Saturday, April 25, 2009

De-rednecking the landscape

Well its been a little while since I had cause to updates the blog - and for good reason. In November, right after we completed (and paid for) the major inside construction, I was laid off from my job at FTI Consulting as a part of a larger RIF. So immediately all projects that required any outlay of capital were tabled until further notice. Being down on to one salary in Silicon Valley is almost the equivalent to the financial kiss of death with the high property values and correspondingly high mortgages. Luckily, by pulling Keira out of daycare, cutting of all non-necessary expenses and general belt tightening - we were able to get by unscathed until I found a new position with Intersil, an analog semiconductor company in Milpitas.

During the winter, we tore out the remainder of the old landscape and I had put in a drain for the front of the house downspout. The nice thing about my time off and doing my best Michael Keating impression as Mr. Mom was the ability to spend a lot of time with Keira and that was really great, feeding the baby chili and all.

Now that we're back to two salaries and spring has arrived, we really wanted to get cracking on the landscaping so we have a nice place outside to enjoy the nice summer weather, especially with Keira on the verge of walking.

The first step was in building a space for the address. I had seen a post on Lotta Livin a mid-century modern website I look to for ideas. I wanted to do something with a floating Richard Neutra typeset for the numbers, but didn't want them on the garage post (too squished) or by the mailbox, as there are two supporting posts that would partially obscure them. The solution was this address board, which I made out of redwood and sealed. The horizontal lines break up the vertial siding grooves nicely and provide a little area behind which we can have a sitting area to read in the late afternoon sun (there's a beam to hang a floating chair from). I think it turned out quite well. From the picture below you can also see the two posts that a privacy lattice is being put in create this little oasis and we're thinking of growing fragrant jasmine there. I plan to light the address from the side, which will also cast a nice shaddow from the numbers.

The bendy board will separate the walkway/sitting area from the rest of the yard and will have some sort of pebble/river rock filling to create an island effect for the walkway path seen in the next picture. So YES, this weekend we jumped into the hardscape stage with both feet and had the patio poured. We chose concrete over pavers due to the cost savings (50% cheaper!) and the low maintenance aspects.

The next pictures show the back patio being poured with colored concrete. Here the main patio is in process of pouring

Here is the side patio off our master bedroom and walkway poured and troweled smooth with just the base color. We chose a mocha color, which is a brownish-grey as a base color, which is a brownish-grey as a base color.

The second top color, a sunbaked clay orangeish color is being worked into the top of the cement to try to achieve a mottled slate look. The result is quite orange, but as it dries the orange has faded quite a bit (good).

And here is the almost finished product! The concrete guys laid out thses big rubber stamps in the pattern we chose - a slate ashlar stamp - and pounded out our pattern. There were six different stamps that fit together in varying orientations so the pattern wasn't a uniform repeating sequence and it came out quite well.

In case you're wondering, the post sticking up is a natural gas line we had installed for a future bbq area and electricity. We also plumbed the gas close to the fireplace in case we want to convert in the future - and the open circle? It's the beginning of an area for a firepit, also plumbed for natural gas - decadent -no?

We have to wait about 5 days to even walk on the pavement. You can see the orange has already faded a good bit and I'm told that after it completely dries in about 2-3 weeks, we will powerwash and seal the concrete, which will bring more of the grey base color up top.

Lastly, Keira had to jump in with two feet - and hands too, as her 'lil paw and footprints are now immortalized in the backyard patio.