Although decking has been a staple of the boat building business for centuries, this design approach didn’t enter the interiors world until the 60s. Many Americans hankered after an indoor-outdoor style extension to their home on which to host their BBQs, so built elevated patios directly off their living spaces out of decking – chosen because it’s lightweight and easy on the eye. Over the years, decking’s usage has expanded, and it has become the go-to material for a contemporary patio or roof terrace. Materials have also come into their own. While early decks were made out of first-generation hardwoods, now it’s hard-wearing composites and eco products made of recycled materials that are all the rage. We are also experimenting with stains and widths to give the wood a very contemporary feel. It is important to consider certain factors before laying your decking. It’s a fairly big project, so you want to make sure you have a clear end goal in mind before you start planning this must-have backyard idea.

Deck ideas for a fabulous outdoor space

From decking layouts and patterns we love, to deck railing ideas and inspiration for small backyards, we’ve rounded up the best deck inspiration we could find to help you plan your dream space. 

1. Build a custom deck

If you’re looking for small deck ideas, a custom design is a great choice, because it’ll be built to maximize your space. ‘A custom deck is a uniquely designed structure that meets your specific needs and preferences,’ says Sam Toole CMO of TimberTech, a composite decking company. ‘Working with a contractor for a custom-built deck ensures your deck is built to the right specifications for lasting performance.’

2. Try a herringbone decking pattern

Herringbone floors are a popular indoor feature, especially in traditional, elegant spaces. So why not bring them outside to create a similar feeling ‘A herringbone pattern is rich in visual interest and immediately elevates the style of your outdoor living space,’ says Toole. ‘This pattern can also serve as an intricate focal point when used as a framed inlay.’

3. Add planters 

There are lots of reasons to add planters to a deck. For one, this deck planting idea offers a chance to add color and style to your outdoor space. Plus, if you position them correctly and choose the right plants, they can offer privacy or shade. Certain plants, like the Citronella plant, can even help keep bugs and pests away. 

4. Pair a deck with a patio

In a large outdoor space, vary your landscaping ideas to create a more inviting space. At the Santa Barbara, California home above, designer Jessica Risko Smith (opens in new tab) added a deck adjacent to the pool patio to break up the vast space. The wood decking adds a sense of warmth to the harder patio ideas, and helps delineate the living area from the nearby pool deck. 

5. Opt for modular furniture & décor

‘For maximum versatility and a totally curated space, opt for modular furniture and décor,’ says Toole. ‘Modular pieces can be easily rearranged and sometimes nest inside each other for optimal flexibility and functionality. So, whether you’re hosting a small intimate gathering or a big family get-together, your space can accommodate your needs.’

6. Create a cozy corner

Bespoke fencing and decking teamed with rattan furniture turn the end of the garden into a cozy, secluded spot that’s perfect for entertaining.

7. Zone a space

It’s not a surprise that decking is now used so widely. It can be widened into platforms or narrowed into paths to link different areas, binding together a garden’s design.  In tiny gardens, decking may even be used to replace lawn and paving, flowing in an unbroken series of paths, terraces and seating. With forward planning, lighting cables and water pipes can be concealed beneath, opening up options for deck lighting ideas that rival interior rooms. 

8. Take your decking to a new level

Decking is a godsend for split-level areas – built up into a platform or stepped downwards to cope with a sloping site. In narrow plots where the planking zigzags through the garden, it draws the eye around the area, making it appear both wider and longer.

9. Decorate your deck

If you love container gardening, decking near the house can provide the perfect platform for seasonal pots, which also help to soften any hard edges. Containers are a wonderful way to add instant and easy color to your garden. And, of course, container garden ideas are perfect for gardens with decking. 

10. Color coordinate

An outdoor room that is an immediate extension of the home suits a scheme in which all furnishings – decking, pergola, fencing, seating, cushions, containers and plants – are color coordinated.  In such a scheme, there is scope for imaginative designs using wood stains, available in a wide selection of colors. And the advantage of timber instead of paving or stone is that its color can be easily changed. Experiment with different shades on some timber offcuts first.

11. Keep it natural

There is so much scope for imaginative designs using wood stains, available in a wide selection of colors.  An informal look is created when decking is left natural and allowed to weather with time, turning a silvery-grey which, for a deck color idea that blends beautifully with plants and the natural landscape. A good compromise is to treat the decking with a wood oil that simply enhances the natural beauty of the wood – products made for treating timber boats are ideal.

12. Fit plants around your decking

When drawing up your plans, consider adding raised beds, benches, screening, tables, planters, storage and bannisters. Think about where your chosen plants will fit best – whether in pots, borders adjacent to the deck, or in beds countersunk within it – before you lay the decking.

13. Go for a trusted timber

At its best, a timber deck is a handsome, hard-wearing surface that complements most garden settings. It’s a natural material that provides a sympathetic background to plants, blending beautifully with water, stone and trees. Timber lends itself to different styles of architecture and design. A deck can be designed in a smart, contemporary look, as easily as in a more traditional style. But decks don’t only look good: other advantages include being relatively lightweight in comparison to stone, quick and easy to install and forgiving. Timber can be cut to size to fit perfectly round awkward corners, or over manhole covers and is easily extended at a later date.

14. Consider the practicality

It’s really important to plan around existing fixed structures and features – the last thing you want is to lay a perfect deck, only to find that you can’t open your garden gate. So, before you finalize plans, check it won’t restrict access from paths and gates or obstruct outside taps, electrical sockets, drains and manhole covers.

15. Plan, plan, plan

You could consider laying planks at different angles or creating curves, but remember, construction is more time-consuming on a larger site. Sketch out your plans, take accurate measurements and mark the ground with posts and strings.

16. Pair decking with a lawn

Create a highly individual look by combining a variety of finishes, textures and colors in a modern scheme. Adopting a variety of landscape materials in different zones in your garden not only adds interest, it can help to keep your budget in check, too. Where decking can be on the pricier side, lawn is relatively cheap – and it helps to establish a boundary.

17. Introduce interest with a raised platform

Use decking to lead the eye to a secluded seating spot. Decking is especially useful on plots where there is a difference in height, because it can be simply laid to fit the space with steps ascending or descending to other levels.  When choosing a site for a deck, avoid poorly ventilated areas with little sunlight – this can cause rot and algae. Raised decks should be built to encourage a free flow of air through gaps between the decking fascia, with no spaces big enough to let in rats or mice. 

How can I make my deck look nice?

Decking can be used to create walkways and can link different areas of your garden. Mixing natural wood – perhaps reclaimed railway sleepers – with single and patio slabs creates interest and defines individual areas.

Which wood should I use for my deck?

There’s a vast variety of decking available, so make sure you have a good look at what’s out there before making your choice. Good quality hardwood decking plans cost about double their softwood equivalents but, either way, the additional materials for the base and sub-frame adds at least another third in cost. Modern timber comes pre-treated against rot and can be left to turn a pleasing silver finish. Decking will last longer on a sunny site that is kept free of leaves and moisture. 

Where should I lay decking?

Decking should be placed on even ground, so the area will need to be levelled in advance. Avoid areas that are situated where huge numbers of leaves will fall. Choose a sheltered spot offering both sun and shade.

How do I clean my garden deck?

It is surprisingly easy to clean your garden deck. Using a pressure washer (or a garden hose and brush, if you don’t have one), together with a specialised decking cleaner, give your decking a once-over.  Repeat the process to ensure a super-clean surface. If you have the time and the wood looks like it could do with some extra love, give it a coat of decking stain – it’ll make the deck look great and help it last longer.