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Giving New Life To Our Old Wood Deck + Get The Look

Our deck, the only real outdoor space we have is finally, completely done. I know you thought it was done last year, but I’d like to remind you of my “constantly-changing-perfectly-good-projects’ syndrome; a problem that has plagued this house (but created a lot of content). Seriously, this deck still could use some improvements and I wasn’t 100% satisfied with neither the design nor the finish of the wood. When the exterior was finally done (stay tuned) we realized that the decking, which I previously hadn’t minded, needed a refresh, too. With the help of Wood Naturally, we brought it back to life and now, it’s absolutely, completely, 100% finished (til I decide to put in a full outdoor kitchen…maybe …)

In case you are newer to the blog, let’s give you the full deck-bio. When we first moved in, 2 years ago, it looked like this:


The wrought iron was black, the brick was old and beige (and broken in places), and the pergola was painted brown. The wood was in good condition considering it was 50 years old, and while I knew it could use a freshen up, I didn’t quite know what to do with it.


Right after we moved in Domino shot our house (remember that?) and they wanted to shoot the deck despite the fact that it was definitely not done, nor was I totally happy with it. But with some styling help it looked pretty lively in the photo:


While I love that shot because it has so much energy and life, it was mostly styled for a shot and totally impractical. Almost all those pillows/throws were for indoor use only, the rugs were vintage and some of my favorites which would have gotten destroyed out there and the side table situation was fairly impractical. It looked cool, but not a way we could really live.


A year later I finally had it looking really good (above, see full post here) and I really loved it. I chose at the time not to refinish the deck because I liked how the redwood looked well enough. It had pretty grain, and was a nice grayed out shade of wood. There were times when I wanted it to be more finished, but not enough to take the time to refinish it. I started pinning some of my ideas for not only the exterior, but the deck refresh HERE to give myself a jumping off point and see what it could potentially be.

As we were finishing up the exterior though, everything was so moved around outside with the old vinyl siding covering the deck, equipment everywhere, etc, so we couldn’t really use the deck anyway. Once the debris was all gone and the exterior was looking so pulled together, we finally decided to invest the 2 days and $600 to refinish it. We figured if/when we sell we would want the wood to look as beautiful as the new siding, with same elevated level of design.

Here you can kinda see how it looked post exterior, pre-refinish:

Emily Henderson Wood Naturally Deck Before 1

It was pretty, for sure, and I had no intentions of painting it or replacing it because I loved that it was warm wood but the good thing about real wood is that you can refinish multiple times throughout its life, making it essentially new again.

Emily Henderson Wood Naturally Deck Before 2

As you look closer you can tell, though, that it was time for a clean, sand and stain to bring out its natural color.

Emily Henderson Wood Naturally Deck Process 1

I had Remi to pull a bunch of stain options and she grabbed both transparent and semi-transparent. Exterior deck stains are not like interior or furniture stains because once applied it has to withstand so many more elements. So while I was used to having all these normal options (like teak) there are way less for decking. I personally love the transparent stain as opposed to the semi – which is the top row. Remi sampled all of those up there before the deck was sanded, which we thought didn’t give us the most accurate color. So I had it sanded so I could see what it really looked like:

Emily Henderson Wood Naturally Deck Process 2

Crazy, right? I don’t think that the deck had been refinished in decades. They had to use a hand-sander because the boards were slightly unlevel. The sanding took 4-6 hours by two guys.

We re-sampled, nixing the transparent paints. I toyed with the idea of giving it a gray wash, but ultimately decided that since the house was gray that it would be too cold and potentially look new and contemporary instead of mid-century.


We chose the one on the far right, which was Natural by Behr,  although I liked the the lighter one next to it, too. My advice would be to buy a bunch of sample pots and stain them on your wood so that you can really tell what they look like with your wood as every wood and color will be slightly different per application. For mine, I knew that the stain would lighten over time so we went with the darker tone, but I asked the guys to not do two crazy thick coats.


Right after it was stained it was a tiny bit darker as it dried, but it already looked so fresh and the stain really pulled out the color of the grain. I actually really loved how the wood looked naturally and was super tempted to keep it, but it would need to be sealed and sealing it would change the color anyway. Plus again, our house is midcentury and I wanted to keep it that way.


