The masonry temple
Brick-and-mortar is strong as ever, says local company PBM, which just opened a huge new showroom in Mountain View
Masonry, the practice of inlaid brick and stone bound by mortar, has been around for thousands of years and is arguably one of the oldest construction techniques in the world. Despite its ancient roots, masonry remains a viable option among the modern building methods of today. Walls constructed of stone and brick are considered highly durable and require little upkeep once they've been built — unlike a painted exterior, which requires refurbishment over time.
The material most commonly used by masons is brick, which today comes in hundreds of varieties and is defined by color and shape. Stoneware, including marble, granite and limestone, is popular too, and concrete blocks are gaining popularity as a comparable material.
The entire range is on display inside Mountain View's largest masonry showroom, the newly opened Peninsula Building Materials Company on Charleston Road. Walking around the 8,500-square-foot space, visitors encounter fountains, a pizza oven, a barbeque pit, planters, a bench, even a faux rug — all made of brick and stone.
"It will be the last thing you ever build, very low maintenance," said PBM vice president Luke Morey. "You'll never touch a single stone or brick again." Morey said the "pure warmth and beauty" of the products attracts clients building both residential and commercial real estate.
Morey's great-grandfather, Harry, founded PBM in 1923, and the company has locations in Sunnyvale, Redwood City, San Martin and now Mountain View.
The Morey family has wanted to bring PBM to Mountain View for almost eight years, he said, and the showroom's grand opening last Friday was celebrated by the extended family, many of whom participate in the business.
And while a showroom is a great place to go for initial inspiration, interested customers might also consider visiting the actual yard location where the materials are housed, PBM's showroom manager Roxanne Kohlin recommended. Because stone and brick are natural products that are quarried, Kohlin said, the distinctive character of their appearance can sometimes vary, and should be viewed in person.
Kohlin added that a good retailer will be aware of any difference between the product in the showroom and that in the yard, and can alert customers. Additionally, longstanding partnerships between retailers and quarries allow for clients to select the best product for their needs.
"Because we've worked with some of the quarries for decades, we have relationships in place. We can specify to the quarry, 'Pull more gray tone' or 'Pull more tan stone,'" she said.
And though building with brick and stone can be costly, Kohlin said there is a range of prices, and lower cost options are always available. Faux materials, for instance, are much cheaper and have improved greatly in the past five years, and Kohlin said they bear a strong resemblance to the real thing.
As for building options: While traditional masonry was used for walls, retaining walls and monuments, modern usage can encompass a range of possibilities as wide as the imagination will allow. And the PBM showroom is built to highlight those possibilities.
Almost every inch of the showroom is paved, with more than 250 materials on display from all over the world. The floor is a jigsaw puzzle of stone paths and brick borders, and several wall sculptures defy expectation.
One, called the "brick wave," shows a series of swirling concentric patterns made entirely of brick. The appearance of fluid movement from this rigid material can be startling.
The facades of four different houses, showcased in actual size, give a sense of how diverse the effect of the masonry can be based on the materials involved.
The exterior of a house called the "Tuscan Villa" looks like it was lifted right out of Italy. The stones used to create the exterior wall are a deep, warm honey color, and the window sills are made of rustic limestone.
In stark contrast, the "modern house" has simple lines and minimal ornamentation. Made of gray and white brick, this facade shows how this building material can conform to the most contemporary architectural design.
Peninsula Building Materials' new masonry showroom is located at 2490 Charleston Rd. near San Antonio Avenue. The showroom is open weekdays 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Call (877) 282-0522, or visit www.pbm1923.com.
Other locations in Mountain View that offer masonry design materials include:
* Wismann Pete Masonry Inc., 2550 Wyandotte St., No. E, (650) 969-0721
* Walton and Sons Masonry, 2485 Charleston Rd. (650) 938-1027
E-mail Alexa Tondreau at email@example.com