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What is Hardscape

If landscaping is the painting, then the brick and stone are the frame; all the components that hold the design together and compliment the total project.  Landscaping is made up of softscaping – the organic elements – and hardscaping – the wood, concrete, brick and stone.  For more than 23 years, Decra-Scape has been combining our full service design and implementation capabilities with our construction experience to enhance the natural elegance of any residential or commercial property, consistently delivering stunning results that raise property values and bring vision to life.

Case Studies

Native Fire: The Summers Residence, Canton, MI

This modern fire and ice interpretation was designed to showcase the native environment and its integration with the distinctive neo-classic architecture of this new home. This property is located in a southeast suburb of Michigan, Canton.  A natural ravine sits at the back of the home creating magnificent views of the Washtenaw watershed.  The fall colors are amazing with Hickory golds and vibrant Maple reds ablaze.

The client had been to numerous design centers and displays to research what they wanted to create in their backyard.  They were interested in an outdoor fireplace and cook center with a bar.  Our initial consultation provided them with some other options that would not be obtrusive to their magnificent vistas.  The cook center and bar evolved into a smaller counter space and fire feature coffee table.

The design process started with a clean canvas.  It progressed into a formal design that provided modern conveniences and an outdoor living space.  The client was presented with a concept drawing on the second visit as a starting off point and they agreed to proceed with a design fee to bring that concept into fruition.  The formal landscape elements close to the residence contrast the natural surroundings.  The result: tremendous interest created by the tension of the formal hardscape against dramatic vistas of the ravine which appears endless.  We created four defined areas within the patio space: dining, cooking, coffee table conversation area and a fire wall relaxation terrace.  The relaxation terrace was elevated so that it could be viewed and enjoyed from both inside and out.  The cook center was installed around the owners existing grill with the potential for a future, more permanent unit.  Area rug patterns were designed within the paver field to soften and define spaces.

During installation, clay loam soils were discovered.  This slowed down he base preparation, drain tile installation, and running of utilities.  These non native soils are common in new construction sites.  The business development associate oversaw the entire process along with the team leader.  Caution was also taken to preserve a Shagbark Hickory close to the newly installed walkway.

The largest challenge of this project was the fabrication of the burners to provide a dramatic flame.  These burners were custom made and installed to provide the homeowners with the climactic effects they were looking for.  An intensive drainage system was installed to accommodate a water issue in the rear yard but to also be cognizant of the native surroundings and ravine.

Overall, an environment was created that was reminiscent of the homeowner’s favorite après ski, sitting next to an open fire after a long descent to the base of the Rockies.  The end result not only thrilled the owner but the Canton community as well.  Since the installation, the Village of Canton has asked us to present these fire features at their home show.

Waterfront Retreat: The Wallace Residence, Petoskey, MI

The Wallace property started with a prime waterfront location.  The DSI team created two unique entertainment spaces, each with views of the water.  “Whenever you are working on a property with an existing pond or lake, it is paramount that the water is the focal point,” says Matt, the DSI designer and project manager.

The circle terrace, considered by the DSI team to be the heart of the property, is ideal for outdoor dining and a resting point between the bungalow and lower terrace.  The lower terrace was designed to be an area to let loose and relax by a warm fire while enjoying the tranquil sounds of the pond fountains.  The Wallace’s were looking to modify their driveway to set it apart from the others.  DSI exhibited thorough attention to detail to ensure the new hardscape elements matched existing ones.  A soft curvilinear line was quilted into the driveway with an inviting pattern.

This project required a great deal of collaboration with utility contractors, the builder, and the developer.  Together we were able to reconfigure the original property lines, the main irrigation line for the entire site as well as the utilities to adjacent properties.  DSI coordinated all of these contractors to provide the Wallace’s with their dream retreat.

Drastic changes in the elevation required major excavation and grading to implement the lower waterfront terrace.  An intricate retaining wall was installed to accommodate this terrace.  A bright lighting display was implemented to illuminate the new features as well as to ensure safe pedestrian traffic throughout the areas.

Upon completion of the project, the Wallace’s were thrilled with its beauty, functionality and aptness for its natural surroundings.  The end product was a collaborative effort, each team member exhibiting the utmost creativity, readiness to meet challenges and painstaking attention to detail-qualities which are apparent in every Decra-Scape project.

The Grand River Streetscape, Farmington Hills, MI

The City of Farmington is comprised of numerous historic structures that make up the Farmington Historic District.  This Historic District surrounds the project site and played a huge role in the design and construction of the streetscape.  While the plans look fascinating on paper, bringing the project to life became a challenge on its own – upon the initial layout of the site, we found that none of the existing buildings were square, so additional cutting would be required for the bricks abutting these structures and the curbs along the road.

Another challenge faced during this project was after the demolition and removal of the existing concrete sidewalk.  The demolition had caused damage to the face of the historic buildings, and required careful repairs.  These unexpected repairs consisted of turning brick on end to cover blemishes, mortaring bricks on the buildings back into position, and re-cutting concrete sills.

Throughout the project, the stacked diamond pattern involving two different color bricks proved to be a challenge as well.  One brick laid out of position could alter the aesthetics of the project and would not be accepted.  When working with clay bricks, the dimension tolerances are somewhat loose, which make it difficult to keep clean site-lines due to the carrying sized bricks.  Furthermore, the different colored bricks used for this project were created by different manufactures, which amplified the dimension tolerance issue.

Coordination with the project took careful planning and communication.  The bricks specified were coming from two different states, one being California.  With materials being shipped from across the continent, and tight deadline, managing logistics was key to insuring the success of this project.  Further, all of the storefronts remained open during the course of the project, as did the road.  This created tight working quarters, and required coordination with shop owners, and careful attention to pedestrians as they walked through the worksite to shop in the stores.  For each storefront, the team had to strike the leveling layer up to the entrance, lay the brick pavers, and get past the door in a timely manner as not to interrupt the normal business operations.  The tight deadline and unfavorable weather conditions caused the team to work 21 consecutive days to finish on schedule.

Upon completion of the project, the new streetscape complimented the historic feel of the city and looked as if it was meant-to-be.  The architect was happy with our workmanship, and pleased with the results.