At Hammerhead, we enjoy the challenge of creating new designs for stone benches. We seek a balance between bombproof structure and graceful aesthetics, and we like them to be whimsical. We created four bench designs for the memorial garden at First Baptist Church of Asheville for the labyrinth project. The boulder bench is one of these designs.
There are four boulder benches spaced around the labyrinth at First Baptist Church of Asheville. The benches are drawn from Hammerhead’s traditional design of a boulder bench, which is a large slab of sandstone seated on top of a pair of funky sandstone boulders. At First Baptist Church of Asheville, we cut the tops of the benches to have the precise radius of the outside edge of the labyrinth in order to provide visual continuity with the radiating circles of the labyrinth.
One of four boulder benches at First Baptist Church of Asheville
Hammerhead Stoneworks designs and installs innovative natural stone benches.
Harmony Stone Bench
Stone benches are wonderful addition to outdoor spaces and a unique design opportunity. At Hammerhead, we enjoy the challenge of creating new designs for stone benches. We seek a balance between bombproof structure and graceful aesthetics. And we like them to be whimsical. The harmony stone bench is one of four designs we created for the memorial garden at First Baptist Church of Asheville for, as we call it, the labyrinth project. This is a favorite design of mine, because of how delicate they appear and how strong they truly are. There’s something a bit magical about that to me!
We created two of these harmony stone benches for the memorial garden, and both are made of river rock and a blue stone slab with a hidden steel armature supporting the overall structure. The waterworn pebbles and crisply cut top add an eclectic juxtaposition. These benches are adjacent to the water feature Hammerhead is currently constructing in the labyrinth. River pebbles echo the flowing water and river path that leads to the feature. The blue slab of the bench ties to the stream path that leads to the feature. One feels connected to the water and its movement in the space. The delicate balancing act is deceptive; these benches are super sturdy!
Harmony stone bench at First Baptist Church of Asheville by Hammerhead Stoneworks
A balancing stone bench by Hammerhead Stoneworks in Asheville North Carolina.
River pebbles support large sandstone slabs to create sturdy stone benches. A hidden steel armature supports the slab, making it as solid as our other stone benches. These two benches adorn the frontyard of one of our favorite Asheville clients.
A balancing stone bench by Hammerhead Stoneworks in Asheville North Carolina.
Hammerhead Stoneworks creates a memorial stone bench in collaboration with a client.
Memorial Stone Bench
The Murphy family contacted Hammerhead Stoneworks to help them create a memorial stone bench for J.P. who was taken too young. His family had relocated and missed being able to visit his gravestone. The creation of an appropriate memorial is built on communication and trust. The family had found Hammerhead via the web and we spent a lot of time on the phone and e-mailing. We didn’t meet in person until the day they picked up the bench! The extra time we spent going back and forth made all the difference.
We worked together to find the right bench stone and memorial design. I found a slab that I loved and bought. When I got it to the shop and started making minor adjustments, I noticed a hairline crack that had gone unnoticed at the stone yard. This is where the communication and trust built paid off. I sent some pics of the fracture to the family and explained the reason of the delay. I had worried that they might be frustrated with the delay, but in reality they appreciated that I paid that kind of attention to the project. And when I found the next stone, it was a beauty! Martin Monuments provided the engraving. They are my go-to for sandblasting and are the best. They are unique in their ability to work with natural stone. Most monument places really only seem comfortable working with polished and very flat surfaces. Jeff and Ben Martin are a true asset to Hammerhead.
A Memorial Stone Bench Kit
This was our first bench kit. Typically, we prepare the bench at our shop and then bring it to the site for installation. In order to save the family some money, we got the bench ready and the family took it home and installed it themselves. Installing a five hundred pound bench slab isn’t for everyone, but the Murphy family did an excellent job. We provided a couple of pages of instructions and they did the rest. It certainly helped that the family is in construction itself.
A memorial stone bench slab of Tennessee sandstone
In the mountains of western North Carolina, where Hammerhead Stoneworks is located, we often deal with awkward slopes. Gradual grades, like the one pictured here, are common. The best solution usually involves striking a balance of steps and landings. This walkway features several small stacks of slab steps with flagstone landings spaced throughout. It’s important to take the rhythm of walking into account. The rise and run of steps are an agreement between the builder and everyone who uses their steps. It should be predictable and within a ratio that we are familiar with. Stuttering steps- those awkward ones that are too short or too close together or weirdly spaced- drive my crazy. (A common thing here is the two inch step at the top of a run of stairs. WHY?!)
