Before pouring the first post footing for the deck at his Atlanta home (pictured), Dan Smith met with a local designer from Archadeck, a national deck-building firm, to come up with a design based on how his family planned to use the space. The father of three social teenagers, and a frequent party host, Smith wanted lots of distinct areas on various levels for entertaining. "I also wanted to keep all the trees, so you'd feel like you're in the woods," he says.
While Smith's deck is large, the same amount of thought should go into designing even a diminutive deck for a small backyard. "The days of the deck that's just a plain, impersonal square are gone," says Bill Bolton, owner of Deck Creations
in Santa Barbara, California. "People want the space to be their own. They're thinking in terms of outdoor rooms."