Parishioner’s deck serves as outdoor oasis

As the weather gets warmer, Mount Washington resident Barry Harmon begins to pull out cushions for the furniture on his deck, which becomes the most popular living space at his home.

The 51-year-old parishioner of Shrine of the Sacred Heart, Mount Washington, can relax in comfort and commune with the great outdoors in the privacy of his Smith Avenue property.

Complete with a wet bar, sound system, comfortable chairs, dining area, hot tub and lighting reminiscent of a Las Vegas casino, Mr. Harmon also enjoys entertaining friends and family in his exterior sanctuary.

“I’ve always enjoyed having people over and entertaining, and since I love using my grill, my deck has always been a natural gathering area,” he said. “So, a few years ago I decided that I wanted to expand my small deck and transform it into something really nice.”

That included extending a concrete slab out into the yard to triple the surface area, installing lights and bordering it with a privacy trellis.

Once construction was completed in June 2006, the hot tub arrived and became the centerpiece of the deck, Mr. Harmon said.

Not only do his guests enjoy the hot tub when it’s warm outside, they can also can relax in 102-degree water temperatures in the colds months of January and February, even if snow is falling.

“That is one of the biggest allures for people to complete their decks with a hot tub,” said Francis Stefanski, president of Regina Pools and Spas in Timonium. “Many people have their decks designed to accommodate a hot tub, even if they can’t put it in now.”

The spa is a great health source for aching muscles and arthritic joints, and it’s a unifying vehicle for families and friends to relax and spend quality time together, said Mr. Stefanski, 57, a parishioner of Church of the Nativity, Timonium.

In the past decade his company has seen an explosion in sales of the outdoor spas, which range in cost from $3,500 to $10,000 installed.

“I think any time you can have people enjoying the hot tub and still be able to relax, eat and socialize, it’s a good thing,” Mr. Harmon said. “It also tends to spread people around, rather than just have them hanging around the picnic tables.”

He sees the biggest benefit to having an outside entertaining oasis when the guests have left and it’s time to clean.

“Decks are much easier to clean up after functions,” Mr. Harmon said. “The main reason is if you have a trash can outside, that trash never enters the house and all you have to do is put stuff away and make doggie bags for guests to take home.”

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.