What, When, Where: Romancing the Stone

November 14, 2011

By Kara Lashley


It may not be chilly enough yet for a roaring fire, but my annual bout with fireplace envy has already begun. After all, what are the joys of hearth and home without a hearth?

If, like me, you find yourself fireplace-less on the eve of another New England winter, you may or may not want to pick up a copy of Stone by Design: The Artistry of Lew French (Gibbs Smith, 2005). Though it’s been out for a while, this beautiful coffee table book never fails to set my heart ablaze with longing for a massive stone fireplace.

Photographed by Alison Shaw, Stone by Design showcases the work of master stonemason Lew French, who has lived on Martha’s Vineyard for the past two decades. As a young man, French was “awakened by the power of stone†while building an exterior chimney of black limestone in his native Minnesota. Thirty years later, his unique stonework can be found all over the Vineyard and beyond.

French prefers to leave his material in its natural state, “letting the shape of the stone speak for itself,†he writes. To find the perfect stones for this fireplace, he sifted through more than one hundred tons of fieldstone, examining each one’s size, shape and weathering.

All photos by Alison Shaw, courtesy of Lew French

Also made of fieldstone, this rustic fireplace features a series of small mantels.

It took French five months to build this impressive fireplace wall, which incorporates many types of stone as well as driftwood.

Colorful stones and a driftwood mantel lend warmth to a fireplace French designed for a seaside cottage

French worked with architect Bruce MacNelly to design this massive living room fireplace, built from three types of freshly quarried granite.

To see a bit more of Lew French’s work, check out this story about him that ran in New England Home a few years back.

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