Home & Garden

Mason mastery

Richard Miccichi's garden in Cambria. 
Photo by Joe Johnston 11-12-10
Richard Miccichi's garden in Cambria. Photo by Joe Johnston 11-12-10 The Tribune

As an adolescent, carrying bricks for his brick-mason father, Richard Miccichi declared he’d never be a mason. He couldn’t imagine that he would some day complete an elaborate brick-laying project for his own enjoyment.

As a young man, hitchhiking around Europe, he saw stone and brickwork in a new light. He admired the ingenious ways modern materials were melded with ancient stonework. Around the Mediterranean Sea, he noticed how succulent plants complemented the local architecture.

Richard worked at various jobs before he finally returned to masonry; he was licensed in 1982. A master mason, he has also taught building inspectors and real estate agents how to evaluate chimneys.

Richard moved to Cambria in 2007. By 2009, he had completely renovated his 1950’s bungalow. He stuccoed the exterior, adding decorative accents: brick medallions highlight the gable ends, and a mix of cultured stone and used brick enhances the entry.

While working on the house, Richard pondered outdoor improvements. He wanted to replace an unattractive red brick wall in front. And he wanted more hardscape, with used bricks set in concrete, and well-defined, asymmetrical planting beds. He sketched numerous layouts and brick patterns before making his final plan.

Although expansive, the concrete in the front yard doesn’t appear cold and harsh. A technique called salt-curing produced an earthy texture, and 5,000 bricks provide pattern and warm colors. The new wall features a built-in stained glass entry light, custom-made by John J. Beyea, Stained Glass Design in Santa Maria.

Mark Simmons of A1 Concrete in Templeton assisted Richard with the concrete work. The free-form, brick-edged planting beds accommodate a colorful assortment of succulents and polished pebble mulch. Each bed also contains a large boulder. They were leftovers from a completed landscaping project, and free for hauling them away.

Two areas in the front yard are elevated. The entry porch is furnished with comfortable wicker furniture. A second raised area across the yard is furnished with Adirondack-style chairs, and warmed by a fire pit. Naturally, all seating is arranged to view the ocean, just across the street.

Les Mace of Mace Landscape obtained most of the plants from Color Nursery in Los Osos (wholesale only). Richard also added some plants from Home Depot that he couldn’t resist. He appreciated having the Mace landscape crew for the heavy jobs, especially manipulating the large Arizona red sandstone slabs that form a pathway and bridges over his dry stream along the side yard.

After 28 years as a master mason, Richard has an artistic eye for details — for example, his in-set bricks have perfectly cut mitered corners. He takes justifiable pride in his work, noting, “I always try to do my best in whatever I do.” His garden is living proof of that motto.

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