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.
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:
“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:
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.Â 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- â€œMake me something cool.â€ 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 youâ€™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 youâ€™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 â€œPisgah-ishâ€ 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 â€“ Iâ€™m not sure, I have a terrible sense of direction.)
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.
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.
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.
We completed this set of steps as well as a patio for a home in North Asheville. Made of Pennsylvania stone, a short stack of steps leads up from the driveway to a stepping stone path. The patio is built over an old concrete slab, which isn’t always possible, but we had the clearances necessary to get our stone and setting bed in place. Leaving the slab in place instead of removing it saved the customer a considerable amount of money.
While the steps and patio were laid dry, the flagstone on the stoop was mortared in place for supplemental support.
This path was designed and installed for the entryway of a house of modern design in Alexander, North Carolina. It is 4 feet wide and is comprised of boulders found and selected around the site as well as Tennessee sandstone (also used here and here).
In addition to helping to maintain a comfortable walking rhythm, the steps and landings are spaced to run with the slope. This was essential in order to avoid excessive excavation and/or build up.
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
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.