After the last couple of posts on our Hampshire Landscape Design Project, I thought it would be interesting to write in a bit more depth about some of the materials being used, rather than just site progress, including their selection and installation.
With an existing site it can be so important to specify materials which are sympathetic to the original property or fabric of the building. In some instances that might mean effectively a recreation of the original, if the same materials are available. When a building is older though, those original materials will have worn or weathered over the years. In the case of this property – which dates in part to the mid 19th century and in part to the later 19th century – that’s a lot of weathering!
So while a recreation was appealing, it was important to test whether it would be sympathetic to the original, or whether those new materials would need decades of weathering before the desired effect was achieved. The property is not listed and nor is it in a conservation area, so we had the freedom to pick what we thought would produce the best outcome.
The original building is of brick and flint construction, with much of the rear elevation being flint. Our new walls were to be brick and flint too, in keeping with the original building and the traditional construction materials of the area. New paving for the patio areas was also needed.
With the paving covering a large area adjacent to the back of the property, I started with this, and searched for a material which would be sympathetic to the property. This took a surprising amount of searching, as most products had too much colour in them, or too much variation in colour, and I felt that these would overpower the beauty of the original building, or detract form it.
Many samples were brought back to the property, and it was often staggering to see how some looked very different to expected when alongside it. The selection was whittled down to three paving ranges, and with each of these I brought at least a square metre to site so that it could be laid out against the property.
Pictured below is the chosen material – a charcoal and buff sandstone – and even in this damp picture I think it’s clear that it works very well. That doesn’t mean that it matches exactly, but that the tones and effect are sympathetic to the original:
The bricks were the next material to match, the originals being a blend of strong reds and oranges. They didn’t quite appear like that due to the weathering of course, so seeing fresh bricks was quite a surprise. And combined with the paving the contrast was very strong indeed – way too strong:
Trawling through everything available in a couple of large brick suppliers, I selected an alternative, which we reviewed at the same time. This was another ‘handmade’ brick, and so it retained the slightly irregular shaping and edges which stop it from looking too perfect, but it had a softer finish and appearance, while still being the right colour. Here it can be seen with the paving as well as the flints (Hampshire field flints) to give an impression of everything together. By looking at a decent build-up of the materials we can view it from afar as well as close up, and so get a better feel for how it will really look:
The overall effect was far superior to the first brick, and these softer looking bricks were also much more in keeping with the weathered originals, so an exact recreation was discounted. As a palette of materials in themselves I think they’re also much more attractive. It’s not just the softer look of the brick, but the black flecks in the odd brick also pull it together with the paving and the flints.
Once chosen we could start building the walls. This was one of the most exciting parts of the project as it was the first time, after weeks of work, that we’d see final finishes going in. A similar selection process was undertaken with the mortar too, with four different mixes trialled with the materials in order to use a colour that would make the most of the bricks and the flints and, again, be sympathetic to the original property.
Here’s the brickwork facing to the walls being started, along with the piers:
The flints – a mix of knapped and unknapped flints – were then built up in the panels between the bricks:
The header course then goes on the top:
And here we see the finished wall. The materials have come together beautifully and the flint panels look fabulous in the sunlight:
Paving installation came next, and our first opportunity to see a large area laid alongside finished brickwork:
Looking back at the material selection, this is the effect that we were hoping to achieve, with the materials complementing each other:
And I hope you agree that they look fantastic together. Sometimes it takes a lot of effort to get a finished effect that is just right and looks, I suppose, effortless! It pays off though, and you can see here the gentle variation in both the paving and brickwork, and they are wonderful together. And the walls are set out so that there are no cuts to the paving slabs at either side – a small detail, and a bit of work to make it happen, but it makes a big difference to the finished job:
The next stage of the project is to spread the topsoil back so that we can complete the final drainage and hard landscaping, and remove the machinery from the site. We’ve paused for a fortnight to allow the ground to continue drying in the now-rising temperatures before we do this, but we’ll be back on site very soon. The final stages of the project include the soft landscaping too, and it’s going to be a very exciting time for us.
Look out for more updates soon!