Ask the Experts | Colorways

Bold meets beautiful in stone, tile and flooring

Terrazzo, porcelain, and cement materials at Stafford Tile & Stone.

Designers have been expressing a lot of excitement over the last year on the reemergence of color in home design, as all white rooms give way to bolder looks. And with all the recent time spent at home, some homeowners are growing tired of sterile environments and are ready to shake things up. This season, we’re asking the experts if this trend toward color and texture extends from the walls and furniture to stone, tile and flooring.

“I can’t tell you how exciting it is to see more color and pattern introduced into the interior mainstream,” says Penny Francis, principal designer and owner of Eclectic Home. According to Francis, kitchens are becoming darker and moodier while color and pattern are prevalent in tile chosen for bathrooms and kitchen backsplashes. Francis notes that the main flooring in homes — whether wood or tile — continues to trend on the lighter side, but patterned floors in kitchens are creating dramatic appeal.

“Green and black are being utilized in the cabinet finishes, and splashes are becoming more dramatic backdrops while the countertops remain neutral,” says Francis. “White countertops continue to be popular because of the contrast to the splash and for maintenance and cleanliness.”

At Palatial Stone & Tile, co-owner Paul Romain says that while white subway tiles are still popular for old New Orleans homes maintaining that “old world” look, geometric patterns that incorporate color are more often sought for kitchen backsplashes. Textured stones and 3D patterns are popular as well.

As a stone fabricator, Romain also sees a declining interest in all-white slabs as people opt for bolder vein colors and large format pieces. Recent jobs have included blue hues as well as light blush. According to Romain, the technology involved in making quartz has gotten so sophisticated that dramatic movement and veining are convincing to the eye and drawing much of buyers’ interest.

In Kenner, Stone Interiors recently opened a new 20,000-squarefoot showroom with full slabs on display. There, owner John Cognevich says he is still selling a lot of white countertops, but they differ lately than plain white and gray. Instead, people are searching for whites and grays with streaks of gold or tan.

“More people are doing change-outs since Katrina,” he explains. “For years, everyone wanted white and gray, and that’s great if you’re building new or gutting. But if your cabinets are light cream or your walls or floors are tan, that look doesn’t go — you’ve got to have blushes.” To that end, he recommends quartz colors that resemble marble like Silestone’s Lusso and Calacatta Gold.

At Crescent City Countertops, Sally Cousins, a sales associate, agrees that while color is an emerging trend in countertops, it’s not trending there as quickly as it is with cabinets or paint. She echoes other stone sellers’ observations that homeowners are remaining somewhat cautious with countertops and getting more adventurous with the tile in the backsplash.

“The other trend we’re seeing almost 50 percent of the time with new homes is putting the countertop material all the way up the backsplash.” These installations often have warmer tones with attractive veining customers want to see continued on the walls, she says. Popular examples include the Taj Mahal and Cristallo colors of quartzite, which are subtly warm but with translucence and depth. People are also playing with texture in stone countertops, at times foregoing the polished finish for a leathered one. Different than a honed matte finish, the leathered look has a texture that gives the stone a natural earthiness, according to Cousins. Using a leathered finish on quartzite like Taj Mahal is a growing trend.

Customers seeking bolder looks with dramatic veining benefit from technologies like Crescent City Countertops’ automated fabrication shop, which allows for photographs of chosen slabs to be overlaid on project CAD drawings and show the exact effect of a slab’s veining and movement on a specific room. This helps customers achieve the look they want for their stone centerpiece.

“Nothing makes me happier than sourcing a unique and colorful quartzite,” says Hailey Mathews, owner and designer of H. Mathews Interiors. “It is essentially artwork in the most natural form and the perfect way to ensure your clients have one-of-a-kind pieces in their home.”

Despite Mathews’ enthusiasm for countertops, she often chooses to start a kitchen design project with floors and cabinets first. She notes that flooring manufacturers have really expanded options in recent years.

“From different, brighter colors, to fun patterns, it makes selecting the flooring my favorite place to start and then guide the rest of the design,” she says. Once she selects flooring and cabinets, she then takes samples to use in selecting a specific stone slab. For Mathews, the complementing backsplash often comes last.

Eclectic Home’s Penny Francis has a different process — she finds it easier to start with the backsplash if it has pattern, then move to the countertop and see how all elements complement the finish of the cabinet.

Both designers agree that flooring and tile in smaller spaces like powder rooms and laundry rooms are a fun place to be bold and experiment more with color. Mathews says these are some of the best spaces for letting your creativity run wild.

At Stafford Tile & Stone, owner Peggy Stafford says there many new options for pattern, color and texture in tile, and most are appropriate for indoor and outdoor flooring. Terrazzo, porcelain and cement are three materials that offer versatility.

“Terrazzo has been a popular choice with a variety of different aggregates and colored cements to offer a fresh feel,” she says. Meanwhile, technology has changed the look of porcelain, which is available in mosaic and large format, increasing variation and interest. Stafford says porcelain is a good choice for sleek and modern or rustic and textured aesthetics.

“Cement is an Old World material but now has a modern take,” says Stafford. “It is a very cost-effective way to introduce vibrant colors and patterns —a natural product that wears beautifully over time.”

With all three materials, pattern is not only found in square formats but can be created with various shapes such as hexagons, pickets and scallops. For bathrooms, Stafford has noticed a rising popularity in green and blush tones.

The consensus among our experts this season is that bold is the new trend. Inviting color, texture and movement into your design will add interest that keeps a fresh feeling for years to come.