Colorful, warm outdoor living in the Richmond 

After 10 years in their second-floor Inner Richmond condo, Kathleen Gaffney and Charlie Homo wanted to expand their living space onto the massive deck at the back of their home.

But they quickly learned that any expansion of the Edwardian-era house would involve a serious and expensive renovation. The 500-square-foot L-shaped deck, which wraps around the couple’s bedroom, had been built without permits by a previous tenant.

So, galvanized by a trip to L.A. that included warm evenings taking in some of that city’s many rooftop bars, Gaffney and Homo decided to bring the inside out.

The result is a space that throws a one-two punch to the idea that the Inner Richmond is too chilly for outdoor living.

The couple worked with Sean Quigley and Todd McCrea from landscape design firm Paxton Gate to bring color and warmth to the deck with an array of quirky and striking succulents, shrubs, grasses and other plants.

The once-bare space now includes a custom-made gas-powered fire table and COR-TEN steel barbecue area, as well as lighting so subdued it’s barely noticeable until dusk falls.

In a low custom planter below the deck-facing bedroom windows, orange Sunset Velvet oxalis pops against the delicate Dwarf Fernleaf Bamboo and finger-like clusters of the creeping succulent Blue Pickle.

All the steel is treated to rust gracefully and complements the colorful yet regal ceramic planters elsewhere on the deck. Three varieties of vine hang from an arbor Paxton Gate built above the bedroom — and the entire composition is held together by the siding on the outside of the home, now painted a warm brick red.

“With the help of Sean, we managed to do something that seems like it belongs in this space and this area and this city and at the same time it has a little edge because of the materials,” Homo said.

The couple had to be talked out of some ideas, Gaffney said. Quigley was adamant about introducing sturdy, livable plants rather than flowers, while reassuring the couple the garden would still be attractive, she said.

“It was just a mindset I had to get over,” she said.

One of Gaffney’s favorite things about the new deck garden is looking out at it from the bedroom and feeling the new space is part of the house.

“That never dawned on us — that that would be such a pleasure,” she said.

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Brigid Gaffikin

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