’s ample room to move, mingle, sit and visit among a party crowd.
When the Simplots added an octagon-shaped room to their house in about 2003 or 2004, they also built a new deck. They replaced the smaller, rectangular-shaped one made of treated wood with a deck about two-and-a-half times larger, so they could entertain, Jill says. It is made of Trex, which they decided to use because maintenance would be easier for the deck’s size.
One challenge they did face was the heat of the afternoon sun. They had hoped to construct a pergola to offer some shade, Jill says, but the builder they were working with said that wouldn’t be an option because of the design of their home.
Instead, they installed a retractable awning, measuring about 10 feet by 20 feet. It offers instant shade, with the push of a button.
“It’s a nice option, when it’s not too windy,” she says. When it is, the cover retracts.
As for decor, potted flowers in the spring and summer offer cheery pops of color. Little, bright yellow blooms fill two tall planters that flank either side of the entrance to the kitchen. Another two planters sit on opposite sides on the steps leading from the deck to the yard, with multihued flowers cascading out of them. The feathery leaves of the vibrant, red celosia sitting atop the patio table offers fun contrast to the table’s orange umbrella.
The deck is a favorite hangout for the Simplot family, which includes their three daughters and dog. Much of their time is spent out here, whether it’s coffee in the morning, wine in the evening, grilling or occasionally having friends over, Jill says.
Their kids have also spent a lot of time in their yard, which has a soccer goal, playing the game with their neighbors.
“It’s kind of a good community deck and yard,” Jill says.