Stone World

Wisconsin stone complements the natural environment

September 1, 2005


When it comes to his designs, architect Jeff Whyte of Schaumburg, IL, strives to maintain a balance between contemporary and homey. The architect combines materials such as stone, wood and glass to create unique and visually interesting designs, with warm and inviting atmospheres. This was the case for a residential project located about 30 miles outside of Chicago in Algonquin, IL, where Whyte utilized Wisconsin stone for the home's exterior, which blended the structure with its surrounding environment as well as providing texture and character.

“I have a thing about buildings,” he said. “I like to see them come to life. A lot of my work tries to center around cozy, up-to-date design.” For the Algonquin residence, the architect designed an open, sleek and modern dwelling that also serves as a comfortable living space for the homeowners.

The sloping site, with its wooded surroundings, sits within the Fox River Valley and provides a serene backdrop for the residence. Further adding to the natural feel, one of the tributaries of the Fox River runs across the backyard property. The stone exterior anchors the home as well as complementing the rustic setting.

“The design goal was to have a house that fit into the landscape that was warm, yet contemporary and modern,” said Whyte. The architect went on to explain that the neighborhood had a regulation, which required that the home's exterior contain a certain amount of masonry, although this did not impact the final design. “I designed it from an architectural view,” he said. “I didn't design around the code.” Once the design was completed, Whyte made sure that the masonry requirements had been fulfilled.

The selection process

Rough-cut pieces of natural stone form cladding and chimneys on the exterior of the house. The same stone, which was quarried in Wisconsin, was also used for the face of the floor-to-ceiling fireplace in the living room.

“I went to three or four quarries to hand choose the stone pieces,” said the architect. “When I design, I frequently have a lot of things up in the air at one time. I was looking for an earthy character, a certain coloration and a stone I could stack on to the house and make it feel that it was part of the landscape.”

The pieces were random sizes, according to Whyte. “I didn't have to specify,” he said. “That's how it was supplied. They run from about 5 to 14 inches [in length].”

In total, the stone installation took about three weeks to complete. The stone pieces were secured with standard masonry ties, according to the architect. Additionally, 5⁄8-inch standard vented mason sheeting was also used.

According to Whyte, his clients were very pleased with the end result. “I was fortunate that the clients gave me design freedom on this project,” he said. “The way that I initially designed the house was the way that it was built. They love it. They get dozens of people who stop and ask about it. It has some character.”