Design at Evelyn Place Wins Award

Design at Evelyn Place Wins Award

The Association of Professional Landscape Designers recently awarded a gold award to a project we did in collaboration with Gardens by Mardi. The APLD International Landscape Design Awards Program honors excellence in landscape design. Projects in eight different categories are judged on the basis of difficulty, craftsmanship, attention to detail and execution.

Huge congratulations to Mardi for receiving this award! And big thanks for all the collaborative projects we’ve gotten to create and construct together.

Completed collaboration

Design Detail

Front Before and After

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.

New Front Entrance for Alexander Home

New Front Entrance for Alexander Home

Hammerhead was commissioned to design and install a new front entrance for a beautiful home in Alexander, NC. The existing steps were an awkward height and did not suit the main entrance of such a large, attractive home. Haphazardly placed slabs for a walkway are more suitable in a garden area than as a main entrance, so we added a more complementary entrance.

Below are before and after shots of the front walkway and steps.

New Front Entrance

Walkway Before & After

New Steps and a Walkway

Walkway with Steps Before & After

North Asheville Entry Steps

Entry Steps in North Asheville

Under the weird assemblage of wood seen in the before photo, there were concrete entry steps that had to be removed. The homeowner indicated that they wanted the new entryway to reach all the way from the road to the steps of the house. Additionally, we had previously installed the path to the right of the steps, which wraps around the house, and we wanted the entryway to connect to it.

We exposed the bottom step and created a landing that tied the new path in to the new work. The new stone steps are six feet across. Due to the home’s location, vehicles frequently come into the yard a few inches, so we included thick cobblestones to the protect the yard. The cobblestones laid as such will be very sturdy and resistant to shifting even with regular vehicle traffic.

Entry Steps

Entry Steps Before and After

 

Kenilworth Stone Steps

Kenilworth Stone Steps

Kenilworth Stone Steps Hammerhead Stoneworks

The Finished Product

We completed this set of stone steps for a modern home of brand new construction. They are 9 1/2 feet across and made of sandstone slabs from Tennessee. They have a clean, modern look to match the style of the home.

Kenilworth Stone Steps Hammerhead Stoneworks

The wooden decking seen in the images above leads to the entrance of the home. We were contacted by the homeowners when they noticed that every time it rained, there was a serious runoff problem, leaving leaves, mud, and debris to stain the deck. The existing steps in this location were dangerously uneven and ugly and created a waterfall-like effect during rainstorms. Additionally, there were only three of them in space where four are needed in order to walk comfortably.

kenilworth stone steps hammerhead stoneworks

Existing Steps (Before)

In addition to creating a more aesthetically pleasing set of steps and making this a safer space, we also wanted to solve the runoff issue. The flagstone landing at the top of the steps pitches toward the road to divert most of the water away from the entrance and into a drain that we installed.

We enjoyed this project because it was a project of functional beauty, providing both aesthetics as well as problem-solving.

 

Garden Stonework in Mardi’s Yard

Over the last several years Hammerhead Stoneworks has worked closely with garden designer Mardi Letson, owner of Gardens by Mardi. The images below are from garden stonework projects we’ve done in her own yard. Mardi has a wonderful sense of design and can integrate plants into stonework wonderfully. She’s very talented and very easy to work with. She is especially good at working with small spaces as is demonstrated in her own yard. Her yard is not huge by any means, but it has so many little rooms and small special places to hang out.

The Finished Garden Stonework Products

garden stonework

Dry Stone Wall in Mardi’s yard

 

Stone slab steps at Mardi's

Stone slab steps at Mardi’s

 

Dry-laid flagstone path

Dry-laid flagstone path featuring the heart-shaped rock Mardi requested

Stone Steps and Pathways on Historic Kimberly Avenue Home

The owners of a historic home on Kimberly Avenue recently commissioned Hammerhead for a project. We got to work designing and constructing stone steps and a walkway while the home was undergoing a renovation. Chuck Krekelberg of Samsel Architects led the renovation project while Alan Roderick of Heartwood Renovations took charge of the building.

Trying to match the look and style of the existing foundation served as a particular challenge during this project. We mixed several mortars until we found the correct ratio of lime and various sands to match the existing mortar in both color and texture. Though time-consuming, a good ratio was developed, and it ended up being used as a base for stucco repairs on the home as well.

Griffin Award-winning Project for this Historic Home

The Preservation Society of Asheville & Buncombe County awarded the Kimberly Avenue residence a Griffin Award in ‘the rehabilitation of a historic residence’ category. The attention to detail by all the craftspeople working on the project certainly paid off! This recognition of our work certainly makes us proud.

Stone Steps at Historic Home on Kimberly Avenue

Completed stone steps

 

Kimberly Ave walkway

Completed walkway

 

Stone Path on a Gradual Grade

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!

Stone path and steps

Drystone pathway with steps. Balancing bench in the background.

stone pathway and steps

A view of the stone path and the mountains

stone pathway

Tennessee sandstone pathway with steps slabs and site boulders