- Hide menu
Residential architecture projects come in all sizes, complexities, and degrees of designer autonomy. Austin Design has been commissioned to design an addition to a singular family retreat right here in Colrain, Massachusetts. Built by the Bennett family over 30 years ago, the home’s ambience tells a story that reflects the owner’s lifestyles and interests through their choices of material and technique. It follows that a worthy addition would reflect and complement those ideals. In this latest chapter, the clients have entrusted ADi with the task and have, in fact, ceded a majority of the design decisions to us. As many architectural firms might attest, this is a rare and delightful occurrence.
Bryan Louisell and Joan Rockwell discuss options with Andrea Kelleher of Ashfield Stone LLC
Clockwise, from upper left: a cross-sawn block of Ashfield Stone, showing the variegated bands; a satin Quicksilver face; a highly-figured Crowsfoot type face; a nearly-holographic Galaxy face.
The program at hand is to create a new kitchen, a nearby sitting area and sunroom, and add an adjacent patio. Architectural designer Bryan Louisell has been appointed project manager for the assignment; he has drafted conceptual layouts and elevations for the indoor spaces and developed a projected palette of materials. Working with landscape architect Joan Rockwell of Joan Rockwell Associates to integrate the patio, they have begun to specify the conformations of the various features. A primary element will be stone surfaces: the interior floors, the kitchen work surfaces, and the patio itself.
On the left: The Ashfield Stone LLC fabrication shop in Shelburne Falls, MA; Right: Brandon Osman explains the finer points of stone fabrication, standing in front of a 6-foot-diameter gantry saw.
Here in western Massachusetts, we are fortunate to have several unusual and versatile forms of native stone quarried nearby, in the north Berkshires. The primary variety is a type of mica garnet schist from the metamorphic Goshen formation; this silvery gray, layered stone is extracted from its beds by Ashfield Stone LLC, a family business owned by Jerry and Johanna Pratt. The alternately light and dark bands (with occasional bronzing) of the schist denote its sedimentary origins of sand and mud layers deposited upon ancient sea floors. These strata have been metamorphically pressed into parallel sheets that are easily split into relatively uniform flagstones. The light bands have been dubbed Quicksilver and the dark bands are called Galaxy. The quarried masses can also be sawn into dimensional slabs and blocks. Another type of quarried stone is a variegated schist of volcanic origin with a whorled face of green and gray shades, flecked with bundled black hornblende crystals that resemble a bird’s tracks, hence the name Crowsfoot. Often there are other inclusions such as meandering white quartz ribbons and dark, wine-red garnets. A variation of Crowsfoot schist called Pond Ice lacks the large hornblende crystals; the field is an organic green with ribbons of translucent cream coursing through it.
Ashfield Stone schist types specified at this point in the design process are: (clockwise from upper left) split flagging for the patio (image from Ashfield Stone LLC; stonework by Blair Clark), half-inch-thick floor “planking” in a blend of Galaxy and Quicksilver, and Pond Ice for the kitchen work surfaces.
Each of these types of schist may be used for a variety of applications but some are better suited than others for a given task. Ashfield Stone produces natural-edged flagstones, snapped wall and capstones, dimensionally sawn slabs and blocks, and thinly gauged “floor planks.” Being in the same geological family, these versatile and varied surfaces work well together: this “composition” plays out through the architectural designer’s specifications. For the Bennett residence, Bryan and Joan are spec’ing 2-to-3-inch-thick split flagging for the patio, a 6-inch-wide blended-shade plank floor in satin finish for the kitchen and sitting room, and 1 1/4-inch-thick kitchen countertop slabs in either Pond Ice or Crowsfoot, also in a satin finish. Ashfield Stone has a well-equipped 9000 sf state-of-the-art fabrication shop, in Shelburne Falls, MA, where they can cut and finish anything that needs additional processing past the quarrying stage. Their staff is knowledgeable and cheerful, their prices very competitive, and in a shrinking domestic stone production industry, they actually have the only fabricated schist on the market. We’re lucky to have them here!
Note: This is the second in a series of posts about the Bennett residence addition. The first, a photo essay on the Ashfield Stone LLC operation, is here.