Ask A Landscape Architect How to add beauty to existing concrete steps?

September 30, 2019by Monica Perrone0

“How to add beauty to existing concrete steps?”

As part of my usual practice, I try to utilize existing elements within a property to remain as resourceful and sustainable as possible. When asked the question above, one specific client story comes to mind. Many years ago, Bonnie contacted me as she was embarking on a thoughtful remodel of a .75-acre 1940’s ranch property in rural Stanislaus County. For this project, I had designed fresh exterior spaces with new fences, pedestrian and vehicle gates, columns, steel structures, concrete, gravel, lawn areas, significant trees, and plantings. Additionally, I had edited the hardscape as well as reduced the number of mature existing plants down to a few stately evergreens and one glorious fruiting Fig tree. 

Nearing the end of this remodel, the only element left undone was the existing front step within the entry courtyard that we had opted to retain but were still unsure of how we’d work with it. Leading up to this step was a new light-etch concrete walkway designed to guide guests toward beautiful new doors within an entry courtyard. We had stripped this two-step element down from its original bright green Astroturf exterior to its glue remnants and left it alone as we pondered how to bring new life to this existing concrete feature. 

I had brought out samples of natural stone and ceramic tiles, but even still nothing seemed to suit the space quite right. In the meantime, I had completed designs for Bonnie’s second property located in San Francisco. We solved her narrow backyard space on the edge of the Presidio with a beautiful ashlar-pattern in full-range Bluestone. Bonnie loved this new, petite garden space so much that we began to imagine Bluestone for her Modesto home’s entry. For further inspiration, I revisited the San Francisco site for photos, measurements, and additional consideration. Then, I drew up plans for a staggered running bond pattern in rectangular “blue” Bluestone with contemporary detailing. This subtle, restrained, silvery-blue palette with a consistent sawn thermal finish, compared to an alternate palette of full-range brown, tan, rust, green, or lilac, was appropriate as a compliment to this site and the home’s era. In the end, Bonnie was enamored with Bluestone and we had designed a charming farmhouse for her with bluestone steps and walks. 

If you are having trouble choosing the right elements that will add beauty to your existing concrete steps might I suggest stepping out of your comfort zone and researching unique color palettes or designs such as Bluestone. In many cases such as this one, Bluestone acts as a versatile, natural stone that can add beauty and timelessness to almost any setting.

Monica Perrone

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Monica Perrone is a sole-practitioner landscape architect with over thirty years of industry professionalism. She has lived and worked in various regions of the United States with diverse experience in landscape architecture, planning, urban design, landscape contracting and event design.

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