Designing and Building a Mid-Century Modern Deck

A mid-century modern deck uses clean lines and bold colors.

One way to achieve a mid-century modern-look deck is to use clean lines and bold colors.

I blame Mad Men. Others blame baby boomers nostalgic for their childhood days, or perhaps their first homes furnished with hand-me-down furnishings recovered from parents’ garages or flea markets. Whatever the reason, be it Don Draper, Austin Powers, or a genuine admiration for mid-century modern styles, the designs created by futurists in the early 1940s through the 1950s and 1960s are back in a big way. In furnishings, I use a simple method to figure out when something is mid-century modern: it should look at home on the original Starship Enterprise.

When it comes to a home’s outdoor area, things are less clear. Mid-century modern homes have a heavy emphasis on opening up to the outdoor, but outside of that, little defines mid-century modern home exteriors, and contractors are going to go through a lot of graph paper designing a deck that fits the style. But there are certain visual cues though that are very mid-century modern, like an uninterrupted span of texture that can be accomplished using decking with hidden fasteners as well as certain shapes that can create a mid-century modern deck.

What Makes a Home Mid-Century?

Mid-century modern is a rejection of what came before it. Traditional building styles emphasized a strict adherence to symmetry and carefully defined spaces. Formal living, dining, and receiving rooms were the rule with ornate furniture and other decor. Starting in the late 1920s, forward-looking designers began rejecting these ideals, experimenting with open floor plans and generally revolutionizing the home. The result was the typical North American ranch home. While there is other architecture that could be called mid-century modern, these tend to be either large buildings or one-off home designs meant as showcases.

It’s hard to see now, but the ranch home was a revolution when it first came out. Your typical ranch home has minimal barriers between the kitchen, dining, and living rooms. These would be drawbacks in the homes that defined life before the modern period where three generations would live together, but they’re perfect for a nuclear family where parents need to keep track of the kids. They also made room for modern conveniences.

Designing a Mid-Century Modern Deck

So what does this have to do with designing a deck? The lesson when it comes to building a deck with mid-century flair is to be bold, embracing different forms and lines for your deck. Don’t be afraid of sharp angles, curves, and unusual shapes. Here are some ideas for uniquely shaped decks:

  • Gentle curves on the edges are a great way to make a deck stand out, and give it a mid-century modern flair. These shouldn’t be too extreme though, think the edges of an old tube TV screen instead of a flying saucer and you’ll have the right idea. These curves are easy to make. Simply cut the individual deck boards to match individual segments of the curve. The harder part is getting the fascia to match the curve, but here composite boards excel. Composite deck boards can be bent to match a gentle curve by hand without causing undue strain to the board.
  • Even more fanciful designs are possible: triangles, pentagons, and funky rhomboids all have a sleek, edgy mid-century look to them.
  • Leaf decks mimic the style of a tree leaves with rounded edges and curved boards that pick out the center and branching veins of the “leaf.” To meet more extreme curves, composite boards have to be heated to avoid damages.

One of the hallmarks of mid-century modern as a decorating, if not an architectural style is bold contrasting colors. This doesn’t have to mean elaborate patterning. Introducing bold colors can be as simple as choosing edge boards and fascia boards that contrast with the main boards of the deck This can be done with wood boards and stain, but these colors fade quickly, and while silvery gray wood isn’t incompatible with mid-century modern style, the rough, splintery texture is.

High-quality composites that fade very little over time are much better candidates for building a mid-century modern deck. Since eco-friendly composite decking is made of recycled plastics and fast-growing bamboo flour, the futurists of the early twentieth century would approve of them. They’re not only a futuristic material, they’re an environmentally considerate one that goes hand-in-hand with the ethos of opening up to and getting along with nature through technology.

Infinity composite decking boards by Fortress Deck are an excellent choice for building the mid-century modern deck. These are fully capped, co-extruded boards for high-density resilience and maximum moisture resistance. Their wide array of colors and reversible wood-look grains are perfect for creating bold and colorful patterns on a deck. Fortress Building Products offers outdoors solutions that fit many styles from modern to classic, with innovative, quality products–like a stainless steel cable railing system–that would look right at home on a mid-century deck.

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