Deck Defining Acts of Spectacular Beauty
This talented designer transforms plain porches and dreary decks into remarkable rooms that flow into the great outdoors.
Walls of floating windows with multi-level floors and blue skies overhead … sound like a dreamscape, or perhaps something from a Magritte painting? They’re actually real design elements in the unique decks and outdoor rooms that Southern California’s Claudia Schmutzler creates.
Rather than calling them simply decks, Schmutzler prefers the term, “Outdoor Oasis,” and judging by her designs, that term is not far off. Her signature “walls of floating windows” came about when she was re-designing her own porch, and decided to repurpose the window frames she’d replaced on the house by painting them and hanging them from an upper beam.
“They offer privacy and create a whimsical look,” she laughs. Once her porch was featured by the local media, she began getting so many calls for them they became all the rage.
Schmutzler worked in construction for 16 years, specifically with structural concrete for places like the Getty Center and the Four Seasons. In 1995, when a friend asked her to plant an English garden, she took to it immediately, and decided to go out her own, founding Beverly Glen Landscape. In 2000, Schmutzler incorporated custom deck building into her repertoire and launched Windsor Decks and Gardens.
Her material of choice is redwood, and she’s so passionate about it she’s teamed up with the California Redwood Association to make people aware of its virtues.
“I’m a purist,” she says, adding that she grew up in New Hampshire, and has a great love of trees. You might think that that would put her at odds with the lumber industry, and that she’d prefer to use composites, made of petroleum bi-products, perhaps. But not so.
She says the redwood industry has changed substantially, planting three trees for every one they cut down, and they’ve also adapted their harvesting process so it doesn’t harm the wildlife or environment. Other advantages to redwood, she notes, include the fact that termites don’t like it, and, for a wood, it’s more fire resistant than most others.
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But she’s also not wild about composites for a number of reasons. She says when they bake in the sun, they can emit toxins, not unlike the plastics you’ve been warned about putting in your microwave. She also says that certain surface stains are difficult if not impossible to clean, and that once you’ve selected a color, you’re pretty much stuck with it. You can’t simply paint or stain over it, as you can with redwood.
She says that when it comes to creating an “Outdoor Oasis” for someone, she likes to think outside the plastic box. "Today our awareness of the environment shapes our choices in so many ways. Clients want to know where materials come from and how their use affects the natural ecosystem. My goal is to create an outdoor living space that draws you to the great outdoors."