Category Archives: Blog

Design Challenge: Making a Statement & Achieving Equilibrium

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This project is located in Léry, Québec; a quaint town situated on the south shore of Lake Saint-Louis. It was designed by local landscape architect Martine Boudreault (l’Espace Paysage) and installed by Matière de Goût. It took the team of 7 men 8 weeks (approximately 3000 hours) to complete the nearly 4000 square foot job. In the front and back yards, over 900 square feet of Graphix wall was used to build raised planters, create elevated surfaces, and camouflage footings. A total of 3200 square feet of Blu Grande slab in Greyed Nickel and 400 square feet in Onyx Black were used to clad surfaces and create customs steps, wall caps, & even the pool coping.  In the front, 400 square feet of Industria paver in Greyed Nickel was used to frame the asphalt driveway.

Goals/

The goals were simple. The homeowners wanted a versatile & refined patio area in the backyard, and a grandiose entrance in the front, all in a contemporary style. The outdoor design needed to bridge the gap between the stately home and the landscape in achieving equilibrium between the organic and inorganic materials. The view of the property seen from the lake was also a priority in the design.

Challenges/

The property was purchased after a teardown, leaving only a few mature trees and an existing rocky shoreline. The homeowners were forced to compromise on their initial ultra-contemporary design: the municipality rejected their original architectural plan and insisted that the style be in keeping with the surrounding traditional fieldstone-clad homes. The result is a sleek & stunning modern structure with hints of traditional materials. The challenge lay in underlining and emphasizing the contemporary feel that the homeowners desired without competing with the landscape and clashing with the style of the other homes.

The architects that drew the plan for the house positioned the two raised patio areas on either side of the pool, at the same level as the patio door. When seen from the lake, this massive concrete elevation threw off the balance between the home’s modern design & natural setting. Keeping in mind the desire to create a welcoming and open view from all angles, the team needed to soften this element and camouflage the poured concrete footing of the elevated terrace and pool.

The foundation of the home was lower than the water level and the drainage system to protect the home needed to be planned and then concealed. This was considered as well.

Strategy/

In keeping with the goal of achieving contemporary style that blends with the natural surroundings, the designer selected Techo-Bloc for their modern textures & subtle tones. Versatility was crucial as well.

The Blu slab in polished Greyed Nickel underscores the existing modern aesthetic with a monochromatic smooth surface that also complements the home’s masonry. The Grande version of this slab was chosen for its oversized dimension, resulting in clean lines and a geometric look. The new polished texture adds the glassy, granite-like finish that really sets this design apart. Blu outdoor stone slabs were used throughout the project – the custom outdoor steps were created using Greyed Nickel for the run and Onyx Black for the rise. These slabs are manufactured with spacer ridges which had to be polished away in order to achieve the tight joints and smooth visible edges. The same was done for the pool coping.

The Graphix wall was selected for its contemporary, three dimensional, appeal. In fact, the homeowners spotted this wall and insisted on its use – the designer welcomed the bold choice. The height of the raised platform that surrounded the poolside was easily camouflaged with tiered planters and the visible concrete footing was veneered with custom cut Graphix wall pieces.

In order to soften the visual impact of the structure, an infinity pool with a waterfall edge was built. Seen from the patio, the continuity between the pool and the lake creates a serene and open view. Seen from the water, the cascade interrupts the linear & constructed feel. The patio sections on either side of the pool were clad with Blu Grande, resulting in clean and versatile surfaces for entertaining, lounging, etc.

The water management system that was put into place to minimize potential flood damage was unsightly. The Graphix wall was used to create an elevated buffer, which the designer strategically planted with boxwood and ornamental grasses to catch the eye. The simple yet vibrant green foliage creates a beautiful contrast with the muted tones of the hardscape and serves to further tie the design to the landscape.

Take aways/

The success of this project can be attributed to three things: the quality of the design itself, the installer’s outstanding skill level, and the innovative approach to material use. The attention to detail and the care put into creating the custom elements are evident. When master craftsmen have a great design, the right tools, an open & inventive mindset, as well as versatile building blocks; outdoor dreams can be achieved.

