Linking the deck to the existing brick patio, Weeden built a set of steps wide enough to make a comfortable perch for someone who wants to watch the action on the patio. To make that area more functional for entertaining, a grill with a brick surround went in near the living room door.
With two dining tables on the 20-by-30-foot patio (one adult-sized, one child-sized), the grill, and the playhouse, nobody misses the conventional grassy yard. "We have every playdate on the patio, it seems," says Misha, adding that the brick surface is great for her young children's wet play—splashing around in a water-activity table or a small plastic pool—because muddy puddles will never be a problem. Scooting around using ride-on toys and drawing with sidewalk chalk are other favorite patio pastimes.
Shown: The custom 10-foot table, the chairs, and the built-in banquette are screened from nearby neighbors by a stand of mature ficus trees. The banquette's seat lifts up to reveal handy storage bays for seat cushions. A square market umbrella protects diners from strong sun as well as falling leaves.