Monday, April 23, 2007

Box O' Fizzy Water - proper placement + integration

The interrelationship of indoor and outdoor spaces are often overlooked and the planning for the connection is commonly not fully analyzed .

Within the site analysis it is just as important to identify all the existing environmental conditions such as wind, shade, drainage and the like as well as the how the constructed elements are going to impact the view of landscape and the personal use of the homeowner .

A common error that is seen is the lack of in depth site analysis and planning for the installation of hot tubs and or spas.

This man made box of hot fizzy water is often purchased by an exuberant new homeowner , brought home and plopped a few feet away from the back door of their yard.

It sticks out like a sore hemorrhoid .

All the other surrounding outdoor elements do not interact or interconnect with it and it languishes in its own little segregated world .
Oh sad little hot bubbly box o' water, none of the other landscape buddies want to play with it.

With a little sagacious forethought this boxy vessel of fiberglass and water can be fully integrated into a harmonious landscape composition that unifies rather than becomes the focus of unwanted interest.

There are of course the technical aspects of siting your box o’water which can impact the location and placement of the tub , these include location of your power source, location of the control panel , soil stability ect....
But once you fully research and understand the mechanical technicalities then it is time to sit down and fully examine the spatial organization of your site combined with your viewing corridors, pedestrian flow patterns, surrounding and newly planned landscape elements that are going to yield important interrelationships.

It is vital to take the time to make a survey of your property and your life style patterns.
Develop a flow map that relates to the site and your needs and from there develop a concept diagram and challenge yourself to think of alternative plans that could serve to stretch your imagination and conserve on financial resources.

The big box o’water can add richness to both your landscape and your life if one just takes the time to weave it into the overall composition of the landscape.

It doesn’t have to stick out in the air like a big box of water plopped in the middle of the back yard with a few surrounding stepping stone and some shrubberies.

This sunken tub has a panoramic view of the San Francisco bay and sky line.
A hole in the ground was excavated, retained with concrete block and then a deck and stone wall was built to frame this out door spa room.

This tub is also sunk and set into an underground concrete vault ( to retain out the surrounding soil ) An entertainment deck was built around the spa.

Below is a good example of full landscape integration.
In the foreground one can see the fireplace and sunken conversation area.
Beyond is another patio made of Arizona pink flagstone.
Adjacent to this patio is a grove of redwoods , which is where the hot tub is nestled into.

The sitting area nest to the hot tub niche

The hot tub deck built into the grove of redwood along with the built in seating

portions of this post also appeared on the gardenweb forum back in October 2005

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Rocking the world, one stone at a time.

Stone craftsman and women have a unique way of communicating with stone.
We quietly and contemplatively carry on a dialogue that is more like a dance than a conversation.

When onlookers ask how I know where to strike a stone to get that perfect face I tell them that if you study the stone for a moment it will talk to you.

No, I don’t mean that a little voice will start chatting it up with you but rather it will inform you through its body language where its sweet spot lay.

The stonework that you will see in photographs below was handcrafted by Miguel Chavez , a master stone mason from Northern California , who has been conversing with stone for the past 25 years.

This project below uses a stone called Three Rivers in the flat work and our local Napa Valley Sayers Quarry stone for the walls

Note the beauty in the grain of this flat stone

We deeply raked the joints so that the stone gave the appearance of being dry laid, which is impractical here in earth quake country

Below is another project located in Sonoma Valley that also uses the Napa Valley Sayers Quarry Stone.
The photo below shows the form and steel work for our footings

The wall as it is going up and the bocce ball court being buiit.

The finished project : A 130 foot long Sayers Quarry stone wall, a decomposed granite dining and sitting area overlooking the oyster shell surfaced bocce ball court and 100 yard fairway.

Another job in Mill Valley where the Sayers Quarry stone was used for the walls and the flat stone is from Kentucky.

One of the least expensive stones that is imported into California comes from Arizona.
Below are some examples of some Arizona stair case work.

We also used some thick pieces of Arizona flag stone to cap off the mantle on this fireplace.
The fireplace stone is Sonoma Valley field stone.

One of the more expensive stones that is imported into California is from New England.
The pre cut ashlar patterned patio stone is especially expensive but yeilds a beautiful finished project.

Below is a photograph of Miguel flaming the edge of a piece of bluestone .
This large slab was cut to size on site to make the counter top . To give the edge of the stone a lovely finished look a torch is used to flake and thermalize the stone.

The finished project

A detail shot of the cook center

Below is another project also utilizing New England Bluestone.
Here we use the random cut which renders a less formal look.
The large inlaid boulders are local Sonoma county field stone.

A sitting patio with a hand cut and flamed stone wall and water feature

A detail shot of the water feature and cast bronze spitting frogs.