Now it’s done, and looking awesome, making me never, ever, ever want to sell this house.

Emily Henderson Oberlin Patio Wood Naturally Deck Stain 2

When Wood Naturally reached out to have me talk about wood I said,  Wood? With pleasure. There are some wood alternatives out there or even some wood wannabes that are tempting all the previously wood-loving folk. And while they might have a certain function, I’m officially stating that I love the look/feel and warmth of the real thing. So much so that we actually clad our entire house in Douglas Fir, and had to fight the city to not have to use hardy-board (which is a fake-wood composite that is rather expensive and lacks the warmth of wood, although fire proof material).

Emily Henderson Oberlin Patio Wood Naturally Deck Stain 4

Let’s talk about the changes over here. While I liked the overall design of the deck last year, I wanted to add more contrast to help it pop more and yet I didn’t really want to add more color. Enter our deepest neutral – black. By adding it to the scheme it tied in better with the exterior as our sconces are black, and also just gave it more depth and texture.

The rug that we had was great but got ruined during the demo of the exterior so we had to throw it away. I put down this new one from Dash and Albert that I love – just enough texture and the perfect shade of denim-y blue that can hide dirt, but isn’t too dark.

Emily Henderson Oberlin Patio Wood Naturally Deck Stain 5

I replaced last year’s excellent outdoor Target chairs with this year’s favorites and handed those bad boys down. Everybody who sees or sits in these chairs wants them and they can’t believe it’s Target. They are excellent in every way and if you have a modern house could even definitely work inside (and they are both for $239 – crazy).

Emily Henderson Oberlin Patio Wood Naturally Deck Stain Details_075

I really tried to style this for everyday, not for a shoot but the stylist inside of me broke free and put a few indoor pillows (the black graphic and the stripe) and that striped throw out there. So this is how I would style it for guests, but technically I should keep those inside. Every other pillows, however, is from Target and is made for the outside.

Emily Henderson Oberlin Patio Wood Naturally Deck Stain Details_029

The wood, gray, blue white and black combo is my new jam both inside and out. And I picked up that adorable little side table from Potted in Atwater Village.

Emily Henderson Oberlin Patio Wood Naturally Deck Stain Details_049

In my quest to keep the deck a more usable space for the kids we moved the planted pots (that were mostly dead anyway) to another location. I just wanted more space and less things to take care of.

Emily Henderson Oberlin Patio Wood Naturally Deck Stain Details_110

Emily Henderson Oberlin Patio Wood Naturally Deck Stain Details_075

I never really loved that wicker round table, functionally because you couldn’t put drinks directly on it, it was just what I had on hand last year. So when I saw the new outdoor teak midcentury line from DWR I knew what had to be done. Rarely, if ever do you find exterior teak that doesn’t have the slats in it and with that beautiful mid-century shape? Please. Also note the black bars on it, too. They are so amazing.

Ok, lets see what is happening on the other side of the deck:

Emily Henderson Oberlin Patio Wood Naturally Deck Stain 12

We used to have a dining table with chairs, but we found that we rarely used it and we wanted more space for Charlie to scoot around on his tricycle or kick around a ball. So I stacked those chairs and we were going to buy a folding table that would be easily stowed away after we did eat out there. We typically don’t have the umbrella hanging half way off the roof, but Brady lent a hand so that we could get some more shade for the final shots that Zeke took.


So this side of the deck is a lot more empty now. I found that amazing bamboo chair and bench from Potted and borrowed them for the shoot. I would have bought them, as I loved them so much them, but they are on the splurgier side (they are still there for sale).

The BBQ is stored in the back now and we wheel it out when we use it. Charlie’s play area is basically the same so we didn’t shoot it. I added that outdoor barcart because we had no where to set the bbq tools when we are cooking out there. 
Emily Henderson Oberlin Patio Wood Naturally Deck Stain Details_005

The week after we shot this, I threw a sponsored party out there so I borrowed a dining table and chairs to properly entertain. The problem is that now it looks soooooo good that I’m tempted to keep them after all (you’ll see that on the blog next week). So while the intent was to open this space up, Brian and I are seriously reconsidering this table and these chairs (that fold) because they looked so good. I snapped a few photos of them the day after the party to give you an idea:

Emily Henderson Outdoor Summer Deck Makeover3

Emily Henderson Outdoor Summer Deck Makeover1

Stay tuned on our decision.

