The Village Stone Mosaic Patio, Reinstalled

The Village mosaic patio

“The Village” is a mosaic patio at the Boys & Girls Club of Henderson County.


“The Village” is a natural stone mosaic patio built for the Boys and Girls Club of Henderson County a few years ago. In the intervening time they built a new facility over the old patio site. They picked up the mosaic and stashed it away in storage. With the new building completed, they invited us back to reinstall the patio.
We laid the patio dry, without concrete, mortar or grout. It was easy for them to take it out and save it. Had it been mortared in place, I’m convinced that much of it would have been destroyed in the process of removing and relocating it. No pieces were damaged in the process. Okay, we broke one…

Reclaimed Granite

We made all the buildings of “The Village” from scraps scavenged from local granite fabricators. Such scrounging allows me to play with color in a way that local stones do not. Of course countertop material is usually highly polished and therefore slick, especially when wet. Sand blasting removed the sheen and provided better traction. That also took away some of the color, but periodically treating it with a stone enhancer or ager helps brighten the colors significantly.
We used Pennsylvania blue stone for the sky and Tennessee Crab Orchard Gray for the outer rings. We added another ring of stone for their Hall of Fame. They engrave the names of significant donors and important members of their community on this stone mosaic patio.
This new installation sits on a slope, so a retaining wall underneath supports the patio. As a result we used mortar to affix the Crab Orchard rings to the top of the wall as capstones. Notice the grout in those locations. The rest of the structure is laid dry.
The three greenish buildings at the very bottom of “The Village” – the top stone has the club logo- resemble the old buildings at this location. Above them you’ll see the historic Henderson County Courthouse.

This is an older picture of the piece, with a single outer ring, before it was engraved.
a mosaic stone patio

Bluestone Walkway Rehabbed

We were called to address this walkway which was starting to fall apart. Several stones were loose, including some at the edges that were becoming dangerous. In the image below you’ll see a flower pot blocking an area where a stone had completely flipped free. In my experience, it’s hard to fix mortared flagstone when it starts breaking down. Patching usually looks terrible and is only ever a short term fix. Mortared flagstone fails because water has gotten into the system; once in, the water is impossible to get out.

Old bluestone walkway

This was the walkway and steps before we started repairs. Several pieces were loose and becoming dangerous.

I was able to persuade the homeowners to switch to a drystone installation. We removed all the stone- after pressure washing it all first. We were able to brighten the colors and salvage enough stone to redo the walkway without purchase any new materials. Instead of rebuilding the mortared steps, we switched to sandstone slabs from Tennessee. The gray slabs blend wonderfully with the Pennsylvania flagstones. The steps are all single slabs, six feet across. It was a stroke of luck to find so many good stones at such a consistent thickness. The steps walk great.

Slab steps and bluestone walkway

The walkway after we rebuilt it with sandstone slabs and dimensional bluestone

We reset the flagstone in a bed of gravel. The steps and the surrounding soil hold the gravel so it will not squish out the sides. The gravel bed drains moisture away which will prolong the life of the stones. When we set dimensional flagstone like this, we abut the stones as closely as we can; there’s no need for a grout joint (because there’s no mortar or grout!) and I think it looks better.

Dragonfly Patio

We are working in the Oakley neighborhood of Asheville, building a backyard patio. The flagstone features a dragonfly inlay, made of natural stone. The wings are a type of marble quarried in Georgia. The body of the dragonfly itself is a scrap of countertop material that I found somewhere years ago. I find things like that and keep them around until they find a home. the inly is surrounded by a Pennsylvania background and a ring of Absolute Black granite. I put the granite in backside up, to increase friction. The other polished stones have some grooves cut in them, to increase traction for walkers and to create veins in the wings and segments in the dragonfly’s body.

Dragonfly Patio in Process

A dragonfly mosaic laid into a sandstone patio in Asheville, North Carolina. Photo by Jonathan Frederick

I always like the exploded view of a mosaic once loaded into the truck for travel. It really is a puzzle.

Stone dragonfly mosaic

The dragonfly patio inlay heads off to the project. There will be order of this chaos…

Sacred Circle Spring Update

Sacred Circle Farms Spring Update

The homeowners sent me this photo of Sacred Circle Farms in Alexander, NC where we completed the Sacred Fire Circle in January of 2014. We also did the path leading to the front door of their home, and they planted it with phlox. The pinks and purples of the phlox in full bloom really frame the stone path and create a colorful, welcoming entrance.

Stonework Customer Testimonial

Stonework Customer Testimonial

This past winter we completed a stone path and wall for a customer named Tom in North Asheville’s Beaverdam neighborhood. Here is what Tom had to say about our work:

Stonework Customer Testimonial

“Hi Marc. Here is an “in progress” pic for you. It’s a bit messy from the rain. I’m probably half way through planting everything in. My guess is fall will be the time you will want to photograph. It’s really remarkable how much time we spend in the front of the house. We sit on the wall, we sit in the woods… The work you and the team did has way exceeded our expectations. All of it is so well done and done in an extraordinarily perfect way.  We love it. Please pass this on to your team.”
And here is the same area, looking from the opposite direction, before we completed the work:
Stonework Customer Testimonial

Stream Path Stone Mosaic

Stream Path Stone Mosaic

The North Carolina Arboretum commissioned Hammerhead to design and build a stone mosaic in their stream garden. The stream garden is located immediately adjacent to the Arboretum’s signature quilt garden. The Stream Path stone mosaic was fabricated at the shop and installed onsite.

