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
Dry Stone Wall in Mardi’s yard
Stone slab steps at Mardi’s
Dry-laid flagstone path featuring the heart-shaped rock Mardi requested
Hammerhead Stoneworks offers a stone fire pit design solution for small patio spaces. This past spring I built what I call an Invisible Fire Pit. This is a design solution for a small patio area. A typical stone fire pit can take up a great deal of space. In a small area, this can be problematic, as it limits the amount of outdoor furniture one can use, or make it hard to entertain in the space at times when a fire isn’t desired. The Invisible Fire Pit is built down into the ground, but has a stone cover, so that when not in use, it really isn’t noticed. You can walk right over it with no indication that the space beneath your feet is hollow. Of course, this raises the issue of how to access the fire pit. I had my blacksmith friend Lynda Metcalfe make wrought iron handles. These are drilled through the stone and rest in a small groove I cut into the top of the stone. With the handles recessed in this way, there’s no trip hazard. The stone is still heavy, so it’s best to lift it with a friend! Last weekend the client had us over and my boys roasted marshmallows over the fire with his daughter. It was a great fun and the fire pit will get plenty of use in the coming months, as the nights cool off so perfectly.
This set of stone steps replaced a worn bank that was prone to washing out in a good rain and becoming slippery and messy. And while not a formal entrance to the house, this is the main access for the family. When I build stone steps, I make sure that the rise and run is consistent throughout the staircase.
This past winter I completed a natural stone mosaic called “The Hiker” that now rests over the gravesite of John LedBetter, a beloved husband, father and Scoutmaster who passed a year ago March. In July, WNCW interviewed me about the piece and the story behind it. Check it out! See more images.
My current project is a flagstone patio with a fire pit. The flagstone is laid dry over crushed stone. Because of the slope of the yard, I built a short retaining wall at the far edge, to support the patio. Two slabs steps provide access to the yard. The sandstone I’m using is from Tennessee and has some lovely color tones to it.
The fire pit is the fun feature. Because of the limited space, I designed the fire pit to be invisible when not in use. A slab of stone serves as a lid. In the images below you can see the fire pit with the lid on and off. I will install recessed handles that will help the homeowner to remove the lid whenever he chooses. The handles will be flush with the top of the stone when not in use and will be the only indication of the fire pit. There’s still a lot to be done before this is full realized. More pics to come!
The lid of this hidden fire pit in patio mode. Note the handles set into the stone.
Invisible fire pit handles
An invisible fire pit in use, roasting marshmallows!
The Biltmore Forest Walkway project entails replacing a 40 year old walkway leading to the front entrance of a house in Biltmore Forest. The existing walkway was set in sand on soft soils and had settled, shifted and recently been overrun (underun?) by moles. After removing the old stone- to be reused- I dug out the sand and soft soil. I replaced the substrate with road bond and compacted it with a jumping jack tamper.
I’m using pea gravel as my setting bed. The compacted road bond and the pea gravel in combination create a very unfriendly environment for moles. It’s also less attractive for their favored foods, like worms. This is what the area looked like after the prep work was done, before I started setting stone.
The original material is no longer quarried, but a similar stone, a granitic gneiss called Hooper’s Creek, is a good match. The key to mixing different types of stone is to make the mix consistent throughout. It’s obvious when you introduce a new type of stone halfway through a project. But if you have all the varieties in play from the first stone, it usually works out fine.
My Friday goal was to finish the matrix, what I call the edges and the big stones that connect the sides, leaving only the fill-ins and details for Monday.
Friday Quitting Time
Except for that one area at the very end, the matrix is done. Monday is all about filling the gaps.
I’ve recently started a new project in West Asheville, building a drystone patio under the deck of a new green-built home. In this image sunlight filters through the decking. I’m using a sandstone, presumably from Tennessee. I’ve switched suppliers recently and am pleased with the colors and durability of the stone.