Friday, July 15, 2011

In The News - Summer newsletter 2011

In The News

Summer is here and it is starting to heat up. It has been a really weird and long spring so I am almost glad the heat is finally here!! Well almost – every time it gets above 80 degrees I kind of get a little crabby. Thank goodness for shade and ice cold lemonade (or the beverage of your choice).

It has been fun working on so many different residential projects this year. We had a chance to design several unique yards like; a permaculture back yard, to develop a long term master plan for a family retreat, design a modern/contemporary outdoor entrainment space, remodel a water front back yard to include a multi level patio, and design a multi level deck on a steep hillside, just to name a few. Some of the yards we were able to design this year were in Boise, Hidden Springs, Homedale, Payette, Nampa, Eagle and Caldwell. I would like to thank all of our current and past clients for their support.

In our summer issue we are going to talk about one of the more popular trends over the last couple of years, Fire Pits. We will also talk about adding EZ-Roll gravel patios and paths as a hardscape item in your yard. It is summer, so it is the perfect time to discuss one of my favorite trees, the Canada Red Chokecherry. In our project spot light we will review the Somerset Ridge residence, which details a large private courtyard, with an outdoor kitchen and dining area. In our Product Spotlight we will highlight an interesting outdoor room product – PrecisionCraft Outdoor Living Timber outdoor rooms and shade structures. I hope you sit back and enjoy the summer issue of “Sense of Place”.

Designing Trends - Fire Pits

- Fire Pits

The thought of roasting marshmallows on a camp fire or enjoying a beverage of choice in the evening with friends by an open fire are just a couple of reason why the concept of adding a fire pit to the back yard has become one of the more common trends lately. There are several things to consider before you put in your fire pit; do you want wood or gas, do you want it built-in or freestanding and the proper location is critical. These are just a couple of issues we will discuss.

One of the first decisions you will have to make is on whether you want the fire pit to be wood burning or gas, there are pro and cons to both. The crackling sound and the smoky aroma of a wood burning fire brings back memories of camping trips as a kid, but the cleaning up of ashes and constantly having wood avaible reminds you that you are an adult and it’s kind-of like work. There can be a sense of pride in keeping the wood burning fire pit roaring, but if you live up in the foothills, a spark from your fire pit could lead to disaster. The simple act of flipping a switch to start your fire pit is probably one of the main reasons some people like gas over a wood burning fire pit. With a gas fire pit, smoke issues and spark issues are eliminated as you have the look of a fire pit without the work. The biggest differences typically between the two are cost and convenience, the wood burning fire pit typically costs less, but will require more work than a gas fire pit.

The next big thing to decide is whether you want your fire pit to be a built-in destination in your yard or if you want the flexibility of a portable unit (both the built-in and the portable units can be either wood burning or gas). Having an area with built-in seating around a built-in fire pit will give the space a finished look and a specific use which can add value to your yard, but limits the use of the space when you are not using the fire pit. A free standing unit will give you flexibility on the location of where you want to put your fire pit – you can move it around each time to fit your mood. The cost of a built in unit will usually be the deciding factor as the built-in unit typically cost substantially more than a free standing unit.

When deciding the location of your fire pit, you will have to take into consideration several points. The first thing to consider is prevailing winds, the last thing you will want to do is locate a wood burning fire pit so that every time you open the back door smoke flies in the house. You will also want to consider the proximity to the house – if it’s too far away, you might never use it, if it’s too close, you could have smoke and fire issue to deal with. The other main consideration you will want to look at is views. You will want to make sure the fire pit area has a sense of enclosure, so it is comfortable to sit at and unwanted views are screened, but open enough to fame good views and to make sure the area is not claustrophobic.

If you like the outdoors in the evening hours, adding a fire pit can add a destination space to your yard. Whether you want to cook S’mores over an open fire or enjoy a glass of wine (or the beverage of your choice) with some friends at night, a fire pit can add value and a focal point to your back yard.

Hardscape – Oh that’s Hardscape - EZ-Roll Gravel Pavers

EZ-Roll Gravel Pavers

The sound of crushed gravel while walking, gives one the illusion of walking down a country lane without a care in the world. Using an organic paving surface can be rewarding if done properly – it is not as easy as just throwing down some pea gravel and putting some patio furniture out. Compaction is the key, unless you want the area to feel like you are walking in deep sand you will want to make sure the area feel compacted. EZ-Roll Gravel pave System from NDS, is one of the systems avaible that we have used here locally to produce an organic (gravel) paving surface that is firm enough to support patio furniture, wheel barrow and even cars without that sinking feeling.

The EZ-Roll Gravel Pave System consists of recycled plastic cells that are attached to a geotextile fabric. The pavers come in large rolls and are rolled onto a compacted base (6” Depth) and stakes are installed to keep the pavers in place. Washed angular stone with a size between 3/16” and 3/8” are used to fill in the paver cells. The edge of the gravel surface should be finished with a raised stone edge to give the area a more defined look.

