When Kay and Tom Horst hosted an ice cream social at their Palisades home, Kay planned for the party to take place inside the house. But she prepared her back porch just in case people wandered outside to mingle.
The vaulted-ceiling porch was so alluring that most of the guests lingered there.
"There were so many people in the back, I thought the house might tip over," she said. Who could blame them? The porch looks like a luxurious treehouse, rustic enough for the Swiss Family Robinson and posh enough for a Kardashian cookout.
When the Horsts purchased the Midcentury Modern home, the house had a deck outside the living room and kitchen nook. But a stream that runs through the neighborhood created marshy conditions in the summer and a breeding zone for mosquitoes. Winters proved too chilly to enjoy the deck.
Eventually the Horsts grew tired of feeling like spectators to a backyard habitat with towering tulip trees, walls of bamboo, festive flowers and chirping birds. They longed for an outdoor retreat where they could immerse themselves among the greenery growing abundantly in the backyard. So they enlisted the help of Michael Sauri, of TriVistaUSA, an award-winning Arlington-based design and build company.
"They wanted to create an enclosed outdoor space that would allow them to enjoy the view of their backyard while protecting them from mosquitoes," Sauri said.
TriVista replaced the Horsts' old, poorly designed two-level deck with a new screened-in, roofed deck. Sauri, who won the 2009 Green Home Choice Award from Arlington County, reused the framing of the existing deck and built a larger upper deck.
"He was really good about not wasting anything," Kay said.
He used pressure-treated wood for most of the porch and stained cedar for the ceiling. Sauri, who has been featured several times on the HGTV series "Curb Appeal," designed a soaring butterfly roof, which rises to six feet at its maximum height, well beyond the adjacent roof heights of the house.
"The roof helps annunciate the angularity and midcentury look of the overall house and allows sunlight to flood the porch and the house as if there were no roof at all," Sauri said. "To keep the comfort of indoors in the new space, we installed a wood-burning fireplace with glass on three sides to provide warmth in winter."
Skylights in the vaulted ceiling allow for more natural light, a concern for Kay, who wanted to avoid cutting off the light flowing to the home's family room.
She also wanted to use the deck year-round so, in addition to the fireplace, they added a grill with Viking hood and a utility line to pipe in natural gas.
Kay admits to sometimes preferring the outdoor grill to her kitchen stovetop. "It's never so cold that you can't come out here and cook, and it's great for cooking something like salmon," she said.
She loves it out there, and so do her guests. "Whether we are planning to incorporate the porch into a party or not, it always ends up being where everybody ends up," she said. "They come to look at it and then they stay."