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New Trends in Kitchen and Bath Design

By M. W. Penn

The trend is toward kitchens designed as centers for living and entertaining and textured surfaces are a big part of the story.

What's happening in kitchen and bath trends? The answer is surprising because the developments are striking and consistent; from New England to California, designers and owners are instigating new ideas by using more stone, integrating mixtures of multiple colors and finishes, and specifying larger slabs for larger rooms.

Putting our finger on the pulse of the industry, here is just some of what we found:

(Article from Building Stone Magazine)

Nancy Barden, Memphis, Tenn.

"The homeowner wants something different, unusual, exotic," said Nancy Barden of Barden Stone. "The average homeowner is more educated about stone and willing to experiment with the myriad of stone options available.

"Many types of stone are used throughout the home, such as marble, granite, limestone, travertine and onyx. Our clients want something that speaks of their own personality and they often want a different material, a different color, in each room. We just installed red onyx for a laundry room! People have become more understanding of stone and are simply willing to enjoy it."

New Trends in Kitchen

Barden noted one example of the popular color mixing. "We have just installed a kitchen that mixed two types of granite, Red Marinace and Terra Cotta Bordeaux. Red Marinace is more exotic with lots of movement and color, and was used in the most prominent area, the kitchen island. The more subtle Terra Cotta Bordeaux was used on the periphery of the kitchen. But the eye candy of the kitchen was a full slab of Red Marinace that formed the backsplash, from counter top to ceiling, behind the cooktop. This was at the suggestion of the designer, and a complete success. The slab acts just like a piece of artwork."

She finds that this is often the case. "Architects and designers are able to use stone like an artist uses paint to create a piece of artwork, and then integrate it into a room." She feels that the ideas professional designers bring to the table are helpful for the individual project and the growth of the entire industry. Designers are always "pushing the envelope," she said.

Another trend comes from the developing technology of CNC equipment and water jet. "Stone is able to be sculpted easier than before; if the homeowner wants a curve or wave in their stone, this can be done." At the other end of the spectrum, Barden also is seeing minimalism make a return ? clean straight lines, monochromatic materials ? what she calls the industrial look.

This kitchen uses Barden Stone 2cm red onyx for its countertops.

And the size of new kitchens calls for other changes. "Because of the increasing size of the American kitchen, kitchen islands are often much larger. Slabs this size would be more likely to break using thinner two centimeter stone, so three centimeter material is becoming common." Barden tries to keep to 1/8-inch joints placed in an unobtrusive area; of course, large slabs are best for center islands.

Barden Stone is seeing the popularity of natural stone grow. "Other products try to say they are better than stone. At least half our countertop business is remodels, and we are removing other products and replacing them with stone. I have yet to have someone tell me they would never use granite again. Nothing can replace the durability and long life of natural stone in everyday use."

Joe Percoco, Denver

New finishes. That's the observation of Joe Percoco of Percoco Marble and Tile Company. "Clients are asking for something new, something different. We had been doing quite a bit of river-wash finish, but that has been replaced in popularity by a leather finish."

To achieve a river-wash finish, stone is flamed or bush hammered and then polished with brushes to smooth the sharpness of the surface. The process takes out some color and makes the surface more porous. A leather finish can do the opposite. "It begins with a honed surface that is then worked with diamond brushes; the process brings back the color and closes pores, making the stone denser. The result is similar to the finish achieved by using a 300 or 400 grid. It has a nice sheen and is less porous than a honed finish."

In fact, Percoco said that more inconsistency in the stone betters the process. "The process is successful on soapstone and certain limestone, too."

Verde Granite in a leather finish in a kitchen by Percoco Marble and Tile Co. Inc.

Joe Dellacroce, Milford, Conn.

In New England, Joe Dellacroce of Connecticut Stone Supplies Inc. has used a similar finish to give limestone floors a European street-worn appearance, sandblasting the surface before softening the effect with diamond brushes. And he agrees that customers are looking for something different. "It's a unique look, a bit more expensive to achieve, but clients feel the result is worth it," Dellacroce said.

Joe Dellacroce, Milford, Conn.

Mark Barthelemy, Cold Spring, Minn.

Continuing the story of different stone used in combination, Ellen Cheever & Associates, designers of a kitchen in Minneapolis, found unique uses for granite and limestone in a project that also accents the trend of texture combined with creative talent.

Mark Barthelemy, a designer with Cold Spring Granite and a consultant on the project, developed the "broken edge" design used on countertops and the front of solid granite sinks. The edges were broken by skilled craftsmen using a hammer and chisel and the high points were polished. Finally, water jets were used to smooth any small imperfections and restore the color. This fabrication method blended the edges gently into the polished surface of the countertop.

Barthelemy said of the method, "Often, the sudden transition of polished surface to dull edge, especially at the corner of two plane surfaces, creates harshness in the way the two planes relate to each other. The differing surface treatments don't always combine well; the polished plane appears to float on the surface, like icing on the top of a cake that isn't spread down the sides. The technique moves the polished surface into the edge, creating a graceful transition."

