What started as a pile of rubble became a patterned driveway that’s not only beautiful but also permeable, meaning winter rains will percolate into the ground instead of spilling into the street.
Steve Gerischer, owner of Larkspur Garden Design in Los Angeles, salvaged old brick and broken concrete from job sites to create a floral-inspired tapestry over his 14-by-40-foot driveway in Glassell Park.
The driveway had been covered with gravel, but over the years it had mostly become dirt. Instead of paving over it, the designer decided to recycle odds and ends that he had on hand.
“I didn’t want all that to go to the landfill,” he says.
He jokingly calls such material “urbanite,” a term he didn’t coin but one that he uses often when talking with clients or his design students at the Los Angeles County Arboretum in Arcadia and the Theodore Payne Foundation for Wildflowers & Native Plants in Sun Valley.
To begin the driveway project, Gerischer excavated 3 to 4 inches of dirt and compacted the remaining soil as his base. He spread 2 inches of road gravel, available at building supply stores (possibly labeled a “50/50" mix of aggregate and sand or “CMB” for crushed miscellaneous base). Then he started arranging the pieces of concrete and brick to create a decorative pattern on top.
“I wanted the design to have a flowing feeling with some movement, so I flared out the bricks around the chunks of concrete,” Gerischer says. “It’s a little like what you see on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro.”
Here are other tricks to make the design sturdy, so pieces don’t pop up or wiggle under tires or feet:
Show the best. Turn bricks on edge, so they will sink deeper into the gravel. Gerischer hid broken edges or corners, exposing only the best edges to the eye.
Imagine traffic. Use larger chunks of concrete in key areas. “All of my large pieces are in line with where my truck tires will go,” he says.
Stabilize the pieces. Spread road gravel between bricks and concrete. Wet down each section as you work. “When you wet the sandy mixture, you can wiggle the urbanite or brick pieces around until they stop moving. Then fill in spaces with more gravel or brush in more sand,” he says. Gerischer also wedged bits of broken terra-cotta pottery as a stabilizer.
Top off the design. Brush fine sand between remaining cracks and crevices. Gerischer uses play sand or plaster sand. He does not use sand with silica because it can harm plants.
Leave gravel pockets. You’ll encourage wildflowers or volunteers to seed.
If you’re on the lookout for broken concrete or raw materials such as broken pottery or brick, Gerischer suggests checking Craigslist. Some cities or utility districts allow homeowners to pick up ingredients for free from job sites. Bourget Bros. Building Materials in Santa Monica also sells sorted broken concrete.
Gerischer estimates that he spent $250 (mostly on sand and gravel) to transform his driveway. To contact him, e-mail sglark email@example.com.