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Making the Most of a Hilly Lot

PROJECT NAME: The Bondy Residence

BLOCK MANUFACTURER: Rosetta of Michigan

WALL INSTALLER: John Hoffman & Sons Landscaping

PROJECT LOCATION: Petoskey, Michigan

YEAR BUILT: 2009-2010 (with several more phases planned)


Making the most of a hilly lot was a top priority for this Chicago area homeowner. In 2012, Dr. Patel began building a new home and wanted to create more usable space for a garage and for a yard for his kids to play.

“When we first bought the lot, we knew the lot had limitations on building,” explained Dr. Patel. “There was a 12-15 ft. grade change between my driveway and the back yard and to flatten the backyard, we needed retaining walls. Why have a house with a useless backyard?” Patel asked.

Choosing exactly which retaining wall system to use was the first challenge the design team had to tackle. “Initially, we looked at traditional small block retaining walls, but it just wasn’t what the owner was looking for,” explained Tim Ascolani, owner of Terrain Landscape Contractors. “Then the owner found Rosetta.”


“Rosetta really matched the stone look of the house—even the colors were a good match,” Ascolani said. “Plus, it had the structural capacity to do what it needed to do on the lot. It was kind of a perfect fit.”

Patel agreed: “My house is covered in natural stone from a quarry. The retaining walls are man-made blocks but they look like they were custom made to match my house. It’s a seamless transition,” he said. “The walls allowed us to create a beautiful backyard.”

The project’s design required 3 separate walls: two near the house, and one down below.

The taller walls were located near the house and stood 12 ft. tall at the highest point. Since these walls were supporting the house, the larger scale Outcropping Collection from Rosetta was a perfect fit. This collection features multiple unique block sizes and textures—giving walls the look and feel of a natural stone wall with the structural design of architectural-grade precast concrete. Outcropping Collection blocks range in size from 24 in. to 72 in. wide and from 6 in. to 24 in. tall. “When you need a wall 12 ft. high and you need to bear the weight of a house, your options are limited. The structural nature of the Outcropping walls made it a good fit here,” Ascolani said.

Near the house, the design actually transitioned from Outcropping blocks to smaller scale Stonebridge blocks, also from Rosetta. To create an aesthetic transition, the Terrain crew sawed blocks and mortared the blocks together. “Average people can’t tell that the blocks don’t naturally fit together. It’s pretty easy to merge the two,” Ascolani said.

The Stonebridge Collection is a dry-cast wall system from Rosetta Hardscapes that features the texture of natural stone on 24 unique stone faces. With 3 inches of chiseled relief on each block, Stonebridge bridges the gap between SRWs and natural stone in a beautiful way. A strong interlocking rear lip on each 60 lb. block makes Stonebridge easy and quick to install by hand—no equipment required.

“Once the walls started going up, I kept adding more. We needed a wall to separate the lake from the backyard and we were thinking about using the big Outcropping stone there, but the cost wasn’t justified because no one really sees that wall. The smaller Stonebridge walls saved us some money but still blend with the rest of the stone work and look great,” Patel said.

Rosetta Dimensional Steps run through both the Stonebridge and Outcropping walls—providing safe access from the house to the lake. Rosetta Dimensional Steps have a natural, split stone texture that mimics the look of quarried stone steps. The difference is that Rosetta steps have consistent dimensions— making them easier to install and easier for pedestrians to walk on.


In total, the project utilized 4,000 face feet of Rosetta products and was installed over the course of 6 weeks.

“According to the homeowners’ association president, I’ve got the best landscaping in the neighborhood,” Dr. Patel said. “The neighborhood is pretty high end but it’s got all typical Belgard or Unilock retaining walls. The walls I have are atypical; my house stands out and I love that! No one knows it’s concrete and I’m not telling.”

Ascolani added: “Our company has actually been invited to bid on the landscaping for the owners’ brother’s new house. All in all, it was a great product for a great project and we’re looking forward to working with Rosetta more.”

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Products Used in this Project

Outcropping Collection

Stonebridge Walls

Dimensional Steps