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Intro Post: Orlando’s Designing a New Redwood Deck for His Parents!

Fixer Upper Patio with Pergola

What started as a loose conversation about me (Orlando Soria, not Emily…HEY GUYS) getting free appliances for my parents almost two years ago has ballooned into a full-house makeover that is slowly turning their whole entire house into the beautiful, perfectly designed home they never knew they wanted (but I always thought they deserved). If you know me, you know I love my parents, so it should come as no surprise that I want to help them make their home (NOT the picture above…that’s just inspo for the deck) into a place they can be comfortable in and take some pride in. Since family functions often happen at their house, I wanted to create a space where they could easily host everyone (including their grandkids who all live close by and come over often for slumber parties).

My parents both come from big families that didn’t have a lot of money, and they worked their whole lives being frugal and saving money. This was very frustrating when I was a teenager and wanted fancy clothes but I definitely respect it now. I don’t remember a time from my childhood where they weren’t talking about retirement, planning for it, or just generally being very conservative with their money. So I see this life they have now as something that they’ve worked very hard for and I want it to be as glamorous for them as possible. Which is why when we went about designing a deck to replace their old one, I wanted to do something really special for them that elevated the design of their entire home.

A few small story notes for those of you who don’t know what’s going on. Firstly, I used to work for Emily years ago, after we met shooting her TV show “Secrets from a Stylist” on HGTV. We love each other and have remained friends, though I don’t see her nearly as much as I want to because whenever I’m in town, she’s gone and whenever she’s in town, I’m gone (we both have to travel a lot for work and we live on opposite ends of town). I do my own design and content work now, but will collab with Emily until I die, so that’s why I’m here. I grew up in Yosemite National Park and my parents moved from the house I grew up in five years ago but were gunshy about doing any renovations (see above about them being frugal). We have been working on a kitchen renovation for over a year (that will be revealed here ASAP) but are also doing a number of projects around their home.

Okay! Now that we got that squared away, here’s what’s happening with the deck. Basically, in order to expand the kitchen to the size we wanted (which was doubling its size), we had to go out onto a pre-existing deck. Just a disclaimer here: There’s kind of no such thing as “expanding onto a deck,” unless you have some kind of magical deck that’s somehow already to code as an interior space, which is highly unlikely. Building “onto the deck” meant completely ripping off the ugly previous deck, building an entirely new part of the house, then creating a new structure for orMOMdo (my mom) to read and BBQ on while orlanDAD stares at her out the window.

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Luckily, about the same time reached out to me about doing a glamorous kitchen makeover, reached out to me about doing an outdoor collaboration. I’m not sure if Emily has talked about this before, but sometimes it feels really awkward and selfish to receive luxurious items for your own home in exchange for coverage on social media (even though it is a TON of work, and definitely not anywhere close to “free” unless you think my time, work, and creativity are free, which I don’t). However, I have absolutely no shame in asking for the most luxurious things ever for my parents. They are the greatest and they deserve nothing but the best. So while I’d feel weird asking for the super expensive range or the fancy beams we used on the deck for myself, I have no issue with sourcing them for my parents. I think I could write an entire blog post on the nuance of sponsorships (and I know Em could, too) but I think for now, all I’ll say is that I was elated that I was able to get such amazing sponsors for my parents. They’ve given me a great life and a wonderful education so this is the least I could do.

OH MY GOD, WE HAVEN’T EVEN STARTED TALKING ABOUT ANYTHING YET.

