Rick Lobdell of Concrete Mystique Engraving in Nashville, Tennessee, is an artist, not a decorative concrete contractor. Still, in his career he has become known as a guy who can take concrete and turn it into an artistic canvas. He did just that for the Perkins home in Franklin, Tennessee. “This was an awesome job with a great client,” Lobdell says. In February, the project received the Decorative Concrete Council’s first place award for stained concrete in the under 5,000 square foot category.
The Perkins have a large, nicely appointed home with walkways and patios encircling the outside. This project — decorative finishes covering about 3,000 square feet on a front porch, front walkway, back porch, back walkway and back patio — was completed last September. They originally called Lobdell to their home two years ago because they thought there was a problem with the concrete and they wanted his advice.
“They didn’t hire me at that time,” he says. “Then they called me back and they knew what to ask for. They wanted what I do.” But, they wanted a tile pattern. Tile is certainly a fine choice, but perhaps not one befitting the grandeur and scale of their home and its environs.
“While walking through their house I noticed that the furniture, the rugs and all of the decor of their house had these vine details,” Lobdell recalls. “I made a joke and I said I could take that and make a pattern on the patio, and on top of that I made another joke that I could make a hummingbird drinking from a flower.”
The Perkins heard his joke and took him seriously, but weren’t sure. Lobdell followed up to say that he was just letting them know how far he could take things if they changed their mind. “Because you can always do a pattern,” he says. “I always like my clients to think outside of the box.”
They called Lobdell back and wanted to talk more about the hummingbird idea and the three of them did some sketching. The job ended up a conservative tile pattern in front of the home and giant leaves and vines on the upper back porch and a 12-foot-wide hummingbird drinking from a flower on the back patio. The patios and walkways were broom finished, while the porch was smooth finish.
Lobdell wants his clients involved at all times, he says. In fact, if the clients aren’t home unexpectedly or leave town, Lobdell will put the job on hold until they return.
“I will not move forward if the clients are not involved, because it’s custom in all applications,” he says. “It may take longer to finish a job that way but for what I do, it’s better and cheaper than having to go back and change something because they don’t like it.”
The wife was so involved in Lobdell’s planning for the appearance of the hummingbird, flower, leaves and vines that she was almost literally drawing it with him, he says. “We went through every detail, like how big should this leaf be, there are overlapping leaves here so how should they look together . . . “ he says.
Using an angle grinder from Engrave-A-Crete, Lobdell drew and cut the hummingbird and all of the leaves in three hours, thanks to how smoothly he and the client had planned the work.
Lobdell used Kemiko’s acid stains and Surfkoat’s Stamp Seal Gloss. He used a tiny bit of Surfkoat dye to provide a little detail in the edge of the flower. “The clients were extremely happy beyond their expectations,” he says.
Lobdell has created four hummingbirds on concrete slabs now plus a dove for the Concrete Decor Show in Charlotte, North Carolina. He likes birds, he says. But there’s also the movement implied by the interaction of a bird and a flower that is appealing. “And you can get very colorful with them!”