EZ-Roll Gravel pavers can be used for driveways, patios, paths, golf cart paths and parking lots….any pace that you would typically use concrete flatwork but want a more organic feeling. The pavers are strong night to handle vehicle traffic, but are porous enough to allow filtration of stormwater runoff.

Project Spotlight - Somerset Ridge Residence

 The main goal for this Boise Foothills project was to screen the roof of a new neighbor’s house that was just built down the hill. The back yard used to look out at the Boise Foothills, now the view is of the neighbor’s roof. The main elements for the project were an outdoor kitchen, hot tub, fire pit and lots of sitting areas for entertaining friends and family.

Concept #1 – Key Points

• A new deck designed to be level with the threshold of the house. A dining area and cooking area for a outdoor kitchen is also located on the deck.
• A lower patio area has room for bar stools for the outdoor kitchen and extra seating area. A small sunken fire pit patio was located by the patio
• A raised planter with Bamboo is designed to screen the neighbors’ roof
• A new waterfall flows into new natural hot tub off the master patio
• Horizontal screen/accent fence to add privacy to the backyard

Concept #2 – Key Points

• A new upper paver patio to be level with threshold of the house.
• A sunken paver patio living room is centrally located with a fireplace. Cantilever wood steps between main patio and sunken living room add character and play off the architectural lines of the house.
• “L” shaped outdoor kitchen
• Fire and water sculpture element
• Horizontal screen/accent fence to add privacy
• Waterfall and spa with large cut boulders for a more artistic look

Concept #3 – Key Points

• The main paver patio area designed to be 1’ below threshold (2 steps down – level with existing grade) with a linear outdoor kitchen
• Raised dining area deck
• “Stone Forest” screen plantings to hide neighbor’s roof – The “Stone Forest” consists of upright basalt columns and evergreen trees
• Circular design theme
• Raised deck sitting area
• Boulder Outcrop with natural spa

Concept #4 – Key Points

• The main paver patio area designed o be 1’ below threshold (2 steps down – level with existing grade) with wood inlay
• Linear Outdoor Kitchen
• Raised Deck Dining area
• Horizontal accent fence with flowering trees to hide neighbors roof
• Formal screen wall with spillway into spa

After presenting the 4 concepts to our client, they gravitated toward a combination of concept #1 and #2, but they also like elements from the other concepts. The client initially wanted to deal with just the area just behind the house and leave the 2 grass areas to the sides as-is. After reviewing the plans the client wanted to see our idea for these areas as well. After this meeting we took our notes back to the office and designed next concept plan.

Concept #5– Key Points

• A main deck area that was level with the threshold with an “L” Shaped outdoor kitchen and stone inlay stepping stone in the deck.
• fire and water sculpture
• sunken fire pit
• Raised planting with horizontal screen fence and Bamboo to hide neighbors
• Natural waterfall and spa

After presenting this next concept to our client, they really liked the direction we were headed – but they really wanted a more enclosed/resort type feeling to the hot tub patio off the master. We decided to totally redesign the area to include large cultured stone walls with custom “Moon Gates” that will pick up the wood accents from horizontal screen fence. The moon Gates are my favorite part of the design.

Our Last Concept

The client loved the concept and we went on to our next step, construction documents.

Demolition plan - to illustrate all elements that were to be removed and elements to be saved and protected during construction.

Grading Plan - to illustrate the grade changes proposed, wall heights and drainage patterns. This drawing was approved by the City

Erosion and Sediment Control Plan – to illustrate how the contractor will reduce/eliminate erosion during and after construction. This drawing was approved by the City

Materials Plan – to illustrate, note and detail all hardscape items like, paver patio, deck, moongate, steps, walls, and boulder location.

• Planting Plan – to illustrate all plant material proposed for the project

Now that all the drawing were done, it was time solicit bids from sub-contractors. The General Contractor/Project Manager for this project was Tom Morton with LCG (Land Construction Group, Inc.). The final installation team consisted of Allison Concrete (concrete flatwork), Back Yards Unlimited (outdoor Kitchen), Boon LLC (Deck, screen fencing, moongate…all wood work), CoverTech (Shade Structures), John Sawyer Excavations, Pristine Pools and Spas (spa), NCC concrete (walls), Genther Masonry, Schaffeld Electrical Services and Anfinson Plumbing and Mechanical.

Because of access issue the project would have to be installed by working from the back (spa/courtyard area) and work their way out (patio, deck, outdoor kitchen) to the street. The first step was to demo the existing landscape and excavate for the large footings for the courtyard walls.

During the construction phase we worked with the Homeowner and the General contractor to incorporate other elements into the yard that were not in the original design. The Home Owners and General Contractor were great to work with, as well as the entire construction team. Some elements were changed, removed or added during the process by the home owner.

This was a fun project that took a while to complete; we started the design process in February of 2010, with the construction starting in August of 2010 and the majority of the construction being finished in the summer of 2011. I can’t wait for the plant material to mature over time.

Here is a sneak peek at some before pictures of project we will highlight in our Fall issue ….. Stay tuned to see how we transform this back yard!