A Challenging Pacific Northwest Outdoor Living Space Project

July 03, 2023

After photo firepit

It’s easy for Pacific Northwest residents to love where we live. We’re surrounded by beauty and never let a little rain keep us from enjoying the outdoors. Outdoor living spaces, like covered patio structures, can provide protection from the rain in the fall as well as summer shade.

Like many Portlanders, our clients in SW Portland wanted to create an outdoor space they could use throughout the year. Since Landscape East & West experts specialize in designs that add function to exterior spaces, we transformed their patio and deck into a seamless all-weather outdoor living space.

About this Outdoor Living Space Project:

The existing backyard space had a patio on the main level and a deck on the balcony of the second level. The homeowners wanted more room to enjoy the sun on the upstairs deck, and a modern outdoor space in the backyard they could use throughout the year without getting wet.

Challenges of This Unique Outdoor Living Space Project:

The existing upper-level deck offered limited space for our clients to enjoy sunny days. It also only partially covered the backyard patio and, when it rained, water dripped through the deck boards. In the Pacific Northwest, outdoor living spaces under balconies often take on more water from rain falling on the upper level, and this location was no exception. 

Since decks aren’t impermeable, our Portland landscaping team had to come up with a solution that could catch rainwater, send it to a gutter system, and still look attractive.

Our clients wanted a finished-looking space and not a haphazard add-on. To further complicate the project, special permits from the City of Portland were required because of the deck’s height. Despite the obstacles, we came up with the following plan to address the needs of our client while making sure all city requirements were met.

Designing a Multi-Level Outdoor Living Space and the Steps We Took:

  • Replace the upper deck: The new deck was created with Legacy decking from TimberTech. The composite decking looks like lumber, has a hand-scraped surface, and is capped with a polymer shell that makes the material resistant to fading, scratches, stains, and the elements. The color of the deck is called “Tigerwood,” which looks very natural because the product has color injected into it in a random pattern. The colors are all in the same family and this, combined with the hand-scraped surface, makes the product look more like hardwood. The cost of this material is a little more significant upfront, but it lasts significantly longer than traditional wood. To ensure our customer understood the cost benefits clearly, Landscape East & West professionals walked them through this explanation with a brief pros and cons discussion.

Before Photo

Before Photo Deck

After Photo

After Photo Deck

  • How to add warmth and ambiance to a backyard living space design: Instead of using a railing made from the same material as the deck, the client chose a custom steel railing. The tops of the rails have natural cedar caps that are flat. The combination gives the space a warm feel and the caps provide an extra space to hold plates or drinks for outdoor entertaining.
  • Installing an invisible drainage system in your backyard: While several drainage systems catch water under a deck and send it to a gutter, none are attractive. We created and installed a custom solution that sends water to a gutter. Because the clients wanted the outdoor living area to look like a finished space and not an add-on, a tongue-in-groove wood ceiling over the patio covers the drainage system, which sends rainwater to a cedar-encased gutter. Instead of focusing solely on functionality, our design fits seamlessly into the overall aesthetic of the yard and adds sophistication.
  • Improving lighting and sound in an outdoor living space: The new deck has recessed lighting in the tongue-and-groove ceiling and the seat walls contain lights for added ambiance and increased safety. The deck also has a new speaker system that connects to the home stereo. With modern outdoor sound systems being Bluetooth-enabled, the speakers can be controlled from a phone. To further the clean look, we hid power cables conveniently and seamlessly—something Landscape East & West professionals have mastered over decades of combined experience. If you’re thinking about adding lighting and sound to your outdoor living space, contact Landscape East & West for a quote.

After Photo

After Photo Lighting

  • Cutting costs while expanding a backyard living space: To save the client money, our team built over their existing patio to expand the space. Building over the old patio saved the cost of removing it and adding new gravel. We used Lafitt Rustic Slab concrete pavers from the Belgard Natural Collection, which look like natural stone. We used polymeric sand in between the pavers. This product hardens and keeps the sand from being washed away, stops ants, and reduces weed growth.
  • Adding seating capacity to the yard with decorative seat walls: To create a more cohesive look and transition, the outside ends of the patio have a short retaining wall, or seat walls, made from cultured stone, the same stone used for the new fire pit. For more info on our retaining wall process, take a look here

Before Photo

Before Photo Lower Deck

After Photo

After Photo Lower Deck

  • An affordable yet elegant backyard fire pit for looks and function: The main seating area in the patio features a beautiful raised fire pit made from cultured stone and a cast concrete coping. The pit has a steel insert and crushed fire glass for a contemporary look.

After Photo

After photo firepit

  • A fuel-efficient heating solution for your backyard living space: To make sure things were done right, Landscape East & West hired a gas contractor to install a gas line for the fire pit that was large enough to sustain a significant flame. Too often people try to simply extend the gas line from their BBQ to the firepit, but it’s generally too small to produce a powerful flame. We wanted to make sure our clients had a generous glow. 

Get in Touch with Landscape East & West

Thinking about transforming your outdoor living space? It’s important to get the process started early to enjoy a few months at the end of summer or early fall in your backyard! Call us at (503) 825-0670 or contact the experienced team at Landscape East & West for a free quote, or schedule a free in-home consultation.