The evidence was right there, lying in the center of the floor. From that one detail, sleuths could make out the motive, the opportunity, and the means. Was this an episode of the board game, Clue? Not this time. We’re thinking instead about how important the deck can be in connecting your home with the world, on your own terms.

The picture brought to mind is that of a great Victorian porch. The kind of place where “gingerbread” borders put elaborate shadows in the shade and juleps graced the tabletops. The clue is that right there, outdoors, on the porch, was a classic Oriental rug. It says so much about how the borders between indoors and outdoors have been explored over the years for the purpose of relaxation – and how much that porch was regarded as an extension of the living room.

What Decks Can Learn from Porches

The most obvious difference between a porch and a deck is that the porch is on the front and the deck is on the back of a home. Not always so, but usually. From this, we see that the porch was once a way of being connected. The neighborhood, and in many cases the community, could be counted on to stroll past now and then, offering news you could use, and the comforts of sociability.

The deck is more “by invitation only.” Situated behind or beside the house – or both, the deck worked like a platform for the mid-century backyard barbecue. The gas grill we often see there testifies to this heritage. Guests make it to the deck after arriving through the house, rather than before, as was the case with the front porch.

This is worth telling only to remind us that connection is the key to a comfortable deck. Connections among the family; connections with friends and neighbors, connections with nature, and at its best a deck connects with the spirit of the home design itself, interior as well as exterior.

What it Takes to Be an Outdoor Room

The climate in which your home resides has a lot to do with how to make the deck an outdoor room. What degree of shelter does your comfort call for? Depending on the seasons and occasions when you plan to use the deck, the degree of shelter it provides can range from wide open, to intermittently shaded by a pergola, to an overhead awning (retractable or not), to a completely screened-in space. What degree of “outdoors” you desire has as much to do with these decisions as the climate.

Just as interesting a decision, and some would say more artistic, is the degree to which the furnishings you choose for the deck reflect, continue, or contrast with the furnishings indoors. And the amenities, too, such as whether the gas grill and cooler are built-in, whether a wet bar is part of the scene, and so forth, offer endless degrees for expressing how often, how fully, and with whom you plan to spend your time in this highly personal form of an outside room.

It’s not a scene to be taken lightly, because done well it can truly become one of the favorite rooms of your home. Let us help you think this through and offer some suggestions.