Meanwhile the entrance to the guest room/Brian’s office downstairs got a little makeover as well.

We put this entrance in last year and had that deck quickly built. The door + the deck cost $2000, by the way, including labor and materials. Here is what it looked like after the the door and exterior were finished.


Now it looks pretty darn great, it just needed some furnishing to help it feel more inviting.

Emily Henderson Oberlin Patio Wood Naturally Deck Stain 7

It took everything inside of me not to put an outdoor rug there for the shot (besides, we are here to talk about wood) but man, my heart wants a rug there. We moved that spiky plant down from upstairs because every other adult in the world thought it was going to poke their child’s eyes out when their kids were over on play dates.

Emily Henderson Oberlin Patio Wood Naturally Deck Stain 10

I love love love the combination of materials here – the white wood paneling with the black sconces, the white glass pendant, and the warm wood. I even love that it’s built into the stone hillside. I don’t think I have photos of this area before because it didn’t really exist (it was just weeds without the deck or an entrance), so the value that we added by putting in this deck is huge.

Emily Henderson Oberlin Patio Wood Naturally Deck Stain 11

We added the chairs down there, too because we loved them so much. I didn’t think Brian would go for them, I thought that he would want just a bench or something simple as no one is really going to sit down there, but after I put them there he said that he would definitely pop out of his office and take calls out there. That table and the rug are both from Potted as well, the amazing-super-hard-to-find mid-century-inspired pendant is from Hip Haven, the pot is from West Elm, and the sconces are from Rejuvenation.

Emily Henderson Oberlin Patio Wood Naturally Deck Stain Details_141

When I had that deck and door put in I was out of town and I told my carpenter I wanted affordable decking (so he chose redwood to match the upstairs) and I didn’t specify the door. It’s actually a clear glass door that we put Gila film on for privacy and light (the frosted still lets in light which is what we wanted). I kinda wish I had done something really custom and midcentury, but this was a such a simple, cheap, and fast option.

Emily Henderson Oberlin Patio Wood Naturally Deck Stain Details_154

So that, folks, is how I refreshed my deck and made it great again. It’s 60 years old but it looks as new as my baby. For those of you about to embark on a building project, whether it’s building a house, re-siding one, or adding a deck – I strongly urge you to consider using real wood like pine, redwood, or cedar as opposed to a composite. I’m sure the composites can look good, but wood will ALWAYS look good. In a lot of ways I wish that I had not painted my exterior wood paneling of the house and just used wood, but by the time I wished I had done that the siding had already been prepped for paint instead of stain – there was some patching that would have looked messy if stained and thousands of nail holes from it being clad to the house. But the look/feel and quality is there of wood that would have been totally absent if we had done hardy board or one of the other composite materials (by the way, our house re-siding was done by H&A My Design, and they did such a nice job). What we used on the deck and exterior of the house is more affordable, available, classic, warm, and will never be dated whereas the alternative would have. And while I understand that vinyl siding is a very inexpensive option and can be really transformative, I’d warn you against it as ultimately it’s not the look that you probably want.

Emily Henderson Oberlin Patio Wood Naturally Deck Stain 1

Real wood, folks. You never tire of it, it never goes out of fashion, it’s always warm and easy to transform into different colors and finishes or stay totally natural if that’s your jam. This refresh took 2 days and all of it could have been DIY’d if we had the time. It’s not really a highly skilled situation, just man hours. So while it cost us $900, I seriously think that you could do it yourself or, if you got multiple quotes, you could have it done for cheaper. I, for one, will always be on the real wood always side of the life.

And for your viewing pleasure, we broke down step by step how to put together your patio for the summer:

Finally, if you’re into it, get that look:


1. Wood | 2. Deck Stain | 3. Coffee Table | 4. Rug | 5. Globe Pendant | 6. Sconce | 7. Patio Chair | 8. Side Table | 9. Outdoor Pillow | 10. Black & White Textured Pillow | 11. Directors Style Chair | 12. Ceramic Planter | 13. Diamond Lumbar Pillow | 14. Dining Table | 15. Bar Cart | 16. Standing Planter | 17. Small Lantern | 18. Large Lantern

*This post is in partnership with Wood Naturally. Thank you for supporting the brands that help us create new content every day. 

