October 4, 2016

Natural Stone as Art for the Home

If you take a moment to peruse our portfolio, you will notice that natural stone is a standard feature in nearly every space we design. We admire the history that exists behind the process of sourcing and producing stone slabs, and we love knowing that each piece is singular in color and grain ensuring that every installation comes with its own authentic sense of style.

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There are so many wonderful places to source stone, but we are particularly fond of our friends at Aria Stone Gallery where curating a collection of hand-selected, exotic natural stones from quarries across the world is the name of their seriously gorgeous game. When we decided you might want to learn a thing or two about natural stone as a design element, we knew it was time to reach out to the experts, and, from stone types and slab care to unique installation ideas, their team was kind enough to give us the low-down.

  1. Types of Stone
    Let’s start with the basics. There are three primary types of rocks: sedimentary rock, metamorphic rock, and igneous rock, and they’re all formed through different processes. Stay with us, we promise this won’t get too technical ;)Sedimentary stone is formed from the accumulation of sediments over time, metamorphic stone is created by heat, pressure, and chemical processes that occur deep below the Earth’s surface, and Igneous stone is formed by the solidification of molten rock material. Does it feel like you’re sitting through Science class yet? Whether you love knowing details like these or not, they’re important to understanding why certain stones are more sturdy while others are more delicate, and that knowledge will help you make appropriate selections for your home.Examples of each stone type:Sedimentary – Limestone and Travertine
    Metamorphic  – Marble, Slate, Quartzite, Serpentine, and Soapstone
    Igneous – Granite and Basaltaria-showroom2
  2. Stone Details
    So, now we know how each stone is created and we know which stones fall under each category, but how do we apply the information? Aria highlighted the benefits and drawbacks of the stones our team generally likes to use, and we thought you may appreciate reading up!Metamorphic Options:Marble – Marble began its life as limestone, which was then crystallized by immense heat and pressure, and it obtains its different colors from the minerals and chemical elements found within the stone. The wonder of marble (especially the neutral-hued options) is its unique and beautiful veining along with its ability to complement a wide variety of design styles. Marble drawbacks include the fact that it is easily stained, etched, and scratched. It consists of calcite, dolomite, and crystals, and although those elements create immense beauty, they are also more susceptible to damage. If you’re considering marble for kitchen countertops where you may spill lemon juice or wine, we highly recommend that you have your counters sealed.Fun Note: The polished, glossy finish on marble is not a liquid gloss or wax; it’s achieved in a factory by rubbing the stone thousands of times with special grinding machines, buffing pads, and abrasive powders. The stone becomes shiny because the crystals in the stone reflect more light the more times they are buffed. Regardless, it’s still very important to saturate the stone with a sealant in order to form a barrier over the stone’s natural pores and capillaries.Quartzite – Quartzite starts out as sandstone and is converted through the application of heat and pressure that accompanies tectonic compression. Pure Quartzite is generally white to gray, though it can occur in various shades of pink and red depending on the varying levels of iron oxide present when it is formed.  Its fluid veining structures and clean color palette are coupled with its durability, creating a very popular stone for homeowners who are craving the look of marble but the durability of granite. We love that its durability allows for a wider variety of application options, such as wall coverings, flooring, roofing tiles, and stair steps as well as the more traditional applications including countertops.

    Soapstone – Soapstone consists mainly of talc, but also has magnesite, dolomite, and chlorite. All those interesting words mean is that it’s well known for being easy to sculpt and cut and that it’s resistant to heat and acid. The only drawback to soapstone is that it’s technically a “living” stone in the sense that it scratches easily, and will show the wear and tear it may be subjected to over the years. With that being said, it can be easy to remove light surface scratches with light sanding and some mineral oil, but applying mineral oil will darken the stone over time.

    Igneous Options:

    Granite – Granite is formed by liquid magma deep under the Earth’s surface which has cooled slowly over a long period of time. It is an incredibly hard stone which can take a polish and boasts a low porosity, which means less chance of staining. It’s one of the most durable stones on the market and has been compared to diamonds, rubies, or sapphires in regards to strength and durability. Mainly composed of quartz, feldspar, and mica, it is known for displaying a varying degree of color and pattern from slab to slab. It is heat, scratch, and stain resistant making it ideal for kitchens (interior and exterior), building facades, walkways, and floors. Granite has even been applauded for its ability to resist the absorption of bacteria!