A Tuscan scene and range hood hand carved from Kasota Valley limestone blend with the surrounding granite to add color, texture and art to the kitchen.

Rick Jones, Knoxville, Tenn.

Rick Jones of Stonecraft Inc., a dimensional stone fabricator, finds that customers in his market area no longer confine their choices to a simple color selection of standard granites. Instead, they select different stones to use in combinations. They choose granite, marble, limestone and tumblestones in different blends. Granite framed in travertine is popular, and limestone, slate and soapstone are prevalent in the country kitchens of vacation homes.

Granite is still the number one choice for kitchen counters, but even here, Jones is seeing different surface and edge finishes. Honed and brushed surfaces are popular. Though honed surfaces are a bit more permeable than highly polished surfaces, they can be impregnated with sealers that reduce staining. "People who love to cook, who work and entertain in their kitchen, don't mind the worn appearance that can evolve after time. Designers understand that these clients enjoy the look and feel of an Old World, European kitchen. It's part of the charm."

In a trend related to kitchens designed as centers for living and entertaining, Jones, too, is seeing more large kitchens with enormous center islands. He finds that he spends more time locating slabs as large as 11 feet by six feet six inches. "Slabs of this size are not readily available in every material. Quarried marble and limestone have natural limits, as do boulder granites. Even granite slabs are confined to a size that can be economically fabricated and shipped. The opalescent and black varieties are more readily available, but the demand for more unique stone is growing. Though many people don't want to wait for custom imports, the color permanence of natural stone overrides every other material." This combination of factors has increased the time he spends searching for the right importers and brokers.

granite counter top

Though Stonecraft, a custom shop, uses craftsmen for the unique look clients demand, and it still chooses to do touch-up work to produce the more exact standards that set its work apart, some shops take their jobs right from the CNC machine to installation, cutting costs.

"Because these newer fabrication techniques have made stone available to a broader market, natural stone is finding its way into many lower-cost housing units," Jones said. "First-time homeowners who have experienced the beauty and durability of natural stone realize that stone isn't restricted to million-dollar mansions. When they move up to their second or third home, they incorporate stone in the design." Jones believes that familiarity with stone is helping to expand the market.

Brenda Edwards, Garden City, Texas

Brenda Edwards of TexaStone Quarries sees limestone being used more frequently in baths and kitchens. She, too, is seeing many honed and brushed surfaces and finds that TexaStone's ability to produce large slabs also has increased the popularity of its beautiful, creamy stone.

Further, Texas limestone is adaptable. When fabricated into the honed counter surfaces mentioned by Rick Jones, the stone provides a warm, Old World look to a kitchen; combined with tumbled back splashes in a diamond pattern, it creates an especially comfortable ambiance. Still, in another context, limestone in these lighter earth tones can give a contemporary kitchen or bath a modern edge.

A bathroom vanity and sink carved from a block of limestone

"People had always been afraid to use limestone because they believed it was too porous; but when limestone is impregnated with a good sealer that absorbs into the stone and prevents liquids or food stains from seeping into the pores ? not simply a topical sealer ? then limestone is very functional," Edwards said. "As a matter of fact, TexaStone Quarries has fabricated several limestone fountains and baptisteries, and seepage is never a problem."

Finishes continue to be a big part of the story. In the bathroom, Edwards sees showers using honed or tumble finish limestone becoming very popular. Tub surrounds with a split face, rough look on the vertical sides in combination with a honed or polished top surface also are popular. The stone often is carried onto the other surfaces of the room, across the floors and up the walls, with carved moldings completing the effect. "The different textures we can achieve on the stone create beautiful, rich, subtly varied surroundings," she said.

Walker Zanger, New York

In a bath by Walker Zanger and designed by Larry Laslo Designs, limestone and marble join in exquisite detail. Eclectic hourglass border and Bauhaus base moldings frame the room with the exacting art of Italian craftsmen. The simply elegant Calacata Luna diagonal cut floor is set off with a circular center medallion of solid Flannel limestone slab.

The bronze washstands are finished with basins carved from a single piece of Calacata Luna marble handcrafted in Italy, and the walls are Calacata Luna marble tile.

In a Walker Zanger bath, a basin is carved from a single piece of Calacata Luna marble hand-crafted in Italy and the walls above are Calacata Luna marble tile. An eclectic hourglass border and Bauhaus base moldings frame the room.
In a Walker Zanger bath, a basin is carved from a single piece of Calacata Luna marble hand-crafted in Italy and the walls above are Calacata Luna marble tile. An eclectic hourglass border and Bauhaus base moldings frame the room.


Fabrication methods for natural stone flooring and countertop applications continue to improve, and the use of natural stone in kitchens and baths continues to multiply. Stone not only increases the value of a home, it enhances the pleasure of living there. The best trend is the growing number of people who understand this value and the number of fabricators and suppliers that are ready to fulfill this need.

(article from Building Stone Magazine)