 

For the rapids section of the mosaic, the branches are made of Tennessee sandstone and often correspond with drops in elevation in the stream, to create visual interest and to enhance the sound of the water moving. Kind of like a real branch or log fallen across a stream…

I used a Dremel rotary tool to engrave this mayfly into one of the background stones near the frog in the stream path.

A fun detail of me working under the bridge is that you can see the ‘map’ on the wall. It was a handy reference to have. It shows all the stones and their positions.

Stream Path Stone Mosaic

The map is also pictured here on the level across the stream while Jonathan works.

Process shots from the shop of stone crayfish and the trout chasing minnows.

After fabrication comes transportation. Here is the trout as well as part of the background stacked up in the back of the truck.

Topography Steps and Path

Topography Steps and Path

Topography

Photo by Jonathan Frederick

We recently completed a pair of small projects for a customer on Beaucatcher Mountain. They were both short walkways with steps in them. The client was familiar with our work and a fan of our cut flagstone mosaic patios and paths.  He asked us to incorporate a design into the first project, a set of six steps that led from his driveway into a grassy yard. His design mandate was very generous- “Make me something cool.” We can do that! (See also “Stone River Step,” another of Hammerhead’s cut flagstone mosaic patios and paths.)

The inspiration for the pattern comes from topographic maps. If you’re familiar with such maps, you know how endless lines loop and circle back to show the contours of the land. When the lines are close together, the land is steep. Lines that are far apart indicate flatter ground. They are beautiful to look at and each bit of land has its own profile; the maps look something like fingerprints.
Topography is important to us here in the mountains, and good bit of our work at Hammerhead is contending with steep ground. Sometimes we have to retain them with walls, other times, like this project, we install steps to help people navigate them. And even when we build a mostly flat patio, we have to deal with issues of rain water and erosion. Our job is topography.

Individual stones have topography too, though we perceive that more as texture. Sometimes you’ll find a stone in the pile that you can imagine could be a complete cliff face, hundreds of feet tall.
I called this set of steps “Pisgah-ish” because the design was loosely inspired by the topographic map of the celebrated Mount Pisgah. (It may even be visible in the distance from this grassy yard – I’m not sure, I have a terrible sense of direction.)

Topography
For as simple as the design is,it was very complex to execute. Probably the biggest issue was the fact that the stone we used was almost 3 inches thick. That made cutting it to such tight tolerances time consuming and delicate. A couple of the stones were cut to resemble donuts, with an opening inside them for other stones to nestle in. That was just straight up twitchy. Fred and Jonathan joined me at the shop to cut all of these pieces.
After all the stones were cut, I stacked them up, taking the flat map and making it back into a typography. It would be a hard walkway to navigate if we left it that way, but it is probably my favorite image from this project.

Topography

Topography

Topography

Black Mountain Stone Wall and Steps

Black Mountain Stone Wall and Steps

Black Mountain Stone Wall and Steps

Crew members from left to right: Jonathan Frederick, Tony Costa, & Michael Sellars


Written by Marc Archambault

We spent about a month this summer building steps around a recently completed modern house in Black Mountain, North Carolina. Designed by architect Scott Huebner of Brickstack Architects, the house has majestic views from its steep lot. Our primary job was to provide access for the homeowners so that they can tend their gardens and landscape. Really it was more like backcountry trail construction than our typical more finessed style of work. However, the real fun was when we got to replace a very sloppily built boulder wall at the driveway.

To hear it described, the wall in question was a last-minute add-on. It certainly looked very thrown together, with large gaps, no attention paid to bonding, and lots of gravel between the stones as if using ball bearings as a substitute for mortar. It was nothing to look at, for sure. Adding insult to injury, other tradespeople had mistreated it. Someone had smeared a lot of polyurethane on a few stones, presumably cleaning their brushes. There were similar concrete stains in other locations. All in all, it was a very ugly wall.

So we took it down and rebuilt it. I would say it’s built in the style of our typical walls, but at an uncommon scale. Some of these pieces weigh over 1000 pounds and it required an excavator – a small one – to help move the material into place. The stones with the stains were either removed or turned around to hide the mess. We used hammer and chisel and- as appropriate- the big saw to sweeten the fits and to ensure good bonding. The previous wall had no attention paid to batter or a clean line to the face of the whole wall. We took care of that and the results are pleasing.

I should have done a before and after post, but the original wall so ugly I never thought to take a picture of it. If I find a picture, I will surely add it.
To me, true craft is about caring. The devil is in the details.

Black Mountain Stone Wall and Steps

Photo by Jonathan Frederick

Black Mountain Stone Wall and Steps

Photo by Jonathan Frederick

Black Mountain Stone Wall and Steps

Crewmember Tony takes a rest on the newly completed wall.


Special thanks to Fred Lashley for operating the excavator on this project.

Stone Stoop and Patio with Heron Mosaic

Natural stone stoop and heron mosaic

A stone stoop and patio accented with a mosaic inlay of a great blue heron.

Our client in Mills River sent this photo recently of her new patio and stone stoop. Completed late last year, the area is finally getting landscaped. Decorative grasses surround the Great Blue Heron mosaic inlay I made for her. I call these pieces Garden Guardians. They are fun to build but very complex. I detail the process at this link.

All of the horizontal surfaces- patio, stoop, and step treads- are Pennsylvania stone, with a blend of the full-color and some nice blues. The patio is laid dry while the steps and stoop are mortared. The vertical surfaces are Hooper’s Creek. What’s shown is all mortared, though there is a drystone wall of the same material that holds up the patio. I like this combination of colors and materials quite a lot.