The outlook for stone in 2020

Natural stone has been with us for millions of years, and it is still going strong.

In 2020, natural stone might not match up well with the Color of the Year announcements of Sherwin-Williams: Naval (SW 6244), Behr: Back To Nature/Light Green S340-4, Pantone: Classic Blue 19-4052 or Benjamin Moore: First Light 2102-70. Although there are blue, green and pink marbles and granites, I would expect that the tried-and-true whites, beiges and grey natural stones will continue to be preferred for floors, walls, and countertops this year.  

Quartzites have become much more readily available in a much broader range of colors and ranges. The leather finish, which has a slight undulating surface with a soft sheen, seems to be popular. Quartzite is an extremely hard material and often is harder than granite. It is tough on diamond cutting blades as they wear much faster. Taj Mahal is a popular choice as it is beige with a white background and a lot of vein movement. 

Taj Mahal quartize on the exterior walls and limestone flooring again star in this posh home.

Engineered Stone

Quartz stone has continued to grow in popularity. Also known as engineered stone, it’s not a natural stone, but contains about 90% quartzite bound with a resin. It gives a more consistent look than most natural stones. Since it isn’t natural, it doesn’t have all the benefits of a natural stone that is millions of years old, like beautiful variation of colors and veining, although for countertops the pricing tends to be better and it seems to be kind of “trendish” like the way the Corian countertops were popular years ago. Quartz stone is coming out in larger color and veining selection options, and has taken some market share from the natural stone countertop market, but hasn’t had much of an impact for floor and wall applications. Natural granite stone is still the preferred choice for kitchen countertops, and I expect a lot of it to be sold in 2020.

GPTP

This high-end home interior features Taj Mahal quartize countertops and limestone flooring.

Another product that is new and threatening to take market share from natural stone countertops is gauged porcelain tile panels that now come in 2 cm (3/4”) thick panels. They are being promoted through stone fabricators because they can use the same equipment used to fabricate natural stone countertops. Fabricators can polish the edges or bullnose or miter them like you do with a natural stone. With digital inkjet technology, tile manufacturers can produce panels that look like natural stone and have the durability of a porcelain tile. Of course GPTP won’t have the intrinsic value of a natural stone that is millions of years old and that can be refinished to look like new after years of wear and tear. And all of these products need to be installed properly in order to get them to perform well and provide years of service and beauty. 

Limestone is still very popular particularly with the high-end residences. Many of the tile manufacturers produce porcelain tiles to replicate the soft beige limestones with subtle veining. Limestones often have fossil inclusions that give it a unique look.

Sealing stone

This high-end residence has Taj Mahal quartize on the exterior walls and limestone flooring on the pool deck. 

There is a lot of confusion about whether to seal a natural stone, and if so how to seal it and with what. There are different opinions, but I always recommend sealing with a penetrating sealer. I don’t recommend sealing all sides of a stone since sealers are general bond-breakers. Some companies recommend sealing all six sides of the stone, but require that you use an ANSI A118.15 high-strength thinset to bond the tile since it needs added strength to counteract the effect of the sealer. Sealers don’t last that long, depending on the environment and what wear and tear the stone is subjected to. The rule of thumb is if water beads up on the surface of the stone and doesn’t darken the stone when you wipe it up, the sealer is still there and working. Sealers don’t make the stone waterproof or stain proof, but it does make it resistant to moisture and staining and easier to maintain.

A Carrara quarry mountain in Italy, as natural stone marble is mined.

Natural stone does require more maintenance than a ceramic tile, but it can always be restored to look like new by professional restoration companies. There is something about touching or standing on a natural stone that is millions of years old and has the natural colors and veining with the random variations that give it such intrinsic beauty and value. After all, if you look around the world, the one thing that is always remains from ancient times as the legacy of those generations is natural stone.

What’s trending in natural stone design?

Note: an earlier version of this article originally appeared on www.usenaturalstone.org.

Whether you’re planning a complete remodel or a minor refresh, small details can go a long way in kitchen and bath projects. The varied options within natural stone can elevate any room.

The intense movement of more highly-veined materials are trending in natural stone today.

