Deck Does Wonders for Craftsman’s Backyard

Berkeley residents Bob and Bonnie Hester reclaim their yard with an innovative deck replacement that includes an art glass screen mimicking their Craftsman home.


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A 400-square-foot redwood deck and art glass privacy screen create inviting outdoor space.

Photo by Ramona d'Viola

After 36 years of navigating an ill-conceived deck, Berkeley residents Bob and Bonnie Hester decided to reclaim their outdoor space from years of neglect. The couple had two criteria. Their new deck had to be pretty, and it had to be made out of real wood.

Site and privacy issues also had to be taken into consideration. With their neighbor’s eye-level windows in close proximity to the new deck, the Hesters wanted to soften the structure’s visual impact and provide the adjoining home a view almost as nice as their own. They also wanted seating and storage, and to accommodate existing plantings including an apple tree and aged-but-beloved rose bush.

Not too hard, right?

“We couldn’t find an architect or builder who wasn’t booked for months,” Bonnie recalled. “People in the local trades are busy.”

It hadn’t occurred to the Hesters to look to a landscape architect for their project. But after meeting with Sue Oda, an El-Cerrito-based landscape architect recommended by their landscaper, the couple had complete faith in her capabilities and vision.

“I’m not a visual person and couldn’t quite conceptualize the plan, but Sue’s creativity and stellar reputation made it easy to place our trust in her vision,” Hester said.

Along with a cracked concrete patio, the original deck was removed and replaced with 400 square feet of stained redwood. The new design drastically improved indoor/outdoor flow and accessibility, wrapping almost entirely around the back of the house and covering the manhole-sized divots in their backyard. The expansive deck’s south perimeter, closest to the neighbors’ home, includes an art glass privacy screen and bench seating with ample storage hidden beneath hinged lids.

“I wanted to complement the Craftsman aspect of the home,” Oda recalled. “For privacy, I’d been thinking of louvered wooden slats. But while standing in the Hesters’ kitchen, I noticed a hand-blown drinking glass on the counter. It gave me the idea to use stained glass in the deck design and remain true to the architectural style.”

The opaque glass, which was locally sourced from Avalon Glass on San Pablo Avenue, provided a not-so-in-your-face solution for both the Hesters and their neighbors.

“Sue’s idea to use art glass as a privacy screen was just one example of her artistic yet solution-oriented approach,” Hester added. “When the sun sets, it illuminates the deck for a beautiful effect.”

Oda’s design also included a medium-sized planter box to provide a visual break and interest in the large deck. It allows the Hesters to practice a little urban farming although they are not gardeners by temperament. Nascent lettuces and herbs are already making their way to their outdoor dining table, with many more al fresco meals to come.

 

Resources

Landscape Architect: Sue Oda

Contractor: Andrew Gregor, Blue Dog Construction & Renovation

Landscaping: Sally Jo Dinwiddie, TLC Gardener

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