Design Challenge: ground consolidation and storm water management.

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This project, situated near Hartford, CT, was designed by Techo-Bloc for its 2016 Contractor Showcase feature and was installed in collaboration with the Bahler Brothers of South Windsor, CT. It took a team of 8 men a total of 1500 man-hours to complete the 5,300 sq. ft. job.

Goals/

The objective was to create a multi-functional and intimate Country Rustic space with large, multi-generational, family gatherings in mind. This meant respecting ADA compliance when it came to slope percentages and wheelchair accessibility. It also meant that various activity-based areas needed to be established organically and effortlessly.

Challenges/

Creating this large paved surface so close to the home for ease of access required incorporating a sophisticated storm water management system. With deep window wells and the foundation to consider, excess water needed to be channeled in the right direction. In terms of design, the bare and flat context of the land needed to rise up and match the scale and height of the house, as well as tie in the country feel of the home’s exterior design. Considering the expansive 13-acre wooded property, ensuring that the result was intimate and functional was a challenge.

Strategy/

Techo-Bloc and the Bahler Brothers rose to the occasion. Close attention was paid to foundation depth and the permeability of certain zones near the home. The base itself was entirely permeable; open-graded aggregate was used throughout. This strategy had the advantage of directing water downwards and away from the foundation, while also being self-consolidating. When the appropriate open-graded aggregate is correctly compacted, a balance between density and water drainage capacity is achieved. In other words, water is less likely to remain trapped in the aggregate, decreasing frost heave and secondary compaction rates over time. Where they wanted water to move rapidly away from the home, surfaces were made impermeable by using polymeric sand in the joints. Further away from the home, the joints transitioned into permeable ones, allowing for water to drain into the base gradually from a controlled point. To top it all off, they installed a rainwater collection system that captured this runoff and recycled it into the irrigation system.

To respond to the scale of the project appropriately, the team built up the landscape with vertical elements in order to balance the height of the house. Techo-Bloc’s wall systems were used to create functional surfaces and structures such as raised flowerbeds, columns, fire features and even outdoor kitchen features. A sizeable pergola to shelter the outdoor kitchen was constructed of solid wood, adding intimacy to the yard.

To address the entertainment requirements, a custom outdoor kitchen was built. Equipped with a sink, fridge, grill, barbecue, burners, smoker, and Techo-Bloc pizza oven, no culinary experience was left out of bounds. The adjacent fireplace and dining area were designed to provide ample room for entertaining while cooking, and the second fire pit, further from the main pavilion, was built as a cozy retreat. These spaces were meant to be versatile and distinct, all while communicating a sense of togetherness.

Product selection/

Selecting the right product for the right project means more than showcasing design skills. It means knowing which products will provide maximum flexibility and efficiency. Color and texture matching is important but understanding a product’s workability is what sets a professional apart. This project was no exception: products were selected for their aesthetic attributes, flexibility and technical specifications.

The not-so-secret ingredient is Techo-Bloc’s Borealis product line. Perfectly mimicking real wood, these durable concrete slabs, steps, edges, and walls are available in several colors and dimensions. The use of these products throughout the property complements the style of the home perfectly, all while eliminating the upkeep that wood decking involves. Borealis slabs were installed in different patterns to create visual interest with a soft combination of colors. Antika and Villagio cobblestone-style pavers were selected for their permeability and their mosaic-like appearance in bandings and borders. Eva pavers were used in small areas, as their compact size makes them perfect for small-scale designs. Blu slabs were used to clad larger surfaces, as their greater dimension is ideal for large-scale applications. Techo-Bloc’s double-sided Brandon wall was selected for its sculpted look and for its versatility, while the interlocking mechanism guaranteed that the kitchen, fire features and walls were built quickly and efficiently. With a matching masonry line, fire pit kit and the ability to build kitchen features with limited cuts, the decision to go with this wall was easy. In this case, the fireplace was finished with Brandon bricks, allowing for this custom element to blend entirely with the rest of the project.

