Most people are content with a single platform deck or patio upon which they can simply enjoy a morning cup of coffee, read a book, grill a summer meal for the family or entertain friends. Conversely, there are homeowners like Rick Ludwig and Steve Peterson, both of Windsor Heights, who enjoy doing the same things and more, judging by the size and scope of their multi-faceted decks. Both men say time spent on their decks is time well-spent with family and friends and that they are key to the enjoyment of their homes and back yards.
“I work in an air-conditioned office all day, so it’s nice to be able to enjoy the weather on my deck when I get home,” says Peterson.
“For me, it’s a place to unwind and relax and feel like you’re in the wilderness, even though we’re in the middle of the city,” says Ludwig.
Anyone who has attended a party or been invited to their homes for a meal can appreciate just how important decks are to the living spaces of both men’s homes. Peterson’s large, 14-by-42-foot wooden deck includes three components that each serve a different function, from acting as an enclosed portion of the house, to providing separate outdoor grilling and dining sections. Ludwig’s expansive backyard is home to a stone patio that is connected to the house and two decks located at different levels of the yard that slopes toward Walnut Creek. Both residents took matters into their own hands to create their own backyard paradises by doing much of the work themselves, and both utilize every aspect of their decks and patio to the full extent for which they were designed.
For Ludwig, his two decks are part of an overall master plan for creating a peaceful setting for he and his wife Roxanne and their daughter Anna to enjoy, as well as to entertain family and friends. The backyard is also home to his business that he founded in 1985, Ludwig Roofing, that has headquarters located there.
“When we bought the house in 1995, none of this was here. It was underdeveloped,” says Roxanne Ludwig. “It took us about 10 years to get it where it is now, but there’s always more to do.”
The Ludwig’s two decks and European stone patio, which seats about 15 people and includes a large grill that gets fired up at least three times a week, are part of an overall backyard layout that includes large flower beds with more than 100 perennials, 125 lights, an outdoor sound system complete with speakers hidden in faux rocks, multiple sets of outdoor furniture, a fire pit, several statues and lawn ornaments and 35 potted plants. The family’s matriarch says she spends on average three to four hours each day watering the plants and flowers and another three to four hours weeding the gardens. To say that she enjoys tending to her backyard is an understatement.
“It’s like being close to God. It’s my church, and it’s where I enjoy spending my time,” she says. “I used to do art; now I’m a gardener, and I enjoy creating beautiful things outdoors.”
For her husband, the decks and patio offer a place to relieve the stress of work.
“My office is here, which is convenient because if I want to have the guys who work for me over for a meal, we have a place to go that is enjoyable,” he says. “Once a year we have our company party here, and we can easily host 100 to 125 people. It’s a great place to hang out.”
The couple’s 15-year-old daughter, Anna, agrees.
“When my friends come over, we’re back here talking or walking in the creek. It’s nice and cool back here under the shade,” she says.
The decks and patio also offer the Ludwig family a view of the many forms of wildlife that call their backyard home, including squirrels, owls, foxes, ducks and deer.
“Unfortunately, the deer think my plants are part of a buffet, so I’m always trying new things to keep them away,” says Roxanne Ludwig.
Rick Ludwig, however, has trained a few wild ducks to nearly feed out of his hand each day at the creek.
“They cruise up and down the creek, and they get to within a few feet of me. They won’t take the food from anyone else,” he says with a laugh.
In 2008, the Ludwigs won the Most Beautiful Yard contest in Windsor Heights. In 2007 and 2009, their home was part of the city’s popular garden tour open to the public. Though they take a lot of pride in the scenic setting that they have created, they are humble in their willingness to share it with friends.
“It’s not unusual for someone to knock on our door and ask if they can look at our backyard or even sit back there to read a book. I love it when people ask to see it,” says Roxanne Ludwig. “We run into people who ride their bikes on the trail that goes behind our house and they recognize our yard as a result.”
Though the couple admits that after 10 years of hard work, they “finally have the yard the way they want it,” there might be more work to be done.
“I would like to have a greenhouse, but we’ll see,” says Roxanne Ludwig.
Three decks in one
Peterson also enjoys spending most of his free time on his multi-dimensional, cedar wood deck. When he moved into his home a few years ago, it had a small, old deck that needed to be removed. Instead of merely replacing it, he decided to build a new one that would extend to the width of the back of his house to serve many purposes.
“When I moved here, my backyard was filled with trees, so we took most of them down to open up the backyard so I could build a deck and plant a garden. A friend of mine helped me to design it. And I had a friend help me build it, and it took us four weekends to do the deck and two more weekends to build the porch,” says Peterson. “It’s a simple design and there’s not much to it.”
Peterson’s “simple design” has proven to be highly functional and appealing to the eye. One section houses his grills, where he often cooks meals for he and his son, and is easily accessed by sliding screen doors connecting him to the kitchen.
“I like to grill year-round — hamburgers, salmon, chicken, you name it. I keep a plastic shovel on the deck so it won’t hurt the deck when I’m removing snow,” he says. “Everything seems to taste better when it’s cooked on a grill.”
On the other side of the deck is an outdoor dining area complete with a lengthy built-in bench and a table that seats eight people where Peterson eats meals with family and friends on occasion and grows his lemon and lime trees in large pots.
“I planted them last year, and it’s unbelievable how much they produce,” he says. “They’re just loaded.”
The middle portion of the deck, an enclosed porch, was the last part to be built in June 2012. It is the focal point of the deck and a true extension of his indoor living space that connects to either side of his deck and his home. A large 5-by-12-foot screened window provides a picturesque view of Peterson’s backyard. The porch includes a 12-foot-high ceiling to give it a Swiss chalet feel and includes a ceiling fan, a small table and chairs where he often drinks coffee and reads the newspaper, as well as a sound system, a large roll down shade and other pieces of furniture.
“It’s 100 percent delightful out there,” Peterson says. “I eat breakfast out there just about every day.”
Peterson says he chose not to stain or seal his cedar wooden deck to better enjoy its natural splendor. He says he found a product that he uses twice a year to clean it and that the few hours of work that it demands each time is well worth it.
“I spend a lot of time out here,” he says. “I love it.”