Decorative and durable, natural stone adds dimension to both interior and exterior remodeling projects. Stone has become a very popular choice for countertops, floors, cladding and pavers, among other options, giving homeowners a feeling of luxury and permanence.
Exactmosaics uses the natural color and veining of marble to create a customized photographic image from hundreds of pieces of stone mosaic. Photo courtesy Exactmosaics.
From the Egyptian pyramids to European cathedrals, there’s a reason why stone has been used in architecture for thousands of years. This durable and beautiful material is a practical surface for a variety of applications, including floors and counters to exterior cladding and pavers. Today’s stone products give homeowners a feeling of luxury and permanence.
Variety of Options “We’ve seen double-digit growth in stone over the past decade,” says Vincent Marazita, a stone expert and owner of the consulting firm Marazita & Associates in Canoga Park, Calif. “People are looking for stone’s strength and uniqueness, and there are new stones on the market today because of new technology available to quarry it.”
There are many types of stone to choose from, depending on the application and the style you hope to achieve. Daily wear and tear won’t hurt granite. This heavyweight of stones takes a beating in the kitchen and is available in an infinite number of patterns and colors. Marble adds sophistication to the home; it’s known for its elegant appearance but also scratches and stains more easily. Travertine, limestone, sandstone and slate are often used for flooring and exterior and interior wall cladding.
Untraditional stones are also making headway. Onyx is a translucent stone with dramatic veining that allows you to see light and shadows through it. Designers today use it in applications that allow backlighting, such as on bathroom vanities and bar tops. Basalt, a gray to black volcanic rock, can be cut into various textures for attractive wall coverings.
Tilevera artisans handpaint natural stone tiles for use on backsplashes, walls and tub surrounds. Photo courtesy Tilevera.
Many homeowners will choose stones with neutral hues—such as white, cream, gray, brown and black—because these colors work well with a variety of interior decor styles. Bolder stone hues can help make a style statement on surfaces, however, according to Mark Woodman, division color and design manager for Sherwin-Williams. He notes that more stone suppliers today offer extraordinary marbles or granites in brilliant blue, violet, red, pink and gold. “In tract homes, granite is the standard; it’s no longer considered the upgrade option,” he says. For this reason, he encourages homeowners to be daring with their stone selections if they want to make a statement: “I built and entire first floor of a client’s home using a blue granite stone as the starting point.”
Stone as Art Boldly colored stone might be one way to add pizzazz to interiors, but some homeowners are also using stone as art. “Stone mosaics are very hot right now,” says Laurie Lyza, marketing manager for Crossville Tile, a producer of porcelain and stone products. Today’s stone mosaics can go traditional by depicting flowers and grape motifs, or they can swing toward the contemporary with geometric designs and intense color.
San Francisco-based mosaic studio Exactmosaics has taken the art of mosaics to another level by using small pieces of stone to replicate photographs and paintings. Through the use of artificial intelligence software, the company photographs and catalogs the natural color and veining of marble and other stones and draws on these reserves to create an image. The small 1x1-inch stone pieces are evaluated by the computer and then hand-placed to compose the larger image. “When you think about a little piece of marble, there’s a lot of unique pattern to each stone; there are veins and speckles,” says Nick Berg, company co-founder. At $250 per square foot and a minimum of 5 square feet per order, the projects aren’t cheap. “The effect is more impressive on a large scale—it’s really high-definition mosaics,” Berg adds.
Painting stone can add yet another dimension to stone surfaces. San Francisco-based company Tilevera has an artisan guild of more than 500 master painters, trained in Spain, who handpaint highly detailed motifs on stone tiles. They are mini works of art for backsplashes, tub surrounds and floors.
Caring for Natural Stone
If you’re installing stone as a floor or countertop surface, many contractors will recommend that you seal the stone to maintain its original color and protect it from dirt, grease and stains. Ask your local stone dealer for advice on caring for your specific stone. The Marble Institute of America recommends that homeowners dust mop interior stone floors frequently so that sand and dirt don’t damage the surface. Area rugs can help protect the surface in high traffic areas. Use a neutral stone cleaner, available at your local hardware store or your stone dealer, and a soft mop or rag to wash the surfaces.
Exterior Applications Of course, one of the best places to use natural stone is where it came from—the great outdoors. Tumbled stone pavers and slate are beautiful surfaces choices for entrances, patios, pool decks, walkways or driveways. “Homeowners are redefining their living spaces to include outdoor rooms,” says Matthew Kahny, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Daltile, a stone and tile producer. “Exterior stone products bring livability and functionality to these great outdoor spaces.”
As an outdoor element, stone pavers will weather the seasons and become a permanent fixture in your landscape. Pavers are typically installed over a sand or crushed limestone footing and are laid out in a variety of patterns for an artistic effect. Many companies, including Daltile, offer stone products that will work both inside and out. For example, using the same stone flooring in an interior room and extending outside to the patio will visually open up the space. It will also create a closer connection to the outdoors.
No matter where you decide to use stone, it is a look that will offer reliable performance and will stay in style.