Architectural definition created with stone

Originally built in the early 1970s with vertical wood siding and little architectural definition, the Mill Creek residence in Vail, CO, was recently renovated to blend in with its natural surroundings. Fritzlen Pierce Architects of Vail, CO, selected Winterset limestone and Colorado Buff sandstone as exterior features to the house, which rests on a 1⁄4-acre of land. The stone was supplied by Pine's Stone Co. of Glenwood Springs, CO.

“The design goal for the project was to renovate the exterior to better match Vail's European ski village theme, as well as to create a private courtyard in front of the home to buffer the impact of the Vista Bahn ski yard directly adjacent to the property,” said Lynn Fritzlen, who served as the project architect for the renovation. “The Vista Bahn serves as one of the main portals to Vail Mountain. An exterior spa with a natural stone surround serves as the visual centerpiece of the courtyard.”

The Winterset limestone, which was quarried in Kansas, was used for the exterior veneer, and Colorado Buff sandstone was employed for the trim of the house as well as for exterior paving.

According to Fritzlen, Winterset has a soft gray/brown patina, with very little variation in color. “The selection was inspired by the worn smooth stones one can find in the Roman ruins of northern Europe,” said the architect. “The stone is also relatively dense, so it cut well for the intended application. We felt that the uniform surface accented the design of the architectural forms rather than bringing attention to the exterior surface.”

To create the desired aesthetic, the sizes and pattern of the stone varied. “The flagstone on the deck had a snapped edge and the pattern was laid out to create a visually interesting [design] of rectangles and intersecting lines,” Fritzlen said. “The exterior stone and veneer was cut on site and carefully fitted to create tight 'drystack' joints.”

According to Jim Spoon of Pine Stone's Co., random square and rectangular pieces of Winterset lime-stone were used in a mix of two cuts -- rubble strips and a random ashlar pattern. In addition, Spoon added that Winterset was used for boulders and landscaping walls.

Sorensen Masonry from Minturn, CO, installed the stone using a drystack installation with Portland cement. According to Shane Sorensen, the stonework took 10 workers six months to install. He said the most difficult part of the project involved the fabrication of the arches within the retaining walls throughout the garden area.

According to Fritzlen, there were a few minor challenges with the project. “The precision of the stonework required a large crew in order to have it completed in the summer/fall window that we were required to use in order to minimize impact on the homeowner as well as the neighbors,” she explained. “The space was very limited, so staging and storage were an issue as well.

“We have had several inquires from passersby as to the type of stone and subcontractor,” continued Fritzlen. 'The uniqueness of the stone and trim attracts homebuyers and builders who are looking for a unique and subtle aesthetic.”

Mill Creek Residence, Vail, CO

Architect: Fritzlen Pierce Architects, Vail, CO
Stone Installer: Sorensen Masonry, Minturn, CO
Stone Supplier: Pine's Stone Co., Glenwood Springs, CO

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