Below is a portion of a project that we did for a Modernist house .
The water feature is a mix of New England Bluestone and California Brownstone.

We consider most of our work a form of site specific sculpture .
Below is a water feature that was originally a 14 foot long piece of hexagonal basalt stone from Canada.
We had the stone sliced into unequal thirds and then went to work fitting the stone together, core boring the centers out for the water feed and cup grinding and diamond polishing the tops into bowls.

This stone that this fireplace is crafted from hails froms Montana.
The counter top, seat caps , hand carved corbels on the mantle and inlaid recessed stone behind the antique french wrought iron grill work is New England Bluestone
Photography by Lee Anne White

We were extremely fortunate to land a project up in the Sierra Mountains at Squaw Valley Village, home of the 1950 Olympics.
Here we crafted an outdoor entertainment room complete with a kitchen, firepit, water feature and sculptural metal iron work.

Detail of the water feature as we were fine tuning the flow.

Below is a project located in Carmel Valley . Our office did all the exterior architectural design work and some of the exterior landscape construction.
Miguel did not do the architectureal stone work on this project but did do the landscaping and the exterior sculptural water feature work.
This rare stone and limited stone is from central California. It is called Santa Rita limestone .

I hope that you enjoyed viewing our landscape architectural design work and hand crafted masonry stonework.

Michelle Derviss

Friday, April 20, 2007

The Pina Colada Garden

Blue glazed pots found at Home Cheapo and planted with a variety of plants ( also found at Home Cheapo ) including Cyperus papyrus, coleus, and succulents

The entry path into the front yard

The side yard garden gallery

Far end of the garden gallery before rounding the corner to the back yard

A small water element along the back bath

A cluster of terra cotta pots and succulents at the corner of the greenhouse.
A bamboo chair hangs out by the simple metal fire pit
Plants are Canna , Thysanolaena, Tetrapanax Rice paper plant, Pygmy date palms, Bulbinella, Otatea acuminata aztecorum (mexican weeping bamboo)

A detail of on of the succulent beds

Friday, April 6, 2007

Making the Grade.

Hill side gardens offer special challenges as well as unique opportunities .

They also can be a lot more expensive to domesticate than their flat-lander cousin so it is important to identify your needs and desires against the realities of your budget.

Usually the need to tame the hill is for easy access up , down and across the slope.
Steps and pathways will solve this challenge but before one starts to alter the grade of the hillside careful in-depth investigation should be made in determining the type of soil that one will be digging in as well as how the soil sheds both surface and subsurface rain water.
The last thing that anyone needs is creating a erosion problem by over digging or undercutting into an unstable slope.

Often times there is a need for more flat usable space on a sloping yard.
By building decks, terraces and patios a family can create more productive and functional space.

Below are a few hillside gardens that we have sculpted in Northern California
In all of the cases below we considered the impact of the surrounding environment, the architectural style of the house, the geotechnical properties as well as the clients budget , needs and desires.

These homeowners required a set of steps leading down from their detatched garage to their side door entrance.
A low stone wall crafted from local Sonoma county stone retains the hillside from eroding
into the Arizona flagstone entry courtyard. A small built in stone sitting niche overlooks a simple water fountain ( not seen in the photo )

In this back yard a series of upper level decks, terraces, stone steps and a natural sloping grade unites the outdoor rooms together.
A fireplace and dining deck awaits one at the top of the stone steps.
Behind the sloping rock border a terraced set of steps and redwood deck with a large family size hot tub is nestled in a grove of redwood trees.

This deck and lawn area is built over a very steep slope. The deck rises 12 feet above the grade and a series of 4 foot tall retaining walls ( 3) terrace the slope into a fun filled play area.

This tightly packed suburban back yard has several retainment systems to hold back the slope in order to make way for a swimming pool and family entertainment area.

This was one monster grading and engineering fete.
A homeowner wished for a swimming pool and family entertaining area. The only problem is that their lot was an extremely steep hillside.

A series of retaining walls ranging in heights of 12 feet ( the wall behind the pool ) to a 14 foot wall ( below the pool ) and 4 more retaining walls in heights of 3 to 6 feet tall had to be built inorder to retain the hill and pool.

In this photo below a series of stone steps, terraces and switch backs traverse across the hillside to reach the top of the hill where a putting green and play area awaits.

This home located in Carmel Valley was also a challenge in grading .
The homeowners wished to have a home all on one level yet the lot sloped over 12 feet from front of the house to the back.
Through careful siting, grading and the use of retaining terraces the owners can enter the side of the house from their garage all on the same grade level.
Once in the house they can walk out to the 5 open air outdoor rooms and terraces - all on the same level.
The stone that was used to build the terraces is a local quarried stone called Santa Rita.