Story about stone

This house I designed in the wine country started with a story about stone.


Hungarian, Agoston Haraszthy founded Buena Vista Winery in 1857. Haraszthy’s cellars at Buena Vista were one of the first stone wineries in the state and it was was this stone building along with it’s unique history that inspired my clients.

Finding the right stone

Informed that the Buena Vista Winery was built with a stone called Tufa we began a search for a comparable material. Our building walls were built with Insulated concrete forms (ICFs) We were looking for a quarry that could provide a 3” thick stone cladding with sizes up to 30” x 22”. Typical stone cladding has a maximum height of 14”. Tufa was not available, yet we were determined to match the range of colors and textures found in Tufa. Jeff Knepper from SBI Building materials reached out to all his suppliers and after a 3 month search, in which we rejected many samples, found a quarry that could meet our specifications.

Building a test wall

Once the material arrived, the masonry contractor, Jeff Gentry (MCI), erected an 8 ft high L shape concrete block wall to experiment with stone patterns, grout width and corner details. It took 5 attempts to establish the look we were trying to achieve. Next, we had to determine the grout material, ingredients and color, getting the sand mix and organic matter perfectly balanced, and after many experimental formulations, we were ready to go.

Getting the installation right

When masonry work started on the building, we noticed that different crew members interpreted our experimental wall in different ways, and some started making predictable patterns. The masonry contractor was in step with perfecting the vision and willing to remove stone that was not acceptable. The process was collaborative between the myself, the clients, the contractor, Alex Hunt, and the masonry contractor, and the results reflect the undertaking to get it right.