Stone in Architecture / Residential

An outdoor oasis achieved with natural stone

March 1, 2012

With a picturesque lake setting in their backyard, the homeowners of a boathouse in Oconomowoc, WI, chose a variety of natural stone for the home’s outdoor design. The ruggedness and coloring of the stone appropriately match the scenic surroundings and anchor the residence to the property.

“The overall goal was to create a space that was natural, yet functional and gave the clients everything they wanted,” said Chris Boyce of Ancora Stone & Tile in Elm Grove, WI, the designer for the project. “It also did structurally what it needed to do by holding up the grade and directing the water around the boathouse and into the lake. The use of large natural outcropping stone was key in this process.”

To accomplish the design objective, a combination of natural stone was used throughout the project. “My intention was to create a natural environment throughout, while taking into consideration the functionality of the space,” explained Boyce. “Our client wanted large stepping stones, but didn’t want the sand or gravel in the joints that went along with it, so we utilized small fashionette stones to fill the voids — which eliminated the sand and also created a unique look. They also wanted to be able to cook and relax on the deck while having the sounds of a water feature, so we located it just off the top deck along the path leading up to the barbecue/deck area.”

Selecting the material

A dramatic landscape is created with Fond du Lac Outcroppings — measuring on average 2 feet deep x 3 to 6 feet wide — which were chosen to obtain the necessary structural support. Moreover, Fond du Lac steps that are 2 feet deep by 4 feet wide were used for the outdoor staircase. “We selected it for the consistent thickness for the steps, and also for the warm color tones,” said Boyce, adding that the Fond du Lac limestone is complemented by New York Bluestone, which forms large stepping stones with small fashionette stones placed in the joints.

Adding further interest to the landscape design is a dry river bed consisting of river jack fieldstones, fashionette stones and crushed raven black sand. The water feature is constructed with Moose Mountain outcropping and accompanied by desert stars and fashionette stones.

For the outdoor barbecue on the boathouse’s deck, Fond du Lac veneer was chosen, with pieces measuring 4 to 8 inches tall. The look is completed with Azul Platino granite countertops with a thickness of
1 ¼ inches, which were fabricated by Stone Works Co. Meanwhile, New York Bluestone — with chiseled edges and thermaled tops — was employed for the caps of the columns on the top deck. Halquist Stone Co. supplied all the stone, with the exception of the granite.

According to Boyce, his clients were very involved in the stone selection process. “They toured past projects and quarries to see the specific stone in person,” he said. “We considered one other type of stone — Moose Mountain outcroppings from Montana Rockworks. Although our client decided it had too dark of an overall color for the main stonework, we used it as an accent in the water feature.”

Overcoming challenges

One of the challenging aspects of the project was to control the runoff from above the boathouse, explained Boyce. “A steady slope with natural outcropping stone throughout was used to hold the grade. A staircase was placed naturally through the slope. We also had to catch the water from the roof and the excess runoff from above. We achieved this by creating the dry river bed to catch and direct the excess water to the lake. The river bed was planted in to create a natural look and also hold it in place in times of heavy water flow.”

To ensure the stone design and installation went as planned, Boyce spent a great deal of time on the jobsite. “As the designer of the space, I like to be on site and hands-on often to make sure the work is completed as it was intended,” he said. “Amazing spaces start with great design.”

Work on the boathouse’s outdoor design took about a month to complete. “The reaction has been great,” said Boyce. “The clients love it, and we have had lots of outside interest.”


Oconomowoc, WI

Designer: Chris Boyce, Ancora Stone & Tile, Elm Grove, WI

Stone Installers: Ancora Stone & Tile, Elm Grove, WI (Fond du Lac limestone, New York Bluestone); Stone Works Co. (Azul Platino granite)

Stone Suppliers: Halquist Stone Co., Sussex, WI (Fond du Lac limestone, New York Bluestone); Stone Works Co. (Azul Platino granite)


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