Posts Tagged ‘Inside Out Design’

garden bones: the big reveal

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

Retaining wall construction wrapped about two weeks ago. Let’s get right to the final results… As always, click to biggify.

final front view

final back view

Very happy with how the walls look like they belong to the house — the mark of an architect. Irving would be thrilled. Thanks Markus Berger and Naomi Clare at Inside Out Design! Once the paint comes off the foundation, it should look even more seamless.  Doors still need to be built on the storage bays of the back wall. And when spring rolls around, plantings will soften the edges and add privacy.

The construction, chronicled

Want the nitty gritty? Read on…

The retaining wall plans got done in November. The next step was getting bids from cement contractors. And tick tick tick tick tick, suddenly it’s December. Impending winter. This is Rhode Island, after all. Is building now really a good idea?

The contractor we settled on seemed to think it was. “Adjust the concrete mix to deal with the cold,” they said confidently in their thick Rhody accents. We were dubious. But our engineer, Erik Anders Nelson, was down with that. The city inspector was, too. So fine, then.

To start, we had to take out two trees in back that happened to fall directly in line with the placement of the retaining wall…

backwall 1

Sorry trees. I know it’s not much consolation but digging would have killed you. You’ll be replaced by something exquisite, I assure you.

Digging started on December 15th. My Facebook friends weathered six weeks worth of almost daily posts on the progress. Highlights below. If you really want to get your geek on, you’re welcome to check out the full project from beginning to end, complete with angst and commentary.

Back wall:

back wall 2

back wall 3

back wall 4

back wall 6

back wall 7

back wall 8

back wall 9

back wall 10

back wall 11

back wall 12

back wall 13

back wall 14

Front wall:

front wall 1

front wall 2

front wall 4

front wall 6

front wall 7

front wall 8

front wall 9

front wall 10

front wall 11

front wall 12

front wall 13

front wall 14

front wall 15

front wall 16

front wall 18

front wall 19

Goodbye, rocky menace:

rocky menace

rocky menace gone

Four dumptruck’s worth of crappy stone, gone! Some of it…

rocky menace jr. in the neighbor's yard

ended up right across the street, in our neighbor’s yard! Glad someone can use it. We tried to give it away to any contractor who’d take it. No takers.

The ugly and unresolved:

front wall stairs

Drama with the stairs. The concrete crew couldn’t seem to make the detail consistent from step to step (5th photo down, after the jump). David had them rip it out… three times. Oy. Says he’ll be pouring the detail himself. Hallelujah.

There’s also some debate about the stucco-ish finish. David thought he’d prefer it over the patchwork look of the concrete that resulted from multiple pours. Now he hates it. I could have lived with the bare concrete. Oh well.

Consider yourself caught up. Next step: adding skin to the garden bones. Epic look at ideas tomorrow!

garden bones: the design

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

Our yard yearns to be a garden. Sadly, it’s more like a ski jump. Without walls to tame the slope, nothing can get planted and the yard is basically unusable. The hardscaping really is the skeleton for any landscaping to come. Here’s the down-and-dirty decision-making for retaining walls.

What to build them out of?

We briefly entertained the idea of replacing our rotting timber retaining walls with stone. True to New England, yes…

traditional stone wall |

traditional stone wall |

But not in keeping with the style of the house. And because of the height we need, we’d still require concrete and rebar and whatnot to keep them from toppling over.

We talked to contractors about keyed block…

keyed block retaining wall |

keyed block retaining wall |

Absolutely the fastest, easiest, cheapest alternative. You see keyed block used in Lowe’s and Home Depot parking lots — a lot. Maybe that’s why it’s just not for us.

Those two choices eliminated, we took a closer look at what we have to work with. Both retaining walls actually touch the house’s concrete foundation… they’re kind of an extension of the house out into the landscape. When you think of it that way, it just makes sense to go with concrete as the wall material. Easy choice.

How should they look?

We want to echo a few design details from the house to tie the walls in visually…

angled walls

Angle. We want the driveway wall to pick up on the walls of our front steps.

wall detail

Beveled edges. We want this detail everywhere.

We want to build some function into the concrete walls — why not, right? In front, that means wood storage. Out back, small tool storage. We also wanted easy access to the yard from the front, which means adding steps…

step detail

Any new concrete steps need to look like the original ones.

Who’s perfect to help?

In the hunt for help on the interior remodel, I was lucky to come across Markus Berger, president of Inside Out Design and assistant professor of interior architecture at RISD. He’s daring. Talented. Loves our funky house. Understands our passion for modern. Great reasons for him to work with us on plans for the inside — and outside, on the retaining walls. Naomi Clare is his able assistant. Love her.

Both walls are well over 4′ tall. In Providence, that means you need an engineer to cover structural requirements and get your project approved by the city. Markus hooked us up with Erik Anders Nelson — an extremely clever engineer working at Structures Workshop, also an adjunct professor at RISD.

Got plans?

Heck yeah, we got plans! I’ll cut to the chase, since we’re playing catch-up anyway… Click the images to biggify.

Design for the front wall:

front retaining wall | Inside Out Design

Design for the back wall:

back retaining wal | Inside Out Design

Engineering plans:

engineering detail, both walls

engineering plan, back wall details

Actual walls up next! Bear with me, we’re almost caught up.