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WORKIN’ ON A CHAIN GANG…

We were delighted when earlier this spring the contractor who did the remodel of Soundcliff more than a decade ago finally had some time to work on a much smaller series of projects we had long been dreaming.

Falling in love with the views from our part of the Island he bought a house just up the road & became a neighbor… Peter has also become our friend. We trust & appreciate his attention to the details inside his sense of basic, simple & sturdy design… all done with singular quality. Much of the  Soundcliff’s character has his fingerprints…

As his reputation grew the projects he took on grew ever more complex as well.  Multi-million dollar rehabs, however, are rather more rare these days, so we were able to attract his attention once again to our several comparably small projects.

The initial work involved remaking the rather steep rock path leading down the south side of the house to the studio with steps to harmonize with those built from the parking during the remodel. As one can see in these two views before we began the change, our entire property is quite a slope down into the view over the edge of our cliff.

That rustic lower path was a great solution in the beginnings of making a garden from what had been a severely raw site reworked after the new foundation was poured & the septic system/drain field installed. Megan, who designed the bones of the garden, gifted us some necessary early traction… gardening here includes a good deal of hiking!

When I moved to Soundcliff we made the garden level into my working space & soon I became involved with the Island’s Open Studio tours. I had, for a number of years, wanted to make that path more comfortable & inviting for those guests. Here is the current result:

 

This terrace  broadens into a functional destination giving access to the hose bib & the half wine barrel we use to coil the hose. We got more of the square Indonesian paving stones I first found 5 years ago for another walkway on the north of the house to make this detail. The posts act as guides for the hose while moving around to water the gardens. I’ve been dreaming all this for several years…

Since we’d decided to do the work of re-laying the old stones into the new frames ourselves… not quite realizing what that meant, there was a summer’s worth of rock moving… hence my notion that I’ve been working on a chain gang!

Indeed, it became a huge jigsaw puzzle!

I particularly like this image from the beginning, when the stones were first lifted, leaving the sod which had grown between them… like a negative “print”.

Peter had worked very carefully to plan so the steps would be graceful to both eyes & feet, then sprayed a working drawing directly onto the ground from from his various horizontal measurements & vertical leveling stakes, since ultimately such work must be accomplished

I believe he accomplished that grace…

But… the project continued to include more… just as the path continues… down & around, leading to my studio door, which itself acquired another terrace paved with those Indonesian stones & presenting a cedar plank bench… a working surface for garden projects or to become a buffet or bar for entertaining…

This was built atop a new drainage system to relieve what had become a problematic puddle during winter’s wet.

[Peter is on the left, directing that work…]

This view shows the terrace from the deck above when it had just been filled with a pristine layer of  sand into which the stones were laid:

Then with the bench & stone installed:

Inside the studio a new step levels the entrance, replacing a ramp which had served when we stored the lawn mower in the space now occupied by the metal polishing area:

Another terrace laid out some years ago finally got paved with the same dressed volcanic Indonesian paving stones. I’d first used them to make the steps & path traversing the north side of the house, on the way up from the house deck to The Forge, Stephen’s writing cottage, or down to my studio, which in turn, we call, The Hold. I again called the Islander who had back then advertised them in the local newspaper & we bought 120 more. They are gently geometrical , yet have wonderfully subtle variety of color & surface… they are easy & fun to lay in comparison to finding a fit of the irregular shapes. I love both their looks in combination for contrast!

A new step was made from the end of the plank used for the bench of the studio terrace… bringing additional harmony to our wide mix of materials…

A mystery emerged deepened when several more stones revealed a curious marking carved into the surface. I had evolved a notion that perhaps it indicated a sign for some “hotel”, even as the spacing seemed odd for that, but each of the three additional examples we found were quite similar, with the same three glyphs. Another opinion suggests them to be some sort of mason’s mark, like a signature or brand. I settled one into each terrace…
While I tried to resist tackling the final bit of path, even as it is the route which I personally use in daily frequency on my way from house to studio & back. But, I was in a groove, so that resolve lost to one last project, building several steps from recycled lumber & relaid the stones which largely had become buried. 
I also reconfigured a crudely rough pile of stones at the corner of the building into a new garden for miniatures…

 That  brings my recent attentions fully ’round the perambulation of the house we use to negotiate our slope… I am content.

One last overview from the deck brings us back to the bottom of the steps… all rock laid during my stint on this chain gang. I’m back in the studio now, reorganizing the aftermath of all these projects!
 
You’re invited to come take a walk!