Charlotte, NC
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Project Description


Situated on Lake James on a steep downward slope with the rear of the house facing due south, the existing treated pine deck was uncovered with full exposure to the summer sun. The pine had deteriorated and was hazardous to bare feet. The elevation above the lake afforded an expansive 180+-degree view. The existing deck design was was unusual in shape and did not provide enough room for a reasonable layout of furniture. The structural integrity of both upper and lower decks was suspect, as was the cluttered design. The rear facade was a mish-mash of eaves in a failed attempt to cover part of the main level of the deck. The coloring and detailing were typical of a quick-build lake house designed to minimize cost and maintenance. Although the ceilings were 9 feet and vaulted in the main rear family room, small doors with single half-round windows made the area dark and the architecture confused.

The clients desired an extension of the house with architectural significance and a lot more usable space for outdoor living. To give and unobstructed lake view, they wished to avoid a center post. Increasing the light into the family room was a bonus. Low maintenance was vital and, after research, the clients selected “iron” (Ipe) wood. Although expensive, it is durable and attractive.

The architect guided the clients through a search of styles to relieve the “identity crisis” evident in the existing structure. They selected a craftsman style with a more vernacular (local) flair right down to the light fixtures. To avoid the ‘stick’ style of surrounding designs, boxing was used to add dimension and substance. The design became more of a porch look than a deck; more like a residence than a lake house. Coloring of the exterior played an important role to add contrast and richness. To keep the outdoor living area from having a totally open feel, a load-bearing truss was designed to support the end load of the main roof extension. Intermediate, faux trusses were added to break up the ceiling and provide anchoring for fans and a centerpiece light fixture. In keeping with the tight budget, a custom designed rail was detailed from stock shapes and pieces available from the Ipe supplier. Aluminum rods were used as pickets to keep maintenance to a minimum and lake view to a maximum. The column wraps and existing window/door trims, remaining on the front and sides of the house, were the only painted items. A shake-style vinyl was selected and the entire exterior surface of the house was replaced. Taller French doors were used to help bring in more light and provide an appropriate scale to the outside and inside. Existing aluminum eaves and trim were replaced with like materials; but in a dark brown to give more of an appearance of wood than the typical putty colored metal.

Ipe wood was incorporated into the boxing trim and wall screen of the upper deck to give it a cohesive look. Lastly, to properly showcase their investment to the ‘lake’ in the evening, the lighting layout was arranged to accent the features of the new facelift in addition to providing appropriate illumination. The kids still flock to the lake to ride the boat and wave runners, but mom and dad now find comfort relaxing in their resort away from home.

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Before After

Lake elevation before


Lake elevation after

Spacious outdoor living area - with a great view

Unobstructed view

Minimal pickets to enhance view

Epe deck, stairs and rails for beauty and low maintenance

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