Looking for Inspiration, I Found Regents Park.

Since it’s raining outside and I have the day off, I thought I would do some additional research for the landscaping/patio project that I am going to start at the end of summer. While cruising around the web digging up inspiration, I came across this.

Designed by Amir Schlezinger for Regents Park London House, this roof top terrace is designed to blend interior and exterior spaces providing a lush retreat above and away from street level noise. This space features both a roof top garden and terrace with a water feature and fireplace. The benches echo the shape of the fireplace and anchor the low retaining wall. The Ipe hardwood  floor extends the interior flooring lines into the outdoor space and provide textural contrast to the granite in the water element and the pavers.

This terrace is an amazing piece of inspiration for those who want to blend their contemporary interior space with the outside world.

Photographs by Jerry Harpur.

Just In Time For Summer

It’s been awhile since I posted really anything about the house. Since today marks the first day of summer, and the almost 1 year point that we found out we were the new owners of “Modular 4”, I thought I would post an update about the landscaping efforts.

Over the weekend, we purchased 3 trees for the yard. A Dwarf Yellow Birch, a Bloodgood Japanese Maple, and a Ginkgo. These are the first 3 of 5 total. We are waiting until next spring to plant the Pink Flowering Dogwood, and the Rosehill Ash.

The Birch was chosen and positioned to create a visual break from the street to our front door. With a maximum height of about 30 feet when it is mature, we are hoping it will prevent people from looking right through the glass door into our living room when they are sitting on the street out front.

The Japanese Maple is positioned just in front of and to the left of the garage. The tree is sited between the house and garage, and will become an anchor to an asian influenced garden that is going to occupy the green space between the two buildings. The Maple is placed so that at maturity it will provide some shade to the garage, and front door of the house. The trick is going to be pruning and training the growth so that it doesn’t impede on our walkway or overwhelm the house itself. Unlike the Birch which grows up to 3 feet a year, the Maple is fairly slow-growing and should be easy to work with in the long run. It’s all about patience and a watchful eye.

Finally the Ginkgo. We placed it about 20 feet diagonally off the corner of the back deck. It is 1 of 2 trees that will sit in this general area. Right now we have no shade on the deck, and even though the Ginkgo is a slow-growing tree, within 5 or so years it should be larger enough to help shade the deck on warm summer afternoons. Since a stone patio will be going in later this summer below the deck the Ginkgo should create a solid visual anchor as it grows. The Rosehill Ash will fill in the space to the north-west of the Ginkgo giving us even more shade on the west side of the house.

So now the big test will be surviving deers, summer heat, and my just OK gardening skills.

Rendering of projected mature sizes.

And So It Begins… I Met With a Landscaper Today.

This morning, Chris Bagby my friend who is a landscaper here in the Kansas City area came by the house to discuss what we might want to do with the property this year. With Chris’ help I am planning on landscaping the yard in a way that doesn’t detract from the architectural style of the house, but help soften and adds a bit of contrast the very angular box we live in.

Chris spent about an hour walking around the property and looking at where my yard ends and the field to the South begins. He has some great suggestions, and is planning on sketching up some ideas, that I’ll be posting in the near future. I took a number of reference photos for him, and in addition he said he plans on stopping back by the house to look at how the field fills in this summer and how the tree line develops. And since I am planning on expanding the deck with a 10 by 12 extension in June, he wants to stop back by and see how that impacts his plans as well.

I have to say, I am really excited about how the landscaping is going to transform the look of the home. When we first moved in, both Kristy and I liked how the house appeared to float on a sea of green grass, but after six months we are realizing landscaping is going to make everything better.

Looking from the street, the house with the new driveway.

Looking from the field to the back of the house. In need of some trees.

The yard with so much dead grass.

Vibea Outdoor Lighting.

After Saturday and Sunday’s latest round of snow, I am really ready for spring. The fact that it’s almost March and I am walking the dogs in temperatures hovering around 13 degrees in the morning just adds to the need for warmth. So in order to manifest warm spring weather I am posting a little thing about outdoor lighting. You know the kind of thing you could enjoy while sitting outside on a warm night, relaxing, taking in pleasant breezes, sipping a cool drink…

Spanish company Vibia has created an extensive playground of contemporary outdoor lighting. Unusual and off-the-wall outdoor lighting design ideas, from Vibia are transforming lighting into an art form with sculptural and striking pieces. The stunning Tree 4000 lighting collection, designed by Pete Sans, resemble manicured drop-shaped conifers, spun from white polyurethane standing on metallic trunks. Each light contains compact fluorescent bulbs to cast a soft gentle glow on your outdoors while keeping energy costs low. I wish there was a LED option available but sadly no. Perhaps Vibia will add it in the future as LEDs become more popular and affordable.

