The Neutral on Neutral Deck

I’m of the mindset that childhood memories are made in dirt and grass, at least mine were. My parents pushed us outside to play from morning until sunset, there was always something to be explored. Outside play is far superior to any toy or gadget, although don’t get me wrong, I’ll shove an i-pad into my sons arms to buy an hour or two of peace and quiet without thinking twice about it. Below is the backyard patio from the house listing prior to move in.

deck before owning

The backyard was one of the aspects of the home I was most in love with. I couldn’t wait for my future kids to run and play, get sweaty and dirty out there in the yard. Despite the great yard space, we felt something was missing for our own interests, and so deck became high on the priority list upon moving in.

deck progressA deck would create an elevated and sectioned off space to entertain and relax, while kids could run free in the yard or play on the deck if they wanted. The summer after we moved in we built a deck. “We” meaning Mike and his dad, and lots of additional help from friends and family. I helped like zero percent. I had a brand new baby, and we stayed inside, but with or without a new baby I probably wouldn’t have been much help.

Below is the deck (the only picture I could find) of the “after it was just built” stage. Note how fresh and awesome that wood is. The second photo shows a better view of the right lower side, it was taken a few weeks ago after I had started painting the rails white.

The problem with building our deck, is that once we built it, we then neglected it. For YEARS. We still spent tons of time outside playing and using our deck, but we never properly treated the wood, nor did we invest in the aesthetics of it. The deck eventually was cracked, faded, and even had mildew in some spots.

I tackled the entire deck, but the lower level has been photographed and completely finished, while the upper deck has a few additional touch ups and items to be added.


full view again

My main goal for the deck was to restore the wood and prepare it for years to come. Secondary to that goal, I wanted to create a space centered around casual kid friendly entertaining and play. A place we could spend every single day. A place I could sit and drink coffee super early in the morning while the boys played at the water table, a place the boys could have play dates safe and friendly enough for toddlers to big boys, and a place we could have friends over late at night after the boys were in bed.


My design goal was to implement a neutral color palette so that textures and variations of browns and blacks could come to play. Greens from nature would serve as my accent color, and they pair so perfectly with black and white. Keeping the design bright and airy, casually southern, and a dose of boho.

view from left arbor

The arbor bench was custom built by my local friend (contact info at bottom), and I customized the dimensions based on a cushion I found on clearance. It provides slight shade, and is a cozy boxed in place to sit. The boys love sitting up there eating popsicles, and standing and staring at our neighbors. It also adds visual height to an otherwise shallow space.

view from chairs

The water table was a gift from my parents for Ari on his first birthday. It has been one of our most used play items we’ve ever owned. It did used to have sand, but Max kept eating and throwing it, so I sadly had to get rid of the sand and keep only water. I sure do hope the sand can come back one day! The umbrella adds needed shade, especially in the space that gets the most sun for the most hours of the day.

view from bench back

The biggest, and most important change to the deck has been treating the wood with product. I opted out of traditional deck stain since our deck had been through years of damage. Instead I went with Behr Deckover in a smooth finish, color “Chatham Fog”.

view from above ish

Applying the Deckover product was extremely time consuming and labor intensive, at least for our deck since there were so many cracks and textures. New wood would be much easier. Many reviews claim that a roller can be used, that failed for me and ultimately had to paint it all with a paint brush. The consistency is like thick pudding, our entire deck took five gallons.

plant sewing table plus chair

Rails were painted with interior white high gloss paint directly onto the wood, no cleaning prior to painting. I originally used Stain Killz, but it was very transparent so I went ahead and bought white interior paint. I can easily touch up the rails if there is chipping over time. Painting deck rails were by far the most annoying task ever, and the upper deck rails still need completing in some spots.

left side

The black and white pillows were a splurge for me. Kind of. If you know me, you know most things I buy are thrifted or clearance (a few exceptions to that of course), but those pillows were like none of those things.

For mothers day Mike gave me a West Elm gift card (which can actually be spent at several stores, including Pottery Barn). So, yes, I went on a Pottery Barn shopping spree, felt super guilty about it, ordered custom made black and white outdoor pillows, and now that weeks have passed I feel no guilt because I just love them so much.

chairs and table

Finishing the deck was a huge task, but I’m so happy I went for it and got it done in time for summer. Each year that the deck went un-treated was money going down the drain. We took time and money to build the deck, it made zero sense that we left it neglected. I wish I had done that sooner, but all is well now and the work is behind me. The one detail I failed to complete is a solution for bee’s and mosquitos, we get so many. I don’t want to kill them necessarily, I just don’t want them attracted to our space. If you have a secret tip, please leave a comment I’d love to know.

full view with posts


Black Vintage Ethan Allen Bench – Local online yardsale site, Black & White Pillows – Pottery Barn, Fiddle Leaf Fabric on Center Pillow – Studio McGee & Co, Arbor Bench – Matt Hibbs (local –, Outdoor wicker coffee table – Craigslist, Black arbor bench cushion – Pier One, Black chairs – previously owned, Black & White kids rug + umbrella – Target, Side Table Left Of Arbor Bench – Previously owned, originally thrifted, Plant table (vintage sewing table) – Thrifted @ Habitat ReStore, Deck Paint – Behr Deckover “Chatham Fog”, Chair Cushions – Target with a Coupon.