Five Leaves of Oak


One of our more artistic deck designs, the design for this multi-tiered deck was originally an idea I had a few years back for a Tampa customer’s cabin in Tennessee. I feel that in every outdoor living space we construct, the two most important aspects to take into consideration when designing are first, the customer’s goals and needs, and secondly, the style of the home and setting or the environment within.

When looking at a cabin in the mountains of Tennessee and working with a tree wooded hillside, a multi-tiered deck with stairs wasn’t really so much an option. In fact, I think that this was the first concept and design to come to mind. In addition to the multiple levels of decking following the change in elevation of the hillside, the curves of the leaf pattern in the decks and the open space between decks allowed me to wrap my design within the existing oak trees along the hillside.

Once back in Tampa this deck design seemed to had been unconsciously put on the back burner of my creative psyche, being as most of the Tampa homes and outdoor spaces I was designing for were more in style with your typical Florida home, concrete, stucco or stone facades with yards that have little if any elevation change.

When I was contacted by Bob and Rodney to design and construct their Tampa backyard, the deck concept was revived, modified for their space, with additional elements such as interlocking paver patios, koi ponds, water features, two pergolas, an outdoor kitchen among many other outdoor living variables from our arsenal that we use and install in our designs.

To start with the beginning of this deck and go through the evolution and modifications of this project, I will begin as usual with my initial consultation with my customers Bob and Rodney. We sat down and discussed their goals, needs, and various ideas and options to obtain them. Both Bob and Rodney were very open to a more creative and unique approach to the design of their deck and gave me a good deal of artistic freedom.

My initial concept was to construct a multi-level deck, using composite decking manufactured by Moistureshield, with each deck in the shape of an Oak leaf and, in addition, composite decked steps were constructed in a similar leaf fashion, where the grade lended itself to more drop in elevation. Each composite deck was designed in the shape of an Oak leaf approximately 16’x24’. A darker brown PVC composite deck board was ran horizontally in an s-curve down each deck to replicate the vein in each leaf, as well as used vertically as a wrap to outline the border of each deck as well as each stair. A lighter color composite deck board manufactured by Moistureshield was used as the main field. These deck boards were cut in and installed on a 45% angle and radiating upward from the composite vein to help emulate the look of a natural oak leaf. In addition to the decks, composite steps were needed for the transition in elevation. These steps were constructed and decked in the same shape and style to complement the main decks.

A small outdoor kitchen was constructed on the mid-level deck using the same moisture shield composite decking and trimmed with the darker composite. The kitchen housed a 36” stainless steel grill, with blue stone counter tops and built-in storage space in the composite cabinet below. A small wooden single beam pergola was constructed above. This was built, as well as the outdoor kitchen, to follow the contour of the deck’s organic edge. Finally, two large boulders were picked, and cut into the decking used to construct the walls of the kitchen cabinets. Being as Pennsylvania Antique Fieldstone would be used throughout this project, (mainly with the water features), I wanted to blend the two mediums, as well as two concepts of outdoor living together to create a better flow and balance. In addition to the kitchen, five or six additional boulders were selected and inset into the three composite decks to continue with the concepts of blending the mediums.

A larger Pergola, approximately 20’x18’ at its widest points was constructed over the lowest deck. This pergola was designed with an organic style, and cut to follow the contour of that deck. This deck was chosen and designed as the dining space and the pergola was constructed as coverage for a table and chairs.

As with many projects over the years, the two remaining “Leaves of Oak” were concepts conceived after construction of the project was well underway. As the layout between composite decking, stone and water, and the existing large Oak trees unfolded, it was decided that two additional leaves of approximately the same size and shape would work nicely anchoring both ends of the existing design. These two decks would be at ground level and instead of being constructed using composite decking, would be constructed using an “Appian Stone” interlocking paver manufactured by Oldcastle Coastal. A darker color Knightsbridge would be used for the vein and soldier row to emulate the darker composite used in the decks, and a lighter color oak run was used as the field for the same reason. The pattern was also run in the same 45 degree fashion. One of the patios was chosen to be solely dedicated for the use of a gas fire bowl, centered in the middle of the patio with seating completely encompassing it.The next element was incorporating water. Not just one water feature, but weaving water throughout. In the end six actual waterfalls or water features were constructed at various points of this project.

The first and larger pond would be a two tier koi pond starting approximately 10’ from the screen room and to the left of the upper deck. This headed pond was approximately 12’ in length, 6’ in width, and maybe three feet at its maximum depth. It was fed, as they always must be by the lower tiered pond. A large, 1000 lb. basalt imported from the northwest part of the country would be the first water feature. Basalt is a very dense rock usually with unique coloring and shape and formed from volcanic lava or other output, which for one is why most of them are imported from the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, states and regions. The stones are bored usually long ways as boring a shaft. This process was conceived for the purpose of creating unique water features. This particular basalt was set in the upper koi pond with approximately 3 ½ “to 4’ of stone protruding above the waterline. Smaller boulders were used at the base to create more interest with the cascading waterfall. This pond narrowed to a stream bed that ran down to and under the lowest deck and into the reservoir koi pond.

This is the koi pond with the main waterfall, set between the lower deck and largest oak tree. This waterfall was approximately 4’ in height by maybe as much as 6’ in length. This waterfall would face the house directing energy back to the home. For this waterfall, Retainment would need to be constructed to allow us to obtain adequate height for the waterfall without compromising the health of the oak tree. This lower koi pond would also house all three filters, biofalls, ultraviolet clarifier, and skimmer (which houses the pump). Between these two decks an open area approximately 5’ in area was where we decided to make our transition between the two koi ponds. An 8” drop in elevation provided a very nice, subtle space for a small shear drop waterfall. The height of the spillway was an important factor, to maintain both koi ponds optimal water levels.

The second pond although smaller and simpler in size is basically a two tired koi pond, but also has an additional original concept. It is an idea that rolled around in my head early on in business. It is art and I like to push the creative limits. Without going into all the construction details and specs, what we basically did was cut out a small 5”-6” pond out of the top half of the 2”x12” joist used in framing the middle tiered deck. This space was boxed in and floored. A liner laid in, draped in and over the joist and secured in place when securing the Moisturesheild composite decking in place, with a cut piece of Pennsylvania blue stone for a spillway. The important concepts that should be said pertaining to this is that this was not a deck that is built over a pond, but a small shallow pond built within the framework of a deck. It could be constructed in a deck, at any height with multiple tiers, as we have in the past.

This system consists of our final three water features. First, the spillway from the deck to the koi pond previously spoken of. Second, a small basalt that was set into this pond. River Jack and a few smaller boulders were used in this deck pond to hide the liner. The final was a smaller waterfall that was built for the reservoir koi pond with the energy and motion flowing back towards the home and upper deck.

Next the area was graded and heavily landscaped for balance and gestalt. Finally, a low voltage system, manufactured by Garden Light, was designed and installed. 20 watt low voltage LED spots were used to accent the waterfalls well as the counter space for the outdoor kitchen. 20 watt LED deck lights were mounted on the 6”x6″” posts of the two pergolas aimed downward to illuminate the composite decking. Ten watt flash mounts were cut into the top riser to illuminate each stair. And finally Miami Pathway lights were balanced throughout the landscape.

“I feel that in every outdoor living space we construct, the two most important aspects to take into consideration when designing are first, the customer’s goals and needs, and secondly, the style of the home and setting or the environment within.”