From 90 year old brick that was failing to an elegant flagstone entrance walk.
From 90 year old brick that was failing to an elegant flagstone entrance walk.
Never lose sight of where you are headed with a custom designed compass rose on your patio or driveway.
The owners contacted Live Green for this project when they began remodeling and expanding off the rear of their home. Going into the project, the owners knew they wanted an outdoor space with an organic layout, minimizing straight lines and angles in the design of the space. Desires for the space included a wood burning fireplace, outdoor kitchen with bar height countertop and overhead structure. All of these elements were incorporated into the design, tied together by the dry laid bluestone patio and Western Maryland stone veneer on all vertical surfaces.
Having three young children, it was important that the patio flowed easily into the large, flat lawn which was heavily utilized for sports and activities. The door leading from the patio stairs comes from the kitchen, allowing the parents to watch their children whether on the patio or inside the house. The door exits onto a curved landing which leads down a series of steps to the main patio space. Providing enough open space for a large dining table, as well as seating around the fireplace and kitchen allows the clients to entertain large groups, without guests being feeling crowded.
The fireplace was designed as a lense shape allowing the curves, both front and rear, to seamlessly follow the outline of the patio and circular fireplace sitting area. Radial bench walls extend from either side of the fireplace, providing both additional seating above and firewood storage below. The curves of the bench wall flow into the step which transitions between the upper and lower patio. Low voltage lighting was installed in the step risers as well as below the caps of the bench walls.
With outdoor entertaining and cooking a high priority for this family, a horse shoe shape kitchen was designed to provide maximum counter space for both the cook and guests sitting or standing at the bar. The counter top was designed to incorporate preparation height area on the inside for the chef and bar height around the exterior. Electrical outlets, as well as a natural gas grill, side burner and stainless steel under counter refrigerator give the clients the flexibility they need in the kitchen, whether they are cooking for their family of 5 or a party of 50. Directly adjacent to the kitchen area is a synthetic putting green, installed to allow the husband to work on his golf game while grilling. The green also provides entertainment for the children when the family is enjoying the space.
Planting beds filled with colorful perennials, flowering shrubs and shade trees provide year round interest, while helping to soften and separate the patio from the surrounding lawn. A Western Red Cedar pergola, complete with outdoor ceiling fan covers the kitchen area and provides respite from the sun in the afternoon. The rafters of the pergola were purposely oriented to provide maximum shade during summer afternoons when the sun would otherwise scorch the space.
Working to construct a lense shaped fireplace was a challenge the contractor had never been faced with before. The firebox was constructed in a standard trapezoid layout, but both exterior walls, as well as the top of the structure followed a curve. In order to span the firebox opening with the stone veneer, a 6 foot long steel lintel was notched every few inches on the horizontal side. Notching the steel allowed the piece of otherwise straight angle iron to be bent into a curve to follow the shape of the lense. Bending the lintel into the proper shape required a template and a series of heating and cooling procedures. This allowed the steel to become malleable without compromising the structural integrity of the metal or its ability to support the stone which sat upon it.
The bluestone patio was dry laid on a compacted gravel base and stone dust setting bed, however all vertical structures required concrete frost footings to be poured. These footings were laid out, excavated and poured before the stone base could be installed for the patio. Block foundations were constructed at the same time the patio was being installed; with two crews working side by side, one completing vertical stone work while the other laying the bluestone patio. Natural gas lines were connected to the house gas supply and installed below the patio surface to eliminate the need for propane tank storage under the grill.
In order to disguise the septic tank lid in the backyard, planting beds were designed around the concrete cover and a variety of plants including Dianthus, Gaillardia, Coreposis, and Rosa were installed to give maximum color and interest during the warm months as well as reduce the visibility of the tank lid.
Working with a combination of concave and convex curves on the fireplace, bench walls, and stairs pushed the landscape contractor to develop and create materials to fit their needs on site. Straight lines had to be cut, bent, pushed and pulled in order to provide the client with the open yet intimate space they desired to host friends and family. The setting and its inviting shapes allows guests to enjoy every inch of the patio without ever feeling like they are being left in a corner.
This special client reached out to us because their backyard consisted of a large slope that was unusable, and they wanted to create a space for outdoor entertaining and living. Both the husband and wife worked in high stress jobs and they wanted to be able to come home and unwind after work, along with enjoying time with their children and grandchildren when they came to visit.
Their requirements were that they wanted covered space so they could enjoy the area rain or shine, they wanted a wood burning fireplace, they wanted storage for patio furniture and accessories, as well as a grill. Due to the distance from the house to the patio, there needed to be kitchen storage and refrigeration in the grill area as well. Due to the proximity of the woods and trees behind the house, the client wanted to feel like they were sitting among the trees, while still having creature comforts like lights, refrigeration and a gas grill.
