Cape Cod Times, MA
Sept 25 2005
Mason's elaborate stonework becomes two-year dream project
By JOHANNA CROSBY
EAST DENNIS - Only a portion of Tigran Gichunts' "masonry paradise" is visible from the road in this seaside neighborhood.
Tigran Gichunts' stone work at Fawaz and Jo-Ellen El Khoury's home in East Dennis began with a wall to stop erosion, and blossomed into a "masonry paradise" that took two years to build.
Halfway up a long driveway, a rambling yellow, federal-style house perched on a hilltop comes into full view. The sloping front lawn is framed by two tiers of stone walls.
But Gichunts didn't stop there. His handiwork includes 10,000 square feet of stone walls that wrap around most of the secluded 3-acre property. Some of the 4 1/2-foot-high walls - which run for 1,500 feet, or more than a quarter of a mile - flaunt built-in planters and graceful columns.
Gichunts also built three patios - a large one of Turkish marble in the backyard with an outdoor gourmet kitchen for entertaining; a fieldstone patio in the backyard; and a side-yard rectangular patio, made of concrete pavers that resemble bricks, that is designed with a herringbone pattern. He combined landscape materials of different textures and colors throughout the project. In the front yard, a network of fieldstone pathways trimmed with cobblestone is connected by a circular walkway of concrete pavers. The formal entranceway is made of tumbled bluestone edged with granite.
The ambitious project took Gichunts, a masonry designer whose business is based in South Yarmouth and Brewster, two years to complete. He finished it last month.
His first day on the job, he walked the property and ideas began percolating in his mind.
Gichunts did not work from a blueprint. Instead, he relied on his mind's eye to detail the plans.
I'm usually a hands-on kind of person, says owner Fawaz El Khoury of Westborough, a real estate investor
who is also in the import/export business. But after seeing Gichunts' work on the entranceway he was hired to build, El Khoury and his wife Jo-Ellen had confidence in Gichunts' talent and vision and gave him a fairly free hand on the project. The designer would run his ideas by them and they usually agreed.
The couple declined to say how much the project cost. But Gichunts says he builds fieldstone walls for an average of $50 per square foot, including material and labor.
A family trade Gichunts, 24, was eager to showcase his stonework skills on such a grand scale.
This gourmet kitchen built by mason Tigran Gichunts boasts a double chimney oven made of river rocks and fire bricks, with an upper oven for baking and a larger one below that can accommodate a whole pig or lamb.
(Staff photos by VINCENT DeWITT)
"It's an art," he says, of doing masonry, a trade that apparently runs in his genes. Gichunts is a native of Armenia and his grandfather was a mason.
Piecing 15 truckloads of stones together artfully to build a wall is like putting together a giant jigsaw puzzle, he says. It's also very detailed, labor-intensive work. The rocks were secured with mortar, but it was recessed so it wouldn't show.
The two stone walls in the front yard are primarily decorative. But they also help to prevent erosion of the hilly terrain. At first we had a concrete wall, but it was ugly, El Khoury says.
With an artist's eye toward aesthetics, Gichunts came up with the idea for two levels of stone walls. He chose attractive tan-colored New England fieldstone, which blends in with the surrounding landscape. Besides its natural beauty, the stone was chosen because it's durable and maintenance-free, Gichunts says.
But Gichunts wasn't finished with just the two tiers of stone walls on the hill. Instead, the walls grew longer and one of his ideas led to another.
I never in my wildest dreams thought it would go around the entire yard, El Khoury says. It became an addiction. Once you do a stone wall, you want to do another.
Besides the privacy it affords, the wrap-around stone walls are in keeping with the historic integrity of the neighborhood and provides a certain harmony with the natural landscape, Mrs. El Khoury adds.
Their own castle
The sprawling yard is landscaped with numerous plantings, including 100 rose bushes along one of the stone walls. Hydrangeas, flowers and other shrubs dot the sweeping front lawn.
At night, when the landscape lights are turned on, the house looks like a castle, Gichunts says.
The El Khourys bought the 3-acre site, which is bordered by conservation land, four years ago. They helped design their spacious 12-room summer house, which has a view of Cape Cod Bay from the second floor. There is also an attached guest suite.
Mrs. El Khoury has fond memories of summering on the Cape as a child and learning how to swim at nearby Cold Storage Beach. Her parents live in the neighborhood. The setting attracts an assortment of wildlife, including birds and deer.
It's a dream to be here, Mrs. El Khoury says.
The couple, who have four children, enjoy entertaining outdoors and cooking for their guests. Gichunts built a gourmet kitchen at the edge of the large backyard patio, which is made of marble slabs in a geometric pattern and a granite border. The 37-foot-island is fully equipped with a stainless steel bar sink and faucet, stove, refrigerator, ice machine, and charcoal gas grills.
The double chimney oven - made of river rocks and fire bricks - features two separate ovens, a small one for baking breads, pizza and cake and a large one that can accommodate a whole pig, lamb or 10 chickens. The counter top consists of a mosiac of tiny tiles and sleek granite.
A circular fieldstone walkway from the backyard patio leads to a lawn area where the owners plan to build a swimming pool. Gichunts is already envisioning his next project: a patio for the pool.
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