The tall, narrow aspect of Bill Bayba's 1840s row house is a study in efficiency on a 17x55 urban lot. The only thing missing was a connection to the outdoors: Sitting on the front stoop was the sole option. While a great spot for neighborly chats, the stoop was hardly conducive to sunbathing or outdoor dining and entertaining.
To make up for the absence of outdoor living space, Bayba installed a multi-level deck behind the house. The deck provides a private space for relaxing, reading, and sunbathing off the master bedroom.
"You can see a lot of the city from the deck," Bayba says. "And it's really private. From the ground, no one can tell you're up here."
Down one level is an area for dining and entertaining that wraps around a new kitchen bump out.
Another set of stairs leads to a ground level patio, where there's an eight-person hot tub, a gas grill, and access to an adjacent garden.
The original goal was to unite the outdoor levels with a wrought-iron spiral staircase in period style, like the one on the neighbor's house. But Bayba did his research first. "I tried walking up my neighbor's staircase with two glasses of wine in hand. Impossible!" he said of the steep and twisting climb. "Even more impossible after you've drunk those two glasses of wine," he adds.
Because a major role of the deck was to accommodate gatherings, Bayba specified a staircase broad enough for two to pass, and positioned a landing midway between the second-floor and third-floor to allow a breath-catching pause.
The result has been ideal. A door leads from the kitchen to the deck's second-level dining and seating area. A large bank of kitchen windows overlooks the deck. "We open the windows, and I can work in the kitchen and still see and talk to everyone," Bayba says. "I can even pass food through the open windows."
Off the master bedroom, the deck offers sunshine, chaise lounges, and chairs -- a vacation in itself.
Bayba's advice for deck planners: Don't just connect the deck to the house, integrate its design with your floor plan. And if you're planning a deck as a part of an addition, do it all at once. "If we'd left it for later, it wouldn't have gotten done or wouldn't have been nearly as seamlessly tied to the house," he says. "Do it now and enjoy it."