The existing site consisted of a very steep hill which started immediately after the existing deck and patio ended. Access was very limited as well because the property line was only 10’ from the side of the house, and all materials and equipment had to be moved through that 10’ wide corridor, which was also on a hill. The homeowner hired a tree company to remove several large trees prior to the project beginning, however the tree company did not remove the stumps. We had to bring in an mini excavator along with a team of laborers to remove the 30” DBH tree stump. Before the stump could be removed, the first tier of a retaining wall had to be built downhill of the stump to provide a workspace that was level enough to safely operate equipment which was used to remove the stump.
The design had to incorporate a retaining wall in order to create a level pad for the cabana and patio space. After that first wall was built and the stump was removed, concrete footers could be excavated and poured for the fireplace, bluestone patios and cabana structure. The order of operations was critical to the success of this project because each piece hinged on the accuracy and stability of the piece before it. If the retaining wall wasn’t correct, the concrete footers and slab would be off. If the footers were off, the fireplace would be askew, which would then impact the cabana roof. Every step had to be carefully laid out and triple checked in the field for accuracy before the team could move on.
The limited access for equipment (and humans) meant that the pace of work was slowed down significantly. Only one piece of equipment could be brought in at a time, and due to property line constraints, the size of that equipment was reduced as well. The project was completed over the summer months, so the weather was helpful (it was not a rainy year) but even with mother nature on our side, it took a dedicated team of employees nearly 16 weeks to complete the project. In order to create privacy and screening for the new backyard, mature evergreen trees were brought in and planted on both sides of the property to block the views of neighbors. These trees had to be dug by the nursery with reduced size root balls because of the limited size of the equipment that could access the site. They had to be root pruned and hardened off by the nursery for an extended period of time before being brought to the site. This meant extra care and attention had to be paid to the planting and staking of these trees to ensure their success. The project was completed in 2016 and as of 2019, all 12 evergreen trees are thriving in their new home.
This customer has come back to us 3 years after the project was completed to thank us for creating a “backyard sanctuary” as they call it. The patio and cabana space is used on an almost daily basis, and its their grandchildren’s favorite spot on the whole property when they come and visit.
The fireplace has a mantle that was created by salvaging a hand hewn hickory beam from the landscape contractor’s family farm in northern Maryland. This beam became a great conversation piece during the construction and installation, and it has created a special bond between contractor and client. The client loves to tell guests the story of how the contractor brought this wood beam from his own family’s barn and turned it into a special accent for a beautiful project that brings friends and families together around the fireplace.
The original drystack wall was about 50+ yrs old or considerably older by some accounts.
In the Mid 1920’s, this property used to be a Hotel or Bed and Breakfast by the local country club.
The old drystack wall was falling down and was in obvious disrepair.
It was obliviously a safety hazard that needed to be addressed!
All of the material used for this wall came from what was left of the original wall. Previous contractors had added and added to the wall, without using proper building techniques.
We installed a proper base and proper drainage and our stone masons where able to create a wall that should stand for the next 100 years!
When this client first contacted the contractor, they knew their existing outdoor living area was not serving the needs of their family or guests when trying to entertain during Baltimore Ravens football games. Several needs were outlined from the start of the project; room for outdoor dining and cooking, cover from rain and most importantly, a space to enjoy watching the Ravens while still being outdoors. The layout of the house helped to dictate traffic flow into and out of the new outdoor space. Stairs were constructed off the existing deck down to the new patio, while the main access into the space was from two entry doors on the rear of the home. The gazebo and patio area were designed to complement the architecture of the house, giving the house and outdoor area a cohesive style and feel. The support columns on the gazebo were custom fabricated to match the home. The fireplace and sitting wall brick were color matched to blend seamlessly with the home. Brick and bluestone bench walls flank either side of the fireplace and the upper patio, creating an intimate gathering place for guests. Low voltage lighting in the bench walls and steps provide safety and visual interest and is controlled automatically through a photocell. Electric and digital HD television and sound comes from the house and can be controlled in the gazebo.
The architect who designed the home was brought in as a consultant during the design of the project to help ensure that the feel of the space, especually the gazebo, would blend with the home itself.
