McLean Deck & Outdoor Room

UPDATE 7.18, see end of post!

A few months ago we began the design process for a lovely existing home in McLean, VA. The clients wanted a new second story outdoor room (the words screened-in porch, sunroom, screen room, outdoor room, etc all were bandied between us) and also an open deck. In chatting with the clients and in surveying the property, I could see almost immediately that this would be a project where finesse and sensitivity to the existing architectural lines would be important. The home is a late 1970’s ‘Midcentury Modern’, with a West Coast panache that is remarkable. Entirely sheathed in redwood siding, the home underwent a major renovation in the early 2000’s, and the lines vastly improved by Mickey Simpson Architects. Mickey adroitly fixed some longstanding siding issues by giving the home appropriately weighty roof overhangs all around, as well as improving the shading and shadow lines of the facades. Lap-seam metal siding above the garage also improved the feel of the space by modernizing the look and clean lines of the front deck.

prior to major renovation, photo by



The home today

At some point a very large second story backyard deck was built, and it was in this area that the clients wanted to rebuild. Construction methods for this existing deck were ‘creative’,  and in addition to dubious load support framing of the deck and support posts, the deck was also simply coming to the end of its life. So, a teardown was planned with all new appropriate, to-code framing, support posts, and footers dug to carry the load of the new deck.

old awful deck must come down

The design itself came together over a period of weeks as I juggled client wishes (e.g., program elements) with design ideas which honor the look & feel of the space. Above all else, in deck and outdoor room designs I strive to create spaces which do not look ‘tacked on’ as an afterthought to the main house’s architecture. A striking feature to this home are the strong protruding ‘wings’ which extend about 4′ out from the rear facade; they create a ‘frame’ visually, the planes of which I did not want to arbitrarily break with the new deck and outdoor room. I also love the bifurcated roof, and I knew I wanted to bring that strong sloping plane down into whatever room design I would come up with.  The clients’ wishes included having one set of the existing sliding glass doors to open up onto the deck, while the other set of glass doors should open up into the outdoor room. Proximity to the kitchen dictated that the room be positioned to the left, and the deck to the right. I loved the idea of making the space as open and airy as possible, while still making an area secure against rain and wind, as well as our notorious buggy weather. Large open spaces are a lovely byproduct of traditional timberframing techniques, so I combined timberframing with the typical framing techniques found in high quality deck construction and presented this: The outdoor room’s key feature is the use of large retractable screen panels, which allow for the space to be completely open on fair days, as well as unifies the deck floor both under the floating roof and out into the exposed deck areas. At the touch of a button, screens roll down and the entire room can be screened off in just a few moments for bug-free entertaining. The combination of heavy timberframe beams along with the open airy spaces makes for a lively and really pleasant atmosphere. Stay tuned, we’re breaking ground on this project presently and will have construction photos soon…

UPDATE 7.13.14

The old deck has been successfully demo’d and disposed of responsibly:

An interesting architectural feature of the home’s original small balconies can be seen above. The joists for the balcony are actually the same as for the 2nd story floor, they extend out through the facade 4′ (the existing 3rd story master bedroom suite balcony is the same way, you can see it upper left).

Framing starts next week!


Framing continues in earnest, the crew is really going full steam and making great headway.


Some extensive rot was occurring in the fascia boards and railings of the upper balconies, those have been replaced as well.

We’ll wait several months for the new wood to dry down and silver, then we will blend a custom stain to match the existing redwood.


Progress continues, the crew is making haste slowly

Perfect deck-building weather day after day means this project is coming together fast.


Staircase rail posts and railings going in. To do: Install stair lights and top rails

Even though the square footage is quite generous (indeed, it’s larger than the previous deck), because care was taken with lines and railing choices, the deck appears quite tidy and not like a tumor growing from the house. Above you can see one of the 4′ ‘wings’ extending out from the rear facade of the house.

Above you can see how we solved the architectural puzzle of the floating 2nd story interior floor joists. If you recall, in the original blueprints these joists were taken right through the rear wall of the home and extended out into a 4′ balcony. One must tread carefully when dealing with original construction: It would be unwise to simply saw these off, install the ledgerboard, and be on our way framing out a typical deck. In addition to creating holes which would need careful sealing, it’s a dishonorable quick fix which damages the history of the house, in my opinion. Instead, we married our new pressure treated joists to the old joists, then brought the load carrying member out 4′,; you can see the beam to the right in the photo. That beam will carry the load from that point forward to the edge of the deck, replacing the need for the ledgerboard.

one more!