The start of a new year is a good time to take stock of one’s surroundings. If an update involving stone and tile is in your plans, there are newly emerging ways to beautify your home. Stone and tile expert Johnny Altobello III of The Stone Gallery brings us up to speed.
As in other areas of interior design, Altobello notes that color is making a resurgence. Nationally and locally, white marbles such as Calacatta Gold – a perennial favorite in New Orleans — have been the go-to in recent years. But Altobello says designers and clients are also seeking marbles in shades of blue and green. According to Altobello, the use of natural wood tones in design has influenced the choice of these stones as customers frequently want slabs with warm gold veining running through them. Calacatta Viola (white with burgundy veining) and Calacatta Arabescato (white with prominent black veining) are also being requested. The biggest color shift that Altobello forecasts for this year is a new interest in pink, violet and wine tones. Unlike the poodle pink hard surfaces of the 1950s and 60s, he says today’s pink trend is “much more sophisticated” and runs toward rose gold and wine accents.
- If you want a large slab of a natural material, choose your stone first, then design cabinets etc. around it.
- Do your research. Talk to a knowledgeable salesperson about caring for the material you are selecting.
- Quality matters. Premium-grade stone performs better.
In the category of engineered stone, Stone Gallery does a steady business in quartz but Altobello says “there is an increased demand for porcelain slabs in recent years. Porcelain alternatives offer several advantages: they are made to look like real stone at a controlled cost and unlike resin-based quartz they can take direct heat. And they’re low maintenance. The thickness (most are half-inch but manufacturers are working to produce thicker products) limits the applications mostly to shower walls and floors.
Altobello says huge kitchen islands are a continuing trend as are patterned tile floors such as herringbone and basket weave. In natural stone tile, Altobello says marble remains “King” and that mosaics are popular because they can be assembled for a one-of-a-kind look. In porcelain tiles, he says large format selections (24×48, 30×30 and slabs as mentioned above) are driving sales.
Altobello says New Orleanians’ tastes are on par with major trend-setting cities, thanks to the city’s architectural and cultural heritage and to platforms such as Instagram. But he adds that that the beauty and quality of a material is also a determining factor in its popularity.
“If a stone is beautiful, someone is going to find a place to use it,” he says.
About the Expert
Johnny Altobello III began working for his family’s 23-year old business, The Stone Gallery, as a teen. Today, he is in charge of purchasing materials and works directly with both clients and suppliers. “It’s my job to find and curate unique and interesting things,” said Altobello. “It’s very rewarding.”