When it comes to garden design, gravel has a rather pedestrian reputation (no pun intended). It’s sort of a “been there, done that” attitude which has people looking for sexier alternatives, like stone pavers or tile. And yet, nothing can be more practical and more modern in feeling than gravel. It holds several advantages over other materials — it’s relatively inexpensive at $1 to $5 per square foot, and it can last a lifetime with proper maintenance. Unlike other more solid options, it has great drainage properties, which prevents driveways, patios and pathways from flooding. When installed properly, it can eliminate weeds. And the other great thing about gravel is that while it helps define and pave spaces, it also retains a natural, outdoorsy feel that keeps a yard and drive feeling rustic.
Take a look at some prime examples here:
Above, a home retains a kind of country manor feel, courtesy of a gravel driveway. If this home had a paved driveway, it would feel much more citified and lose part of it’s charm.
In the example above, a modern home feels casually inviting, thanks to its use of gravel in the drive. Concrete or stone pavement would have felt too heavy in this context.
And here, a gravel drive keeps a home feeling quietly upscale. A paved driveway would have felt too heavy against the stone of the house, and a bit like the owners were “trying too hard.” Instead, it all feels casual and natural. These people probably own two golden retrievers.
Are you interested in using gravel as an architectural feature of your garden? Below, a modern home uses gravel in a streamlined modern way. Gravel provides texture and contrast against large concrete pavers:
Here’s another view of the same house and yard:
The advantage of gravel in this context is that it is extremely low maintenance. No mowing! And because it’s gravel, it also means it’s great for those who want to conserve on water use. Gravel naturally protects against weeds, although some weeds may pop up (use a tarp underneath which will allow for water to drain but which discourages weed growth.) There are a few cons to using gravel. If you live in a cold climate where snow removal is necessary, gravel can be difficult to deal with in driveways. Initially, after installation, gravel can also produce dust. That should subside over time, though. Finally, gravel can develop little sinkholes and ruts. But the plus is that such defects can easily be addressed as they happen— and at a fraction of what it would cost to repair an asphalted surface.
Keep in mind that there are an array of gravel choices out there, from decomposed granite to crushed granite to pea and rainbow granite to river rock and Mexican beach pebbles. Pea granite is particularly useful for filling in between paved stones and for patios. Decomposed granite can also be used on patios and as a top dressing around arid desert plants. Here’s what both looks like:
Mexican pebbles and river rock are much larger and best used as decorative accents, such as creating a dry river bed or for lining a border.
Are you convinced yet? Gravel may easily be your most ecological, economical and best aesthetic choice for your driveway, yard or patio. You’ve got tons of options. Gravel is “pedestrian” no more!
Is it possible for a concrete house to be cosy and comfortable, and even homey?
A bleak and impersonal presence on the street with a mixture of industrial buildings and houses gives no hint of the warmth within this house by Henri Cleinge.
The comfort of a wall of books and a view out into a secret garden is part of the sense of a warm and sheltering cave.
Double height living room glazing on the south side floods the interior with sun.
A clear view of the sky greets you as you climb the stairs.
This skylight continues out over the living room and washes the wall with a cool and meditative light. Read the rest of this entry »
An art studio is fashioned from a barrel vault in Boetia by Greek architectural firm A31 Architecture.
The bold and simple shape makes possible a straightforward mezzanine loft layout for an open space workshop and gallery.
The design couldn’t be simpler. A glass front intersected by metal frame: a curved concrete exterior.
A rusted iron door contrasts with the formed concrete and relates to the sculptor’s own works constructed of rusted metal.
A sculptural element in their own right, integral stairs were also formed onsite.
These make an honest connection to the formed-concrete wall. Read the rest of this entry »
A unique long, narrow house set in a wide open rural landscape, by Shinichi Ogawa & Associates, is designed around the concept of putting a 40 meter (120 foot) pool on a roof like a sand berm.
As you can imagine: this immense rooftop pool means the house underneath is extremely long and narrow; 150 meters (450 feet) long.
The family’s living quarters are grouped in glass clusters under the immense roof.
The ground floor under the pool is sheltered by a verandah overhang that goes the full length of the structure.
Opposite the pool on the top deck, an enclosed spa.
Near the mid-length point, a white cube connects both levels and takes you up and out to the pool roof.
But from the big white cube, no cramped little exit leads out to the pool.
Are you one of those people who has a balcony that you never use? With a little forethought you can make your lonely little balcony a well-used retreat during the summer months. But first, you must do a little soul-searching. Why are you not using your space? There are a myriad of reasons that might keep you indoors. Perhaps you live in a tiny apartment and your balcony has become a defacto storage room (you can fix that). Or perhaps your balcony faces a noisy, uninviting street (you can’t fix that.) Here are three common reasons why people don’t use their balconies, and what you can do about them:
1). Your balcony feels too exposed.
This one has a quick fix. If your balcony is extremely visible to the street and neighbors and that makes you feel uncomfortable, create privacy. A clever use of trellises and plantings can act as a shield from pedestrians at street level and neighbors next door. For example:
The patio above features a tight-knit trellis that acts as a barrier from prying eyes. Below, a balcony off a bedroom features a high-railing and built-in bench that provides not only a place to sit, but privacy as well.
If you prefer to create a natural barrier, create a group of tall plantings. Like this:
Is your concern more the balcony next door? Create a privacy shield with either the use of clever plantings, or even an architectural structure, if your building allows it.
Here’s a simple way to create privacy:
And here’s a more elaborate way:
Here’s yet another fabulous idea:
2) Your balcony is too hot and sunny.
Here’s another common problem that can be solved. One of the most popular ways of dealing with this issue, especially in Europe, is having an awning installed.
Here’s another example:
But there’s no need to get fancy. If you don’t have the bucks for an awning, just put up an umbrella instead.
Something like this:
3. Your balcony doesn’t feel comfortable.
This may be the easiest fix of all. You may not use your balcony simply because you haven’t furnished it properly. If you’ve got enough space, create a place to lounge and put up your feet, as well as to eat and to entertain. If you have less space, then a simple table and chairs will do. Every balcony featured in this blog post is equipped with just enough patio furniture to create an inviting space. Even the tiniest balcony usually has enough space for a couple of folding chairs and a tiny table. Like this New York City balcony:
When you’re furnishing your balcony, don’t forget the touches that really make it feel like home. Flowers are always a winner. Planters and window boxes make a balcony feel lived in and inviting. A balcony resplendent with greenery can even make a balcony facing a noisy street seem pastoral.
In short, there’s no need to ignore your balcony any more. Pull out your lounge chairs and prepare to enjoy the summer months outdoors!