Front Steps and Outdoor Lighting

Even when it’s the middle of summer in Vermont, it’s important to think ahead about the snow we’ll eventually have to deal with. Shoveling a gravel path is a royal pain (as is picking your gravel out of the lawn in the spring), so this summer we decided to put in a whimsical set of stone steps to lead easily to the front entrance.

We began by framing the steps with 6″ x 6″ hemlock lumber, the same kind as used in the parking area.

The steps are filled with sand, and then larger gravel, and finally slate and concrete pavers.

Even the hardest-working eco-builders need a break for tea.

We used the remaining pavers and gravel to add a shovel-able path to either side of the front entrance, which frames the house nicely and helps with water drainage.

While excavating for the front steps, we also laid down wiring for our outdoor lights. Purchased from an architectural salvage store, and originally from India, these fixtures required nothing more than wiring in to a motion sensor to make them functional.

We poured concrete pillars for each light, then added a copper cap on top. Metal edging and river stone create a clean border at the base.

The finished lights do a great job of making the house feel welcoming at night.


Our major project this summer was the long awaited deck, inspired by a house built by our architect in California in 1981:

We loved the idea of the metal structure and wanted to use that here – to have a strong base that adds an original design element, while using a minimal amount of concrete.

Concrete pillars were poured last year, and lay dormant over the winter.

This summer, with the design planned out, we purchased 2″ tubular steel for the frame. We cut the pieces and had a friend weld them together to form the supports for the deck.

The completed frame was built in sections carefully measured to fit in the truck for transport to our house.

Back at the house, we unloaded the (very heavy) frame, bolted it to the pillars and welded on the outer sections.

The next step was cleaning up the metal and grinding off the rust, in preparation for priming and painting.

We chose to apply the protective oil-based orange paint by hand, rather than sprayer, to minimize wasted paint.

The deck trusses and surface are made of untreated hemlock, which should be very weather- and insect- resistant.

With the deck surface completed, we can now walk right out the sliding doors from the living room and enjoy the outdoors. Next year we plan to add a modern railing of the same tubular steel as the base, plus geometric wire mesh for safety, and built-in seating for a comfy place to relax.