The outdoor kitchen provides room for grilling, utensil storage and a refrigerator so that food and drinks can be prepared without missing one minute of the game being shown on the 55” television, recessed into the wall of the gazebo. The wood burning fireplace allows the homeowners and their guests to enjoy the space well into playoff season, even when the snow is falling, as they did this past fall. The fireplace mantle was created using a salvaged floor joist from a 200 year old building in the area. Each aspect of this outdoor living and entertaining space was designed and built to provide functional room for the client to entertain while maintaining the highest level of quality and detail. From the boulder super stepper which forms the landing out of the house, to the coffered bead board ceiling in the gazebo to the herringbone brick fire box in the fireplace, the contractor worked to provide the highest quality finished product.
When the client and contractor first began working together, this project had been discussed, designed, re-designed and terminated multiple times by the homeowner and other contractors and designers. The client had a vision of how they wanted their property to look, but were unable to bring their vision to fruition. The contractor’s in-house designers developed a master plan which included createing a motor court, defined by a change in paving materials from asphalt to clay paver brick and anchored by the brick wall and arch, inspired by the architecrure at George Washington’s Mount Vernon. This arch defines the entry into the courtyard where the homeowner wanted a simplified Eurpoean style garden, complete with pea gravel pathways, manicured hedges and a strong axis to draw you through the space. The view through the courtyard is terminated by a low stone wall, behind which sits a stream and waterfalls, flowing into the Koi pond. This pond included several large boulders weighing over 1000 pounds. After passing through the courtyard, the visitor is brought onto the bluestone patio. This area of the site was designed by a Landscape Architecture firm who worked closely with the homeowner and contractor, who had been working on the design of the space over a period of several years. The design for the patio area included an outdoor kitchen, multiple levels to take advantage of the grade change around the property and a large gathering area complete with wood burning fireplace and pergola. The contractor constructed this portion of the patio using poured concrete footers, and concrete block walls which were steel reinforced to enure the patio structure which was to supported behind the 6′ tall wall did not move. Concrete slabs were poured for all the wet laid bluestone patio surfaces, and drains were installed below the bluestone to allow for adequate drainage. In the areas where drains were located below the stones, a series of 1/4″ holes were drilled through the bluestone to allow water to enter the drain without the need for a metal drain grate. The bench walls, stairs and fireplace were all veneered with Western Maryland fieldstone, incorporating a raked mortar joint for a rustic appearance. Low voltage lighting in the bench walls and stairs around the patio provide interest and safety at night. The landscape planting included 15 mature evergreen trees, installed at a height over 16′ with 60″ root balls, hundreds of shrubs including boxwood, hydrangea, viburnum, wigelia and thousands of ground cover. Due to heavy deer pressure in the area, 8′ tall deer fence was installed around the entire rear planting area, stretching over 600 linear feet and protecting the landscape from damage.
When the homeowners first contacted our company, they were still recovering from being cheated by their previous contractor. An individual billing himself as a hardscape professional met with them and proposed a stone patio with bench walls, columns and steps. This contractor had provided a ‘sketch on the back of a napkin’ as the husband put it, showing the layout. No construction or design details were provided with the sketch. Shortly after beginning the project and receiving the client’s deposit, the ‘contractor’ skipped town, leaving the homeowner with a mess of improperly constructed pieces and no permits for construction.
The husband and wife had a vision of what they wanted: a bluestone patio, bench walls, and steps with built in lighting. Space for entertaining was a must, and room to be able to use their grill, lounge in the sun, and to grow vegetables in pots on the patio were also necessary. Using 3D design software, we were able to show the client a model of the final design which met all of their needs. The use of this technology helped build the confidence our client needed to move forward with an experienced landscape contractor heading up the project.
Over 1,000 square feet of Pennsylvania bluestone was mortar set on a poured concrete base, while steps and walls were constructed using CMU and veneered with cultured stone in a color range to complement the existing brick on the front of the house. All the downspouts that emptied into the patio area were piped into PVC and run underground to the storm sewer system and low voltage LED lighting was installed in the steps and bench walls.
These homeowners contacted Live Green because they were tired of having to squeeze into their outdoor screen porch space for entertaining, and with two teenage children, there just wasn’t enough room in their existing screen porch for everyone in the family plus friends. The front of the home was feeling dated and wasn’t very welcoming to visitors. They had the room to expand, but didn’t know how to use the space they had. The home had been built in the 1980’s and a lot of planning and thought had not been given to areas on the exterior of the home at that time or since then. Foot traffic going to the front and side doors (the everyday entrance the family used) was obstructed by overgrown plants and a narrow concrete walkway. Crumbling steps coming off the screen porch in the back of the house were unsafe to use. After living in the home for nearly 20 years and with the kid’s friends as well as their friends coming to visit regularly, both husband and wife were ready to bring the exterior up to date.
