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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 careful 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

31 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. Gary Katz

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

    Reply
  6. Arvada Masonry

    Gary,

    Loved hearing your architectural style tastes and reasoning for your decisions. Great to see a live look with the video included educating viewers on the process.

    I have recently entered the masonry contracting and concrete service business, so this was great to read to see all the design thought that went into the project.

    Great writing!

    Reply
  7. Matt

    Gary,

    I’ve always enjoyed the natural, curving shapes of more organic styles too. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water is a favorite!

    It was great to see your project progress from start to finish and learn about your inspirations. Thank you for sharing this great content!

    Reply
    • Gary Katz

      You are welcome. You probably know a LOT more about concrete than I do!

      Reply
  8. Anna

    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.

    Reply
  9. Sally

    I like how you mentioned giving an impression of our entry and improving the appearance of the property with stamped concrete. I’m hoping that there will be possibilities for colored stamped concrete patio for my property, since I want our house to stand out. The houses on our block virtually all look the same, so I want something that will make our place stand out and be beneficial when our friends hunt for our apartment for the first time.

    Reply
  10. Mia Evans

    Thanks for pointing out that it must be a good idea to have a patio cover that would appear shorter and will be on a low-sloped design. I will suggest this to my brother regarding the property he just bought, because he wants that area covered. It will make it easier to hang out there as well as comfortable no matter if it rains or when the sun’s heat is too much.

    Reply
  11. outdoor ada lift

    Wow, what a transformation! I can imagine how satisfying it must be to see your plans come to life. Your attention to detail and love for the organic Craftsman style shine through in the design, and I bet your new patio and cover are the envy of the neighborhood.

    Reply
  12. 24 hour electrician

    Wow, Gary! Your journey in transforming your patio using stamped concrete and incorporating the organic Craftsman style is truly inspiring. Your passion for the Greene brothers’ Ultimate Bungalows shines through. I love how you’ve seamlessly integrated such intricate designs into your tiny home. I’m reminded of a time when I tried to DIY a small garden shed using a similar style, though I must admit, mine didn’t turn out as beautiful as yours!

    Reply
  13. Millie Hue

    I totally agree when you said that the architectural period you want is your only basis for the design of your patios. I can use that piece of advice to make the right decisions here in the new house we moved into in Saskatoon. Honestly, I want something rustic, so I hope to find a contractor that can create the ideas I have in mind.

    Reply
  14. outplacement service new orleans

    The old concrete patio and patio cover seemed like remnants of a bygone era, with cracks and mismatched finishes. But your vision, combined with Todd’s expertise, brought forth a remarkable fusion of the Craftsman style and organic design. It must have been an unforgettable experience to not just draw, but actually work with the wood and witness the creation of something truly unique. Kudos to everyone involved in bringing your patio to life!

    Reply
  15. Columbia

    Oh wow, this is pretty amazing… your attention to detail and commitment to preserving the architectural style in your patio renovation project is impressive. The incorporation of organic elements, like curved lines and cloud-lift patterns, adds a unique touch. Nice work.

    Reply
  16. Chevrolet Edmonton

    Wow, your new stamped concrete patio is absolutely stunning! The intricate patterns and textures really add a unique touch to the space. It’s impressive how stamped concrete can mimic the look of other materials while offering durability and low maintenance. Your personal experiences and tips make the blog post even more engaging and relatable. Thanks for sharing your journey and inspiring others with your beautiful patio transformation!

    Reply
  17. Land clearing

    Gary Katz’s journey of transforming his old concrete patio and patio cover into a Craftsman-style masterpiece is truly inspiring. As I read about his meticulous planning and attention to detail, it reminded me of my own experience renovating a neglected outdoor space. The passion for embracing organic architectural design and the desire to be hands-on in the creation process resonated with me, making this post a delightful read. Kudos to Gary for turning his vision into a reality!

    Reply
  18. https://www.stpaulboudoirphotography.com/

    I’m captivated by Gary Katz’s journey of transforming his old, cracked patio into a masterpiece of craftsmanship. His meticulous attention to detail, inspired by architectural wonders like the Greene brothers’ Ultimate Bungalows, truly shines through in every aspect of the project. Reading about his passion for organic design and the hands-on experience of bringing his vision to life evokes a sense of admiration and inspiration, making me eager to embark on my own creative endeavors.

    Reply
  19. Decorative Stamped Concrete

    It sounds like you’ve embarked on quite the renovation journey with your little house in southern Oregon! Removing the old concrete patio and patio cover must have been quite the undertaking, but it seems like you’re dedicated to crafting something truly special. Your attention to detail and appreciation for organic architectural design, particularly inspired by the Greene brothers’ Ultimate Bungalows, is evident. Best of luck with the rest of your project—it’s clear you’re creating something truly unique and meaningful.

    Reply
  20. Commercial Window Cleaners

    Wow, Gary! Your journey in transforming your patio with stamped concrete and embracing the organic Craftsman style is truly inspiring. Your passion for the Greene brothers’ Ultimate Bungalows shines through in every detail. The way you’ve seamlessly integrated such intricate designs into your tiny home is impressive and reflects a deep appreciation for their architectural genius. I particularly admire how you’ve captured the essence of their style while making it your own.

    Your work reminds me of a time when I attempted a DIY project for a small garden shed using a similar style. Although mine didn’t turn out as beautifully as yours, the experience gave me a greater appreciation for the skill and dedication required to achieve such stunning results. Your patio is not just a space; it’s a testament to your creativity and craftsmanship. Keep up the fantastic work!

    Reply

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