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How to Plan and Design an Overhead or Pergola
A well-designed deck includes built-ins and features that are added for practical purposes along with architectural elements that enhance the design and materials of the structure. The better the design, the less noticeable it is. Face the truth: It gets hot, and as gorgeously appointed as your fine hardwood deck might be, if you don't provide shade, everybody will run for cover. A pergola or overhead structure will prolong your enjoyment and use of the deck along while adding an attractive design element.
Assess what already exists: a deck's railings, posts, and overhead structure should echo a home's similar architectural elements in front or other parts of the property. A well-designed cover complements your home's style and the exterior materials used, especially any wood used elsewhere. Among types and styles of overhead structures to consider:
- Arbor: Smaller than a pergola or gazebo, an arbor includes 2 to 4 posts with a simple slatted roof that is open. Vines can grow over an arbor or lattice can be placed on top for more of an enclosed effect.
- Pergola: This type of overhead can be identified by having four or more posts or columns. It supports a roof that is traditionally flat, with beams left alone in one direction or topped with cross beams or slats. The pergola's roof can be left open, covered with outdoor fabric, or support fast-growing vines.
- Attached overhead: This can be built at the same time as the deck or added to an existing deck. It attaches to a back wall of your house and has a roof supported by sturdy posts at the edge of the deck.
- Gazebo: More room-like than a pergola, a gazebo can be rectangular, hexagonal, or whatever shape you desire. Gazebos have posts and are more enclosed than other garden structures.
- Roof extension: Sometimes this has already been done, other times it's a solution when another type of overhead structure will interrupt the flow and lines of your home's roof. Work with an architect or other building professional for this type of project; it's definitely not a DIY endeavor.
Consult your planning commission before starting a project of this scope; you will likely need to pull permits and follow local codes.
For inspiration and ideas, enjoy this diverse, international selection of covered decks.Continue to 2 of 26 below.
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A Washington DC home has a Modernist sensibility focused on the privacy of the rear yard: from the front, you'd never guess how open and modern it is in the back. A covered deck that's is an extension of the interior and reflects the proportions of the master bedroom as it looks across a grassy "courtyard". Designed by Kube Architecture, the deck is built with ipe wood and pressure-treated framing. Small, in-ground deck lights were purchased on Amazon for subtle illumination.Continue to 3 of 26 below.
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Locomotive Ranch Trailer
Following his client's request, Austin-based Andrew Hinman Architecture incorporated this cherished 1954 Spartan Imperial Mansion house trailer onto a ranch in South Texas overlooking the Nueces River. FSC-certified ipe and Douglas fir decking frames a vintage California redwood hot tub. The roof, which overhangs the deck, is made of metal and reflects sun. The ceiling is built of Douglas fir, which buffers sound during thunderstorms and insulates the home from that Texas heat.Continue to 4 of 26 below.
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Sydney Beach Style
A slightly rustic, greyed-out hardwood deck lends this space a beach vibe that reflects the homeowners' lifestyle in Sydney, Australia. Designed by Maria Villa of Villa+Villa Style, the wood-frame pergola features a thatch-style roof for a casual, tropical look.Continue to 5 of 26 below.
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Blackbutt DeckContinue to 6 of 26 below.
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A farmhouse in Austria features a variety of materials and textures for an outdoor deck that overlooks green, blooming fields. Mossyrock Design Studio used timber framing for the outdoor structure, while rough-hewn stone wall frames a picturesque view.Continue to 7 of 26 below.
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Rich, Warm Wood
A deck with a patina blurs the transition from indoors to outdoors of this home in coastal Melbourne, Australia. The outdoor space, designed by Acre Landscape Architecture Studio, features an outdoor kitchen with indoor pass-through window covered by a framed roof extension that continues ceiling materials used inside. Architects on the project were Planned Living Architects, with construction by Powda Constructions.Continue to 9 of 26 below.
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West Loop Loft Roof
Envisioning this space in Chicago as an outdoor family room, Scrafano Architects collaborated with Hoerr Schaudt Landscape Architects to transform a West Loop loft roof space into something that is inviting and comfortable. The roof deck to expand the living space, providing room for entertaining, playing, and relaxing. An ipe wood deck and lush plantings soften the property's urban, industrial setting, while a lawn lets the kids stretch out and run through the sprinkler.
An asymmetrical wood trellis emphasizes the outdoor living room while framing views of the Chicago skyline. Stainless steel mesh panels separate the deck area from mechanical equipment and provide new ways of occupying a formally industrial neighborhood.Continue to 10 of 26 below.
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Shelter the Chef
The challenge for Stumpff HomeWorks and Escape Lawn & Landscaping: Building a deck and outdoor kitchen with directives from the city that they could not extend into the backyard any farther. In other words, work within a limited space. Using Azek Acacia decking, Stumpff framed out the covered roof area with 6 x 6-inch smooth cedar posts and curved cedar brackets. The ceiling material is a pine car (aka box car) siding and the roof rafters are 2 x 6-inch cedar painted white. Escape did the stonework for the kitchen and installed the appliances. For grilling at night, low-voltage track lighting illuminates the area.Continue to 11 of 26 below.
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Raise the Roof
What do you do when you need to shade a narrow deck but can't extend from the home's roofline? For a home in the Seattle area, Decks and Patios Covers mounted a cover to the roof to ensure adequate height underneath. A glass rail with a low-profile top cap opens up the view. The covers are framed with powder-coated aluminum and topped with impact-resistant acrylic panels.Continue to 12 of 26 below.