*Photos by Zeke Reulas

* A big thanks to our contractor, Golan from H&A My Design, for making the whole process so seamless. 

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7 years ago

It looks incredible! I want to camp on your deck for the rest of my life 😉

7 years ago
Reply to  Ivana

Hello Emily!
AS a first time reader, just sent here by my gf, I find your wooden decking renovation impressive! I could not agree any more, that with real wood you can easily refinish and re-freshen throughout it’s life cycle many times. Especially if done by a conscientious carpenter who took proper precautions to treat and seal it properly. If timber is well protected and secured from moisture and etc. exposure to nature’s wrath, lifespan could be prolonged, and you won’t have sand the wood that often. Durability wise, maybe you should have let your carpenters apply a second coat, but that’s only my own humble opinion here. Nevertheless, as a carpenter I find the result to be superb, compared to.. how wooden decking felt and looked like at photo 1… 🙂 From there on, I’m not really experienced in furnishing and refurbishing, but in my humble opinion you have a beautiful decking! Noble envy here. Does feels really cosy, My admirations to the both you for your enthusiasm, great ideas and your handy carpenters!

Kind regards!

7 years ago

Fabulous choices per usual. Knocked it out of the park again!

7 years ago

Oh Emily, it looks so wonderful! What an incredible outdoor living space; I’d like to think that if I had a space like that, I’d be hosting dinner parties EVERY DAY. Can’t wait to see the post with Black Box Wines!

7 years ago

Love your outdoor space! I’ve got the Target chairs in my shopping cart as I type this. Where did you get the pillows that are on those chairs? Enjoy your space!

7 years ago

AMAZING! I can’t wait to see the rest of the exterior!

7 years ago
Reply to  Samantha

Me too! I am anxiously awaiting a full exterior post!

7 years ago

Can you PLEASE not sell this house? It is looking so damn great! And I’m getting attached…keep up the beautiful work!

7 years ago
Reply to  Lindsay

I was thinking the same thing – I’m getting so attached to this house! But….what will we do when it is all finished?! We’ll want her to start all over again because her work is so inspiring!

7 years ago

Wow Emily, you knocked it out of the park again! There’s something extra special about the little area outside the guest room/Brian’s office. I would volunteer to be a guest and try it out in the morning with a cup of coffee! You can quote my reviews as I’m sure they’ll be positive! 🙂

7 years ago

That shot of the lower quarter deck, with you at the door, totally looks like a new home snapshot from the late 1960s or early 1970s. It’s awesome! And, YES! natural wood!

Jen W
7 years ago

Your deck is fantastic! Great inspiration for the outdoor space I’m working on at a little mid-century cottage on Cape Cod. The Target chairs are already sold out. Do you have any other chair recommendations? Love those!

Emily K
7 years ago

My boyfriend and I have been considering what kind of surface we want to put in outside. He wanted a deck but I was dead set against one as all the decks I’ve ever seen up close look terrible after a short while and begin to fall apart rapidly. I wanted a stone or concrete patio. While a beautiful stone patio is still ranked highly this post has me reconsidering the wood deck! Your’s is stunning. I think maybe the key with yours is that it’s redwood not fugly pressure treated plus quality craftsmanship and some semi-regular maintenance. Perhaps the dry climate kept it from rotting like ours do here in the midwest but I still have hope that if we decide to do wood it’ll be as beautiful as yours!!

7 years ago
Reply to  Emily K

I think you’re right, a redwood deck in California is going to wear a whole lot better than almost any other wood, especially in climates with more rain. Redwood is amazing in terms of looks and durability. Old growth redwood lumber was used all over the west coast for a long time, but is much, much harder to find now because fortunately they’ve stopped logging the big trees. I doubt any deck would last 60 years on the east coast or in the midwest, regardless of maintenance.

7 years ago
Reply to  Lucy

Hey! I think there are options, you just have to be willing to pay a little more – but the value is huge (esp if you’re keeping the house). I had some issues w a poorly maintained deck on my house and talked w my deck guy (north Carolina) about options. Especially w the humidity in the south things break down fast. He will make decks out of ipe, or iron wood, and he says it lasts decades. Incredibly dense wood which he used to replace a door jamb that had rotted out and it looks amazing. So I’d just say to Lucy, first hi from another Lucy, and also don’t discount what can be done if you find someone to work for you who’s interested in quality, and willing to use good materials!

