Giving New Life To Our Old Wood Deck
Our deck, the only real outdoor space we have is finally, completely done. I know you thought it was done last year, but I’d like to remind you of my “constantly-changing-perfectly-good-projects’ syndrome; a problem that has plagued this house (but created a lot of content). Seriously, this deck still could use some improvements and I wasn’t 100% satisfied with neither the design nor the finish of the wood. When the exterior was finally done (stay tuned) we realized that the decking, which I previously hadn’t minded, needed a refresh, too. With the help of , we brought it back to life and now, it’s absolutely, completely, 100% finished (til I decide to put in a full outdoor kitchen…maybe …)
In case you are newer to the blog, let’s give you the full deck-bio. When we first moved in, 2 years ago, it looked like this:
The wrought iron was black, the brick was old and beige (and broken in places), and the pergola was painted brown. The wood was in good condition considering it was 50 years old, and while I knew it could use a freshen up, I didn’t quite know what to do with it.
Right after we moved in (remember that?) and they wanted to shoot the deck despite the fact that it was definitely not done, nor was I totally happy with it. But with some styling help it looked pretty lively in the photo:
While I love that shot because it has so much energy and life, it was mostly styled for a shot and totally impractical. Almost all those pillows/throws were for indoor use only, the rugs were vintage and some of my favorites which would have gotten destroyed out there and the side table situation was fairly impractical. It looked cool, but not a way we could really live.
A year later I finally had it looking really good (above, see full post here) and I really loved it. I chose at the time not to refinish the deck because I liked how the redwood looked well enough. It had pretty grain, and was a nice grayed out shade of wood. There were times when I wanted it to be more finished, but not enough to take the time to refinish it. I started pinning some of my ideas for not only the exterior, but the deck refresh to give myself a jumping off point and see what it could potentially be.
As we were finishing up the exterior though, everything was so moved around outside with the old vinyl siding covering the deck, equipment everywhere, etc, so we couldn’t really use the deck anyway. Once the debris was all gone and the exterior was looking so pulled together, we finally decided to invest the 2 days and $600 to refinish it. We figured if/when we sell we would want the wood to look as beautiful as the new siding, with same elevated level of design.
Here you can kinda see how it looked post exterior, pre-refinish:
It was pretty, for sure, and I had no intentions of painting it or replacing it because I loved that it was warm wood but the good thing about real wood is that you can refinish multiple times throughout its life, making it essentially new again.
As you look closer you can tell, though, that it was time for a clean, sand and stain to bring out its natural color.
I had Remi to pull a bunch of stain options and she grabbed both transparent and semi-transparent. Exterior deck stains are not like interior or furniture stains because once applied it has to withstand so many more elements. So while I was used to having all these normal options (like teak) there are way less for decking. I personally love the transparent stain as opposed to the semi – which is the top row. Remi sampled all of those up there before the deck was sanded, which we thought didn’t give us the most accurate color. So I had it sanded so I could see what it really looked like:
Crazy, right? I don’t think that the deck had been refinished in decades. They had to use a hand-sander because the boards were slightly unlevel. The sanding took 4-6 hours by two guys.
We re-sampled, nixing the transparent paints. I toyed with the idea of giving it a gray wash, but ultimately decided that since the house was gray that it would be too cold and potentially look new and contemporary instead of mid-century.
We chose the one on the far right, which was , although I liked the the lighter one next to it, too. My advice would be to buy a bunch of sample pots and stain them on your wood so that you can really tell what they look like with your wood as every wood and color will be slightly different per application. For mine, I knew that the stain would lighten over time so we went with the darker tone, but I asked the guys to not do two crazy thick coats.
Right after it was stained it was a tiny bit darker as it dried, but it already looked so fresh and the stain really pulled out the color of the grain. I actually really loved how the wood looked naturally and was super tempted to keep it, but it would need to be sealed and sealing it would change the color anyway. Plus again, our house is midcentury and I wanted to keep it that way.
Now it’s done, and looking awesome, making me never, ever, ever want to sell this house.
When Wood Naturally reached out to have me talk about wood I said, Wood? With pleasure. There are some wood alternatives out there or even some wood wannabes that are tempting all the previously wood-loving folk. And while they might have a certain function, I’m officially stating that I love the look/feel and warmth of the real thing. So much so that we actually clad our entire house in Douglas Fir, and had to fight the city to not have to use hardy-board (which is a fake-wood composite that is rather expensive and lacks the warmth of wood, although fire proof material).
Let’s talk about the changes over here. While I liked the overall design of the deck last year, I wanted to add more contrast to help it pop more and yet I didn’t really want to add more color. Enter our deepest neutral – black. By adding it to the scheme it tied in better with the exterior as our sconces are black, and also just gave it more depth and texture.
The rug that we had was great but got ruined during the demo of the exterior so we had to throw it away. I put down from Dash and Albert that I love – just enough texture and the perfect shade of denim-y blue that can hide dirt, but isn’t too dark.
I replaced last year’s excellent outdoor Target chairs with this year’s favorites and handed those bad boys down. Everybody who sees or sits in wants them and they can’t believe it’s Target. They are excellent in every way and if you have a modern house could even definitely work inside (and they are both for $239 – crazy).
