Stone World

A stately manor crafted in limestone

April 11, 2004


Old World charm and French Normandy style were the inspirations for a residential design in Bloomfield Hills, MI. Contributing to the dramatic look and feel of the home is the presence of natural stone throughout interior and exterior applications. Most notable is the roughly textured limestone facade, which consists of a custom blend of materials quarried at two different Wisconsin sites.

“It's a beautiful home that is Old World with Gothic flair,” said architect Louis DesRosiers of Louis DesRosiers Architects in Bloomfield Hills, MI. “The design goal was to have a magnificent traditional house with a castle feeling, but still be warm and cozy. The owners also wanted it to have a dramatic entranceway.”

The 9,800-square-foot house sits on a very restrictive parcel of land, with steep slopes, an irregular shape and strict setbacks, explained the architect. As a result, the structure is low in the front due to the slope in the rear, and a tall two-story limestone entrance was designed to create balance.

“We always felt that natural limestone was the perfect choice,” said DesRosiers. “It has terrific abilities to withstand the weather in Michigan, which can be warm one day and drop to zero the next.”

The limestone veneer was supplied and fabricated by Genesee Cut Stone & Marble of Flint, MI. The company sent the architect three separate mock-up samples to be considered for the facade. “They didn't like any one in particular,” said Jessica Kenyon of Genesee Cut Stone & Marble. “They liked parts of each, so they mixed them together and came up with a custom blend.”

Approximately 215 tons of the custom-blend limestone was supplied for the project. The materials were quarried by two companies based in Wisconsin, Buechel Stone Corp. of Fond du Lac and Halquist Stone in Sussex. The blend consisted of 30% Gray Halquist sawn height rockfaced pieces that were 7 3⁄4, 10 1⁄2 and 13 1⁄4 inches high; 10% Buff Halquist bedface pieces measuring between 6 and 16 inches high; 40% Fond du Lac Buechel Country Squire pieces between 7 and 14 inches high; and 20% Fond du Lac Buechel Country Squire pieces measuring 2 to 7 inches high.

“The blend of Fond Du Lac stone was a custom blend for this house,” said DesRosiers, adding that the mixture was appropriately named after the homeowner. “We intermixed two or three pre-made blends and came up with our own. We often try to use indigenous materials. It's a warm, cozy, taupe-looking stone.”

According to Kenyon, this project posed somewhat of a challenge for Genesee Cut Stone & Marble. “It was very involved,” she said. “Normally, we send out a sample and they say, 'Okay, that's good.' We didn't know what they were looking at. The mason mostly put it together.”

Customizing the blend

A ratio of the varying limestone pieces was used within 3- x 3-foot blocks, explained Scott Albaugh of Albaugh Masonry Stone & Tile in Waterford, MI, which completed the exterior installation work. “As a rule of thumb, no more than three stones of one style was used with the rest of them,” he said. “In other ways, we were kind of selecting by eye. As the blend went up, we would look if pieces were too square or large.”

In creating the custom blend, Albaugh collaborated regularly with DesRosiers Architects at the start of the project. “They were very decisive as to what they wanted in style and stone patterning,” said the installer. “We were then left to our own resources until the end of the job. I have to credit the builder and architect on how they both worked together. I think that's how it turned out so well.”

To secure the limestone pieces to the facade, type M mortar was used, and then the normal code for wall ties and flashing was followed, according to Albaugh. A total of nine workers were on the jobsite for this project. “In a job like that, we can't really get done at one time,” said Albaugh. “As areas were not ready for us, we sometimes even pulled off the job for a while. It took about a year to finish.” In addition to the exterior stonework, Albaugh Masonry Stone & Tile also installed seven split brick herringbone fireboxes with 50-foot block chimneys as well as the stone arches inside the hot tub area.

Further adding to the aesthetics of the exterior, pieces of Indiana limestone were implemented as trim, including for window surrounds, chimney caps and the large doorframe. “It is this magnificent castle, cathedral look,” said the architect. “Quite large pieces of honed limestone were used. We used materials that will last through the rest of time.” Additionally, large slabs of Indiana limestone - supplied by Dixie Cut Stone & Marble Inc. of Bridgeport, MI.- were employed for the front patio.

“The Indiana limestone trim pieces ranged from 12 inches thick on the chimney caps to panels that were 3- x 7-foot tall, and even the casings were 12 inches wide and 6 inches thick and weighed in excess of 1,000 pounds,” said Albaugh. “We actually had to make a stone gantry in the entrance. We had a series of chainfalls and hoists to install the pieces.” Due to the large scale of these pieces, they were mechanically hung, and the clips were welded to the sealed structure that was provided, according to the installer.

In addition to the large pieces, the steep-sloped site also made the installation more difficult. “The front entrance and heights of the chimneys and size of the pieces with the terrain made it challenging,” said the installer. “We had combining factors in complications. It was really a tough installation, but I think it made us better. We do a lot of big stone pieces now.”

Interior stone use

Continuing the heavy presence of limestone in the design, the same custom blend was used for a portion of an interior wall in the breakfast nook. DesRosiers explained that this space was designed as a glass-enclosed conservatory that was made to look as if it were an addition to the home. “We brought the outside wall in,” said the architect, who went on to say that the back of the property overlooks a lake, and the large glass windows in the breakfast nook allow the homeowners to take advantage of their beautiful surroundings.

The limestone palette continues with seven fireplaces custom-carved from the material. They can be found in the living room, study and great room among other areas in the home.

Complementing the limestone, tumbled marble floor tiles were chosen for the foyer, dining room and kitchen. In the foyer, the 16- x 16-inch tiles are accented by a perimeter border of mosaic tile insets. Additionally, a decorative mosaic medallion was used for the master bath floor design. Marble was also employed for “his and her” vanities as well as trim for the tub.

End box

Private Residence
Bloomfield Hills, MI

Architect: DesRosiers Architects, Bloomfield Hills, MI
Builder: Mosher Dolan Cataldo and Kelly, Birmingham, MI
Stone Installer: Albaugh Masonry Stone & Tile (exterior and herringbone fireboxes); Thompson Marble and Tile, Milford, MI (interior)
Stone Quarriers: Buechel Stone Corp., Fond du Lac, WI (custom blend); Halquist Stone, Sussex, WI (custom blend)
Stone Suppliers: Dixie Cut Stone & Marble Inc., Bridgeport, MI (Indiana limestone); Genesee Cut Stone & Marble, Flint, MI (custom blend and fireplaces)