7 years ago

love the deck emily, but LOVE, LOVE, LOVE that siding… and the overhang above the new doorway for the office… so simple, classic & stylish… huge envy for this nook!

7 years ago


7 years ago

You’ve done such a great job on this outside space (of course), and I so appreciate knowing where everything comes from. I love the chairs from Target and would definitely buy, but they’re no longer available (and not sold in stores). Any thoughts? Thank you!

7 years ago

Emily, this is BEAUTIFUL!! Wow, I absolutely love it…and I’m surprised that you seem to have fully embraced black (which I love)! I think the color scheme looks great. I love the eye-candy pictures that you describe as not everyday or totally functional, but I would also looooove to see what your deck looks like not all “ready for guests” or a shoot. Like I said, I love those Pinterest-worthy photos just as much as the next design fan, but it can occasionally be discouraging knowing that my deck will never look that put-together just because I don’t have the energy to take in the indoor pillows/throws every night, remove the pretty serving trays, etc., etc. I will essentially never have my deck “styled” just due to the impracticality, so I thought it might give us laymen some encouragement to see what a professional’s deck looks like on the reg. Even if they are just i-Phone pics!!

7 years ago

Looks amazing, could you tell us where the black pouf is from? I love the size and texture. Thanks!

7 years ago

Emily – long time reader, but this is only my second time to comment. You have been KILLING IT lately with these amazing design and styling posts! I loved this one so much, and a few others recently that I almost commented on but probably got distracted. Seriously, most of your designs make me smile and imagine happy rainbows and unicorns living in your spaces. Since I am on here I will also add that I loved the Orcondo posts as well, and Brady’s redesigns in his apartment have been ingenious. Also, Target needs to pay you more. 🙂 And please use your power with the Target folks to tell them that they need to have more items in stock timed with your posts. There have been a number of occasions where I look for something awesome I saw on your blog, but it is out of stock at Target. Boo. Then I usually forget about it. (One minor criticism in all fairness, though, I think you were a bit heavy handed today in the anti-faux wood camp. Yes, wood is gorgeous, but it can be super high maintenance in wet or freezing parts of the country. I just had… Read more »

7 years ago
Reply to  Emily

“I can stroke real wood inside” hehehe

7 years ago
Reply to  Katie

Omg Katie that had me laughing, too ???

Jackie Wright
7 years ago

Can you tell me where the mustard yellow pillow in the first reveal photo to the right is from?

7 years ago

Good luch to you and those who accept your recomendation for Behr deck products. I don’t know how their interior paints are but applying their cape cod grey-I think it was?- to over 1000 ft of decking and having it bubble,peel and fade the second season and find that-no-it can’t be power washed off,it must be power washed $300.00 and then sanded $500.00 and then re stained. Product $300.00 and labor $300.00 so just not a good experience. Try googling Behr deck products and see the horror stories that pop up. Don’t mean to rain on your beautiful home or deck area,you are a genius but if i can save someone else from our experience it will be well worth adding this comment. My husband is 80 Iam 76 very hard to deal with.

7 years ago

Did I miss an entry? Your house is gray now, no siding!? I remember you not knowing what to do about the siding because the house is on a hill and no one would come out to estimate renovation?

Did I make that up!?

I love the small changes to the deck.

7 years ago

Could you tell me where you got the striped throw on the couch? I love it (and the whole deck and the way you styled it)! Can’t wait to see the exterior.

7 years ago

I love your updated deck! It looks like a fun, comfy place to relax outdoors. I have the same outdoor poufs and lumbar pillows from Target and LOVE them!

7 years ago

Wow, you did an excellent job with the deck. You made it into a liveable area to host friends which is great.
Please take up deck renovations as a profession, I’ll hire you to come and improve mine.


7 years ago

It looks amazing!

7 years ago

We have the Finn dining table and love it! If you decide you want something lower maintenance for chairs we bought these (they’re stackable) and they’re super steady (2 small boys at our house) and spray off with the hose.

Chaya jain
7 years ago

This blog is nice…

7 years ago

A seriously beautiful deck. I’m pinning everything!!!