One way homeowners can add warmth and a sense of calm in their rooms is by bringing in organic materials such as natural stone. While natural stone has been used throughout the home for centuries, experts agree that homeowners today are mindful of how they use the materials and are showing off its true beauty. 

Natural stone’s millennia-long popularity has not flagged one bit, and Nancy Epstein, founder and CEO of Artistic Tile, is seeing movement towards more highly veined materials and colorful natural stone. That’s not to say it’s all about color all the time. “White and grey will likely remain popular for several more years, but more adventurous designers and homeowners are beginning to embrace striking natural stones whose intense movement and dramatic colors make a statement out of a surface,” she said. 

Kitchen trends

Ornate and colorful backsplashes, are making bold statements including backsplashes going up the entire wall behind stoves and above countertops. Photo courtesy of Artistic Tile.

Incorporating natural stone as a backsplash is one easy way to update and create a bold look in a kitchen. “The spaces that resonate with us and have impact are most often created from natural stone,” said Epstein. “Manufactured products…don’t offer the intrinsic warmth or authority of natural products.” 

When it comes to kitchen trends, Suzanne Shumaker, principal of Shumaker Design + Build Associates, LLC, points out the mixing of materials, including natural stones: two types of stone for countertops, or a kitchen island that is different from the perimeter countertops. 

Where kitchens have been dominated by white over the past several years, Epstein is delighted to see color finally making a comeback. “We’re seeing more ornate and colorful backsplashes, and in a continuing trend, those backsplashes are now going up the entire wall behind stoves and above countertops,” she said. “Where designers once created smaller decorative panels, now they’re using more decorative elements on the entire backsplash, and turning backsplashes into feature walls that envelop hoods, surround cabinets, and reach up to the ceiling.”

Less-polished stone finishes such as dark granites with leathered finishes are embraced in kitchens and disguise fingerprints and watermarks, said Suzanne Shumaker, principal of Shumaker Design + Build Associates. Photo courtesy of Suzanne Shumaker for Shumaker Design + Build Associates.

Epstein notes the use of waterfall slabs for countertops and islands, and a move toward the modern minimal look of slabs flowing from countertops up onto backsplashes, waterfalled at the countertop edge so they run from ceiling to floor, with vein-matching or book-matching across each component.

Shumaker is noticing homeowners choosing different kinds of textures to add interest in their kitchens. She observes that clients are choosing less high-polished materials in favor of leathered and suede finishes, which she calls casual and sophisticated, noting that these finishes also disguise fingerprints and watermarks. She’s seeing natural stone being used in unique ways that take advantage of its durability as a material. Her clients love quartzites with elegant veining, as well as dark granites in a leathered finish. 

Quartzites with elegant veining are contemporary favorites in natural stone. Photo courtesy of Suzanne Shumaker for Shumaker Design + Build Associates.

Natural stone is a great way to create a statement piece. “Choose a colorful slab as the centerpiece and decorate around it,” recommended Epstein. “Go for monotone or high-contrast themes. Other options include adding light under your cabinets to highlight your backsplash, and book-match or vein-match whenever you can.”

A kitchen needs a design element that creates a focal point, according to Shumaker. She and her team then carefully pair that focal point with other materials that won’t compete with the core piece. Neutralizing some elements – so there are layers of interest – is key.

“Updating your backsplash or countertop will make a huge difference in your kitchen’s aesthetic,” said Epstein, who updates her own backsplash once every 15-20 years. “If you choose timeless materials, you shouldn’t need to update it any more frequently than that. If you need a complete overhaul, dig in, and do it!”

Bathroom Trends

Choose a colorful slab and decorate around it, advised Artistic Tile’s Nancy Epstein. Photo courtesy of Artistic Tile.

Shumaker is noticing her clients are focusing on one special material in the space and pairing it with materials that complement its unique character. For a recent project, she and her client chose a unique marble that they cut in large pieces and installed in a herringbone pattern. It’s a classic design, but blown up in scale. 