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Slate chipping stones in Delabole Blue lead from the main deck of a home near Bristol, England, to a more private space, all designed by Katherine Roper Landscape & Garden Design. The structure is made of pressure-treated pine with custom-built screens that use Perspex panels that were cut to size then glued onto the panel framework.Continue to 13 of 26 below.
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Private Deck in NapaContinue to 14 of 26 below.
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A high, dramatic awning roof built over an outdoor room gives the occupants of this home a sensation of being outside, yet sheltered from the elements. Designed by Danny Broe Architect, the kitchen was perceived as a sort of sculptural element. It's attractive yet practical and makes the most out of economical materials.Continue to 15 of 26 below.
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For a high-rise deck in Manhattan, New Eco Landscapes of Brooklyn created an urban perch with warm wood decking and an angled sail that shades the outdoor dining area. Nature in the form of evergreen shrubs, ornamental grasses and tall trees in planters adds privacy and touches of green and other colors. New Eco used a mixture of low-maintenance, drought-tolerant plants and annuals, including Adagio maiden grass, river birch trees, and sweet potato vines in lime and purple.Continue to 16 of 26 below.
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Bali in Tarrytown
A trip to Bali inspired the outdoor space of this home in Austin's Tarrytown district. Webber + Studio recreates the romance of the homeowners' Balinese adventures with three pavilions unified by a large roof that create an exotic regionalism yet keep an understated presence within the neighborhood. One of the pavilions shelters a covered porch and uses Texas limestone, river rock, oak millwork, and mahogany finishes. The deck is made of ipe with birch plywood soffits.Continue to 17 of 26 below.
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While Ten Broech Farm, a thoroughbred horse ranch in central Washington, is new, it was important to the owners that the house and guest house appear as though they were original and had grown over time. To achieve this, Designs Northwest Architects designed simple gabled forms and elements while enhancing the 360-degree pastoral views connecting the occupants back to the land around them. The farmhouse vernacular is expressed by the use of a wraparound veranda and low-pitched roofs. Large windows reinforce the home's connection to the surrounding landscape, where the pasture fences come close to the house so the horses are in view.Continue to 18 of 26 below.
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Just steps away from Tampa Bay, a Mid-century modern home is updated with a deck covered by an extension that provides a visual continuation from inside to outside, for a smooth blend. The deck flooring is constructed of concrete and Cumaru (an exotic hardwood), while the kitchen and deck's ceiling is cypress. Repurposed terazzo pavers lead from the water to the deck, which is also made of Cumaru. The project was a collaboration among builder Corbin Moore, architect Dale Parks, and designer Magida Diouri.Continue to 19 of 26 below.
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Modern Fibro Beach Shack
Fibro beach shacks are homemade vacation homes built along Australia's Gold Coast beginning in the 1920s that are often demolished to build bigger and better. Fibro refers to the fibrous cement sheet, (made of asbestos) of which these small shacks were often constructed.
In a fabulously modern salute to the classic fibro shacks, True North Architects used a combination of weatherboard and hardwood timbers for an interconnected series of decks, terraces, and gardens on a sloping property in New South Wales. Other materials used include steel and corrugated iron, which complement the wood that is allowed to turn silver. A fire deck is constructed of oily tallowood, a local hardwood.Continue to 20 of 26 below.
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A wood-framed cover cools things off when the deck warms up at this home in New South Wales. Designed by Luigi Rosselli, who specializes in residential architecture, adaptive reuse, and heritage designs, the deck makes smart use of limited space. That faceless, low-maintenance puppy is by Eero Aarnio for Magis.Continue to 21 of 26 below.
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Relax in Back
Look behind this covered deck for this Virginia home's cantilevered roofs, which lift and extend in contrast to the deck's flat roof. Designed by Moore Architects, the decking is constructed of ipe, while the ceiling is exterior-grade drywall for a smooth, clean look. A double-sided fireplace allows the homeowners to enjoy it indoors and out.Continue to 22 of 26 below.
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Tigerwood and Ipe
The removal of a center column of a hip roof projection opens up the indoor/outdoor living space of a house in Texas. The project, designed Austin Outdoor Design, features a tigerwood ceiling over an ipe deck that measures about 20 x 25 feet. Leuders limestone and crushed grey basalt add simplicity and elegance to the space.Continue to 23 of 26 below.
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An outdoor fabric-covered gazebo offers shelter for a backyard and courtyard pool surround at a home in Noose, Queensland, Australia. Conceived by Skale Building Design, the project includes ironwood decking.Continue to 24 of 26 below.
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The challenge: To build a construct a deck in Los Montreros, Marbella, Spain in 23 days with just five people. Cape Reed used 200 pressure-treated poles and more than 1,000 nuts and bolts to build the structure. Thatching from the southern tip of Africa grown under strict, sustainable farming practices was used for the roof and outdoor building.Continue to 25 of 26 below.
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Take a couple of steps from the patio to the raised deck of this beach house on Uncatena Island in Massachusetts to enjoy the view and sea breeze. Designed by the Boston firm, Emeritus, the deck's shade structure features crisp, rectilinear lines for a clean, classic look.Continue to 26 of 26 below.
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Modern Detroit Deck
Sometimes you just have to let things rust. For her own home in Michigan, designer Elin Walters of Exactly Designs allowed the patina of a portable fire pit to work with her eclectic outdoor design. Hanging planters are also permitted to rust, as well. For a deck cover, she used metal conduit to emphasize the horizontal lines of the Mid-century home, then placed bulb lights on the end for an atomic touch.