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Outside Spaces at home. Are yours working for you?

The intersection of Function and Beauty and how our driveway saved our marriage.

The Driveway

With bags on both shoulders like a pack-mule I squeezed through the front door lugging fabric, stone & rug samples. I was running late for an important client meeting. And there it was again, my husband’s car parked behind mine blocking me in! I wanted to cry. I didn’t have the extra five minutes needed to move his car, yet, there I was, doing it. Now I’m really late. BUT, as all challenges do, it got me thinking about what I’m learning. Lesson #1: Allow enough time for that thing that goes sideways. Lesson #2: We need a new driveway design. So I started thinking about how we might get our cars out without either of us needing to move the other’s car. I had a new curiosity about how other people solved this problem.

I found myself noticing what people do to accommodate more than one car in a driveway. Some have a small area of gravel that has been added next to a driveway where a car can pull over to be out of the way so another can get by. That works I thought, but is it the most beautiful solution? I started sketching. I want Function AND Beauty. It’s not an OR, It’s an AND. You don’t give up one for the other.

For small homes serious consideration needs to take place so not to overwhelm the frontage. Since there’s less room to work with every inch matters. An extra wide driveway would certainly work but it would just look big and fat. Sure it would function, but it’s not enough only to function. It had to be beautiful.

The scale of this new driveway had to be carefully planned for. I sketched the front driveway as it is. I then measured our cars. I wondered how much space was necessary for one car to get around another. We did a test and drove over the grass to see how much width was necessary overall.

With that information, I sketched a cobblestone walkway along side the driveway that was wide enough for us to sneak our cars around each other. It stretches from the street to the front porch. It works, it functions and it’s beautiful. Our neighbors comment regularly how much they like it. Function & Beauty, so important together.

Here’s what we did after the sketch. We went to the stone yard with our mason. There are so many products to choose from. But we chose the Villagio cobblestone by Techo-Bloc. So many of the man made pavers look awfully fake so seeing them in person helped us choose the one that looked the best with the bluestone we chose for the front steps and the flagstone for walkways and low planting walls we were incorporating.

The new cobblestone walkway butts to the bluestone stairs up to the porch and the blue stone natural pieces that top the planting bed walls. The man made material can look worse when it meets the natural material. This one, doesn’t it works beautifully? I think in part because if you notice, that cobblestone is not just one size, there are FOUR difference sizes that get incorporated in to the layout making for a more natural authentic looking pattern. And because the colors really compliment each other. The cobblestone itself is multi colored, incorporating many shades of grey even while “shale gray” is the color name we chose, each piece has multiple shades for a more natural look. On the opposite side of the driveway we added two rows of cobblestone. A detail to nicely finish the side of the blacktop.

The experience of getting out of the car and walking on the new walkway to the front porch is wonderful, but, that first moment when I drove around my husband’s car to get out of the driveway….that was beautiful.

Stay tuned. Next week’s post is about the importance of connecting the front outdoor space to the back. And how to design (a patio) for living.

Gretchen Reinheimer Design

Creating extraordinary spaces together


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