Today’s homeowners are making a greater commitment to bold bathrooms that are making a statement and leaving behind the sparse and monolithic look of recent years. Whether it’s full-height wall tile installations, patterns on floors or walls, or selecting warmer and richer natural materials in general, bathrooms are not as cold as they’ve been in the past. The variety of natural stone options and applications are helping to shape this trend. 

Learn more about using natural stone in kitchen and bath design at www.usenaturalstone.org. 

The Timelessness of Natural Stone

In a world where trends can come and go in the blink of an eye, natural stone withstands the test of time. Around the world, eager designers continue to turn to natural stone, making it a top-selling solution for countertops, floors and walls. As new offerings hit the market in a variety of shapes, sizes, colors and textures, natural stone continues to offer a timeless look for spaces.

The popularity of natural stone can be attributed to its innate uniqueness, as each cut is unlike any other. With no two pieces alike, natural stone inherently brings individuality to spaces. Natural stone also offers customers the flexibility of customization because of its ability to be cut into different shapes and sizes. 

Warming palettes favor grey, white, black and “greige”

One of the most appealing qualities of natural stone is the variety of options, allowing stone to provide a solution regardless of the design vision. From a color perspective, the industry has shifted toward grey, white and black, colors often found in limestone and marble. Additionally, the color combination of grey and beige, fondly known as “greige,” is a trend we’re seeing come into play more and more. Greige is a fresh way to incorporate warmer shades into spaces, while still giving a contemporary feel. This color blend can range from sand tones, to deeper charcoal tones. A nice 

example of this color range is found in the American Olean Ascend™ marble and limestone collection, which offers beautiful shades of greige.

Marble, granite and quartzite reign supreme; colorful stone emerges

From a trend perspective, designers are shifting toward specific stone types in designs. Exuding luxury, marble has risen as a top option. New color variations boost its appeal as a solution for modern designs, while still maintaining its timeless style. Granite has remained a classic, sought-after option, bringing an upscale feel to any space. Its distinctive granular appearance is a more traditional choice for those looking for a natural stone countertop. The vast color offerings of granite, which include deeper hues with specks of intriguing color for a more striking look, make it an appealing option. The hot new trend product in stone is natural quartzite. Natural quartzites feature the look and feel of marble, with all of the benefits of granite’s durability and hardness.

Customers looking to stand out from the norm are seeking options that divert from the traditional characteristics of natural stone. As a result, there has been an increase in colorful natural stone offerings, a stark difference from the more muted hues often associated with natural stone. Distinctive veining paired with unexpected pigments such as Daltile’s Mercury is an example of this growing color trend. 

Large sizes sizzle; mosaics multiply

In addition to colors, specific sizes are growing in popularity within the natural stone segment. One of the hottest trends in the industry is extra-large pieces. This size category is appealing because it empowers customers to create continuous, seamless design. From floors and walls to countertops, large-format natural stone creates a luxurious statement in spaces.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, we are seeing growth in stone mosaics. A space once dominated by glass mosaics, stone has stolen the spotlight, as it allows designers to show off their personal style. Available in polished, honed and split face finishes, these natural stone decorative pieces provide an unexpected break of texture in otherwise continuous, sleek spaces.

A growing trend in applications, more designers are utilizing natural stone on areas beyond countertops. After primarily using natural stone on floors and countertops, designers are now using stone to create a contemporary, continuous feeling on walls or as an eye-catching accent wall. This trend is being boosted by the new extra-large slab offerings, which help to create a statement in rooms. Additionally, natural stone is beginning to be used more frequently in outdoor spaces, particularly to create a cohesive look throughout the entire design. From large-format sizes being used as a countertop surface throughout a space to small mosaic details as backsplash in an outdoor kitchen, stone is beginning to appear in new, unexpected spaces, a trend that is positioned to grow over the next five years.

A far cry from the stone of yesteryear, the natural stone category has completely transformed. Boosted by the uniqueness of the products, the ability of stone to combine function and beauty has it positioned for continued growth. With what seems like infinite application possibilities and color options, these natural stone trends are here to stay for the foreseeable future.

Stone Trends – TRENDS 2016

Following is a sampling of trending stone products. Booth numbers for companies exhibiting at Coverings are included.