Of course, there are other variables as well. You want to steps to fall naturally into place along the slope. If your steps are too far ahead, then you have to do a lot building up with retaining walls to support the steps. Likewise, if you get too far into the slope, there’s a lot of digging needed and you may have to install some sort of edging to keep the soil and mulch off the path. Sometimes this can’t be avoided, but often, by taking the time to pay attention to those details in the design phase, you can have a stone path that has a natural rhythm, is safe and easy to walk and is strong and durable. Like this one in the pictures!
Drystone pathway with steps. Balancing bench in the background.
A view of the stone path and the mountains
Tennessee sandstone pathway with steps slabs and site boulders
We recently completed these two balancing benches for a regular client of ours. Both slabs are of Tennessee sandstone, though they have very different color profiles. River rocks of varying sizes comprise the bench supports. I know the concept works because every time I walk by them I think, “Those shouldn’t be standing!” They are very sturdy though, reinforced and supported by a hidden steel armature.
A stone bench by Asheville stone masons Hammerhead Stoneworks.
A balancing stone bench by Asheville stone masons Hammerhead Stoneworks.
The ceremonial stone circle fire pit seen from above.
We finished this huge ceremonial fire pit just as winter faded into spring. These panoramas show the fire pit at rest and in full use, during the dedication ceremony, where every inch of bench seating was filled. It was very moving series of ceremonies and prayers.
Click images to enlarge.
Mortared sandstone steps create s stunning entryway to this home in Arden, North Carolina.
Earlier this summer, Hammerhead Stoneworks built a set of formal stone steps leading into a home in Arden, North Carolina. The steps are mortared and utilize a couple of varieties of sandstone to achieve the desired aesthetic. Hidden from sight are several changes we also made to the drainage in the area.
The existing steps were of pressure treated lumber and were rotten through and through. The old steps sat in so much puddled runoff that there were supporting uprights that had wicked water up vertically over two feet. We could squeeze pieces of lumber and water would seep out like a soggy sponge. Stone, subjected to the same abuse would also eventually suffer, so we put in a trench drain immediately next to the steps and reshaped the planting bed to discourage water from accumulating there.
The formal stone steps from above
A stone bench, retaining wall and patio built in Arden North Carolina.
Behind the house we built a small patio with this bench and a short retaining wall to address the general slope of the yard. While the bench uses some concrete and mortar for anchoring, the wall and patio are laid drystone.
Asheville stone masons Hammerhead Stoneworks recently completed this water feature with a natural stone bench, paths, drystone walls and steps.
Dry Stone Paths & Steps
This dry stone pathway connects the homeowner’s driveway with their favorite hangout spot, on their back deck. A single slab of sandstone provides an easy step up to the deck. The regular shape of the slab lends an air of formality to the entrance, sometimes used by guests. This serves as a counterpoint to the more natural looking stones that make up the adjacent steps, walls, water feature and bench.
The bench is found at the bottom of the water feature. It is very organic, a natural slab with a patina of lichen. The area is fairly shady and so I am hopeful that the lichen will survive. Two rugged boulders were topped and anchored in concrete to provide the bench supports.
Water Feature Before and After
This pair of images shows how we transformed this unused space. The drystone retaining wall at the bottom raised the overall grade. This allowed us to hide drainage pipes running from the house’s many downspouts. We used heavy duty solid white PVC pipe to extend the drain pipes. Though more expensive, these pipes have never failed me. Everytime I have dug up a black corrugated drain pipe it is either collapsed, perforated or clogged. Or all three. Next spring, once the plants have been chosen and given time to establish themselves, this will be a lovely view.
Click on the image above for a larger view of the water view and overall design.
Coming soon: more pictures of the water feature itself.
I’ve been working on a small patio for a former client of mine, which means I got to revisit this stone bench I built for them under their Japanese Maple in Biltmore Forest.I had lunch on it everyday I was there.