If you follow my Facebook page (you don’t? click here!) you may have seen another photo of this same project last week. I shot this closeup because I love the way the colors play together: [Read more…] about What’s Blooming Now? Post-Memorial Day Edition
A few weeks ago I posted that a property I designed and oversaw in Fredericksburg was going to be on the garden tour Tuesday, April 24th. [Read more…] about My First Garden Tour – a Recap
I meet with a fair number of homeowners who say “I either want a firepit or a fireplace.” This uncertainty is actually a great place to start discussing how they’re going to use the space and how much they’d like to invest in the space, [Read more…] about Should I Build a Fire Pit or a Fireplace?
When I was designing landscapes in Arizona, one option we had available to us was travertine marble tile. These were actual tiles – typically 12″x12″ and less than a half inch think – so they had to be laid in a mortar bed on a concrete slab. Shortly after landing in Virginia in 2005, I started seeing travertine pavers make an appearance.
These are really cool because they’re an inch thick and are laid just like a concrete paver. You build up with a base layer of compacted gravel (21A or crusher run), then use a one inch layer of sand as your bedding layer. Once the pavers are in place they’re compacted and polymeric sand is swept into the joints. That’s it. It’s a beautiful finished product that has the ability to flex and move like a traditional concrete paver patio in Virginia. From the test data I’ve seen online, travertine pavers have a compressive strength similar to concrete pavers and can even be used for driveways!
The biggest challenge I’ve found with designing travertine paver patios in Virginia is making the materials make sense. Travertine in California or Arizona doesn’t look out of place. It can look a little foreign here, though. I recently designed a fireplace, seat wall, and travertine paver patio as part of a winery landscape design project. I used a plum-colored flagstone to tie in with the warm tones of the travertine and the rich reddish colors in the fireplace stone, and I’m quite pleased with how it turned out. All those color theory classes have finally paid off.
I’m starting my next travertine paver patio project this week, and I may have one more in the pipeline as part of a swimming pool project. The travertine pavers are a great product that (unlike concrete pavers and flagstone) aren’t in every other backyard. Making it work requires someone who can integrate this new material in the landscape design while blending all the colors harmoniously. In other words, you need a landscape designer. Contact me to set up a consultation if you’re looking to build a travertine paver patio in Virginia, Maryland, or DC and I’ll be happy to talk with you about it!
When I was studying interior design I was fascinated by universal design. While I don’t trust Wikipedia for everything, their definition nails it:
Universal design refers to broad-spectrum ideas meant to produce buildings, products, and environments that are inherently accessible to both people without disabilities and people with disabilities.
I think universal design is brilliant. Well-done universal design functions well for everyone, and in many cases it’s accessible to everyone without looking institutional. Examples of this inside the home would be showers that look like any other high-end bathroom but can accommodate a wheelchair, or grab bars that match the home’s decor. We can carry these same ideas to the outside.
Keeping paths as level or as gently inclined as possible is one way of making them accessible to as many people as possible. The Americans with Disabilities Act has some good guidelines for this sort of thing, as it’s based on lots of research into what people can comfortably navigate. We can also make these surfaces ADA compliant, allowing wheelchairs to easily roll across them. Asphalt is good, gravel is bad. But what if asphalt isn’t the look we want?
There are products out there that can bind gravel to keep it looking natural while still allowing wheelchairs to use the path. Two of these are Gravel-Lok and Klingstone Path. If you’re here in Virginia, you can go to James Madison’s Montpelier (in Orange County) to see what Klingstone Paths look like in person. It’s pretty exciting.
For most other design considerations, universal design outside has many of the same considerations as the inside. Outdoor kitchens can be made usable for anyone, and lighting design becomes even more important for safety and wayfinding at night. If you’re looking to age in place, or you know someone who is, give me a call. I’d be happy to talk with you about design steps we can take to keep the outdoors accessible for years to come.
You’ve decided to use flagstone in the landscape. Good call! You may not be done making decisions, however. If the stone will be used in an application where you see the edge of the piece (step treads, wall caps, etc) you’ll have to think about the finished look.
The first thing to consider is the thickness of the stone. The typical stone we use for a wet-lay patio can vary in thickness, from a hair under an inch to over two inches. When building steps or a cap, you want to see a consistent thickness of stone all the way across.
Something else to consider is that often a thicker stone will look better. That 1″ thick flagstone can look wimpy. A 2″ piece has a lot more heft to it. In some cases you may want to go even thicker, but just be aware that now you’re looking at significant additional costs.
The Edge – Sawcut Flagstone
The most common edge “treatment” isn’t really even a treatment. The rectangular slabs of flagstone are cut with a giant saw, and you can often see the marks from the blade on the stone. It’s fine, but it’s certainly not an aesthetically exciting finish.
The Edge – Thermaled Flagstone
One of the most common edge treatments (and one that I think looks great) is thermal-treated. This is accomplished by taking a piece of sawcut flagstone, wetting down the edge, and heating it with a torch. Done correctly the water turns to steam and pops off small pieces of the stone, resulting in a smoothly textured and very consistent surface. Done incorrectly, the piece overheats and splits. This is why most stone yards offer to provide thermaled stone.
The Edge – Chiseled Flagstone
Another way of treating the edges of flagstone is to give them a chiseled appearance. It’s another technique that’s simple to describe and more difficult to do: the mason uses a chisel to remove small, evenly sized pieces of material from the edge of the stone until it has a very cool, consistent rock-faced look across the edge. Some companies do this on site, but most get the stone from the stoneyard like this.
When designing with stone there are so many variables to consider. While it seems inconsequential at first, the right edge treatment can make the difference between a good result and a great result. If you’re looking for help achieving that great result, contact me for a design consultation!