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Malcolm’s Deck Reveal: How He Created A Year-Round Outdoor Space

I’ve been…so excited…to share this. Summer might be coming to an end pretty soon, but that doesn’t mean that outdoor activities have to slow down! As a matter of fact, I prefer the autumnal months over the hot summer season. Cooler temperatures, slightly fewer mosquitos (did anyone else get EATEN ALIVE this year? sheesh), and beautiful foliage here in Virginia make autumn the season to beat. With that in mind, I’m excited to reveal the space that I’ll be experiencing it in from home!

If you recall allll the way back to July—which feels like a year ago—you might remember my grand plans for the back deck. I talked about a handful of components that I wanted to incorporate: zones, greenery, privacy, lighting, and layers. Let’s break down the “after” photos accordingly, shall we?! We shall.


As a quick reminder, this is where I started out in July. A clean slate, a lonely fern, and some potting soil!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, but pre-planning the layout of a space is CLUTCH. For clients and my own personal projects, I always sketch out a birds-eye view of a space as a baseline before picking out the fun details. I settled on this layout for my deck (after a few attempts):

…and for funsies, here is a birds-eye view of how the end result followed suit:

This layout allowed for three distinct zones—a lounging space, a bar cart/gardening zone, and a grill area—that feel separate, but connected. Let’s dive into the lounging space!


I must say.

This bench. From Lulu and Georgia. Is EVERYTHING. I was counting on this piece to be the anchor for the entire space, and it certainly doesn’t disappoint. It’s the perfect size for my small deck, but substantial enough to provide ample seating (and drama. I like drama).

The teak and brass details on this piece are immaculately intentional, and the seat—woven from hyacinth—is extremely soft and comfortable. This was the last piece I grabbed for the space, and it immediately brought everything together in the “collected and classic” style that I’m striving for throughout my home. I love design!

This little side table from Rejuvenation is perfect for this nook and provides an additional surface for when I’m entertaining friends. Or for when I’m cozied up here alone with a hot chocolate. Which is more likely.

An accent table and armchair from Article round out the seating area in a beautiful way. This is definitely an intimate space, and it feels as though it’s meant to be.


Moving on to the bar zone!

For my purposes on the deck, this bar cart from Article doubles as a libation station above, and a little gardening storage center below. I nabbed the amazing little gardening kit on the bottom shelf from Lulu and Georgia, and I certainly put it to good use while planting some greenery around the deck (more on that shortly!). Settling on the color for this piece was a happy accident. I initially wanted to incorporate a neutral colorway, but since it was out of stock, I pivoted to the green option. I COULDN’T BE HAPPIER THAT THIS HAPPENED. While I love a neutral moment, the green bar cart adds a necessary break from the black and brown tones throughout the rest of the space, while inherently speaking to the surrounding greenery in a very cool way.


Lastly, I’m digging this little grilling section on the other side of the deck. Some of you suggested that using a charcoal grill on a deck isn’t the best idea—thank you for that tip! It will live here when I’m not using it, but I’ll take it down to the ground whenever I do. Speaking of the ground…let’s talk about plants because I’m more excited than ever to discuss greenery.


Y’all. At the beginning of September, I had a very difficult week. I spent that Saturday outdoors—shopping for these plants and placing them in these BEAUTEOUS planters from Rejuvenation—and it was probably the best therapy I could’ve asked for. As I mentioned in my introductory post, I wanted the plants in this space to feel natural to the environment, and these planters support that concept to a tee. The big, gray, cement planters connect with the existing pavers and the gray tones in the ivy. Placing them amidst the ground cover makes them feel intentional and well-incorporated, and they give the entire backyard space a little more personality.

The black planter—also from Rejuvenation—fits perfectly next to my grill and gels with the neutral tones sprinkled about the space. I decided on coleus and creeping jenny plants for the planters. I love the vibrant punch of color that the coleus provides, and the “creep” of the creeping jenny feels like an authentic match for the ivy speckled throughout the yard.

Speaking of ivy! I decided to hang some on the privacy wall, since the horizontal slats were begging for some greenery as well.


I mean. I could go on and on about this privacy wall. In fact, I have! Head over to that dedicated post to read all about how this wall came to be (side note: this view from my kitchen window makes me so happy).

It turned out better than I had hoped, and it really has provided the slight privacy that it’s intended to! It’s an interesting structural addition to the deck, but the mobility of it all makes it super versatile—especially for renters! 10/10 recommend taking the time to build this! If I can do it, you can do it! So much exclamation!


