N.C. ó It may be tucked away in the back of the house,
invisible from the street and unknown to anyone but
family and guests, but the back porch is the most
important room in many Southern homes.
the place where drinks ó whether lemonade or something
stronger ó are poured, smiles are shared and deep
thoughts take form, uttered between friends or conjured
up during a little time alone with just the trees and
Allen Scalise, an interior designer and owner of Ivy
Cottage Collections in Morrisville, N.C., knows this
well. However, when she and her husband, Jim, built
their house in Cary, outside of Raleigh, N.C., 17 years
ago, the back deck was barely on their radar. They had
two young children and she was expanding her two design
stores: one in Morrisville and a now-closed one at North
Hills in Raleigh, N.C.
when it came time to do the deck," she recalls,
"I was like Ö ĎI donít care.í "
the years went by and the Scalises settled in, the
original deck, little-used, started to deteriorate, and
Lisa started making grand plans.
envisioned a relaxing getaway nestled high in the
treetops that buffer the house from a nearby greenway.
And she wanted to go big.
of the big things I wanted was to have it feel like weíre
living in a treehouse out here," she said on a
recent evening, against the sound of leaves rustling in
a lazy late-spring breeze. "And I wanted to have
enough space to entertain. I wanted that indoor/outdoor
living experience, almost like youíre in a living
room, but itís outside."
high above the natural wooded yard below, the
1,400-square-foot deck truly does feel like a home in
the trees. An outdoor kitchen tiled in muted green and
blue glass rectangles gently separates a large round
table that beckons diners to stay a while from a more
casual seating area situated around a long, narrow
fireplace. At the edge of that seating area hangs a
swing that has hosted many a peaceful nap. As well it
should ó its base is a twin bed frame. Cushions and
pillows allow upright seating, but why stick to that
when you can lie back and view the sky beyond the canopy
of leaves above as you sway in the breeze?
favorite thing to do," Scalise said, "is to
come home from work, and if itís still warm outside,
get up on that swing with a book and I will literally be
asleep in five minutes. Itís so peaceful, so
peaceful feel was something Scalise carefully curated, a
bit of a contrast from the more energetic tones that
mark her work inside her own home and for others.
a color girl. I like color a lot," she said.
"But when Iím outside, not so much. I want it
very calm and very serene."
color works its magic on her new deck, too, if more
subtly. One of the first things Scalise settled on for
the deckís decor was the glass tiles, usually used for
pools, on the outdoor kitchen and on the sides of the
didnít want your stereotypical stone fireplace, stone
grill area," she said. "I wanted light and
airy, no heaviness at all. There were enough color
elements in [the tile] that I could really go to town
with my other furnishings out here."
those furnishings, Scalise achieved another mark thatís
important to her design aesthetic.
really like a space to look collected and not too
matchy-matchy," she said. For herself and for
clients, she steers clear of matching furniture sets
that can set a vibe to snooze. "I want different
shapes and sizes and textures and then somehow have it
all flow perfectly."
white pergola frames the seating area, which is a couple
of wide steps down from the rest of the deck ó a cozy,
sunken plan inspired by Don Draperís apartment on
"Mad Men," Scalise explained. Lighting the
space ó and adding a dash of Scaliseís designer
flair ó is a chandelier made from weatherproofed
was able to bring her vision to life, starting last
summer, with the help of a landscape designer with 3-D
software. With all the details settled, she turned to
builder Bob Matthews of Carolina Custom Design &
Trim to get it done.
welcomed the challenge, even though it was a tall order,
literally: viewed from the back yard, the deck is nearly
two stories off the ground.
the year I spend the time trimming out a house or just
building a standard deck or tiling something," he
this project, one of many heís worked on with Scalise
over the years, he said, "Everything was something
that hadnít been done in this area that big."
or remodeling a deck is a big investment, though itís
one thatís long been regarded as worthwhile in terms
of a homeís resale value. According to 2016 data from
Remodeling magazine, adding a wood deck recoups 80
percent of the construction cost at resale on a home in
the South Atlantic region, which includes North
Carolina. Adding a composite deck recoups about 70
asked Lisa Allen Scalise, an interior designer, for her
advice when planning for the look of a deck (or any room
in your home, for that matter):
If tile is involved, always start with the tile, she
said. "Thatís a way you can get a very unique
look and have that starting-off point for what your
color scheme might be, and what your aesthetic might
Look for inspiration everywhere. She suggests poring
through magazines and online resources: "Youíll
find something that will suddenly click with you,"
she said, and off youíll go.
builder for her deck renovation, Bob Matthews of
Carolina Custom Design & Trim, offers advice as
well, based on his nearly 20 years of experience.
advises getting more than one estimate, getting
references and looking at contractorsí past work.
Spend time gathering ideas and information on all the
decisions youíll need to make, including types of
decking, handrail styles, lighting, water features,
entertainment, sound and more.
considering size, think about how youíll use the
space, he said, including how much furniture, how big a
grill and how many people youíll want to fit out
there. What seems like a large space can fill up
importantly, he said, donít rush into it.
have to look at your project and love it before you have
somebody price it," he said. "Because youíre
going to live with it forever, or as long as you own the