First, let’s discuss the previous state of the deck. This is what it looked like before:

Orlando Soria Deck Remodel

Yeah. I know. It’s terrifying. Before you get all disgusted at my parents’ house, just know that it’s been completely repainted now and looks TOTALLY different with the new deck (which is done btw, but I haven’t gotten the pics back. We’ll be revealing it HERE in a few weeks so hang around/stalk the site until its up). My parents actually made a pretty great purchase when they bought their house. It’s a very cute, hilly neighborhood filled with large trees and their house was one of the uglier ones (or at least it used to be). Now that it’s getting cute, it’s value is definitely going up. In fact, even pre-renovation, pre-expansion, this home has almost doubled in value since they bought it in 2012. Not that they’re thinking of selling or anything, just letting you know this isn’t all a huge waste of money on a terrible property. PS: If you don’t live in California and are thinking of moving here, DON’T. Everywhere is too expensive and those of us who live here can’t even afford to buy houses so the last thing this state needs is more people.

Orlando Soria Deck Remodel Orlando Soria Deck Remodel

I actually already did  (above), trying to make it look as good as it could considering the constraints (ugly corrugated metal roof, terrible/totally boring railing, etc). orMOMdo loves it out there, so even this ugly deck was a favorite hangout spot. So I imagine it’ll be even more loved once it’s beautiful. Here’s what it looked like when they’d just moved in and everything (LITERALLY EVERYTHING) in their house was beige or brown. Like not cool 20-year-old-model-in-a-“nude”-outfit-with-a-“nude”-lip beige, hideous-’90s-McMansion beige.

Redwood Patio Pergola

We knew from the beginning that we wanted to use for the deck/shade structure (above is an inspiration shot for the project), so (about 40 minutes north of where my parents live in Sonoma County) was the perfect partner. I’ve taken my parents’ project as an opportunity to meet the people who create the things I sourced for their house. I wanted to make this project as personal as possible, so I toured the factory where their range was made in Italy, the countertops factory in Minneapolis, the Central Coast factory, and the forests where the lumber for their deck originated. I’m really doing my homework here. A+ student.

Orlando Soria

Basically, I didn’t know a lot about the lumber industry before this project. I assumed that all lumber companies were evil corporations that clear-cut forests and left owls with nowhere to live. However, what I learned touring the forests is that they actually plant more trees than they cut, they do not clear-cut, and they have hundreds of scientists on their payroll whose job it is to track wildlife and make sure it isn’t being harmed by tree harvesting. This made me feel better about using wood in general because I’d always had a weird sense that I was somehow murdering a forest by using anything made out of wood.

A tip I learned on this trip is that you should look for wood that is . This basically means that it’s passed a set of international standards relating to how the wood is harvested and how forests are taken care of. Okay, now onto the actual design. Sorry for all those asides and all that info about wood you never knew you needed to know.

I’m gonna be honest and basically admit I stole this whole design from . I’ve always been a Kelly Ripa fan but I had no idea she had such great taste in shade structures until I went down a and found this image below (which apparently is her former ):

Kelly Ripa Outdoor Patio With Pergola

Basically, I just loved the slatted roof on that guy and wanted to do something kind of similar. The roof definitely elevates the whole thing and the thick beams give it a strong presence. So when I started planning the design, I knew I wanted to incorporate this type of roof as well as strong, rectangular lines and an overall look that was simultaneously modern and traditional, like a combo of these:

Deck and Patio Inspirations
Deck and Patio Inspirations

My parents’ house is a bit of a style question mark. It was built in 1977 in a semi-contemporary style, flipped in 2011 to look as traditional/suburban/Mediterranean as possible, and we’ve been trying to figure it out ever since. My solution was to create a design for the deck/shade structure that was simple enough to feel Mediterranean but with a material you might see on a more traditional home (like redwood!). My mom is pretty into contemporary stuff while my dad leans more traditional, so this combination was kind of perfect for them.

Orlando Soria Deck Remodel Plans Orlando Soria Deck Remodel Plans

I created the initial plans for the structure and layout for the deck, which is very simple and straightforward, and then a Berkeley-based architect named Betty Li created the architectural plans shown here. She took all my sketches and ideas and turned them into a reality. Many people have reached out to me asking about how this whole process worked. Basically, I created the concept, then Betty drew it, we had to go back and forth with an engineer to figure out things like wind resistance and weight bearing (these giant posts weigh A LOT), then the plans had to be approved by the city. So what seems like a simple project was actually pretty involved. I think the architect/engineer fees added up to around $7,000 and the contractor bill was a bit over $30,000. Not a cheap project as that doesn’t even include the cost of the material. I’m trying to be pretty transparent on cost with this project because a lot of the type of content I’m seeing right now seems to show completely unrealistic pricing for home renovations and that helps NOBODY.

