On the Surface
Tips and trends in flooring, walls and countertops
This month, we’re going beyond the surface of surfaces with an in-depth look at some of the home’s most utilized: flooring, walls, and countertops. Honing in on tile and stone, two industry top sellers, we’ve checked in with local experts to find out what’s hot, what’s not, and the most important considerations when choosing the surfaces right for your home.
Tile and Stone for Floors and Walls
With expertise that extends across various types of flooring, Chris Judge of Adda Carpets & Flooring knows how to help customers identify not only the type of flooring they want, but where it should be placed within the home.
“With flooring, it is important to assess your home’s traffic patterns,” he says. “Your family’s lifestyle, including pets, children, etc., should all be considered in choosing the right flooring options.”
Areas such as a high-traffic entryway should be an easy-to-clean surface, and the dog’s favorite indoor running lane for pacing or playing should not be a surface that is easily scratched.
Currently, Judge is fan of large-format natural stone tiles marbles as large as 32-inch by 32-inch or 18-inch by 32-inch, which afford a seamless look to a room and can visually expand its square footage.
According to Peggy Stafford, owner of Stafford Tile, other important considerations for your flooring are scale of space, style of the home and of course budget and availability.
As it pertains to style, Stafford is seeing a decline in homeowners and designers feeling limited to traditional patterns, shapes and materials. She sees a shift into a more broad range of materials such as metallics as more people incorporate the shine of gold, bronze and silver. Additionally, innovative designs in mosaics can give your tile a more dynamic look.
“I am always most excited about all of the wonderful exotic stone and glass mosaics hitting the market today,” says Stafford. “We are also designing custom mosaic patterns for our clients’ personal tastes that are now more quickly produced right here in the United States,” she says.
Mosaics are also popular at Palatial Stone, where design specialist Audrey Manning sees a rise in mother of pearl and river shell mosaics. Also popular are mixed media waterjet mosaics, which are precision-cut and can make unique use of multiple materials such as natural stone, glass, wood and metals.
Along with new shapes and larger sizes, unique textures are on the rise in ceramic, porcelain and natural stone. While there is still an abundance of flat, smooth tiles, you can also find undulated finishes, combed textures and even carved natural stone. No matter your texture, porcelain tiles remain non-porous and easy to clean. However, when installing natural stone tiles, Manning emphasizes the need to seal your stone. She recommends researching the product and proper maintenance and a designer specialist can help with that.
Designer specialists can also be a huge help in guiding the size, color and texture of your tile flooring. At Palatial Stone, designer specialists like Manning consider all the elements of a room: flow, paint colors, countertops, cabinets, as well as size and use of the room. It’s always helpful, she adds, when a customer brings in photos of the room.
Floor & Decor Design Gallery
One of the fastest growing categories in hard flooring is wood-look tile, according to Lindsay Swenson, chief executive merchant at Floor & Decor Design Gallery.
“Today’s print technology is phenomenal,” says Swenson. “Once properly installed, it’s really hard to tell the difference between wood and tile.”
Manufacturers today are able to take a large swath of wood flooring and recreate the images onto quality porcelain tiles with few repeats. Unique “boards” of tile combined with small, dark grout lines give you the convincing look — and sometimes texture — of wood while having the durability and water resistance of tile. According to Swenson, Floor & Decor offers around 30 options of in-stock, wood-look tile that run the gamut in terms of style, size, color and price.
Specializing in kitchens and baths, Campbell Cabinet Co. sells countertops, sinks, and decorative hardware in addition to cabinets. According to BJ Farrell, co-owner, quartz and quartzite countertops are trending upwards, and while granite remains a top seller, he sees less consumers opting for the dark granites and instead leaning toward slabs in the white and off-white families.
“Quartz, quartzite and granite install beautifully in indoor kitchens,” says Farrell. “Marble is a softer stone, so extra care is required to prevent stains and scratches when used in an indoor kitchen. Each of the stone countertops offers different textures, patterns, colors and prices, so when selecting a natural stone countertop, personal choice is important.”
Farrell’s biggest tip to consumers is to view or select your slab. As a natural product, colors and patterns can vary, and some consumers may identify natural dark or light spots they do not prefer.
At Triton Stone, Rachel Jones, co-owner, echoes the importance of “tagging” one’s slab and ensuring it’s the right slab for their application. According to Jones, one common mistake is picking the stone towards the end of the project instead of at the start.
“The selection of your stone should be the focal point of your project, so waiting until the end can hinder your project’s total look,” says Jones. “Give yourself enough time to walk the stone yard and make your design.” Knowing what stones are fitting for your application is also important, as dense, hard stones such as granite and quartzite are more resistant to scratching and staining — ideal for kitchen use — whereas marble and travertine are softer and more porous and therefore often fitting for bathroom countertops and vanities.
Jones is currently excited about the soon-to-be-released protective Azerocare product by Antolini, which could potentially change the landscape for marble in kitchens. Applied before the stone is polished, it’s said to prevent the etching, staining and discoloration common with marble.
While many consumers and stone providers are quick to point out the disadvantages of marble’s soft nature, Johnny Altobello, Jr., owner of The Stone Gallery, sings its praises and notes its timeless style.
“Some believe that marble should not be used in kitchens as it is softer than granite or natural quartzite,” says Altobello. “Those who share this view should go to the restaurants and oyster houses in the French Quarter. The marble countertops have been in these institutions for decades and the patrons rave over the beauty of their patina.”
When purchasing stone, Altobello recommends getting as much information about the stone and the fabricators as possible — stone grade (premium, standard or commercial), breakdown of price (stone, fabrication and installation), and the knowledge, skill and quality of the stone provider and fabricator.
Just as your stone provider should be a trusted partner in the process, Chris Licciardi of Marchand Creative Kitchens emphasizes the importance of kitchen designers to a successful kitchen project.
“The details involved in a kitchen project are beyond belief,” says Licciardi. “A kitchen designer can help convert a person’s wants and needs for a new kitchen into it a reality and help them avoid making mistakes that can affect the function and beauty of the their new kitchen.”
In other words, kitchen designers know not only the tricks of the trade, but they know how to identify the right products for your lifestyle. While some people love the patina of an aged, white marble, others want a spotless, bright, high-gloss surface. A kitchen designer will work closely with you to decipher what works best for your home.
At Marchand Creative Kitchens, Licciardi sees purchases trending toward the lighter colors of quartz, an engineered stone, that are either not available in natural stone or too porous for its application.
Likewise, quartz, quartzite, and a new engineered product called Dekton are growing in popularity at Nordic Kitchens & Baths, according to Randall Shaw, president.
Engineered quartz, which has been popular for years thanks to its durability and ability to mimic natural stone, is now benefitting from advances in technology and printing. According to Shaw, new colors are appearing almost monthly and many are able to mimic marble without real marble’s susceptibility to staining.
Not to be confused with quartz, quartzite is an extremely hard, nonporous natural stone. It comes in a variety of colors and offers unique veining and movement similar to marble and granite.
Dekton is a new product Shaw recommends for outdoor kitchen use because of its nonporous, UV-protected nature. Made from the same raw materials used to create glass, porcelain, and quartz, Dekton offers resistance to stains, fading, fire and heat, and freezing and thawing. The product comes in a variety of colors and finishes.
As advances are made in tile and stone, the trends shift with them. With so many considerations for your application, be it floor, wall or countertop, you shouldn’t be afraid to seek help and ask questions. Do a little research while you shop and reap the benefits of expert advice.
Campbell Cabinet Co.
The Stone Gallery