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Next To Nature
By Carol McGarvey | Photography by Tim Abramowitz
home :: home & garden :: featured gardens

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Polk City couple has it both ways, small-town Iowa and country living. A new deck and porch give them more options.

Linda and Ken Wunsch built their new lodge-style home in 2014 in the planned suburban neighborhood of Tournament Club of Iowa (TCI) in Polk City. But, because of their location on a dead-end street, their neighbors on one side frequently stroll up to their deck each day just to observe what they are doing.

Not to worry. Those dear neighbors—make that deer neighbors—are just being friendly. At 2.87 acres, the couple’s property has the best of both worlds, they say. And just as they said it, two deer peeked around trees and gently sidled a bit closer. “They are just fun to watch, along with a number of owls and tree frogs,” Linda says. “We have developed a harmony between us that makes it feel like they are our outdoor pets.”

When it came time to plan the deck and screened porch on the main level of the home over the walk-out lower level, they knew whom to call for advice, Harold Cross of Archadeck of Central Iowa in Urbandale. “Harold and I went to high school together in Ottumwa,” Linda explains. “Plus my uncle built Harold’s family’s home, so we go way back.”

Soak in the woods

The couple knew they wanted a large outdoor living space for their family. Between them, the couple has five children and two grandchildren.

To get the space they wanted for their home, 17 trees had to be removed, and 30 tons of stone were moved in to create a retaining wall, which mimics the stone on the front of the home.

“They have a million-dollar view there,” says Cross. “Plus, they also wanted the added value of quality, lower-maintenance, wood-alternative decking and railing products. At the outset, it was important to figure out how they wanted to use the property and the space.” At that point, he says, a project becomes a collaboration between the homeowners and the designer. “Designwise, we wanted to accentuate the style of the home and its setting,” Cross says. “The location of the staircase was also a key consideration in the design.”

New construction

Archadeck often creates new decks, porches, and patios as part of remodeling projects. However, the Wunsches’ situation offered the opportunity to showcase and provide the quality and benefits that an Archadeck-designed and -built outdoor living space bring to new construction as well. “We approach our project designs as integrated extensions of a home, whether the home exists or not,” Cross says. “Linda and Ken recognized the opportunity to maximize the integration of their indoor and outdoor living spaces and gain some efficiencies in the process.”

A fire ring with Adirondack chairs around it for seating was the first addition to the backyard, well before the home was even completed. Landscapers from Mark’s Nursery in Redfield and the Archadeck crew often used the area for lunches, Linda says. The family uses it for cookouts for brats and hot dogs and also for s’mores treats.

Cross used Timber Tech Earthwood Evolutions Legacy capped-composite decking Tigerwood color for a natural look. Dark aluminum gives a classy and unobtrusive appearance to the railing. The deck and the screened porch go across the entire back side of the home. Large cedar-trimmed posts add a look of stability to the project. The cedar is a pleasing contrast to the darker color of the home, all of which blends nicely into the wooded background.

Cross says the floor of the deck and screened porch mimics the colors and textures of real wood without the constant maintenance to keep the look. From inside the home, the deck and porch can be accessed through two rooms.

Inviting porch

The cozy screened porch, measuring 11×14 feet, is a comfortable spot to relax out of the reach of mosquitoes. “We liked Harold’s idea to incorporate stone knee walls around the interior and exterior of the porch,” Linda says. “The porch’s character matches the home and its setting, whether inside or out.” With the comfortable furniture in the porch, six people can sit and converse easily. Three resident cats think it’s their room, too.

Ken and Linda enjoy morning coffee on the deck, where portable heaters extend the season as long as possible. Plate-size hibiscus blooms love the dappled sun of the deck. In late summer and fall pots of yellow mums strike a pose on the cedar posts.

For daily meals and relaxing on the deck as well as for entertaining, the couple has decorated chairs with light green-striped cushions that accent the surrounding colors of nature.

At Christmastime, Linda admits to turning into an elf. The deck becomes a winter wonderland, complete with hanging snowflakes and a colony or a waddle of penguins. “We have lots of fun decorating the deck,” she admits.

Underdeck space

A second spot under the deck also offers fun space for family and friends. It has a Key West feel to it with Boston ferns and basalt fountains added for effect. Margarita and whiskey bar signs entice visitors to the lower-patio area, where nature can be enjoyed from a different vantage point in teal, lime, gold, and brown wicker chairs with colorful striped cushions or in a comfortable hammock. A slab-stone floor provides easy maintenance. Colorful sails in red and yellow hang from the ceiling and add a festive touch.

Cross says the Wunsches’ project represents a trend of increasing functionality—emphasis on the “fun”—in upper-deck spaces. “To accommodate this, we are doing more wide-spanned structures like this deck to minimize the number of posts that can interfere with visibility, traffic flow, and functionality.”

Inside the home, reinforcing the lodge theme, visitors are often asked to identify the bear motif in each room. And there might be more than one.

Ken and Linda have a big, beautiful backyard, so they have some expansion plans already under consideration, such as expanding the deck or patio space or adding a gazebo on the knoll overlooking the TCI golf course.

With ravines and setbacks and close access to Saylorville Lake, the couple enjoys hiking, water sports, and bird watching. “Truly, it feels as if we’re always on vacation,” Ken says.


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