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The casual deck space gets its easy sophistication from mixed materials: sleek board-form concrete around the fireplace; redwood flooring; cedar and stainless-steel cable railings; and a pergola of Douglas fir and cedar. Large pavers guide the way to the lawn. Photograph by David Lauer; Styling by Kerri Cole

Renovation, The Backyard Edition

A Boulder family's new back deck gives them a whole new room—outside. Here's how they did it.

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Don’t let our like-clockwork late-April blizzards discourage you: Colorado is an ideal spot for entertaining outside. After all, we are home to the outdoor trifecta: temperate nights, very few insects, and low humidity. It’s the kind of place where a few durable all-weather sofas, a glowing fireplace, and a sleek pergola can combine to become the most-used “room” in your house.

That’s exactly what Tim and Stephanie Abrams decided when they embarked on an exterior renovation of their dated 1980s North Boulder home. Calling on architect Scott Friedman of Gitane Workshop and builder Ryan Wither of Buildwell, the Abramses updated the home with modern stucco and slat-style siding. But the real game changer was replacing their old back patio with an elegant deck, which provides access from the kitchen via a folding NanaWall. “Even when you’re inside, it feels like you’re outside—and vice versa,” Wither says. The Abramses, avid entertainers and parents of two young children, say that this connection is key because it allows them to extend the communal feel of the home into the outdoors.

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Also on their must-have list: fire. “We wanted warmth and sophistication,” Tim says. “And I love the element of fire.” So began the research on fireplaces, fire pits, and grills. Tim eventually settled on an Argentinian-style option with a dual purpose: fireplace and grill. Building the heating element was a significant investment of time (and, as Friedman says, the location of the fireplace changed several times over the planning stages), but the payoff in ambience is huge. The final structure creates a natural “center of gravity” and provides entertainment. “My kids love the fire pit for one reason only: s’mores. They’re pros,” Tim laughs. In addition, the warmth from the fire—combined with the pergola’s specially designed slats that provide shade in the summer and block snow in the winter—allows the family to enjoy the deck almost year-round.

In keeping with the fire element, the Abramses chose materials with natural depth and richness: The redwood flooring complements the pergola’s Douglas fir and cedar. And the board-form concrete for the fireplace wall feels like a textured work of art. “The focus on aesthetics was to create a contemporary but comfortable space for entertaining friends and relaxing with our kids,” Stephanie says. And there’s an added bonus to all of this thoughtful work: When you look at the deck, especially when it’s lit up at night, “there’s a sense of welcoming,” Wither says. “There’s no barrier keeping people in or out.” So, then, who’s up for a game of charades?

Design Pros: Scott Friedman, Gitane Workshop (Architecture); Ryan Wither, Buildwell (Construction); Tree of Life Landscapes (Landscaping); David Holiway, True Craft Masonry Fireplaces (Masonry)


Feel The Heat

Five fire features to get your backyard glowing. —Kerri Cole


Ground Control

Which material is best for your deck in Colorado’s unforgiving climate? —Amanda M. Faison

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Builder Ryan Wither of Boulder’s Buildwell is seeing some of his clients turn away from wood-plastic composite decks like Trex because, although the material is durable and relatively inexpensive ($3.35 to $4.50 a linear foot), “none of my clients like it because it reads really plastically. It doesn’t have the nostalgic deck feel.” And the ever-popular redwood, though reasonably priced ($1.75 a linear foot), requires regular sanding and staining to avoid fading and splintering. Instead, Wither is seeing an uptick in thermally modified woods from companies like Thermory and Arbor Wood. These woods, which do cost more ($7.50 a linear foot), are baked at high heat so they’re extremely hard and thus require zero staining or maintenance. They’re of such high quality that some of Wither’s modern home clients use them as siding. Other hardwoods such as ipe, batu, and teak ($6.30 to $6.50 a linear foot) don’t need to be stained and over time will turn a natural shade of gray, reminiscent of a classic New England clapboard house.


Game On

Make open-air entertaining a breeze with these nine colorful, outdoor-friendly picks.—Kerri Cole


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