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Reactions to the Landscape Plan Overall, Not Too Bad

We sent Paula’s long-awaited landscape plan off to Kevin for consultation with Francisc and for their comments.

Overall, we got a not-unexpected “yes, but …” reply.

It starts like this:

Overall, it looks nice. The key is that on this first pass you got something you can work with. Now, we need to get it to where it can be executed starting in a 3-4 weeks.

Now on to the specifics:

On the stairs directly down from the parking to the stairs, there was no mincing of words.

Landscape Plan Detail in Front of House

Nobody this end — me, Francisc, others — thinks it’s a good idea to execute a staircase directly from the front door to the parking lot … it’s too steep and the costs of doing it (in anchored, reinforced cement) could be prohibitive.

This one point Anne and I won’t budge on. We’ll just hope the costs are manageable.

On the other access paths in front of the house.

I would be careful to not “junk up” the front of the house with two many stairs, trails, paths … ONE would be fine and that lets the house and planned plantings speak for themselves.

Here we agree.

On the idea of a “guard wall” at the bottom on the driveway, his thoughts are clear.

No additional walls are required at the driveway/parking lot … I don’t understand why that’s been suggested.

This one is trickier for us. We do have a concern abour cars going over the edge, based on our past visits, but the situation may have changed. We’re going to leave this guard wall out of the plan, but think about putting some large planters there to define the edge better than the wooden rail fence will on its own.

Moving to the back of the house, he had only one major concern.

I would not put a pergola on the back of the house — this would essentially defeat a key design element of the house — all those big french doors that bring light into the house. If the pergola is covered in vines or plants, or even if it’s there unencumbered, it will block sunlight into the house … if you need shade (and you will) head under the portico or onto the 1st floor terrace. Note that with the quality of insulation in the walls, door/window glass and roof — WAY BEYOND a normal house — the idea of too much heat coming in is a non issue … plus, a pergola will require permissions … plus, it’s something you could always add LATER, so see if you really need it before spending money on it and blocking light.

He’s convinced us here. No pergola for now.

Now it’s time for the clincher and he’s spot on here.

Paula needs take the lead on this and specify exactly what is needed. I can help, certainly, but she needs to lead (and she needs to do that LITERALLY as soon as you say you like the plan as is)

My job is to back to Paula and get her to step up and take charge.

An Update

Paula did go to the site and explain the plan to all involved: Kevin, Francisc, Pippo and his son Marco, who will do the landscape installation. While the relationship between Paula and Kevin and Francisc can be quite testy, she seemed to hit it off with Pippo and Marco, which apparently helped to lighten the mood.

Next is for Francisc to plan and cost the stairs and for Paula to get to work on the planting plan.

Source:
Image: Copyright © Our Big Italian Adventure

Finally Some Progress on the Landscape Plan Stairs and Paths

This has been a long time coming.

Last we heard, we had received the detailed survey that our landscape designer Paula required. That was in November. The delays on this have been driving Kevin and Francisc crazy, as they want to get the project wrapped up. We can’t blame then, but given the difficulties presented by the sloping plot, we’ve been patiently waiting for this plan.

At this stage, we’re focusing only on the hardscape — the stairs, walls, and paths — since that work needs to be started right away. The next phase, once this is settled, will move on to the plantings.

I’ll start with a plan overview that shows the whole property. It’s a little hard to read, so I’ll show close-ups of the key areas around the house and provide some commentary.

Landscape Plan Overview
Landscape Plan Overview
Click image to enlarge
In Front

We’ve done a lot of land reshaping to try to soften the slopes around the house. This work has helped a lot, but right now we’re left with only one way to get down from the parking area to the house, via a path that leads to the kitchen door.

While this is fine for everyday use, we need a more direct route to the front door for guests and for a “proper” approach to the house.

During our trip in May, when we first met Paula we discussed the need for some stairs that went directly down from the parking to the front door. She’s included those stairs, divided into a top section that is more formal and a lower section that is more informal. (Aesthetics, I guess.)

There is also access to the kitchen via a gravel path, following the existing slope. (More on that below.)

She’s also included a very indirect approach, starting along the path to the right of the house, cutting across on the level in front, then descending some stairs to the left front of the house. (This seems like it’s likely overkill.)

She’s also recommending that we build up the retaining wall at the end of the driveway, as a safety measure to define the edge of the slope and to act as a barrier to prevent a car from sliding all the way down to the house.

Landscape Plan Detail in Front of House
Landscape Plan Detail in Front of House
Click image to enlarge
Side Near the Kitchen

This is just a closer look at the path that approaches the kitchen. This slope is shallow enough to build a path, gravel with wood risers, like railroad ties.

Landscape Plan Detail at Side of House
Landscape Plan Detail at Side of House
Click image to enlarge
Behind and Down to the Pool

First, Paula suggests we add a pergola across the back of the house, covering the area from the portico to the edge of the house.

Next, she’s suggesting a stone landing in the middle of the back of the house, leading to a set of (too steep?) gravel and wood steps down to the level below the house. These steps would then continue to the next level, the one above the pool.

From here, the slope is less steep, and we might be able to do just a path down to the pool, really a series of short stairs with grass levels.

Then, at pool level, there would be a portico to provide some shade.

Landscape Plan Detail Behind House
Landscape Plan Detail Behind House
Click image to enlarge

We think that overall it’s a very good plan. We’ll send it off to Kevin for his thoughts and some ideas about feasibility and costs.

Source:
Plan drawings by Paula Ryan: Copyright © Our Big Italian Adventure

Major Earth Moving Done: Lots of Improvement Now We Need a Landscape Plan

The exterior of the house has been mostly complete for a few weeks. Just a small number of items are still unfinished, including the wood store which will be built outside the study (in the near corner as shown in the picture below.)

Casa Avventura Today
Casa Avventura Today
Click image to enlarge

We’ve also nearly reached the end of our long battle against the slope that the house sits on. Major improvements have been made. The parking area has been expanded and flattened and the slopes softened both in front and behind the house.

The driveway is still steeper than we’d like, but as it is not on our property (we only have the right to access), there was little we could do.

Reworked Parking Area
Reworked Parking Area
Click image to enlarge
Bottom of Driveway
Bottom of Driveway
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The retaining wall that supports the parking area has been faced and capped with stone.

Retaining Wall Faced with Stone
Retaining Wall Faced with Stone
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Top Stone Layer on Wall
Top Stone Layer on Wall
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Behind the house, the slope down to the pool looks smoother.

Down the Smoothed Slope Toward the Pool
Down the Smoothed Slope Toward the Pool
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The next big step will be to put in stairs and paths to help negotiate the slopes. Those elements are part of our long-awaited landscaping plan.

Source:
All images: Copyright © Our Big Italian Adventure

The Base Layer for the Final Road and Driveway

We decided a few weeks ago to go with compacted gravel, rather than concrete, as the surface for our access road and driveway.

Now that the need for heavy equipment to access the site has gone, they have been bringing in base layer of gravel and spreading it.

Dumping Base Layer Gravel
Dumping Base Layer Gravel
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Smoothing the Base Layer
Smoothing the Base Layer
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This is big project that will take some days to complete.

Source:
All images: Copyright © Our Big Italian Adventure