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The Perfect Setting
By Tracy Dickinson | Photography by Tim Abramowitz
home :: home & garden :: featured remodels

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ONCE UPON A TIME, MANY YEARS AGO, a clever builder installed a sliding glass door beside the kitchen table, added a wooden platform outside, and magically created a deck. Before long, every new home had to have one.

But as the years passed, decks became dull, poorly planned deserts. Too often the deck sat empty through the hot summer days, abandoned during the months from late fall to late spring. No one believed in the outdoor living space anymore.

But, like all good stories, this one has a happy ending and even a touch of wizardry.

John and Suzanne McKinney began dreaming of a new outdoor living space when they realized they would need to re-side their 15-year-old Waukee home. The couple decided that if they were going to tear off the old deck anyway, they would replace it with something they'd really use.

"We'd seen some of Kaufman Construction's ads and liked the work," John says. "We had some specific ideas that we weren't willing to compromise on. Devan was the only contractor we talked to who understood our vision and was willing to make it work."

The home is on a corner lot. "We knew we wanted it open, but we also wanted a bit of privacy without blocking the view with screens," Suzanne explains. The McKinneys envisioned a spacious deck with half walls and with no columns breaking up the view. They also wanted a decorative vaulted ceiling, lighting, and plenty of room to entertain.

Devan Kaufman and Matt Power, the company's in-house draftsman, took the McKinneys' fantasy and made it even better with a bit of design wizardry.

"They came up with structural and design elements that we would never have thought of," John says, "such as the copper column toppers, the accent trim, and the tray ceiling with indirect lighting." Kaufman also adapted the McKinneys' wall idea to make it practical as well as beautiful.

"They suggested raising the walls off the floor just a few inches so snow and water can escape," Suzanne says. "But we still get that sense of privacy we wanted from having walls instead of railings."

The deep couches, mood lighting, and wallmounted television make the finished room as inviting as the McKinneys are themselves.

"We're social people," John says, "and we like to entertain. This is perfect—whether it's a group of 30 or 40 or just us and a couple of friends."

Kaufman Construction worked its magic on the lower-level patio, too. Instead of the original square of gray concrete outside the family room, the McKinneys now enjoy a stamped-concrete terrace that extends from the original French door to beneath the new outdoor room. The redesigned stairway provides privacy for the covered patio while leaving the remaining terrace area open.

Although columns were necessary to support the outdoor room above, Kaufman recommended painting them so they would blend with the siding and give the sense of an unbroken view across the area.

The McKinneys use the space nearly year-round. The family has enjoyed coffee around a fire pit in late November and group gatherings early in the spring. In fact, the first big event in the new space was held in March, when the McKinneys' son invited some friends, their prom dates, and their parents to shoot prom photos on the deck stairs and patio.

With the setting sun, the fancy dresses, and the gorgeous staircase, the scene was like one from a storybook—the perfect setting for a very happy ending.


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