In addition to the new 4000 series, is one of my personal favorites. Vibia’s “Break”, designed by J.I.I. Xuda and M Alemany.

Each lamp is a rectangular tower approximately 31 inches tall by 12 inches square. The top of the lamp is cube balanced on point allowing light to illuminate from below the cube spilling out across the tower base. Like the 400 series, Break uses compact fluorescent bulbs. Break is available in 4 finishes ranging from white lacquer to concrete.

I think what I like about Break is the rectilinear simplicity of the forms and the use of natural feeling materials like concrete for the finish.

You can download the entire catalog here, but you will have to register in order to get it.

Landscape Planning Starts Now

With another 2 months of winter left this season I am getting to that point where I can’t wait for spring to arrive. The cold is getting to me and I am really looking forward to landscaping the yard in a few months. Since the house was completed almost 3 years ago, no landscaping of the property has ever been done.

The first owners of the home wanted to leave the lot as it was when the house was finished, and to an extent I can see that. At the same time though, I really feel that the entire home would look better if the lot were landscaped, and designed with the help of a landscape architect. While there are some things I can do myself, I am by no means a landscaping genius and I guarantee I am going to enlist the help of a professional with this. I always say know your limitations, and don’t be afraid to hire someone who knows what they are doing to help you.

My lot is 77 feet wide by 297 feet deep, just under 23,000 square feet, just under 3/4 of an acre. The lot is long and narrow dropping from a level plain 9 feet to a tree line at the back of the lot. The long narrow lot has a few challenges, but with a little care and planning should turn out great. I really want to landscape a space behind the home that functions as a retreat where I can sit and enjoy the surrounding space, since directly to the South of my property is a tree-lined 3 acre tract of land that drops into a long deep ravine.

So today I began looking for inspiration for my lawn, and I stumbled on great modern landscaping by Thuilot Associates. Hopefully I’ll be able to end up with something that is somewhat close to this level of landscaping when it is all said and done.

Thomas and Nillson, Functional Design Meets Sculpture

As the year winds down, I started putting together a list of things I want to accomplish next year in terms of home improvements. This is everything from fixing minor cracks and touch-up painting, to possible  major undertakings like finishing the basement. One thing that is on the list though, is landscaping, and today when I was searching the internet for ideas, I found the Thomas and Nillson Birdbath. The funny thing is I had actually looked at products from this company 4 years ago when I started thinking about a bath remodel in the old house. They make the most amazing sinks. Anyway, back to the birdbath.

I love the simple sculptural lines that create the overall shape of the object. A gently curving stone slab that intersects with a stainless steel parabolic arc which makes up the bath component. The two pieces create an understated and elegant object that not only functions as a birdbath, but could be viewed with a  dual purpose. That of an actual sculptural element for the yard.

As I dug around more on the site, I also found some wonderful benches. All made from cast concrete or stone, combined with Baltic birch hardwood.

The elegant thoms and nilsson birdbath

thomas and nillson benches, in stone and cherry

perspective XL bench

the amazing slab sink

Xeripave, Stabiligrid, and a Workable Driveway Solution


Storm water runoff and control is a large aspect of green building, especially on new construction with LEED certified credits that are provided for reducing impervious cover, increasing on-site filtration, and reducing pollution from storm water runoff.  I’ve found a company that has been  making news with their LEED certified paver system, Xeripave.  This might just be the solution that I have been looking for to replace the driveway Stabiligrid system. The pavers run about 8 dollars a square foot so doing the entire driveway would be a bit cost prohibitive, running us about 5ooo dollars for the whole surface. What Xeripave has suggested is running tire lines down the center of the creating a solid surface for the cars to travel on and allowing the stabiligrid to reside in 3 sections. This helps to maintain the look of the house on the lot, and still offers a very eco-friendly solution.

Xeripave makes permeable pavers in various colors that have a flow through rate of up to 1.5 gallons per second per square foot. These pavers can be used in conjunction with other materials, such as brick and concrete or Stabiligrid.  They come in custom colors and sizes can be landscaped into the existing yard space, Standard sizes are 11.81″ x 11.81″ x 1.97″ or 15.75″ x 15.75″ x 1.97″.

Xeripave Permeable Pavers are safe, non-slip, and strong enough for moderate traffic, low speed areas.  In addition, due to the high permeability rate, I won’t need to cover the entire hardscape with the material.  With this system I would still be able to capture all of the runoff with something like 12-15% coverage, and not significantly alter the exterior look of the home and the lot.