The below plan shows the layout of the kitchen and the deck, which is used most often as a place where my mom grills dinner (since it’s easily accessed from the kitchen) and as a place to read, so it’s important that it have a lounge space and a cooking space, though it is tight up there.

Orlando Soria Deck Remodel Plans

The build-out of the kitchen has made a HUGE difference to how the kitchen and family room feel. It makes so much more sense as an interior space and makes me wonder why there was ever that carve-out on the side of the house before. You might be wondering why we didn’t expand the lower portion of the house too. There’s a reason that’s too complicated to explain here, but basically, it would have made a really weird shaped room with no window if we did so we just kept it as-is. Construction is actually finished now, but for the sake of fun let’s pretend it still looks like this:

Orlando Soria Deck Remodel Orlando Soria Deck Remodel Plans

I’ve already started planning what to do with the space below the upper deck, which is going to become an outdoor dining area. I sourced an (it already arrived and my parents LOVE it), a very sweet , and some also from Article. Check out the Get the Look below for what I’m looking at:

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Construction finished at Casa Soria about a month ago and I shot all the updates I made up there with a few weeks back. The space is totally transformed and even the way my parents interact with it is so different. I can tell my parents are relieved their kitchen project is over, as that was incredibly long and wrought with delays, frustrations, and a bajillion change orders. But they’re also just really enjoying how functional and beautiful their new spaces are. I can’t wait to share how all these different rooms/spaces came out, especially the deck, which has made such a huge difference to what the backyard looks like. It has basically made the house look 100% better from the outside. Until next time…

Okay, bye!

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  1. Orlando is great! I really like his writing style and always enjoy reading whatever he writes, whether it’s here, on his blog, on his Instagram or elsewhere. It’s cute to see him all passionate about fixing up his parents’ home, I learned some facts about the lumber industry today. Good stuff.

    1. I second this. I love Orlando’s writing style! I’d read his blog posts about anything.

  2. Great to hear from you again, Orlando! The deck sounds amazing, I can’t wait to see it. Redwood is awesome, my parents used it for outdoor projects when I was a kid, so I have a soft place in my heart for it.

  3. Loved this! Orlando’s hilarious.

  4. Always happy to hear from Orlando! Can’t wait to see the reveal!

  5. I enjoyed this post. Orlando please do an article on the ‘after’ with pictures when it’s done.

  6. Orlando, I love how much you love your parents. It is SO sweet hearing you talk about them. I pray that is my daughter (now 2) once she is your age. I can’t wait to see the final reveal, but that was the highlight for me 🙂

  7. I love the furniture pieces you selected. Is there a non-stairs way to transport all the tabletop soft goods, plates, dining accessories, and food up and down to the below- deck dining area?

    1. I really hope they do it with a rope and bucket like a good-old treehouse!

      1. Ooooh, I agree with Harriet! That would be so cool & super fun for the grandkids (and me if they invite me over).

  8. Your parents are very lucky to have you!

  9. Awesome post. Orlando, you have a great writing style and designer style. All kinds of style. I really enjoyed it. I can’t wait to see the finished product. As a structural engineer, I’m not surprised by the prices. California is probably pricer than most places.

  10. I’m REALLY looking forward to seeing the pictures. Such a great location, too!

    And I second the bit about California. I’m in L.A., and it’s seriously insane. Our condo’s estimated value has gone up at least 5% or 7% a year for years. Crazy. I’m so lucky we bought 30+ years ago. Now? I’d never be able to afford to live where I live now.

