Setting Creative Solutions in Stone

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By Jenny Xie / Published by Dwell
Presented by Stepstone, Inc.
A diverse roster of projects and a commitment to creativity and craftsmanship place Stepstone at the forefront of the precast concrete market.

Versatile, durable, and sustainable, concrete allows for creative freedom in hardscaping while remaining impervious to the elements. Providing this flexibility is part of the core philosophy of Stepstone. The company handles all operations, manufacturing, and shipping from its two facilities in South Los Angeles and Gardena, California; from here, Stepstone develops its own molds and an array of finishes ranging from "sandblasted" to "stippled." The result is a widely varied product line that allows customers to choose the ideal shape, finish, and size for their project. After over 40 years in business, Stepstone has nurtured a unique culture of personalization and experimentation, expanding its products to include pavers, wall caps, stair treads, and pool coping.

Setting Creative Solutions in Stone - Photo 1 of 6 - Large Scale CalArc Pavers surround an outdoor fountain at this residence. Unlike other producers, Stepstone develops its own molds.

Large Scale CalArc Pavers surround an outdoor fountain at this residence. Unlike other producers, Stepstone develops its own molds.

"We promote a culture of saying yes by removing fear of failure," says a spokesperson from Stepstone. "We already know some things won’t work, but you have to try new concepts, ideas, and methodologies. We recognize innovation comes at a price, and that’s an investment we willingly make."

Setting Creative Solutions in Stone - Photo 2 of 6 - Samsung's headquarters in San Jose, California are paved with Large Scale CalArc Pavers in Stepstone's French Gray, Porcelain, and Granada White. 

Samsung's headquarters in San Jose, California are paved with Large Scale CalArc Pavers in Stepstone's French Gray, Porcelain, and Granada White. 

In such an entrepreneurial environment, the product life cycle begins with simple trial and error. "We usually start with an idea for a new shape, size, or color, identify a reliable material source, and then we start pouring," reveals the spokesperson. Employees then analyze the results and tweak the process—altering the shape of a mold, using a different finishing agent—to achieve the desired look. Then, Stepstone tests the product in a real-world setting, monitoring installations to see how well they perform over time and under diverse conditions.

Setting Creative Solutions in Stone - Photo 3 of 6 - Offering 12 standard colors and a wide assortment of finishes across its product lines, Stepstone allows customers to employ a seamless material palette, as seen in the CalArc Pavers and open riser Steptreads pictured in the home above. Stepstone also offers customizations made in collaboration with architectural and landscape design communities. 

Offering 12 standard colors and a wide assortment of finishes across its product lines, Stepstone allows customers to employ a seamless material palette, as seen in the CalArc Pavers and open riser Steptreads pictured in the home above. Stepstone also offers customizations made in collaboration with architectural and landscape design communities. 

Setting Creative Solutions in Stone - Photo 4 of 6 - Concrete closed riser Steptreads at Claremont McKenna College are durable and easy to maintain. In addition to being welded to steel channels, stair treads can be attached to a wood stringer.

Concrete closed riser Steptreads at Claremont McKenna College are durable and easy to maintain. In addition to being welded to steel channels, stair treads can be attached to a wood stringer.

"We promote a culture of saying yes by removing fear of failure."

Setting Creative Solutions in Stone - Photo 5 of 6 - Large Scale CalArc Pavers line the Google campus in Mountain View, California.

Large Scale CalArc Pavers line the Google campus in Mountain View, California.

Because Stepstone’s personnel specializes in working with different types of clients like architects, landscape designers, engineers, suppliers, and homeowners, the company is often exposed to new ideas. It was an architect’s vacation in Barcelona, Spain that gave rise to the wave paver, inspired by the undulating pavers found there. These new pavers by Stepstone are now at the Colorado Esplanade in Santa Monica, California, a promenade that extends from the light rail station to the pier.

Setting Creative Solutions in Stone - Photo 6 of 6 - Stepstone's established relationships with architecture firms allow for its concrete products to be included in plans and specifications, as showcased by the Colorado Esplanade project.

Stepstone's established relationships with architecture firms allow for its concrete products to be included in plans and specifications, as showcased by the Colorado Esplanade project.

Stepstone’s products have graced other iconic locations such as Ghirardelli Square and the Golden Gate Plaza and Conservancy in San Francisco, California; all University of California campuses; and the USS Intrepid and Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City. Whether residential or commercial, large or small, each project poses design challenges that lead to new methods and products. Creative solutions include the false joint paver, which is easier to install, and connecting pieces that fill in edges and corners. Says the spokesperson, "From concept to reality, making people’s visions in concrete is what Stepstone does best."