Decking, love it or hate it, I think most people would agree, in the right setting, done well it can look fantastic. Equally of course, done badly, it can look awful!

How to Avoid Deck Design Disasters

For starters, work out what you want to achieve before you get too far into the process. By ‘achieve’ I mean what do you need the deck for? Yes, I know there are obvious uses for having a deck, but what are your uses?

  • Will you be entertaining the five thousand or just five of you?
  • Do you like to cook on your deck, just lounge or both?
  • Do you like being in sun or shade or perhaps a mixture?

Asking simple questions like these will enable you to get an idea of the size and best location for your deck. Also think about when you will be using the deck. If you’re only around in the evenings and weekends, where is the best location for it? Whilst it’s traditional to have a deck right outside your patio doors, it doesn’t mean that it’s the best place to work with your needs.

What About Using Deck Design Software?

Many decking company websites have free design software you can use. Whilst these can be really helpful because they enable you to see how the finished deck will look, and some even work out the materials you’ll need, you still need to have a good idea of what you want before you use them.

It can be very easy to get carried away with creating split-level decks in various shapes and sizes. These creations look very imaginative on screen but in reality can be awkward to use, expensive to build and not work with your situation. Your home, garden and tastes are unique, picking a pre-designed deck shape is unlikely to really fulfil your needs.

Did Your Deck Fall Out the Sky and Land in Your Backyard?

A well-designed deck should not only be functional but also look good; it should be the space that seamlessly links your home and garden together. A poorly thought-out deck will look and feel awkward. It costs more or less the same amount of money to build a deck in a shape that enhances your home and garden as it does to build something boring, bland and visually unbalanced.

To avoid your deck looking totally out of place, like it landed from outer space, a little bit of time spent planning will be very worthwhile. You need to consider how the deck you create will look with the rest of the garden and it’s in the right proportion with everything around it. A deck that is too big or too small will always look out of place.

Peg out your design ideas ahead of building it and ‘live’ with it for a few days to see how well it meets your needs. Does all your furniture fit comfortably, with enough room to walk around it and have easy access to the house?

The Best Designs Are Always Simple

The main shape of your deck needs to be simple and functional. By simple I don’t mean dull, I mean bold yet uncomplicated as shown in the example on the right. The deck shape is a very simple semi-circle that mirrors the lawn shape. Simple but effective, works every time.

How to Add the ‘WOW’ Factor

A good design shape should be simple to begin with, then you add layers of interest (think icing and chocolate sprinkles on a cake). Raised planters, LED lighting, built-in seating and planters all help add the extra sparkle and create the ‘WOW’. If the design shape is too complicated at the outset adding the extras looks overkill and silly. That’s why simple is so important in the beginning.

Want to Learn How to Design a Perfect Garden?

If you’d like to learn how to design a perfect garden on your own, check out these Online Garden Design Courses.

If you would like the Successful Garden Design cheat sheet and video on how to add the WOW factor to your garden click on image below…



Rachel Mathews
Rachel Mathews

Professional international garden designer for over 30 years. My mission is to de-mystify garden design and make it easy for people to successfully design their own garden - without needing to spend a fortune!

    7 replies to "Deck Design Tips"

    • Sean

      Sadly it doesn’t seem to be on the site and it won’t let us Canucks download from the US site. 🙁

    • Sean

      Never mind, it worked via the Kindle store itself. Thanks!!!!


    • Rachel Mathews

      Hi Sean,

      Glad you got it to work – thanks for letting me know how, I’ll be able to let others know if they experience similar issues.


    • […] Don’t miss this opportunity to get a great free book about designing a beautiful deck! […]

    • Mike Loshe

      I love the section you wrote about the ‘wow’ factor. Personally I feel that this is often times the most over looked aspect when design a deck. Often times people just go with the usual square design and call it day. I can’t stand it! When I designed my deck, we went all out with led lighting, hanging planters, built in benches, and even a outdoor spiral staircases. If you ask me, that’s the way it should be done!

      • Rachel Mathews

        Hi Mike,

        I know, I wish more people would see past a square design. Let’s hope so, as it makes a world of difference doesn’t it!

        Your deck sounds great, well done!

    • Petunia Evans

      I've been thinking of getting a deck this summer, so I really appreciate these tips. I've never thought to use "deck design software", but I'd love to try it out. I'll be sure to follow your advice and to make it simple. Thank you for this help!

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