    Sedimentary Options:

    Onyx – Onyx is formed by the dripping of water that forms stalactites and stalagmites following a crystallization process. It is easily damaged by acidic or abrasive foods and cleaners and is more sensitive to staining, etching, and scratching than many other stones. A benefit to this stone is that it is easily back-lit which makes it perfect for lighting and art installations, bar backsplash, wall coverings, and more!

    Limestone – Limestone is composed of grains or fragments of fossils, and contain at least fifty percent calcite or calcium carbonate along with aragonite. It is heat resistant, making it a great option for fireplace surrounds, but it can easily scratch and stain. Most limestone is used outdoors on building facades and signs, but some homeowners opt to use it indoors for flooring, fireplaces, and vanities.

    Travertine – Travertine is similar to limestone in mineral composition but is characterized by natural cavities that form when pressure or temperature changes take place within the water springs and there is a release of carbon dioxide gas. These holes are usually filled with concrete paste or grout and then dyed to match the stone. Travertine is often used for flooring and backsplash, but can also work well in a bathroom and for tub surrounds. It is heat resistant but does scratch and stain easily.

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3. Stone Sealants and General Care

A sealant is a light coating that is placed on a stone following installation that helps protect the stone from scratching and staining. Although they can change the color of the stone slightly, they are an important step in ensuring that a vulnerable stone preserves its beauty for years to come. On that note, if you notice scratches or areas of dullness on your current stone surface, reapplying a sealant may prove helpful!

As far as care is concerned, it’s important to remember that, although a stone can stand up to a great deal of abuse, using coasters, wiping up spills quickly, and using trivets will keep your stone looking as beautiful as the day it was installed. Preventive maintenance will keep the stone looking brand new, while using cleaners that are made for natural stone will preserve the beauty of your investment. Some cleaners like 409 and Mr. Clean boast high acidity levels which can harm the stone’s sealant, making it less effective at protecting your gorgeous new countertops. Look for natural cleaners like those found in the Method line or you can opt for plain ‘ole soap and water.

If you’ve stained a softer stone like marble, travertine, or limestone, make sure to call your designer or the stone gallery where you purchased the stone and they should be able to help you troubleshoot your cleaning options. In cases like this, Aria Stone Gallery suggests creating a poultice, flushing the stain heavily with water, and then blotting the stain away instead of wiping.

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Ultimately, when choosing a natural stone for your home, you’re electing to showcase a singular piece of history. From Michelangelo’s David to the Colosseum in Rome, stone has stood the test of time and we love the fact that it’s not only incredibly beautiful and highly durable; each piece is also unique, creating spaces that you can truly call your own.

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We loved working with our client to create this kitchen and living area where stone takes center stage, offering up both beauty and functionality, and we are loving some of the new and exciting applications Aria has been showing off lately as well. When we asked their team “what’s new?,” they told us that many clients are choosing to use stone for full wall applications (similar to the fireplace above), and to create headboards, custom desks, and other furniture pieces as well. Here are some Aria installations where stone becomes a living piece of art:

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As you can see, the Aria team has a phenomenal eye and, while touring their space, we found three very special stones that deserve a shout out:

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The natural beauty and subtle movement of this piece draw the eye in.
Timeless and classic in its appeal, the soft, swirling hues of cream and taupe
offer a wide variety of design opportunities that will make a lasting statement in any space.

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Onyx Ivory features a translucent cream background
with accents of taupe veining, resulting in a fluid, sophisticated piece.

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One of the most luxurious stones in the world, this Calacatta beautifully marries white to grey.
With elegant veining and a neutral color palette, it can easily serve up beauty in any space.

We hope you’ve enjoyed the low-down, but before we go, we feel like we would be doing you a huge disservice if we didn’t let you in on a new and remarkable program currently being offered by the Aria team. Have you ever wanted to watch the stone sourcing and selection process first-hand? Well, Aria now offers excursions where clients are whisked away to the regions where their stones are sourced, giving them the chance to personally select their very own piece. You can be immersed in the rich history, culture, and cuisine of the region and receive a behind-the-scenes look at every stage of stone sourcing, from mining and processing, to the selection of that oh-so-perfect piece. How fab is that?!

Check it out:

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We hope you’ve loved this little journey and that you’ve learned something along the way. Huge thanks to our friends at Aria Stone Gallery for helping us pull everything together! If you’ve never visited their website, click the link above and prepare to be inspired!

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