We built this drystone retaining wall recently for an Asheville couple who have two kids, both of whom have a things for rocks. I can identify. As part of the design development, I proposed that we add a handful of niches to the walls, as a place to store a small rock collection- or anything else. The niches are about 4″ by 4″. We’ve done this before and they have been used for hot wheel cars, candles, and antique glass insulators from power lines that were wired to glow at night!
The wall itself is made of sandstone from Tennessee. A set of slab steps cuts through it allowing access to the upper yard. There’s a small patio below the wall, that I call the antechamber, as it serves as a hangout spot just below their expansive deck. Building niches is a pleasing departure from straight walling. And it was fun to find treasures to place in the niches. I am confident that this collection will be dismantled, amended, lost and replaced over time. That’s the point; I like that the wall has an interactive component.
Niche in a drystone wall, with elephant carved in slate
This niche has a small slate elephant I carved a long time ago. This guy has been looking lonely at the shop, so I’m happy he has a new home. The dolphin totem came from an old necklace. I guess this is the stone mammal niche.
Niche in a drystone wall, with banded onyx sphere
There’s another wall, not pictured, that runs near the driveway and connects up to the antechamber. This orb of banded onyx is in that wall, as a teaser of the larger collection visible above. I found this- and several other treasures, at Enter the Earth, a local rock and gem store here in Asheville.
Niche in a drystone wall, with heart of stone
Four stone hearts for the four members of the family.
Niche in a drystone wall, with fossilized coral
Petoskey stone- a fossilized coral from Lake Michigan. Great for bug eyes in mosaics!
Niche in a drystone wall, with cool fossils
More fossils. That’s a tiny sand dollar out front. I’m a big fan of the orthoceras fossils, the long tubular seashells in a black matrix. I just discovered that orthoceras means straight horn.
The last couple of pictures show the wall itself, with the niches visible. We just finished, so the land needs a minute to recover. Some ground cover and mulch and the rock collection will be complete!
A section of drystone wall, with niches for a rock collection
A sandstone wall, laid dry, with niches for a collection of cool stones