Monthly Archives: January 2014

Adding Style With Flooring Inlays

If the floor of your bathroom, foyer, dining room – or anywhere – is lacking in style and interest, consider adding an inlay to your new flooring design. Inlays add instant interest, pattern, depth, and design to your floor, whether you opt for a medallion, some cut-ins, or a border.


At its simplest, an inlay is simply the mixing of materials – laying a different material into a field of another material to add interest or make a statement. Inlays can be put into tile, wood, or stone and may be as simple as a different color of the same material, or an intricate design made up of several smaller pieces.

Inlays make great choices for areas that have wide sections of open or unused floor, because these areas normally otherwise lack substance. The type of inlay you choose depends upon the shape and size of the area, the style of your home, and the type of material the floor is made of.


Medallions make good inlay choices for large rooms and entryways. They instantly draw the eye and focus it. They also line up properly beneath large chandeliers, creating balance in tall rooms.


Inlaid borders are the perfect addition to smaller rooms or oddly shaped rooms. They allow you to square off the room, filling the interior with a different pattern or material. Borders can be made up of laser-cut pieces epoxied together, mosaic borders on nets, or simply a contrasting color of the same material, such as dark gray Bardiglio marble inlaid into a field of lighter Carrara.


The most impressive inlays provide the most amount of contrast to the surrounding flooring. This may mean mixing materials, such as inlaying marble medallions into a field of hardwood, or it may mean using a very decorative border in a field of more sedate tile. The idea is to draw and capture the eye, which can be best done with contrast.

Inlays come in so many shapes and sizes, it’s possible to add one to every room of the home and not repeat yourself. Consider adding an inlay to any floor that needs a little boost and see what results you can achieve.


Precast products for your home

When you want the look of limestone, travertine, or other natural stones, but with the versatility and dramatic shapes able to be produced by concrete, look to precast products as a natural stone alternative. Precast products blend hard-wearing Portland cement with stone aggregate and pigments to produce beautiful architectural pieces that can be used anywhere inside or outside the home.


While it’s possible to carve large blocks of solid stone into various shapes such as columns, fireplace surrounds, and building facades, the process can be time consuming and expensive. The variability and porosity of stone mean that sometimes a block of stone can’t be used for these purposes; attempting to carve a block of stone with a fissure in the center will render the results unusable. The color variation of some types of stone also means that attempting to match two pieces can be difficult.

Using precast products eliminates these problems. The cement and stone mixture can be wet or dry cast into nearly any shape with less effort. Pigments and colors used in the mix can also be controlled, so two columns or other cast pieces will always match.


Precast products can also withstand hundreds of freeze/thaw cycles without damage, which makes them a great option for lining pools, barbecues, fountains, and other outdoor architectural uses. The same items made of natural stone may not be able to withstand some climates, which can limit their use.


Precast products often take on the appearance of stones like limestone and travertine – two products that can be difficult and expensive to work with. For homeowners wanting the Old World appearance these products can produce, but without the maintenance and expense, using precast products makes an excellent alternative.


If you’re looking for architectural and artistic details in or around your home, look to precast products as a solid stone alternative. You may find you’re able to get the look and detail you’re after, without the added maintenance or expense.



Classy Columns

Bring a touch of class to your bathroom, foyer, dining area, or any area of your home with stone columns. Stone columns add an authentic vibe with rich color and formal presence, allowing you to bring a little Old World charm to your home.


While many people use hollow wood columns in their home, many have a generic look and feel that detracts from an area, rather than adding to it. Stone columns, on the other hand, are unique from each other, due to the innate properties of the stone itself. Marble columns, for example, will show slightly different veining and color on each column. Limestone columns will have varying degrees of pitting or texture, as well. This means that each time a column is used it brings a completely unique look to the room.


Stone columns can be used anywhere in the home that a hollow wood column can. Consider using marble or limestone columns in any of these areas to add additional elegance, charm, and personality to the space:

  • In a “pass-through” between a kitchen and living or dining room
  • In the entryway to any room in an open floor plan home, such as in the entryway to a formal dining area
  • On either end of a long bathroom vanity
  • On the tub deck of a soaking, air, or whirlpool tub
  • In the formal entryway of your home

Using a hollow wood column gives you a few choices for the shape and style of the column; using a stone column gives you additional choices. Most wood columns come in a single color and finish, stone columns, however, often have a natural variation in color and texture that can’t be duplicated in wood. This, combined with the fact that a stone column can be carved into any shape, sets this type of design head and shoulders above the competition.


If you’re considering the addition of columns to your home, consider using stone. The additional beauty and charm is always worth it.

Fireplaces: The Heart of Your Home

Fireplaces are the heart of the home, and the focus of any room they are installed in. Make a statement and draw the eye of everyone that enters by using a stone fireplace surround.

There are two ways of creating a fireplace surround with stone: using stone slabs or using tiles. Solid slabs of stone are perfect for the hearth or for smaller, formal fireplace designs where you want to frame the firebox with a substantial surround. This is ideal for gas fireplaces or for fireplaces that have smaller fireboxes; using slabs makes the area look larger and more dramatic.


Tile surrounds are the perfect solution for other types of fireplaces. If you are creating a surround that extends up the wall behind the fireplace, for example, tile gives you more design options and choices than one solid slab would. Likewise, if the legs of the surround are thinner or narrower, you can use tile to add more pattern and dimension to this smaller area.


In addition to giving you options for the size of the material, using stone for your fireplace surround offers you a number of other designs and characteristics including:

  • The ability to carve or produce decorative columns and three dimensional surrounds
  • The ability to mix and match, using one stone in a mosaic on the hearth and a slab on the surround
  • Dramatic natural veining, color, and pattern
  • Brilliant polished surfaces that catch the light from the fire and magnify it
  • The ability to contrast the rest of the room by surrounding a “wild” stone pattern with a more formal mantel


Natural stone fireplaces have a solid, substantial feel to them that provides visual comfort when combined with the fireplace’s use. With the many different types and styles of stone available, you’ll have no trouble finding one that complements your décor. Consider outfitting your fireplace in a natural stone surround to help make this central area in your home, one that people truly want to gather around.

Fragile Beauty of Onyx

Translucent stones like onyx have a fragile beauty and depth unmatched by other stones. This exotic type of marble literally transmits light, and seems to glow when installed properly. To ensure it keeps these qualities, it requires special handling during the installation process.

While it’s called by another name, onyx is actually a type of marble. Unlike most marbles, however, stones like onyx are so translucent that anything behind them will affect their color. This means that even your setting material has the ability to affect how the final installation looks. For this reason, when installing onyx or very white stones like Alba Chiaro, always use a white thinset mortar. Using gray will darken or dull the appearance of the stone.

Many types of very translucent stone are also very fragile. To help strengthen them, manufacturers may put a fiberglass mesh on the backs of the stones. Special care must be taken to ensure this mesh does not show through the stone after it is installed.

In addition to not wanting the mesh to show through, you need to also take care not to let grooves or marks in the setting material show through the stone. While grooves are typically left in mortar to help bond the stone properly, these grooves will show up as shadows that can be seen through the mortar.

To help prevent this, and to help prevent the mesh from showing through, take the time to smooth out the grooves in the mortar before setting the stone. A perfectly smooth, flat setting surface will produce the best results.

Whether you intend to backlight your onyx, or you just want a unique wall or floor installation, pay close attention to preserving its light transmitting properties. The end results will take on a depth of color and light completely unmatched in other types of marble.