Ann Sacks

Ann Sacks introduces three gorgeous collections from the internationally known designer Kelly Wearstler. Her global luxury lifestyle brand is renowned for its distinctive designs and sophisticated soulful vibe pioneered by the celebrated interior designer. Wearstler has a signature style that juxtaposes raw with refined, melds color, sophistication and spirited spontaneity, and seamlessly blends diverse periods of furniture under one roof. Drawing upon Wearstler’s affinity for repetition and relaxed, painted geometric patterns, Liaison (shown) by Kelly Wearstler for ANN SACKS features the designer’s signature graphic striations and black and white motifs in embossed, textural designs that are at once spirited and sophisticated. Also in the collection are the ceramics Maven, and the textural Tableau. www.annsacks.com

Artistic Tile

The company has recently launched several new products. Using the centuries-old Aquaforte etching technique, Siam features an art deco motif in a golden metallic wall tile. Artisans created Orly hand-textured limestone while hammering white bronze metal onto the face. When complete, the four metal-clad corners fuse in a sunburst, contrasting the Noir limestone background. Lumina is also handmade, featuring silver metal wrapped around stone with hand-worked rays hammered into the surface. Lumina is part of Artistic Tile’s Grand Tour Collection, which also features Castello, a stone tile reminiscent of the studded trunks that accompanied European nobles on their adventures. www.artistictile.com

Bedrosians

Classic, elegant, and comfortable, Modern Farmhouse style is all about keeping things simple and organic. Top a barn-inspired island with Bedrosians Calacatta Oro marble and matching kitchen backsplash to bring neutral tones and enhance the vibrancy of the home, or achieve a luxurious and timeless look with a Calacatta Oro marble bathroom countertop. www.bedrosians.com

Daltile

Composed of 99% post-industrial recycled natural stone, Daltile’s Lithoverde marble and limestone slabs give designers a unique, linear design that can satisfy environmentally conscious customers without sacrificing style. Beyond the LEED and SCS certification perks, the modern, linear graphics created with classic stone provide a striking option for countertops, walls and tub surrounds. Stocked slabs come in White Carrara and Gris du Marais and two sizes. Special orders available in two additional colors:Crema d’ Orcia and Pietra d’Avola as well as a 1.4cm thickness. The collection will be available in Spring 2016. www.daltile.com

Island Stone
Booth #8511

Melding the top selling appeal of the Strip claddings with a modern spin on the trendy Chevron and Herringbone designs, Cross Strips transform a surface into a mesmerizing stone façade. This original, 30 degree angle design comes as two-part meshed back tile that interlocks to zigzag across a wall. The inherent hue variations of natural stones accent the unique pattern creating a sophisticated appearance, subtle yet distinctively different from classic linear stone walls. Cross Strips are a natural choice for interior feature walls and fireplaces, but are also an exterior option both for commercial and residential applications. www.islandstone.com

Levantina
Booth #1043

People who love tile large formats have new options when choosing Crema Marfil Coto natural marble. With new formats such as 36” x 24” x 1/2” and 36” x 18” x 1/2” to round off the current range, these sizes make it possible to design original settings with style, ideal for creating large settings with fewer joints and a matchlessly uniform look. Formats can also be mixed for a custom look, on-trend settings and unique interior spaces. www.levantina.com

The Tile Shop

The Strato Bianco Marble Collection is part of The Tile Shop’s stone collection, Rush River Stone. Only found on small island of the coast of Turkey, this unique marble features black and grey striations on a creamy white background. This “Zebra Stripe” look is available in several sizes with multiple trim options. www.tileshop.com

Walker Zanger
Booth #4851

Decorative influences from Moorish Spain mingle with Venetian Gothic and Medieval Egyptian, echoing the mélange created by the eons of cultural overlap in the ancient Mediterranean world. Working from historical sources, each design was stripped down to its graphic essence and rebuilt in contemporary colorways and scales. Each pattern in Villa d’Oro, like Tangier, pictured here, is cut and assembled from stones sourced in a variety of Mediterranean countries, creating new decorative art to enliven your modern surroundings. www.walkerzanger.com