February 13, 2013
Back Yard Living
Deck designer Paul Lafrance likes to think outside the box and stretch his clients’ imaginations when it comes to their outdoor living space.
BY ELIZABETH GODLEY
The “before” and “after” photographs tell the story. After their old backyard porch collapsed, a young Toronto-area couple approached Paul Lafrance to design a new two-level deck. The result was a circular pergola deck, a truly spectacular addition to the couple’s home that, on two levels, includes an outdoor three-season “room,” a curved staircase, a fire-pit lounge and a barbecue area. During his 15 years designing back-yard decks, Lafrance has come up with many unique designs, including a structure that incorporates an all-season hockey rink with synthetic ice. “That’s exactly the kind of outside-the-box thinking I like,” says Lafrance, CEO of Cutting Edge Designs.
Based in Toronto, Lafrance – a regular on HGTV shows like Decked Out and Deck Wars – will be speaking about deck design at the BC Home and Garden Show, to be held at B.C. Place in Vancouver from Feb. 20 to 24. Among his many custom designs are a multi-level “roundabout” deck that left lots of space in the garden for plants, as well as a two-part deck joined by a walkway and a deck that mimics a spiral staircase. These decks were designed after careful consultation with the homeowners about their requirements. But Lafrance can also provide his own touch of drama.
‘A deck is much more than a square box attached to your house.’
While business manuals advise deck designers to spend 15 minutes with their clients to find out what they want, Lafrance will spend hours. “I love to stretch people’s imaginations about what you can do in a back yard, open up the parameters in people’s minds. A deck is much more than a square box attached to your house. And I usually find that, where there’s a will, there’s a way.” To date, Lafrance has designed and built more than 1,500 decks all over southern Ontario. He has recently expanded his business to include all of North America.
Lafrance taught himself carpentry and construction. Initially, he built decks to make money to support his rock-and-roll habit – he still sings and plays guitar and just released his first CD. But deck building, he discovered, was more lucrative and even more creative than being a musician. Since every deck he creates is a one-off design, Lafrance says the price range depends on size and materials. The circular pergola deck, a very high-end creation, came in at $60,000. “But think about what you might spend on a cottage or a vacation,” he says. And why fight traffic to reach your weekend get-away when you could spend $25,000 or $30,000 “for a place of total relaxation, just outside your back door.”