The front of the home required a major overhaul, starting with the removal of all the plant material, concrete walkway and a brick retaining wall along the driveway. The new design eliminated the need for a retaining wall and additional steps in the walkway. The new level entrance provided an inviting first impression for visitors. Plant material in the front was chosen to complement the architecture of the home with soft evergreens and subtle perennial color. The plant pallet had to be deer resistant while still providing year round interest.
The husband had seen natural stone walls and Pennsylvania bluestone used in an outdoor patio at his friend’s home and asked us to incorporate similar materials into his own design. The new back patio design draws people from the screen porch and into an outdoor living room. With its comfortable sofas and contemporary furniture that the wife selected, the space is inviting for users of all ages. Enveloping the bluestone patio, retaining walls double as built in bench seating and a wood burning fireplace forms the focal point. When the weather turns cool in the fall, the fireplace puts out a lot of heat and extends the timeframe when it is comfortable to sit outside on the patio. An outdoor kitchen negates the need for anyone to run back into the house for food or drinks because the stainless steel grill, refrigerator and cabinets keep everything close by. The walls, fireplace and kitchen were all built out of American granite quarried in upstate New York. The kitchen uses a light colored granite counter top to stay cool in the summer and provide room for food preparation and mixing drinks.
Both the front walkway and the back patio are built from dry laid Pennsylvania bluestone installed in a random pattern. The use of bluestone in both the front and back of the home helps to tie the spaces together and the colors in the bluestone compliment the red brick on the home in the front and back. The repetition of materials around the exterior fits well with the classic style of this home.
Low voltage lighting was incorporated into both the front and back. Pathway lanterns and in-ground up-lights highlight the front entry and landscape trees, while under cap lights in the sitting walls and outdoor kitchen give users the ability to comfortably navigate around the patio in the evening without having to turn on the home’s exterior flood lights.
After the remodel of the front entrance and the addition of a patio in the back of the house, the home is now inviting and allows all the family members to spend time together and with friends and guests. The fireplace creates a great gathering space and everyone is no longer confined to the screen porch when they are outside.
When we first met the homeowners, they had a wish list for their home’s exterior, but didn’t know how to assemble those individual items into a usable space. We were able to incorporate their list of wants into a design and finished product that is both aesthetically pleasing and functional for guests and hosts to enjoy the outdoors together.
This Baltimore County Residence was a Design/Build outdoor living area at a home which previously had minimal usable outdoor space. The client desired an outdoor kitchen, dining area to include tables and chairs, and a gathering area to include a fireplace. The elevation changes on the site provided the opportunity to create a multi-level outdoor space. The existing exterior door provided entry onto the highest level of the patio. In order to create a multi-level space, reinforced concrete retaining walls and footers had to be constructed around the perimeter of the patio. After construction of these walls, reinforced concrete slabs were poured to provide the base for the stone floor on each level.
The client and contractor worked together to select a native Maryland stone for the walls, patio, and fireplace which would complement the existing color pallet of the home. Stair treads and wall caps were installed using Pennsylvania bluestone. Hand chiseled rock face was fabricated on all of the exposed edges of the bluestone treads and wall caps. This rock face finish was a time consuming process that took a skilled mason to properly create without damaging the stone. The outdoor kitchen was constructed to accommodate appliances and provide the necessary space needed by the homeowner for outdoor entertaining. Creating a kitchen that was functional for multiple users was a top priority for the homeowner. The layout of appliances and counter top area was a collaboration between the designer and homeowner to create an aesthetically pleasing and usable kitchen.
The outdoor fireplace was designed to use a remote control gas burning log fire system. The fireplace was situated on an angle facing the house to create a sense of intimacy within the lower patio area. Seating walls surround the fireplace and enclose the patio space while still allowing traffic to flow smoothly through the area. Lighting was installed under all stair treads and wall caps to provide accent lighting and improve user visibility at night.
The homeowner gave the contractor a strict budget at the start of the design phase of the project. Working within this budget while using the highest quality of materials posed a challenge for the contractor. Extra care was taken in the planning of the project to ensure that crews and materials operated and were handled in the most efficient way possible. This coordination between masons. carpenters, plumbers, and electricians by the project manager was a vital step in staying within the project budget and time line. Weekly safety meetings occurred and were attended by all employees working on this site. Topics related to the work that was being completed at the residence were covered in these meetings.
The goals and visions of both the homeowner and contractor were exceeded with the completion of this project. A functional outdoor living space, well suited for entertaining, was created by embracing a site that provided opportunities and challenges for the contractor. A testament to the well thought out design and construction is the way the homeowner and their guests frequently use the space for both large and small gatherings all year long.