A breezy outdoor oasis
Our friends over at QuarterLab Design Build used our Cubo breeze blocks for a beautiful mid-century outdoor landscape project here in Austin, Texas. Owner Stan Hajost gives us some background on QuarterLab and provides tips on how to best use breeze blocks in your next project.
Q&A with Stan
Q: Can you tell us about your outdoor project?
Stan: In 2019 we purchased an empty lot in northeast Austin. The homes in the area are all built in the 50s and 70s, so we felt this was the perfect spot for a dreamy mid-century build. The Avocado Acres House in Encinitas, California inspired this project. We were inspired by the curvy roof over its courtyard. As a result, we cut a partial ellipse into the roof which provides just enough sunlight and cover for rainy days.
Q: Can you tell us about your company, QuarterLab?
Stan: I started QuarterLab Design Build in August 2013. Although I got my degree in chemistry, design and building has always been an interest of mine. My passion for design really started around 2007 when I renovated my first house in central Austin. I committed all the classic rookie mistakes. However, it was a humbling lesson that sparked a passion for creating.
Throughout the years, I renovated houses while working a day job as a chemist. I spent hundreds of hours learning multiple trades. Trial and error makes a jack of all trades and a master of none. With a waning personal relationship and unhappiness in my day job, I decided to make a big change. On the Friday before Labor Day weekend 2013, I gave my 2-week notice at work and immediate notice to my personal relationship. After a liberating clean break, QuarterLab was born.
We started with only two projects on the books. As we moved through those two projects, more clients started stepping forward. We settled into a niche of new builds, remodels, and accessory dwelling units with an emphasis on mid-century modern. As time went on, word of mouth kept bringing in work and QuarterLab began to grow.
Then in the summer of 2017, we rented some shop space because we needed a place to fabricate things that we had been making on site. What started out as a space for our in-house projects quickly turned into a full service fabrication shop with five full-time employees. Our list of clients include St. Cecilia Hotel, The Magdalena Hotel, The Carpenter Hotel, The San Jose Hotel, Bunkhouse Group, Jo's Coffee and a lot of other wonderful residential clients. We are so grateful to all of our clients for trusting us to provide the best quality product available.
Q: Why did you choose Clay Imports breeze blocks for this project?
Stan: QuarterLab has always had a soft spot for mid-century design, and we knew we wanted a “wow” factor for the River Oaks courtyard. While breeze blocks had always been on the radar for the courtyard, we decided on the breeze blocks from Clay Imports because of their unique design and our obsession with terracotta. It was an easy decision!
We spent some time trying to decide the perfect block for this design. When looking through the blocks available, we noticed that the cubo block had very few photos. We have a thing for underdogs, and so we mocked up the cubo block into our CAD renderings. The renderings looked spot on. In the initial draft, we had the wall at an 8-foot height. However, then we thought “what if we shorten each row above the 8-foot height all the way to the eave of the roof above it. We mocked it up and the result gave us a similar curve to the wall matching the cutout in the roof. We were instantly sold and knew that we had found our “wow” factor.
Q: How was the installation process?
Stan: The block wall installation was a breeze, pun intended! The installation process went great and there were no surprises. Although we are familiar with how to lay block, we deferred this work to one of our regular masons for the cleanest installation possible. We pigmented the cement before installation with a terracotta color similar to the block.
Q: Any installation tips for others?
Stan: If you are doing this work yourself, keep a couple of things in mind. One, there is some variation from block to block. Refer to the manufacturer's recommended spacing between blocks. Keeping to the recommended spacing allows accommodation of these variations to give the cleanest looking install possible. Clay Import's website has a lot of other helpful installation tips. However, if you are completely unfamiliar with how to install this block, there's nothing wrong with hiring a professional!
Q: Do you have any other breeze block projects in the works? Tell us about it!
Stan: We do! One of our clients is interested in the Mariposa breeze block for their front porch. The backdrop for this block would be a light gray smooth stucco. It will be happening sometime this year so find us on Instagram to see more awesome installations.