A Screened Porch and Deck Addition Made for the Changing Seasons

Architect Leslie Benson expands her Portland clients’ usable space with simple materials and collaborative design

“The clients came to me with a design brief to create a three-season porch- with enough room for dining and lounging connected to a new deck that would accommodate outdoor seating and a built-in hot tub. The home’s existing deck received so much direct sun that it was essentially unusable, and the property abuts a little stream, which meant there were too many mosquitoes to enjoy being outside much of the year.

“The scale of the structure we were adding on to was fairly small, so I tried to be as sensitive as possible when tying into the existing building. We used a low-slope shed roof for the porch to keep its height below the existing roof’s peak, and we stuck with simple materials: stained cedar framing and slats at the exterior, a white shiplap wall and ceiling at the interior, and a screened panel perimeter to keep the addition airy and allow as much light as possible to reach the existing living spaces.

“We created a cascading, wraparound stair from the deck to the yard that serves a double purpose: negating the need for handrails while also functioning as seating that faces out into the yard. The clients decided to use composite material for the deck and the stair because it’s smoother underfoot and requires less maintenance.

“The original idea was to have the hot tub fully recessed into the deck, but when we were discussing usability—reaching down to take the cover on and off, stepping in and out, the safety considerations of having kids around—it no longer made sense, so we made it semi-recessed. Built-in planters on one side keep views from the hot tub visually open, and a wood-slat screen on the other gives privacy from the neighboring house.

“It was so gratifying working with clients who had their own strong vision but were open to going through a collaborative design process. That’s part of why this project came together so nicely—the clients knew what they wanted but were happy exploring a range of ideas to get there. In the end, the project added great new space to my clients’ house, and I love knowing how much they’re enjoying putting it to use.”

—Leslie Benson, architect and founder of Leslie Benson Designs   

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