Yesterday, I headed to Home Depot and stocked up on several cans of neon orange and green spray paint so I could start marking off some driveway and sidewalk ideas, and start working towards some final decisions.
The driveway is going to cost quite a bit, and I honestly don’t know when we’ll be able to get that done. But the front sidewalk needs to be done ASAP. I can’t build new steps to the front porch until the new sidewalk is poured since the finished height of the sidewalk will determine the height of the steps. And the front steps are very dangerous right now. The first two steps are 5.5 inches high, and the last step is 9.5 inches high. If I know someone is coming over, I try to meet them out there before they even get to the steps because they’re such a tripping hazard.
My contractor came over on Tuesday, and we used the garden hose to mark off the right side of the driveway from the street to the gate on the right side of the studio. What we ended up with was a really nice, gently curved form. So yesterday I used the spray paint to mark that side, and then tried to measure and mark the left side. The left side still needs a bit of tweaking (I didn’t get such a pretty gentle curve that’s on the right side), but this is pretty much what the driveway will look like…
The current chain link gate is too narrow, but the plan from the beginning has been to remove that fence and gate and replace it with a really nice fence with a wide gate that opens with a remote and keypad.
The driveway plan really isn’t that flexible. A few people suggested putting the entrance from the street on the other side of the pecan tree, but as you can see, that’s not my property. I have great neighbors, but I think asking if I can put my driveway on their property might be a bit of a stretch. 😀
And cutting down the tree simply isn’t an option. That tree produces a ton of pecans every year, and it’s just a nice tree. The tree has the right-of-way in this situation. I’ll work around it.
A couple of people said that as long as the street entrance is in front of the studio, it’s always going to look like a garage conversion. I disagree. I think especially when it’s all done, with window boxes, landscaping, landscape lighting, a nice gate/fence on the side, etc., I really don’t think “garage conversion” is going to be people’s first impression of the studio.
Anyway, on to the front sidewalk. I decide to stick with a mostly straight sidewalk to the street. I played around with a few different shapes where it meets the front porch. The key here is that it needs to be wide where it meets the porch in order to accommodate my new, much wider steps. The handrails for the new steps are going to attach to the columns, which means that the steps are going to extend just about three or so inches past the handrails on each side. So I want the concrete to go just a few inches past the steps on each side.
So the first shape I tried was this one…
I loved that shape, but the problems is that when I start trying to connect walkways to it (I want a walkway connecting this sidewalk to the driveway, and also going the other direction and around the house), I lose the design. The design stops making sense when I attach sidewalks branching off of the sides.
For some reason, I thought maybe rounding it might solve that by placing less emphasis on what looks like an intentionally designed shape, and just being more natural. But it didn’t solve anything.
Squared corners? That would have worked better, but then things started looking way too hard and square.
Then I came up with this, which I think will work…
Now to be clear, I put the branch off to the side walks way too close to the house. That left only enough room for a very narrow walkway (and for these to be useful to Matt, they need to be at least 36 inches wide) and planter beds that are only 18 inches deep. Obviously both the walkways and the planter beds need much more room, so the curves to the side walkways will need to happen much further away from the house. But I really like this basic idea.
And in the picture above, I have everything very squared off and really straight lines going to those side walkways, but they don’t really have to be that hard and boxy and rigid. As long as this area right here is perfectly symmetrical on both sides…
…then I can add some curves and more natural, organic shapes to the beds and walkways that branch off. But for my own sanity, I do need that area leading to the front steps, and the area where the walkways branch off from the main sidewalk, to be perfectly symmetrical.
For now, that’s my winning design.
And I will definitely be keeping the sidewalk to the street. Getting rid of it is simply not an option I would even entertain. I know that the idea of getting rid of it and just having one sidewalk over the driveway is a very popular one, but that’s not an idea I think will work for my house at all.
My whole reason for wanting a sidewalk connecting the front door to the driveway is for us. Not for visitors, but for us. When all is said and done, I want Matt to be able to circumnavigate the entire house on the exterior via paved pathways (not stepping stones or pavers, since those will make things very difficult for him) that are close to the house and form planting beds at the house so that he can get close and enjoy those. That is my goal, and it’s my only goal with the connecting walkways.
I know that having that one walkway from the door to the driveway is a very popular design, but I think it’s very dependent upon the style of the house. The only time I really ever see that done is when the house has a front-entry or side-entry garage that puts the driveway in close proximity to the front door, generally no more than 10 or 15 feet away. But my front sidewalk is 60 feet away from the edge of the driveway. And then from where I want that walkway to connect to the driveway to the end of the driveway is another 60 feet. That’s 120 feet to get from the front door, across to the driveway, and to the street (where the mailbox would be with this configuration).
The current distance straight up the front sidewalk from the street/mailbox to the front door is 55 feet. And people do use it very regularly, so I can’t even imagine not having it there.
But as many of you suggested, I do want to widen the part that meets the curb at the street. I played around with a couple of different ideas, but I still don’t think I’ve hit on just the right one.
I’ll keep playing around with that until I get it right. It’s definitely not there yet.