7 years ago

This is truly beautiful Emily, but can you please please please do one of your budget roundups for patio furniture? I bought a house last summer and we really want to have parties on our patio but I cannot bring myself to buy a table and 6 chairs in aluminum or something else cheap but I also can’t afford to spend the 3.5K on the wicker chair and teak table set below from Pottery Barn. Please tell me there’s something in between! I’m okay with spending a few hundred for something beautiful that will last but thousands is out of the question. All your table setting roundups and easy apps you’ve been posting have me itching to have people over but right now they’d be sitting on the ground. 🙁

7 years ago

Such a beautiful and relaxing space you’ve created! Serious envy over here. We also have an uncovered wood deck with a big tree in the backyard. I really want to refinish and style it, but I find that the weather, birds, and bugs deter me from wanting to spend the time and money because they just keep getting destroyed. How do you deal with those problems with your deck and furniture? Or do you? I am in Northern California.

7 years ago

Per usual complete #housegoals. This is why my deck dreams are made of. What a fun job you have that you get to do what I daydream about all day at work for your real life full time job.
xx lydia @makinglamadre

7 years ago

HELP! I’ve fallen in love with those chairs but they’re not available from Target any longer. Please find a similar pair! PLEASE! I’m dying here!!

7 years ago

Great deck! I love outdoor decorating, but it’s so impractical here in the northeast. We have about 4 weeks each season where it’s not raining, cold or so hot and humid you want to stay inside. I would love the CA weather. Target has some great furniture, but I just got done driving to all the targets in my area to get a set of chairs. Some things sell out so fast and I never saw those patio chairs at my target. I like how you mix the target and higher end items.

7 years ago

LOVE the deck refresh and TOTALLY agree that wood is the way to go! All the fake/alternatives will eventually look dated, but wood never goes out of style. o happy you’re in love with your house [again]!!!

7 years ago

Wow! What an amazing transformation! We just moved (to Glendale) & have so much patio space to work with, I’m overwhelmed. But this was just the post I needed.

Wondering if you could share how you transformed the beige stone to white? Paint or concrete stain? I’d love to know!!! Thanks for all the inspiration! I just bought your book when we moved and am loving it!

7 years ago

Emily, this may be one of my favorite posts of yours yet! The space looks absolutely stunning refinishing the deck really added an extra layer to the look. I especially LOVE the office/guest entryway. The way that paneling wraps up around the corner and the way it’s built into the rock (!!) are so cool that I can’t believe no attention was given to the space before you moved in. And I would totally have my coffee or wine in those chairs if I were a guest:) Inspiring work, Emily.

7 years ago

Interesting post ! I really like it . Appreciate it . Thanks for share such kind of informative post .

7 years ago

This has go to be one of my most favourite outdoor posts of all time. It looks lovely! And I so enjoyed the fact that you pulled back the styling to avoid some of the indoor stuff that one would never live with on a daily basis. The design is clean, crisp, welcoming and so suited to the house – and definitely reflective of having kids. I would love to be a guest for a backyard party at your place! Great post!

7 years ago

I love it! It looks so great. That coffee table is probably my favorite part.
I’ve been thinking about that Rug for our kitchen, does the texture feel like an outdoor rug though? You know, kinda plasticy and not soft at all?

7 years ago

Warning to anyone in a humid area…wood will not be a cheaper option. You have to budget for regular re-painting and replacing altogether the wood. Wood siding is so so beautiful, but will break your heart if you don’t have the funds or the patience for a re-do every two years.

Real wood will also scare off new buyers. And your neighbors will get really annoyed that your house is under construction so often.

So gorgeous, Emily!!

7 years ago

Warning to anyone in a humid area…wood will not be a cheaper option. You have to budget for regular re-painting and replacing altogether the wood. Wood siding is so so beautiful, but will break your heart if you don’t have the funds or the patience for a re-do every two years.

Real wood will also scare off new buyers. And your neighbors will get really annoyed that your house is under construction so often.

7 years ago

Sorry, I got distracted by your “neither/nor” in the first paragraph. It’s “either/or.” Double negative with the “wasn’t satisfied…” 😉

7 years ago

Looks incredible! Did you recover the cushions on that CB2 sectional?

7 years ago

What kind of stain and color did you use on the deck? We aren’t going to use redwood because we are in DC but we love the color and are in the process of staining our new fence and building a new deck.