Tuesday, 19 July 2011

A hard act to follow

Portugese Barreme
Homes and Interiors

WEARING WELL: Stone is back in vogue. Interior designer Jamie Hempsall talks you through the best options.

There was a time when carpet and natural floorboards were the only realistic options when it came to domestic flooring. However, in recent years, the trend to re-introduce stone flooring into the home has grown considerably.

Stone is an incredibly flexible material that can be a solution for virtually any area in the home. While the initial outlay can be considerable, stone is one of those materials that ages with grace, getting more beautiful as it absorbs the years and builds on it character.

The appeal has been further heightened with the development of modern under-floor heating systems which ensure areas finished in stone need no longer be cold to the touch.

As with any flooring, there are differing qualities and types.

Jason Cherrington, CEO and founder of Lapicida, agrees, saying, “Stone is natural, and careful selection and fastidious attention to detail is essential to achieve consistency. It is available in a wide spectrum of grades, not simply the variety name.”.

Jason relies on Lapicida’s family of stone experts to hand-pick grade “A” natural stone, with quality as their watchword, which is why this Knaresborough-based firm are now arguably the UK’s leading importer (www.lapicida.com – 01423 400 100).

One of the other beauties of stone is that its appearance can be drastically altered by the finish. I have found clients who abhor high-gloss granite work-surfaces, but melt when they see it in a leather finish, which provides a sensual and visual treat wherever it is used.

Varieties of stone differ wildly, so here is an elementary guide to the key types:

Limestone is an organic sedimentary rock formed over millions of years from tiny shells and micro-skeletons. It has subtle tones, is hard-wearing and, historically, has been used to pave English cathedrals and, French and Italian palaces.

Grey Jerusalem Tumble Limestone
Pure limestone is white or almost white, and impurities create colours. Limestone tiles can be extremely hard-wearing, but qualities vary so you need to check carefully.

Suggested uses: Primarily internal – high-traffic areas; kitchens; bathrooms; swimming pools; conservatories.

Paonazza marble
Marble is a metamorphism of limestone. Extreme temperatures and pressures create marble, destroying any fossils and sedimentary textures present in original limestone rock.

It is renowned for its high gloss finish and colour array. It hints at luxury wherever it is laid.

Suggested uses: Primarily internal – bathrooms and showers; formal entrance halls and foyers; kitchen worktops/floors; wet rooms; hallways; living areas; conservatories.

Travertine is also a metamorphism of limestone. It is a unique, versatile and cost-effective stone. No two tiles are the same, which means there is no need to match them. Good quality Travertine can be hard-wearing in low-footfall areas such as bathrooms.

Over the past five years, there has been an increase in the use of Travertine which has meant an influx of inferior imports, so buy the best quality you can afford.

Suggested uses – internal, medium to low traffic areas such as bathrooms walls and floors; some living areas; swimming pools; conservatories.

Sandstone is a sedimentary rock composed of quartz or feldspar, or both.

Incredibly versatile, it can be used indoors and out to create formal and informal rustic effects. Some sandstone is suitable for outdoor paving.

Stunning in its reclaimed state, it can be seen in stately homes throughout Britain.

Suggested uses – both external and internal – wall tiles; floor tiles; paving.

Granite is a course grained igneous rock formed from magma and is revered for its strength and hardness. It is a practical choice for high-wear-and-tear surfaces. It varies greatly in colour, from shades of pink to dark grey and black. Amazingly, the Great Pyramids of Giza are made from granite.

Suggested uses: Primarily internal – kitchens; floor tiles; wall tiles; work-surfaces.

Slate is a fine-grained metamorphic rock composed mainly of quartz and muscovite. Slate is split into slabs and split again into thin sheets.

One of its major characteristics is a very flat or riven surface and it is naturally durable and heat-resistant.

Suggested uses: Both internal and external, high-traffic areas – walls; floors; bathrooms; kitchens and utilities; conservatories; swimming pools.

Terracotta is a clay-based unglazed ceramic. Specially prepared clay is partially dried and cast, moulded, or hand-worked into the desired shape. After further drying, it is fired in a kiln covered with sand, then cooled slowly.

Terracotta tiles provide a perfect warm and hard-wearing yet inviting floor finish.

Suggested uses: Primarily internal, high-traffic areas – walls; floors; bathrooms; kitchens and utilities; conservatories.   

There are three key elements to a successful stone project. Firstly, use a reputable stone merchant who will take pride in advising you. Secondly, choose the most appropriate stone for your project. Finally, have it fitted by an appropriately experienced tiler who will know how to make the stone work brilliantly for you.

When you are investing in a product such as this, you are really laying down a finish to hand on to the next generation.

Jamie Hempsall BIID is an award-winning interior designer. Visit him at www.jamiehempsall.com or contact him on 0800 032 1180.

This article was first published in the Yorkshire Post Saturday Magazine on 25th June 2011

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