Natural Stone & Countertop Trends
Natural stone continues to be a highly favored choice for countertops, as well as other home surfaces. Amanda Sweeney of Just Design This notes that natural stone countertops and flooring remain popular due to the material’s aesthetically pleasing, durability, and easy maintenance, in relation to other options.
As Joi Albright of PDI notes, “Natural stone is a classic trend and there are a variety of ways it is being used in homes today—some traditional and some novel.”
The variety of natural stone options, according to Aaron Cook of Prestige Marble & Granite, include marble, granite, soapstone, limestone, quartzite, serpentine, and sandstone, among others, and this variety leads to nearly endless options for the home.
Marble is quite popular in no small part due to the desire for, as Cook says, “unique stones that have a one-of-a-kind look that allow homeowners to express their personal sense of style.”
Marble has seen a renaissance of interest in the past few years, and porcelain tiles have been created to mimic the look, allowing a combination of materials to produce beautiful results.
Particularly popular marbles include Calacatta and Carrara. Calacatta has been big of late with the classic gray veined white look booming in popularity, according to Beth Sturm of Carbine Realty Group. She notes that a recent Carbine custom home uses a calacatta gold honed marble to great effect when combined with blue limestone on perimeter counters for excellent effect.
The names of these marbles are frequently used interchangeably because both are Italian marbles, are very similar in appearance (white with gray veining), and quite a bit of marble comes from Carrara, Italy. In general, Carrara tends to be grayer with softer veining, while Calacatta is whiter with bolder more dramatic veining. There are additional subtle differences.
Albright notes that Carrara marble is frequently paired with complimenting metals finishes for faucets. Recommended metals include the ever-popular chrome, as well as a polished nickel and the more recently popular oil rubbed bronze, this last particularly popular in bathrooms.
The only loss of popularity Carrara has seen recently seems to be related to the recent trend of pairing black/dark countertops with light cabinets for a contrast, Cook notes. Indeed, the popularity of Carrara and lighter marbles has led to pairing “white stones” with black or dark colored cabinets, of which Cook says he’s beginning to see more and more. Indeed, he adds, “contrast seems to be the name of the game.”
One top priority in kitchens recently has been larger kitchen islands. The popularity of larger islands and the homeowners’ desire to avoid seams means it is very important to know measurements before beginning the search for an appropriate island top. According to Renee Shipley of Architectural Graphite & Marble, one can “narrow down” the possibilities for such a surface based on available slab sizes.’
This is not to say one must sacrifice looks or quality for a few dollars. However, as Cook notes, while “budget, of course, is a consideration for most homeowners,” there are types of natural stone “in a huge range of price points.” He adds that less expensive stone is not necessarily of inferior quality. He notes that prices stem more than anything from supply issues, with the rarity of some types of stone causing higher price points. “Knowing your budget going into the process is important,” Cook says, and going to visit a dealer or slab yard and checking price points during the budgeting process is key.
Experts say that when examining and considering stone it is important to check multiple samples. This allows one to check how wide the variation is in the stock of that variety of marble, which can sometimes vary greatly. Checking samples helps the homeowner discover how wide a variety you might actually find in otherwise “matching” stone.”
Indeed, Albright notes that not only is it important to view the slab of natural stone due to the fact that each slab is unique, but takes this method of careful measuring and examination further. She suggests that homeowners will find it helpful to bring a sample of any other components for the project—”such as backsplash components and cabinet sections for consideration when looking for coordinating materials.” She also suggests flooring and paint samples should be considered when selecting the stone color for your project.
Shipley reports there has been an uptick in popularity for both soapstone and Quartzite. In addition to marble, they are “among the trending stones in the Nashville market.” For a “more durable stone with an elegant look” purchasers may wish to go with the quartzite.
Jerome Farris of Peddler Interiors notes that Quartzite has been particularly popular with his customers of late due to its durability. Farris says he recently had emerald Quartzite installed on a kitchen island for a whole house renovation he did and reports it combines beautifully with delicate white cabinetry and Victorian Gray paint. It serves as a statement piece, Farris says, retaining its functionality.”
Special Present LLC’s Sonia Soszna notes that Onyx home decor has grown in popularity, with its rich colors and interesting patterns at home in any room. Special Present’s hand-carved onyx home decor items are favored by homeowners who like to integrate organic elements found in nature within their indoor living space.
Cook of Prestige Marble & Granite confirms that “organic materials are always interior design winners and natural stone remains one of the most popular, and enduring organic elements used in home design.” The material “lends a beautiful organic vibe to any interior style and is inherently earth-friendly due to its’ recyclability, durability, and enduring life cycle.”
“Creating a pattern using stone is a popular trend we’re seeing,” notes Caroline Martin of Kenny and Company, citing combinations of black and white, such as a checkerboard pattern or more intricate designs using geometric shapes.
