Making it work: This KC couple created a private outdoor oasis steps from a busy street

The outdoor area at the Kansas City home of Pete and LesLee Huttie Smith is an extension of their living space during large parties, but is still intimate enough to act as a private retreat when the couple is home alone.

It was a bit of a trick to create. The Smiths wanted a deck extending across the back of the house, but the doors exiting the formal living room were lower than the doors that came out of their kitchen area. They also have a yard just a few feet from busy Ward Parkway.

What they wanted was a large, private deck area with space that flowed well in and out of the house, but was still comfortable.

“The challenge was to not just have one huge expansive patio, so it wouldn’t look like a big playing field,” LesLee says.

The solution: A double-layer deck that meets both entryways. It has a gradual step down from a top level to the lower level, which creates a landing rather than a staircase.

They also built a wall — or at least sections of wall. A solid wall enclosing the whole area seemed too drastic. Wall sections, however, created sound and visual barriers along the street. The walls are capped with metal trim work to match the main house. Juniper trees line the spaces between the sections.

“There’s a feeling of openness, but it still blocks the traffic,” LesLee says.

The couple decorated the large space with furniture they chose for its versatility. Sectional couches can be reconfigured easily for big or small gatherings. The coffee tables are actually a set of four smaller tables that can be placed together or apart. A set of exterior wicker dining chairs also get moved around often.

“We have a lot of company and it allows you to have people going in and out and sitting different places,” LesLee says. “I like my deck because it’s so accessible to where we live, and it expands our living space so much.”

Why it works

1. Colorful Accents: The bright purple on the sectional couches and bold blue on the planting pots provide colorful accents that contrast with the off-white and stark base colors inside the house. “We were trying to create a place that seemed warm,” LesLee says.

2. Hole in the wall: A hole in one of the wall segments was intended to become home to a fireplace insert. When running the gas line became prohibitive, they left it empty. The negative space breaks up the massiveness of the wall. Sometimes LesLee installs flowers or other seasonal decorations there.

3. Sectional Furniture: The sectionals are lightweight and can easily be configured in several ways. “I move things around all the time,” LesLee says. This particular set from Crate & Barrel is notable because the cushions have held up well through many seasons in all weather, and the bright purple color hasn’t faded.

4. Dining Table: The circular glass-top table on the deck started as an interior dining table. It has a stainless steel base, and when paired with exterior dining chairs, weathers well enough to become an outdoor table.