The versatility and great look of stone has kept it in the forefront of custom home floor coverings for generations. Americans are obsessed with no cracks, etc., but note the timeless old world charm of stone in Europe and the overall look and warmth with or without slight imperfections. The beauty of natural materials is the diversity from piece to piece and quarry to quarry.
What is the difference between contemporary and old world looks? Usually the amount of sheen from the finish; honed for old world and polished for contemporary. Depending on the space the stone can either be laid square with the room, which is more common, or diagonally, which is more interesting and costly (more waste). In small spaces the square is usually better; in larger spaces the diagonal is usually better. This rule of thumb varies depending on curves, etc. Currently rectangular shapes are trending and large format options. The prep and products used for installation are critical as the surface needs to be smooth and flat. Use installers recommended by suppliers to avoid costly tear outs and breakage.
Stone can be tumbled, flamed, cross-cut or bush hammered to appear old. Don’t install filled Travertine in steam showers as the fill will loosen. A stone base in areas with stone floors looks great and is very functional. It does not need to be filled stone. This base can also be recessed into the drywall.
The warm look of Travertine will determine other finishes and the entire palette will emanate from this starting point. Other stones can be used for dots, contrast and detailing. Marble is currently widely used as we continue with our current gray and white trend.
Typical sizing is 18” x 18” or 24” x 24” and other patterns using rectangular pieces.
Ashlar Limestone offers some lighter and grayer tones.
Glass, tiles, river rock pebbles and marble mosaics can add interest and diversity.
Travertine is often used as decking material and is cooler than concrete. Pavers and pool coping are popular.
Marble is not as hard as Travertine and other typical stone flooring materials but is often used in baths.
The most popular marble for baths is Creme of Marfel.
There are more Creme of Marfel trim pieces precut than any other stone choice.
The sizes of floor tiles have become larger with 18”-24” becoming the norm.
The above materials require sealing and periodic resealing depending on use. Heavy use may require yearly maintenance. Light use may require every few years. We had Travertine in our last home for 13 years and resealed it once after the original coating.
If you want to inset contrasting tiles into a larger piece, consider the sizing of the inset for enough border space. It may be impossible to cut without breaking the larger piece.
Slate typically has a gray-base tone, and even though it may slough for a few months, is a great look for the texture. It is more rustic than Travertine and less rustic than Flagstone.
Flagstone (Slate/sandstone) in oak, red or pink tones, is great for more rustic interiors and can be installed with random size pieces or can be cut into a pattern. Typically the installers are recommended by the companies that sell the product as the random cutting and placement are not the same as uniform tile. It would be an expensive error to cut costs here and end up with unevenness, lack of flow with cut pieces or inferior grout joints. Flagstone is great for exterior use as well.
Consider the outdoor spaces and a look of continuity in the material you use inside, especially if the two adjoin.
Porcelain tile with a wood look is the in material for homes that are not in the luxury range. The material is durable and is looking like wood more and more, but does not have the warmth of wood. However, for families and dogs it is durable and available in a wide range of colors. We recently combined real wood throughout the master and a great match in porcelain cut into 2×2’s for the open shower floor. Also, interior wood running to porcelain patios gives a continuous visual. These options include plank shapes.
12×24″ options are popular in both real stone and porcelain, as well as 24″x24″ and 36″x36″. The rectangular shapes can be installed staggered or straight, herringbone, offset, diagonally and offset with additional tiles added in other patterns. Gray tones are currently very popular. These tones will still work with granites, marbles and quartz products.
Porcelain tiles are available that look like Travertine, but most custom homes have real stone. The advantage of porcelain is that it does not need additional maintenance. It’s a good option for secondary baths. A typical shower floor is 1”x 1” or 2” x 2” for traction but be sure to check coefficient of friction and grout joint size. Honed or tumbled stones may be slightly more slip resistant if you are using real stone.
Limestone or Porcelain is suggested for a contemporary look. Porcelain is fired at a higher temperature than regular tiles giving it improved qualities.
In the Southwest we still use Mexican tile for its warmth, if the style of the home warrants, but more often wood is used inside and unfinished tile is used on patios. Mexican tile inside does need regular resealing.
Terrazzo – poured-in-place, seamless, easy to maintain, lasts 50-100 years and has great custom options.
Check our pinterest boards for additional visuals-floor coverings and tile details-
Tip: The most interesting pots for plants are in terra cotta or the more expensive Italian pots. If your look is conducive to pots they look best on an equally dark patio material. Concrete pots and glazed pots will last longer than clay pots so coordinate the exterior look for the overall style you are trying to achieve.
Tip: K 15 by Ardex is a cement-based self-leveling floor treatment and pigments can be added.
Residential Design Elements
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