Not only is the wall great for privacy, structure, and versatility, but it also allows me to hang up some lights! I grabbed these battery-operated string lights from Michaels, and honestly… they set things off in the best way possible. I was nervous about wires and cords messing up my clean aesthetic, so I was happy to stumble upon a battery-operated alternative. I used Command Velcro strips to attach the battery pack to the horizontal slats, and voila! Here is how they look in the evening:

Yes. That is all.


The last aspect of my design plan, but certainly not the least, is layering. I love an outdoor space that feels grounded in comfort, so it was important for me to incorporate rugs, pillows, and a lot of good visual texture. These pillows from Annie Selke and Lulu and Georgia are certainly doing a good job—and I love the repetition of horizontal lines that they’re enforcing in coordination with the slats of the privacy wall.

This is the first time that I’ve tried layering rugs, and I must say, I’m a fan! The bright tone of this rug from Annie Selke juxtaposes perfectly against the darker, larger rug underneath from Target.

Overall, I love this space. The great thing about choosing a mostly neutral palette is that it’ll last from summer to autumn without a problem, but I’m really digging this setting for cozy autumnal evenings this year. We should all still spending a ton of time at home these days, so why not make the most of it?

And there we have it! I hope you’ve enjoyed this journey with me over the last few months to makeover my deck—from planning, to a fun DIY project, to this final reveal. Do you plan on spending as much time as I do outdoors this autumn? Since this year is flying right on by, would you like to chat about winter storage solutions for outdoor pieces? Let me know!

Design and Reveal Photos by Malcolm Simmons | Portraits by Julie Chea


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65 thoughts on “Malcolm’s Deck Reveal: How He Created A Year-Round Outdoor Space

  1. It’s a beautiful space, Malcolm! Well done. And nice collab with Julie, too. So excited for you!

  2. What a beautiful space. Just goes to show that giving your attention even to small spaces like this can pay big dividends. P.S. I’ve coveting that bench and that bar cart!

    1. By the way, small space design is very important to me as every room in my house is a “small space.” So it’s really encouraging to see great design for the size of homes in which many (most?) people live.

  3. We’ve seen snip-its of this space a few times, and I’m still amazed by how genius the privacy fence add-on pieces are. I would have never thought of that – they’re perfect for design AND function (and when both meet, it’s the pinnacle of GOOD DESIGN), and just wow!

  4. I really love that bar cart – it feels very indoor/outdoor and I am definitely saving the link! I also think the privacy walls make the space – another thing I am saving! Thanks!

  5. Absolutely beautiful, and has exactly the vibe you were aiming for from the beginning. Would love to be able to drop around for a drink from your “libation station” and lounge around for a couple of hours.

  6. Love. It. All! Nice use of a cozy space and very smart use of neutrals. This seems like a space with a timeless quality to it in terms of the higher investment pieces and very easy to swap out small details seasonally or to try out a trend.

  7. This space is genius and aspirational but also potentially attainable. The privacy screen is such a good addition and I am pumped that you redid a small space. I love it so much!

    EHD team: I hope that we see more of Malcolm here on this blog.

  8. Really well done. I imagine the DIY balances out some of the more pricey sources involved for some of the items. The nice thing is that we can draw on this for design inspiration and mix in lower-priced versions of the bench, cart, etc. as our budgets might require.

  9. Looks awesome! I used to work at Merrifield Garden Center in Falls Church when I lived in Arlington. If you’re in the market for more plants definitely check them out. Hope we’ll see more of your space on the blog!

  10. I love the space! Do you have neighbors clamoring for a patio makeover by you?

    The screen is soooo smart!

  11. Great use of a small space…and so beautiful, too! I remember my years in the DC area and it’s nice to create a little haven in the midst of so many people.

  12. Freaking love this! So smart, so approachable, so real for my actual life. Clean, solid design. Heart eyes all over the place.

  13. I’m all about Malcolm! More, please! This space is really beautiful, and REAL. I am trying to figure out how to handle fall and being social during a pandemic outside. Winter storage solutions for outdoor items inspo is much needed.