I really tried to style this for everyday, not for a shoot but the stylist inside of me broke free and put a few indoor pillows (the black graphic and the stripe) and that striped throw out there. So this is how I would style it for guests, but technically I should keep those inside. Every other pillows, however, is from Target and is made for the outside.
The wood, gray, blue white and black combo is my new jam both inside and out. And I picked up that adorable little side table from in Atwater Village.
In my quest to keep the deck a more usable space for the kids we moved the planted pots (that were mostly dead anyway) to another location. I just wanted more space and less things to take care of.
I never really loved that wicker round table, functionally because you couldn’t put drinks directly on it, it was just what I had on hand last year. So when I saw the new outdoor teak midcentury line I knew what had to be done. Rarely, if ever do you find exterior teak that doesn’t have the slats in it and with that beautiful mid-century shape? Please. Also note the black bars on it, too. They are so amazing.
Ok, lets see what is happening on the other side of the deck:
We used to have a dining table with chairs, but we found that we rarely used it and we wanted more space for Charlie to scoot around on his tricycle or kick around a ball. So I stacked those chairs and we were going to buy a folding table that would be easily stowed away after we did eat out there. We typically don’t have the umbrella hanging half way off the roof, but Brady lent a hand so that we could get some more shade for the final shots that Zeke took.
So this side of the deck is a lot more empty now. I found that amazing bamboo chair and bench from Potted and borrowed them for the shoot. I would have bought them, as I loved them so much them, but they are on the splurgier side (they are still there for sale).
The BBQ is stored in the back now and we wheel it out when we use it. Charlie’s play area is basically the same so we didn’t shoot it. I added that outdoor barcart because we had no where to set the bbq tools when we are cooking out there.
The week after we shot this, I threw a sponsored party out there so I borrowed a dining table and chairs to properly entertain. The problem is that now it looks soooooo good that I’m tempted to keep them after all (you’ll see that on the blog next week). So while the intent was to open this space up, Brian and I are seriously reconsidering and (that fold) because they looked so good. I snapped a few photos of them the day after the party to give you an idea:
Stay tuned on our decision.
Meanwhile the entrance to the guest room/Brian’s office downstairs got a little makeover as well.
We put this entrance in last year and had that deck quickly built. The door + the deck cost $2000, by the way, including labor and materials. Here is what it looked like after the the door and exterior were finished.
Now it looks pretty darn great, it just needed some furnishing to help it feel more inviting.
It took everything inside of me not to put an outdoor rug there for the shot (besides, we are here to talk about wood) but man, my heart wants a rug there. We moved that spiky plant down from upstairs because every other adult in the world thought it was going to poke their child’s eyes out when their kids were over on play dates.
I love love love the combination of materials here – the white wood paneling with the black sconces, the white glass pendant, and the warm wood. I even love that it’s built into the stone hillside. I don’t think I have photos of this area before because it didn’t really exist (it was just weeds without the deck or an entrance), so the value that we added by putting in this deck is huge.
We added the chairs down there, too because we loved them so much. I didn’t think Brian would go for them, I thought that he would want just a bench or something simple as no one is really going to sit down there, but after I put them there he said that he would definitely pop out of his office and take calls out there. That table and the rug are both from Potted as well, the amazing-super-hard-to-find mid-century-inspired pendant is from , the pot is from , and the sconces are from .
When I had that deck and door put in I was out of town and I told my carpenter I wanted affordable decking (so he chose redwood to match the upstairs) and I didn’t specify the door. It’s actually a clear glass door that we put on for privacy and light (the frosted still lets in light which is what we wanted). I kinda wish I had done something really custom and midcentury, but this was a such a simple, cheap, and fast option.
So that, folks, is how I refreshed my deck and made it great again. It’s 60 years old but it looks as new as my baby. For those of you about to embark on a building project, whether it’s building a house, re-siding one, or adding a deck – I strongly urge you to consider using real wood like pine, redwood, or cedar as opposed to a composite. I’m sure the composites can look good, but wood will ALWAYS look good. In a lot of ways I wish that I had not painted my exterior wood paneling of the house and just used wood, but by the time I wished I had done that the siding had already been prepped for paint instead of stain – there was some patching that would have looked messy if stained and thousands of nail holes from it being clad to the house. But the look/feel and quality is there of wood that would have been totally absent if we had done hardy board or one of the other composite materials (by the way, our house re-siding was done by , and they did such a nice job). What we used on the deck and exterior of the house is more affordable, available, classic, warm, and will never be dated whereas the alternative would have. And while I understand that vinyl siding is a very inexpensive option and can be really transformative, I’d warn you against it as ultimately it’s not the look that you probably want.
Real wood, folks. You never tire of it, it never goes out of fashion, it’s always warm and easy to transform into different colors and finishes or stay totally natural if that’s your jam. This refresh took 2 days and all of it could have been DIY’d if we had the time. It’s not really a highly skilled situation, just man hours. So while it cost us $900, I seriously think that you could do it yourself or, if you got multiple quotes, you could have it done for cheaper. I, for one, will always be on the real wood always side of the life.
And for your viewing pleasure, we broke down step by step how to put together your patio for the summer:
Finally, if you’re into it, get that look:
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*This post is in partnership with Wood Naturally. Thank you for supporting the brands that help us create new content every day.
* A big thanks to our contractor, Golan from , for making the whole process so seamless.