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By Carol McGarvey | Photography by Tim Abramowitz
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A Des Moines home’s new deck and patio are ready for a big party or a casual nightly dinner.

About this time of year, parents of graduating high school or college seniors enter panic mode about the upcoming party they want to host for their child. Janice and Mark Thomas of Des Moines can identify.

With five children (three daughters and two sons), they continue down that path. Their three older children graduated from Roosevelt High School in Des Moines, and the family lived at a south-of-Grand location. In 2017, they moved 10 blocks west to another Des Moines location.

“Our younger two were going to Dowling Catholic High School in West Des Moines, and child No. 4 was next to graduate,” Mark explains. “We absolutely love the house and the big wooded backyard, but the square wooden deck on the back of the house was old, not safe, and not big enough for how we wanted to use it.” It was time to call in reinforcements.

Who ya gonna call?

They knew exactly whom to call, Harold Cross of Archadeck of Central Iowa. “On our previous home, he designed a multilevel deck and a hot tub space in 2009–10,” Mark says. This time Cross was to design a two-level installation with a larger deck on top and a patio for seating down below. The couple wanted a small outdoor kitchen and a fire pit, too.

“Mother Nature didn’t exactly work in our favor,” Cross points out. “Between the polar vortex and incessant spring rains, there was a question as to whether the project could be completed before the graduation party. The polar vortex shut us down until April.” Just in the nick of time—with barely a week to spare—the yard’s new outdoor living components were in place.

Cross used TimberTech’s AZEK line of capped-polymer decking and trim in the Island Oak color soft gray. For a stylized railing, he used Westbury’s Tuscany-style powder-coated aluminum railing in its Fine Textured Black color.

Eating out

Janice enjoys the gas grill and counter on the deck. It’s right outside her kitchen for easy access. She loves the built-in Fire Magic Aurora gas grill and a granite countertop by Granite, Marble & Tile Solutions. The table and chairs with a market umbrella make having meals outside easy as well as pleasant and comfortable.

A stairway off the deck leads to a gentle-slope stairway to the patio below. Patio and staircase landing pavers were made from Belgard’s Rinn Laziano product line in Sahara Beige. The low retaining walls around the patio and staircase were done with Belgard’s Brisa wall blocks in a color called Heritage. The stairs themselves are a Granika Step product, also by Belgard.

The patio is perfect for relaxing around a fire pit, which is a Rochester Necessories product, including wall stones in the Bluestone color.

Janice says making s’mores on the fire pit is a passion for kids and adults alike. “We entertain kids around that fire pit all the time,” Mark says.

Understated style

The deck and patio are subtle and understated with tones of gray and navy that befit the exterior of their 1970s home. The rectangular deck offers more space for entertaining, and curved edges of the deck and the curved railing end give a pleasing, softer look and enhance the flow of the retaining walls below.

Lights on a timer on the railing, under steps to the lower level, and under the counter in the kitchen give a night glow and a safety edge to evening enjoyment of the new area. Mark says, “The lighting is just bright enough to let you know where you need to go.” The lights help Wrigley, the family dog, as well.

“We eat out here or are relaxing outside nearly every night,” Janice says. And the really good thing? She and Mark, both attorneys, are all ready for the next and last high school graduation party when it comes in a couple years.


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