  14. Malcolm, this is a dream! I live just over the line in MD — EHD fan dinner at your place when the world reopens? 😉

  15. It looks so goooooood! It looks purposefull, cozy and somehow spacious instead of cluttered which I’m sure was hard to pull of in such a restrained space. I would wanna hang out there all day everyday and I’m sure it will be a lovely place to entertain guests 🙂 I also really dig that green bar card – what a happy accident! I wouldn’t mind a peek at the appartment behind the balcony so to speak if you ever want to share here 😉

  16. It’s a beautiful spot and sure to inspire neighbors as well as readers. My only suggestion would be to give that hosta a little breathing room by clearing out a bit of the ground cover.

  17. Wow, I’m so impressed, Malcolm. This is such a small space which I find very hard to design. I’m going to copy this for my tiny balcony. Thanks so much for the inspiration!

  18. Amazing transformation! All of my neighbors have market lights, and honestly I’m kinda over them. Do you have any suggestions for other lighting alternatives for outdoor spaces?

  19. I love this! It looks so inviting. I apologize if this is in the post, but are all your items made specifically for the outdoors? If not, could I ask for your thoughts on how you’ll protect them? Thank you so much, and nice work. It’s inspiring.

  20. What a big impact on a small space – all of these elements are gorgeous!! Agree with others about hoping to see more of you here! I also live in Arlington and would love to hear your take on any design-minded storage or protective options you might consider (like when it rains/snows)?

  21. I’m a bit underwhelmed. While the furniture and pillows are beautiful, wood itself is so overpowering. Not my favorite color for sure. Maybe lots of white cushions would block that would, or a cooler, darker tone or ebony wood. would be more pleasing to my eye. Nevertheless, furniture by itself is great. Lovely bench.

    1. I think Malcolm said he owns the condo; pretty sure that HOAs have very strict policies against changing balcony wood colors.

      1. Thanks for claryfying. In that case, I’d add more contrasting cushions. :)) However, white cushions (along with black ones) would probably add a more feminine look. In any case, I love how functional and uncluttered this space is. Good inspiration for sure.

  22. I love seeing a small space with a big impact. It can be easy to overlook, but Malcom really found pieces with great scale for the space. And the layering of the pillows, rugs, and plants is beautiful.

  23. Love, love, love this reveal, Malcolm! DYING for more small-space design content and I love your aesthetic — sometimes I am out of touch with more masculine design and when I am trying to design a more unisex space I am at a loss. I love your writing voice and sense of style unique to you! Thank you for such a detailed breakdown of your beautiful outdoor space. Please more Malcolm on the blog!

  24. I love EVERY. SINGLE. CHOICE you made. If I hadn’t already dropped a ton of money on outdoor stuff this year I would literally buy every piece

  25. Beautiful, well-curated outdoor space. This design made use of all available floor space well. I love the nighttime shot with the lights lit. What is it about string lights that instantly inject joy into a space?

  26. Gorgeous. Love the pillows, love the green bar, LOVE the privacy slats and the greenery. So brilliant and cozy. Your neighbors must be thrilled–your deck makes the whole back area look really classy. Thanks for all of the great inspo!

  27. What a cool space! I love every inch of it. Well done and look forward to seeing more. It’s inspiring me to get my front porch done. I have most everything I need but for some reason the energy to do it is not with me at the moment.

  28. I love it!

    How did you pick materials that will hold up to the Virginia humidity and thunderstorms? Most of what I tried on my deck in Arlington was ruined within a year or two- mold/mildew, cracking wood, etc. We ended up with plastic chairs, which were functional, if ugly.

  29. OMG so much thought went into every tiny detail and looks AMAZING!!! I agree, green bar cart was the literal best accident!!

  30. Love it! It’s so nice to see a truly realistic and doable small space design that most of us could tackle. It’s giving me all the cozy autumn feels!

  31. This is fantastic! I absolutely love the privacy you’ve created. There are so many ideas here that I want to incorporate on my own small deck (the bar cart!!!). Thanks so much!

  32. Love how you did so much with such a small space — the screen is inspired and has just jumped the to do list for our deck! Can’t wait to see more of your spaces

  33. This is SO. GOOD. Malcolm, keep it coming! And I love that smaller spaces and rowhomes are getting featured.

  34. That nighttime shot just sold it! I want to sit on that deck and have a cocktail, or even a hot chocolate. Lovely.

  35. Pleasure to meet you, Malcom. Lovely space.

    But I do have to call out one faux pax that I make and see you do to. For a blog perfect post, I think you have to actually remove the plants from the plastic pots and put them in the planters.

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