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My New Patio: Stamped Concrete

When I bought my little house in southern Oregon, I knew I’d be removing the existing concrete patio and the funky patio cover. The concrete had been mixed in a wheelbarrow and poured in sections, maybe over a decade or two, at least that was the forensic evidence. In some places the finish was smooth as glass, in others there was a heavy broom texture, and in a few sections, no finish at all. It was cracked and heaved.

(Note: Click any image to enlarge)

The patio cover also fulfilled the definition of a patio cover, but not much more. It had zero slope and drained in all directions, sometimes, depending on the wind, right up against the house. And not only were the posts 4x4s, but the headers were, too! And if it weren’t for a chain and turnbuckle at one corner—tying it to the house, the whole thing probably would have fallen down years before. But like a good carpenter, I waited until I had enough cash to cover the project, and then I waited until the plans were finished.

The old patio “roof” was suspended from the carport at one corner by a threaded rod. For the new patio cover design, that solution wasn’t acceptable.

Once again, I worked closely with Todd Murdock on the design and the details. I didn’t want to remove the tall carport, but I wanted to ground it somehow, and make it appear shorter; and there was no disagreement that the patio cover had to tie into both the amateur roof lines of the little house—with its low-slope shed roof covering another one-time patio, and the tall R.V. carport, which meant a gable roof that turned at an irregular angle. And yet that roof had to be supported by a minimal number of support posts, otherwise the patio would be nothing but a forest of tapered columns.

Like most projects on this home, I wanted to not only work within an architectural period I admired, but I wanted to enjoy the full experience, to enjoy both the ‘making’ and the memory of the making.

It took only an hour to tear down the old patio cover and load all the trash into my trailer, but by that time, Todd and I had spent over a year on the plans.

Using carful measurements from the site, along with images from Google Earth, we were able to determine the angle of the dog-leg intersection and locate the support posts.

With the roof plan in hand, we spent hours, days, weeks, months exploring details that best expressed my late-in-life love for the truly organic Craftsman style. After visiting the Gamble home countless times, and walking Pasadena neighborhoods around the Arroyo Seco since my teens, touring the Blacker Home, the Thorsen House, the Batchelder-Winter Home, the Hindry-Hibbs home, and countless others, I knew what I liked—organic architectural design.

I’ve heard and read a wide variety of architects and architectural historians use the word ‘organic.’ Vincent Scully described the Queen Anne style as organic; Frank Lloyd Wright described his work as organic; at a lecture I attended shortly after the Getty Museum was completed, Richard Meier described his work as organic, too.

The architecture I admire most emulates organic forms—the curves and shapes found in nature, not perfectly straight lines. After all, there aren’t a lot of straight lines in the natural environment—there are none in the human skeleton. While I don’t see much that is organic in the Classical orders, I can certainly see it in Falling Water.

But for me, organic design is most powerfully seen in the Greene brothers’ Ultimate Bungalows.

Since my first visit as a teenager to the Gamble House, The Green brothers’ cloud lift designs have haunted me. The screen doors at the rear of the home are an exceptional example of the form.
Three tapered sun rays pierce the cloud lift rail and drop in parallel terminating at the bottom rail.
At the Thorsen Home, in Berkeley, CA, the exaggerated cloud-lift pattern in the center bay window resembles a lightning bolt.
There have been countless attempts to replicate the Greene brothers’ signature design, but few succeed. Too many create a rail that maintains the same symmetry or dimension at the knuckle of the cloud lift. A close look at the same design in the Thorsen living room reveals the knuckle is much wider than the height of the rail—the same asymmetry found where tree limbs change direction.
The coupled posts at the Gamble House also disrupt me, in a good way—they grab my attention, grounding the structure like a tree with multiple trunks. The rounded ends on each horizontal element are like driftwood, sculpted by water; the waterfall brackets punctuate the design and my heart, too (thanks to Darrell Peart for teaching me about the waterfall design!).
At another home in the same Pasadena neighborhood, those coupled posts support truss work incorporating a web of the same tapered or splayed sun rays.

No doubt the most iconic image of a Greene and Greene decorative truss is in the living room of the Gamble House, where an enormous cloud-lift spans the inglenook fireplace.

Those were the details I wanted to work into the carport and patio—the entrance—to my little home. But I wanted more than the experience of drawing them. I wanted to touch the wood, cut it, join it, curve it, ease the edges. I wanted to feel that organic connection. By helping me integrate those features into the drawings, Todd made the experience possible.

As soon as the demo was done, we called in Dana Porter and he tore out the concrete and set forms for the pour.

While Dana and his crew handled the concrete, Scott Wells went to work in my shop, preassembling all the faux timber-frame trusses.

I helped a little.

Check out our companion article, “Framing a Patio Cover” by Scott Wells, to see how this project all came together.

Comments/Discussion

12 Responses to “My New Patio: Stamped Concrete”

  1. Eckhard Koehler

    Love the inspiration! The Gamble House has been a muse of mine since my introduction.

    The 3 color concrete looks fabulous! Not having the funds or concrete skills I did a 3 color cobblestone patio to achieve a better than concrete look too. The grey cement reminds too much of poor urban growth sprawl, which I hate to see here in the Rogue.

    Can’t wait to see the write up on the beam work! Thank you.

    Reply
    • Gary Katz

      We’ll jeepers, Eckhard, you can come out anytime and see the beamwork up close!

      Reply
  2. John Shine

    Gary,

    It’s great to hear you speak of the way the architectural style affects you. We’re always dealing with numbers but then there’s this feeling spaces and the look of things give us.

    Feeds the soul!

    Reply
    • Gary Katz

      John, You are right, it definitely feeds the soul. Wait’ll you see my garden fence! Great spot for “organic” architecture. :):)

      Reply
  3. Jerry Lennox

    What kind of sealer did you use? We have the same pattern in eastern Washington. When it is icey or snow it is extremely slippery.

    Reply
    • Gary Katz

      I had a professional concrete sealer company apply the sealer. They use a product from Seal Pro. It does get slippery when it ices up. I try to keep a path cleared that the sun can hit in the winter. Winter’s here are very mild—-not much accumulation of ice or snow except in January/February, and even then, it’s hardly worth worrying about.

      Reply
  4. Kreg mcmahon

    Looks great Gary and how fun to design and build what you want and not what some HOA wants you to do
    Enjoy

    Reply
    • just me

      Speaking of HOA’s, I once got a HOA a big quake settlement and talked them into 26,000 sq ft. of stamped 6″ thick cobblestone driveways.
      They have really withstood the test of time and using the same coloring method as Gary choose makes the ‘look’. Hiring the right contractor was key and looks like Gary chose wisely.
      Only issue is maintaining the seal in area’s that receive harsh UV.
      But when they are properly sealed or if it rains the color cast stamped crete looks spectacular.

      Reply
      • Gary Katz

        You are so right–when the concrete is wet, it’s incredibly beautiful and the full color comes out. That’s why I had it re-finished with a slightly more glossy sealer. It also stays “cleaner” than it did with the dusty-looking matte finish.

        Reply
    • Gary Katz

      Thanks Kreg, and yes, one of the joys of moving here is working on my own home–exclusively. :) The only one who tells me what to do is Todd Murdock and since he puts so much time in drawings for me and TiC, I pretty much do whatever he says. I don’t think he has drawn even one design that I haven’t built here.

      Reply
  5. John

    That brick look ended up really good. Stamped concrete can fit so many styles. I might have to try that to get something to match the desert flora in my landscaping.

    Reply
    • Gary Katz

      John,
      It’s not brick but meant to look like big slabs of stone.
      Gary

      Reply

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