Take aways/

The conclusion was simple: proper planning and appropriate product selection is crucial in avoiding complications in the short and long term. Whether we are talking about aggregates or slabs, understanding your options, knowing your products and how they work, are the keys to success. These are the kind of subjects that Techo-Bloc’s Showcase seminars aim to discuss; real-world technical applications and design strategies that are geared towards efficiently answering a homeowner’s needs.  If this kind of discussion interests you, check out www.techo-bloc.com/register to find a Showcase near you!

Design Challenge: A Modern Build on Bedrock

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This contemporary project was designed and installed by Desrosiers Landscaping in Lévis, Québec. It took three men a total of 1500 man-hours to complete the 2500 sq. ft. job.

Goals/

Overlooking the Saint-Lawrence River and on the opposite bank of historical Québec City, the yard boasted a spectacular backdrop. Understandably, the homeowners wished to create a private oasis that would highlight this panoramic view. They also wanted a contemporary and versatile space that felt coherent and intuitive. They chose Techo-Bloc for their modern product line and created surfaces and platforms that would be both effective and functional solutions to the various challenges present on site.

Challenges/

The terrain itself posed certain problems. The property was located on a cliff and the team had to pay particular attention to grading. The site was also set on bedrock; meaning excavation requirements and preparation time were unpredictable and potentially problematic. In terms of slope, an existing pool sat six feet below the back patio door and the two levels needed to meet in a way that didn’t feel forced. Additionally, marrying the existing kidney shape of the pool with the ultra-modern style of the home was a challenge.

Strategy/

On any given project, the presence of solid bedrock (ideally confirmed through core sampling) will change the approach. While bedrock is typically not susceptible to frost heave and secondary compaction, a manually prepared base is. In other words, solid rock will not move while most aggregates shift over time, resulting in differential settling. One tactic is to pour a concrete slab as a base to ensure a seamless transition and cohesive foundation. Others choose to prepare a base with extra care, create a pitch, and even waterproof the surface to ensure water dispersal. In this case, the team opted for the second approach as no one surface was deemed problematic. They took precautions with regards to depth, compaction consistency, water drainage, and runoff management.

The project had to be constructed in precisely planned tiers in order to unite the lowest and the highest points perfectly. Raffinato walls in Greyed Nickel were used to build up certain areas and provide the structure required to retain the soil where needed. These smooth, double-sided, walls were easy to work with and provided an aesthetic means to bridge the gap between the levels. The highest point – a large multifunctional space – was embellished with a fountain: a tiered contemporary structure, echoing the design itself. Raffinato planters were constructed in layers next to this platform, softening the visual impact of the walls used to build it. Raffinato caps were used to frame and finish off the sleek installation. Techo-Bloc’s Industria collection was used throughout the project; available in several dimensions, this product allowed for design flexibility. The patios themselves were clad with 600 mm x 100 mm Industria pavers in Greyed Nickel, underscoring the modern, monochromatic, look that they were going for.

In terms of integrating the curvilinear pool with the rest of the clean-cut and contemporary design, a clever strategy of overlapping elements was used. A modern basin was installed adjacent to the pool, spilling into in gently. The interaction between the two water features tied them together, making it look as though the pool and the basin were installed at the same time.

In order to further tie the home to the landscape, sections of the paved patio were inlaid with composite decking that matched the home’s cladding. It is worth noting that the homeowners later had the contractors remove the composite decking, only to be replaced with Techo-Bloc’s Borealis slabs. These slabs look identical to real wood but require no maintenance and are a longer lasting alternative.

The natural slope of the yard, the creation of tiered patios, and the use of glass, all served to accentuate the breathtaking view. To add intimacy, frosted glass panels, existing shrubs, and mature trees were used to cocoon the yard from the neighbor’s view.

Outcome/

Desrosiers Landscaping created a functional space with distinct areas in a style that suited the home and the homeowners. They were not afraid of committing to a look nor were they hesitant to use a product to its maximum potential. Their technical approach and extreme precision resulted in a striking project that is modernscaping at its finest.