mylandscapes contemporary garden design & build

alfresco methodology all-out decking

contemporary outdoor decking design

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design & words Amir Schlezingeramir schlezinger

A Flexible Material

Hardwood decking warms up early in the daytime and through the seasons, and as a natural, durable material, its flexibility enables exceptional freedom in both garden and roof terrace designs. A deck sustains unfussy, swift construction methods, effortlessly adaptable to contemporary outdoor settings. While softwoods, composites and Bamboo present viable alternatives, to us nothing feels warmer than solid, authentic hardwood, with its natural variations of tone, grain and pattern – defining boundless, versatile deck designs.

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1. wood 2. steps 3. detail 4. boards 5. lighting 6. balance 7. direction 8. structure 9. with stone 10. upkeep

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1 wood

Iroko is similar to Teak in durability, smoothness and tone, and as most boards are machined in the UK, we can specify bespoke widths, heights and profiles. Balau is less smooth, yet structurally sound, displaying variable colour. Imported mostly in 90mm and 145mm-wide boards, Balau is an optimal decking hardwood, similarly to European Oak. Ipe is a dense, time-consuming material, mainly available in set sizes, which limit its design, while requiring stainless steel screws and precision cutting. Western red cedar is a highly useful softwood in contemporary garden designs, as it's milled in diverse sizes, and often specified in vertical cladding, decks, handrails, roof tiles and even beehives. Likewise, we integrate Cedar into upright structures, where its lightweight attributes are handy when designing and building roof terraces, by easing labour and transportation.

2 steps

shad thames roof garden

Any level change within an outdoor space defines a potential step, and wood is highly adaptable for this task. A stepped deck forms a dynamic construction element, where we key in structural timber to produce robust, yet flexible details. We integrate natural sandstone into treads and risers to contrast the wood, layering and diversifying an overall timber continuum. Where space enables deeper steps, we intersperse foliage within the treads to soften their edges, infusing tactile, scented ambience, while LED strip lights under risers emit a warm afterglow at dusk.

3 detail

vauxhall roof garden

We detail 5mm gaps between deck boards, as wood expands in winter and contracts in summer, while water drains efficiently, and aeration improves. When we specify a new deck, its fastened lines are pre-drilled and countersunk, where screw heads remain below the deck's surface. We select matching fixing elements to the wood's tone, while their positions are marked in pencil, forming perfect alignment. We utilise smooth fascia risers, detailed to produce shadow gaps at both ends of an elevation. When specifying edges, landings or step treads, we adjust the width of boards to demarcate this transition.

4 boards

wandsworth garden

Experimenting with deck board widths in our projects materialised when detailing Iroko, since the wood is only available as raw material. Specifying width, thickness and profile enables impromptu patterns, while a smoothly detailed ‘pencil round’ radius guides water off deck surfaces, improving drainage. Alternating between 6” and 4” boards forms a solid design technique, and depending on the deck's size, a dynamic pattern requires suitable tempo. An occasional 3” board at a relevant ratio produces an extended sequence, further enhancing a streamlined, energised design motif.

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5 lighting

grosvenor waterside terrace

While recessed deck light fittings are practical when illuminating brick walls, they're best utilised sparingly to preserve the integrity of surface materials and minimise glare. We prefer directional LED strips, as they won't affect the design during daytime, and produce plenty of ambience in the evenings. We continually develop and integrate this innovative outdoor lighting technique into roof terrace landscapes, leading the eye towards London's urban skyline.

6 balance

battersea sky garden

Angles are effective when designing decks, as a simple reorientation increases depth, while forming sight lines towards key focal points. From a construction perspective, angles are more complex, and on large sites, the setting out of long outlines requires skill, experience and patience. Curves are all the more intricate to design and build; as each board is set out varyingly, we position the deck across a curved pattern, redraw on the wood, and trim the edges with a jigsaw.

7 direction

A deck designed in narrow bands of wood diverts our focus from confined areas, leading the eye towards an open space. Hardwood is a warm material, and by designing a suitable pattern, we create a setting for the whole garden. When detailing large decks, we prefer to change orientation diagonally or perpendicularly at pivotal points to segment outdoor zones, while expanding depth. On the grander scale, a deck often leads towards the horizon to produce a greater sense of interconnectivity, fluidity and natural balance.

8 structure

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Efficient deck designs form effective load bearers, enabling balanced structural weight distribution of custom-made planters onto joists in roof terrace projects. We construct our decks perfectly levelled, where frame uprights are adjusted to the roof's drainage slopes out of sight, while forming flush structures which define the visible surface. When planters appear aligned with surrounding horizontal elements, such as walls and handrails, an entire elevation is visually balanced. With the flexibility of wood materials, structures are constructed on site, enabling valuable, time-saving functionality, concealing irrigation pipes and lighting cables, while defining tidy exteriors.

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with stone

9 with stone

highgate rooftop

Combining wood and stone defines instinctive design expressions. By building upon Eastern traditions, and layering distinct European flora, we integrate renewed contemporary blueprints into intimate urban gardens, enhancing outdoor spaces with balance and warmth. Across roof terraces, where paving stone is laid onto pedestals, we design and build perfectly levelled surfaces with clean-lined geometry. By utilising adjustable pedestals, an entire decked composition would traverse even the most challenging of rooftop garden terrains.

10 upkeep

A deck's ongoing upkeep defines a gamut of individual approaches, varying according to frequency and types of use, as well as preferred patina characteristics. One of the finest deck varnishing products is a Dutch boat sealant manufactured by Sikkens, particularly effective in sustaining spotless ambience within London roof terrace designs. To maintain cleanliness, as with all exterior surfaces, a deck should be jet washed at least twice a year to minimise algae and moss build-up. Depending on the aspect, be it sunny or shaded, urban or rural, jet washing can be augmented by adding an organic, environmentally-friendly liquid, such as Algon.

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– coda –

Merging the Levels

A deck increases design flexibility in a modern outdoor space, where it merges levels and conceals infrastructure, while generating warmth and a streamlined appearance. Yet, a carelessly designed, specified and assembled deck often becomes an unsightly letdown. High quality hardwood decking, beautifully detailed and immaculately built, truly enhances gardens and roof terraces in a multitude of contemporary landscape design and build environments.