Stone World

River rock creates a rustic, elegant lodge

May 5, 2003


Of the restaurants included in Clyde's Restaurant Group of Washington, DC, owner John Laytham makes sure that no two are alike; each providing their own unique sense of style. For the most recently built restaurant, Tower Oaks Lodge in Rockville, MD, Laytham wanted the overall appearance to be one of rustic elegance -- portrayed primarily through natural stone.

Clover Creek river rock and flagstone were chosen to emulate stones used from the Adirondack mountains at the turn of the century -- complemented by logs -- for the 400-seat restaurant, which is divided among four rooms. Chatelain Architects, p.c. of Washington, DC, were commissioned to make the owner's design idea come to fruition.

"Our goal was to create a romantic dining experience within the atmosphere of a traditional New England lodge," said Leon Chatelain, president of Chatelain Architects, p.c. "The stones we chose most closely evoked the type of stone one would find in a traditional lodge. Other stones we looked at did not have the right coloration, shape, size or strength characteristics we were looking for.

"Finding the stone itself was not easy," he continued. "Most of the stone available today is cut stone or rough stone, and we were looking for more natural shapes. It was a matter of finding the source for them."

The source the architects found to supply the stones for the 21,000-square-foot building was Milestone by Design of Arlington, VA. The company supplied 4,000 square feet of Clover Creek river rock from Delaware for the exterior, and 3,500 square feet of Pennsylvania flagstone for the entry floors and floors in some of the rooms. Additionally, about 500 square feet of boulder stone and other river rock was used for three fireplaces inside the restaurant. "Luckily, we had a lot of space on the job site to bring out most of the stone we needed for the project," said Chris Shaiyen, vice president of Milestone by Design. "We were able to sort the stone on site not far from the areas that we were installing it. It was an ongoing process to make sure that the materials that were being delivered were to the owner's specifications."

Once the stones were on-site, the size of them presented somewhat of a challenge for the workers at Milestone by Design, who also installed the stone. "The stone veneer was normal building stone about 4 to 6 inches thick," said Joe Colao, owner of Milestone by Design, who worked with Shaiyen on the project. "The boulders used to make up the fireplace were much bigger -- some being as large as 3 x 1 1/2 x 1 feet. The larger of these stones were in excess of 500 pounds, so setting them indoors by hand was a bit of a challenge, considering all the construction that was being done around us."

All the stone was installed using regular mortar installation with Portland Type II and masonry sand. A waterproofing membrane was also used on the exterior stone on the project.

About six masons worked on the job for five months, making sure to meet all the requirements of the owner. "The most difficult part of the project was satisfying the owner's requirements," said Shaiyen. "The owner was very specific about what he wanted. We took him to see stone at many distributors and had stone brought in for approval from all over the east coast [for the exterior]. We finally were able to settle on the stone chosen, with the knowledge that only certain size pieces were acceptable for use on the project.

"The same was true of the flagstone," he continued. "He wanted Pennsylvania flagstone that we could set in very large pieces. He also wanted a lot of very earthy tones and color movement within the individual stones. Here again we spent much time with the owner choosing various palettes of stone. The owner ended up physically picking many of the individual palettes of stone that were installed on the job."

Another difficulty the masons faced was installing the interior fireplaces. "The interior fireplaces were a challenge also due to the overall size pieces that they wanted us to install," said Shaiyen. "The first challenge was finding stone that matched what we were installing on the veneer, while being massive enough to accommodate their vision for these fireplaces. The second challenge was the installation of some of these large boulder stones."

Though some aspects of the installation proved to be difficult, the hard work of the installers and the owner's particularity with the stone has led to a successful restaurant. "The design of the restaurant has been received with overwhelming enthusiasm," said Chatelain.

Photos by Ron Blunt

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Tower Oaks Lodge
Rockville, MD
Owner: Clyde's Restaurant Group, Washington, DC
Architect: Chatelain Architects, p.c., Washington, DC
Stone supplier/installer: Milestone by Design, Arlington, VA