Beast Wall

Another view of the staircase emerging from Beast Wall


Last fall we completed this project at a home in Asheville. The house had recently been renovated, but the landscape was incomplete. There was a steep, messy gravel driveway and a weird 18″ drop off from where you parked to where you stepped out of the car. It was treacherous. The design mandate included a new entry and safe ways of accessing the backyard. The biggest issue for the homeowners was raising and enlarging their driveway parking area. So “Beast Wall” was born.

The sloping driveway and awkward entrance that Beast Wall was designed to resolve

Early process shot of Beast Wall going up.

A process shot of Beast Wall nearing completion

We used Tennessee sandstone for all the components of the project. I wanted it for the walls in particular because I can usually find a wide range of sizes, including some massive pieces. We needed some big chunks for Beast Wall. The largest piece we found was a rejected hearth that was seven feet long, 14″ tall and twenty inches front to back. We split it into multiple pieces and used it throughout the wall, including at least one massive corner you’ll might find in the photos. With so many massive stones, we used a small excavator to set the biggest of them. It also helped us to move around the backfill. There’s several tons of scrap stone and gravel behind that wall, supporting the parking area.

Our dump truck parked on Beast Wall


This is a new favorite image! We were bringing in some soil for the yard below the wall. The dump truck is parked right to the edge. The wall did not budge. The fully loaded dump truck probably weighs three times what the owners Prius weighs!

A set of steps emerge from the face of Beast Wall.


To provide access to the backyard, we built a set of steps into the face of Beast Wall. I like this emergent style of steps; it evokes something archaic to me, like you might find in a Mayan temple. The steps act as a buttress to the wall. There will be a hand rail someday!

A semi-circular staircase

A set of stone slab steps wrap a tight corner


Access on the other side of the house required less materials, but proved to be a fairly complex build in its own right. This set of steps wraps around an existing block wall. Walls above and below the steps support the staircase and the bank.

Tennessee sandstone creates a new front walkway at a home in Asheville


By raising the driveway, we were able to elevate the front walkway, removing the treacherous drop off. The path connects to another that leads to the street.

Looking down you can see the top landing of the steps.


The parking area is covered in decorative gravel. I like the wheel stops we installed. They are made from a slab step that we split down. There are two holes in each piece with a long bit of rebar driven down into the gravel below.

An oak leaf mosaic element at the top of a set of stone steps.


I made this oak leaf mosaic for the top landing of the staircase that emerges from the face of Beast Wall. It’s a scrap of salvaged granite.