Mixed materials, whether stone on stone or stone combined with ceramics and other materials have become quite popular, with a patterned or mosaic design gaining popularity.
Albright says that combining “marble to a black and white kitchen or bathroom can create a retro appeal that is popular and enduring.
Utilizing different countertop materials in one room has gained favor lately and Shipley says that “one of the hottest trends in countertops is a marble island with soapstone on the exterior kitchen tops for an overall stunning effect.
Contrast can be important as part of a decorating scheme. While paler colors are often most popular today, as noted by Soszna who reports her clients prefer light colors like white or amber for the overall look of a room. At the same time, she says contrasts are important, with brown and green items used to add a touch of color to any room to serve as an accent.
When it comes to color and patterns, Beth Sturm of Carbine Realty Group notes that “quartz is becoming more popular thanks to the increase of patterns and color grades available, allowing for an increase in the available mosaic and contrast options. Even the classic black and white can be done purely in quartz, or quartz can be used as merely one of the shades to help add visual richness to a room.
Where once the beauty of nearly unassailable glossy finishes was undeniable, other finishes are gaining ground, according to Sweeney. “Now the trend is a matte finish instead, providing a softer look.”
Granite’s comparative affordability continues to bring large back splashes and slabs into many homes. Shipley comments that “honed and leathered granite” have seen a particular increase in demand compared to previous years. Leathering giving the exotic patterns and veining of granite a softer texture,” she says.
In addition to a more lasting and durable appearance, natural stone’s benefits in a home include a timeless and attractive appearance, and even a more reliable home resale value. Indeed, the lasting and durable status is well illustrated by Sweeney, who notes that generally maintenance for natural stone once it’s installed is usually once a year.
Pointing to granite’s increasing affordability is Maggie Van Eeden of Bison Countertops, Inc. “Granite is durable and nearly maintenance-free,” she says, “and because of the many varied colors it offers numerous design options.” Agreeing that while Carrera marble is very popular, Van Eeden says grey is definitely up and coming. “Polished, glossy granite is always a winner, while the leather and honed looks are frequently selected for cabins and outside kitchens,” she says.
Natural stone ranging from granite and marble to limestone, onyx, soapstone, and travertine, is available from Seven Stone, which also offers quartz and solid surface materials. Jeff St. Germain says, “We are committed to quality service from the first consultation to the selection and estimating process to the final installation. We leave no questions unasked and no detail overlooked because our focus is bringing custom countertop visions to life.”
“We have seen an increase in natural quartzite as a countertop selection recently,” says Bevin Nave of Natural Stone. “Many natural quartzites, not to be confused with manmade quartz, have a marble look without the fragility, high porosity, and maintenance of marble,” she says.
Nave adds that many quartzites are hard-wearing, similar to granite, and come in a range of color variations with beautiful movement in the slabs. “We continue to see different finishes and textures, such as leathered and honed stone, growing in popularity. The search for new and exciting materials from quarries worldwide is never ending,” Nave says.
New from a newcomer to town is Piedrafina marble, which is comprised of 95 percent natural marble with polyester resin and binders and pigments. The material offers strength, consistency and durability, according to Jacob Tippets of Stalwart Systems, LLC. The company also offers quartz, solid surfaces, and GEOS recycled glass surfaces with are not subject to staining, sealing, waxing, cement, or glass pop-outs.
Steven Kunz of Tennessee Stone Care brings his expertise as a stone refurbisher to the conversation and says, “Stone is such a versatile material for use on counters, floors, showers, bars, and fireplaces. We believe that stone is here to stay and, if properly taken care of, can and will last for generations.” Regarding marble’s durability and maintenance, Kunz reports that many clients prefer honed finishes to give the appearance a softer look. “Polished marble shows daily wear, which can be repaired and reduced with proper sealing and care. If you have stained marble, don’t call the demo crew, but instead opt for proper cleaning and sealing.”
Kunz adds that he is seeing growing popularity of travertine and the use of more slab stone in showers and flooring, minimizing grouting and improving the integrity of the surface for years.
“Selection of natural stone is a very personal and long-lasting decision,” Kunz says. The homeowner should know their family and their personal lifestyle and needs when selecting natural stone. “You should consult a trusted stone professional early and trust them to advise you on care, which can save hundreds or thousands of dollars over the life of the stone.” —By Josh Ziegler
There are a number of sources for natural stone and countertops in the Nashville area including:
Architectural Granite & Marble
Carbine Realty Group
French’s Cabinet Gallery
Hantel Kitchens & Baths
Hermitage Kitchen Design Gallery
Just Design This
Kenny & Company
Prestige Granite & Marble
ProCraft Cabinetry Inc.
Smokey Mountain Countertops
Stalwart Systems USA
Tennessee Stone Care