  11. Yay for Orlando- love the design, the writing and him!!

  12. Just finished your helpful and hilarious book! Love to see you posting here.

  13. Thank you for being transparent on price. I can’t stand when people give a “cost” of a project that doesn’t include oh, labour!!! Love your work.

  14. Yay, Orlando!! Love your writing and design so much.

  15. Okay, I’m ready to have an awesome deck now too. Those inspiration photos are drool-worthy, and I can’t wait to see this reveal!

  16. I love when Orlando pops in to visit 🙂 So excited to see the final kitchen/deck pictures!

  17. HI Orlando! I love how you love your parents. 🙂

  18. Very happy to see this amazing design. i am very impressed with her that she did any amazing hard work for her parents. Orlando is great and i really appreciate this design.

  19. I love Orlando’s posts. He reminds me so much of one of my childhood best friends, Ken. Very similar “voice”.
    Love that he’s doing this for his parents. I hope my kids feel this much love for me when i’m older!

    Now, about the redwood….I was kinda cringing the whole time because i know the redwood forests are a touchy environmental subject. i know environmentalists are trying hard to protect them. Also, i know this company is planting a ton of trees, but those redwoods are so big and took hundreds of years to grow. sorry to be the debbie downer…the environmental stuff always gets me 🙁

    Other than that, i love the design ideas and can’t wait to see all the finished pictures.

    1. Same here. Why in the world did it have to be Redwood?

  20. Oh my goodness! I want to convince my husband to build a small deck to the side of the kitchen to move a door to the side deck we already have and your pictures and layout info will make it much easier to explain to him what I want! Cannot wait to see your final reveal post as I am sure it will be beautiful!

    Thanks for the inspiration,
    Maria B.

  21. I’ve been an EH reader/supporter for years. Lately with the mountain house and the “before” pictures in this house it feels like you are shitting on regular people’s style (most of what we live with). I’m all for seeing “before” pictures but perhaps you could be more sensitive when you show them. I would suggest construction/in process pictures or shell pictures. Not pictures of what the rest of us are currently living with and calling a home we love. As a design lover, it seems to me the greater challenge comes not from starting over from scratch but from working with what you have. Anyone with the funds can do a total gut job. Please remember the balance between reader loyalty and sponsorship loyalty. Thank you.

    1. Most of us aren’t designers that use our houses as advertisements… I appreciate the posts as they have helped me tremendously in my much more frugal remodels– they are more aspiration, rather than reality— and I actually like the -‘before’ pic, and it’s not all that much different from the ‘before, before’, mostly some paint & moving around of furniture, totally something that could be accomplished easily.

  22. Your parents are so lucky to have you, Orlando!

  23. THANK YOU FOR THE UPDATE! I’ve been waiting for the (any!) updates on your parents house. I found the kitchen post super helpful with my own kitchen redo & have been waiting for completed pics ever since!

  24. The deck is going to be fabulous!

    I love how Orlando writes. So accessible, well thought out, and effortlessly funny .

  25. Love your transparency on the costs of everything!!!! Thank you! And I love to hear that Humbolt Redwood Company is conscientious of their environmental impact and are working to minimize the damage that can be caused from cutting trees down. I still just rent, but I’ll keep them in mind for if/when I get a house 🙂 Thank you Orlando!

  26. Thank you, thank you, thank you for being transparent on the cost. I love whenever people are real!
    Also, I love when the before shots are posted. I know they might look just like my own house (or better) but I’m a dreamer and I love seeing what something can become. Anyway, thanks for sharing, your parents are so lucky!!

  27. Why in the world do you need to use redwood? For me it doesn’t matter that the trees are harvested super friendly and that new trees are planted… if you follow that logic you’ll end with a very young redwood forest some day, when all the old trees are cut down.
    Those redwoods took hundreds , sometimes even thousands of years to grow and are now destroyed for a deck?! That is so not right. All redwood forests should be protected.

  28. The design of your wood floor is beautiful, I am very impressed with your design

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