As the stone and tile industries continue to improve technologies and expand their products’ capabilities, aesthetic possibilities seem like an endless array of color, pattern, size, and layout choices. Two to three decades ago, options were more straightforward — granite countertops and a complementary tile backsplash in the kitchen, marble countertops in the bathroom and a mosaic tile shower floor with a matching wall tile and tub surround.
Sure, there were varying styles to choose from, but there weren’t nearly as many options as there are today. This season we’re checking in with stone and tile experts on the strengths and shortcomings of differing aesthetic approaches: neutral versus bold colors, simple versus complex patterns and veining and new placements for stone slabs.
According to Cheryl Slade, designer and selections coordinator at JLV Construction, a sleeker contemporary kitchen or bath still reigns — any shade of white stone countertops and tiled floors, tub/shower surrounds, and backsplashes that shine bright with metallic inlay.
“White has not disappeared, but it has grown more sophisticated,” she says. “A white waterfall marble or quartzite kitchen island pairs with the backdrop of marble mosaic. So, if one wants to go with white: mosaic, mosaic, mosaic.”
Slade says that no matter how you incorporate classic white, a flashy tile will create a stunning room. Over the last decade, whites, grays and clean, simple lines have been the rule, not the exception. Some local stone providers are happy to see that beginning to change.
“I think everyone in the industry is glad that the white and gray wave is done,” says Rachel Jones, co-founder and CMO of Triton Stone. “We love when we have clients who are more adventurous in their selections.”
While white and gray do continue to have their say, homeowners and home experts are enjoying a resurgence of color. According to Jones, top choices for stone slabs that incorporate color include Calacatta Viola (creamy whites with rich burgundy veining), Opera Fantastico (highly varied with grays, browns, reds, pinks and gold), Breccia Capraia (warm white with dramatic purples and deep greens) and Brèche De Vendème (a collage of golden yellow, olive green and dark purple).
“Trending marble right now has a lot of deep veining, not only in gold, but in deep grays, blues, and even greens,” says Jones. “Jewel tones are definitely hot right now and come through both in paint selections and stone selections.”
At Palatial Stone & Tile, Paul Romain also sees an evolution in the color of stone countertops. While some clients still request simple white quartz or classic Carrara marble, others want richer colors with dramatic veining in green, black and aubergine.
“When paired with varying shades of the deeper colors for the cabinets, you create a tonal effect that speaks of luxury and timelessness,” he says.
In contrast to solid colors, movement in stone is definitely gaining in popularity according to Bridget Arceneaux, assistant manager and inside sales associate at Tuscan Stone. Homeowners now have the ability to “bookmatch” stone wall and countertop applications, which allows the veining to continue from a full-height backsplash to their surface countertop.
Another application where this is popular is the “waterfall” island, where the surface countertop veining is bookmatched to stone extending down onto the side of the cabinet to the floor. Customers can begin envisioning their applications before ever seeing the slabs in person through Tuscan Stone’s “pre-hold” technology that allows clients to review inventory before visiting.
When it comes to tile, the spectrum of colors is broad. According to Peggy Stafford, owner of Stafford Tile, clients in some parts of the Gulf South remain conservative with their use of color while New Orleans homeowners tend to use color more willingly.
“Color does not have to be a ‘risk’ if you use great-looking colors and good materials,” says Stafford. “I have done a full bathroom tub surround with a handmade crackle aqua tile that was stunning. We have a designer in the community that is interested in doing a full wall of bronze tiles in a space.”
For those preferring a conservative approach, Stafford notes that certain soft colors like sage or soft plum can be considered neutrals and will incorporate hues and shades without overpowering a room with color. Regarding the use of patterns in your tile installations, Stafford often likes to complement the stone — if the stone has a lot of veins or occlusions, she may suggest a “straight” lay of materials; if the stone is more solid, she may suggest using tile in a pattern such as a herringbone, basketweave, or staggered joint.
Experts agree that with tile, grout lines are an important consideration.
“In many of the mosaics that we sell, the grout is the color,” says Stafford. The appearance of glass mosaics can change drastically based on grout color. Darker grout colors will make a pattern more prevalent with a light mosaic, and light grout colors will make a pattern more prevalent with a dark mosaic.
“Depending on the tile, you will either want grout lines to stand out or go away,” says Legend Interiors Designer Nicole Ruppel Jones. According to Jones, grout has come a long way, from every color imaginable to metallic, glass-filled, and crystal grout.
“Always consult an expert when making grout selections,” she says. “Not only is it a functional aspect of the job, but it can ruin the look if not properly considered.”
As more and more homeowners incorporate wet bars, dry bars and mudrooms into their house plans, Jones is noting that these are places where playful and sophisticated patterns in tile and wall coverings are becoming more prominent.
“Still, my favorite hidden gem is always a powder room,” says Jones. “This room is always one where clients tend to step out of their comfort zone and are willing to experiment with color, patterns and lighting.”
Whether adding color and whimsy or sticking to a clean and classic look, experts agree homeowners should begin with what they love. No color is off limits, and busy patterns or veining can provide dramatic and beautiful focal points. They also agree that utilizing the pros will help you ensure your whimsical ideas work. They’ll find the materials and installations to complement — and not clash with — your adventurous style.