How to make your deck look and feel more expansive

Your deck can serve many functions: relaxation center, party space, grilling zone, dining area, and so much more. But with so much to do in limited space, many deck owners are wondering: how can I make my deck feel big enough to accommodate it all?

We've got good news: increasing your functional deck space doesn't require a full-on square footage expansion. Using your space more efficiently - and using some deck decor tricks of the trade - can make your deck look and feel instantly larger. Learn how below!

A narrow deck uses glass railing and a functional drink rail to feel larger

Table of Contents: How To Make Your Deck Look Bigger

#1: Save Furniture Space By Adding A Drink Rail

A classic composite railing with a deck board as a cocktail rail}}

It's a delicate balance: you need enough furniture to make your deck comfortable, but so many pieces of furniture that things feel crowded. But you can make that balance much easier by incorporating the function of furniture into your deck's structure.

How? Consider adding a drink rail to your deck railing. A drink rail (sometimes called a cocktail rail) is a flat surface on the top of your deck railing that can serve as a convenient place to rest drinks, food, decor and more.

You've got plenty of things competing for your limited deck space, two of them being your deck railing and your patio furniture. A drink rail combines the two into the same space, serving both functions while saving you space.

A nice bonus: drink rails look amazing. Many railing systems allow you to choose the composite deck board of your choice to mount as a drink rail. That means you can match your railing and your decking, or choose a drink rail that complements your home's color and trim.

A sleek metal railing with a deck board drink rail

You can learn more about the best railing systems that feature a drink rail in our guide below:

Best Drink Rail Options

#2: Add Lighting For A New Deck Dimension

Outdoor lighting makes a pergola space feel expansive

Light is the key to making a space feel bigger - it's why windows and lighting can have such massive impacts on how big (or small) your indoor rooms feel.

Your deck has the advantage of natural light and fresh air. But adding tasteful deck lighting brightens your space and makes it feel bigger and more usable even as the sun goes down.

The beautiful bonus of adding deck lighting is that as you're making your deck's physical dimensions feel bigger, you're also expanding another key dimension that limits your deck life: time. With a good lighting plan, you don't have to stop using your deck at sundown. Adding lighting is adding usable hours to your deck - and for most of us, time is one of the most valuable resources there is.

Fortunately, it's not difficult to draw up a deck lighting plan. Solar lighting is incredibly easy, and even wired deck lights run off of low-voltage transformers that plug right in to your wall outlets.

You can always call our team at 1-888-824-5316 for help coming up with a great lighting plan for your deck, and getting compatible parts without missing anything you need. Check out how one of our customers lit up their space with bright LED post caps:

Lit post caps add light to a deck

Low voltage post caps light up a deck at night
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#3: Open Up Your Space With Glass or Cable Railing

A panoramic lake view seen through glass deck railing

If you're looking to make your space look and feel bigger, light will always be your best friend. But beyond a lighting plan, you can invite light into your deck by choosing one of two bright railing styles: glass railing or cable railing

As you can see above, glass railing instantly opens up your deck space, blurring the boundary between deck and view to make your deck feel like a part of the expansive outdoors beyond.

Just like glass, cable railing (shown below) is designed to open up your view with less visual obstruction than most railings with solid balusters. While glass is see-through, cable is a chameleon: the organic gray of the stainless steel cables is polished and twisted to absorb light rather than reflecting it. That means cable railing effectively blends into your view to make your space feel bright, open, and larger.

If you already have wooden or metal posts on your deck, cable railing can be a great upgrade to your existing railing. If you're looking to fully replace your deck railing, you can find a full railing system featuring glass panels, glass balusters, or cable runs.

A small deck feels more open when using cable railing
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Glass railing opens up a narrow portion of a deck
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#4: Use Perimeter Seating Creatively

Perimeter seating made of PVC decking creates more usable space on a deck

To make the most of your space, consider placing most of your seating at the edges of your deck. Perimeter seating leaves you with more open space in the middle of your deck, while placing chairs or tables in the center of your deck can make the space feel crowded.

Many deck owners have found that built-in seating made from composite or PVC deck boards can be an amazing use of space. As you can see in the photos above and below, deck board benches make an amazing accent that perfectly match your deck surface.

A deck board bench creates more usable deck space

For help planning your built-in seating, give us a call at 1-888-824-5316. Our team would be happy to help you explore our huge in-stock selection of low-maintenance decking to find the perfect look that helps expand your deck's functional space.

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A beautiful deck using cable railing, a drink rail, and perimeter seating to look bigger

Learn more about the basics of deck framing and building in our Deck Framing Guide and learn deck parts and terminology in the DecksDirect Glossary of Deck Terms and Lingo.

Browse more deck design and railing style notes to upgrade your backyard space and deck in the DecksDirect Railing Style Guide: the quickest way to learn if your home is more suited for a classic aluminum deck railing or a showstopping cable rail setup.

The more you know, the better your deck and backyard projects will be! Whether you're looking at a brand new project, a deck update, or a style refresh, give our deck project planners a call at 1-888-824-5316 or send us an email at hello@decksdirect.com. Our experienced team will help you get the information, products, and tools you need for an awesome deck completely personalized to your needs!