A Soft Spot for Hard Stone

July 31, 2014

By Kyle Hoepner

I seem to be a pushover for design and construction materials that have some particularly sensuous surface quality to them—I’ve already written posts here about, for instance, textiles, varieties of wood, tile, wallcoverings, and the like. The attraction, for me, may be either optical or tactile—or, best of all, both, making you want to caress those furry, rough, buttery, silky, or icily gleaming surfaces with both eye and hand.

Today it’s time for a paean to stone, which can play so many roles in a house, structural or decorative, subtle or flamboyant, inside or out. We have our New England staples: bluestone, soapstone, granite, slate, various marbles. But the available gamut is much wider than that, and it’s good to take a survey from time to time to make sure we’re not missing something wonderful.

Consider, therefore, the Los Angeles bathroom of singer-songwriter John Legend, as reworked by Don Stewart of Desiderata Design, with its basalt walls, vanity top, and floor tiles. (The room’s rift-cut teak cabinetry isn’t exactly hard on the eyes, either.)

Photo by Roger Davies, from the March 2013 issue of Architectural Digest

Or this onyx wall separating a Miami bedroom (architecture by Chad Oppenheim; interior design by Lynda Murray) from its adjoining bath.

Photo by Roger Davies, from the September 2010 issue of Elle Decor

Or this onyx floor and stairway concocted by architect David Mann for an apartment in New York City.

Photo by Nikolas Koenig, from the February 2012 issue of Architectural Digest

Stone tops on furniture are also a favorite of mine, especially breche marble examples that can look like they were carved from a hunk of rather questionable luncheon meat.

Louis XVI period console, available from Cedric du Pont Antiques. Photo from 1stdibs.com

Then again, I also love the chaste, subtle graininess of limestone. Check out John Lyle’s LaFoe table, pairing the stone with an architectural bronze base.

LaFoe table by John Lyle. Photo from johnlyledesign.com

Gneiss can also be nice. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

Photo from deltastone.com.cn

Sandstone blocks can also be wonderful, as in the facade of the International Buddhist Centre in Christchurch, New Zealand, by Warren and Mahoney.

Photo from warrenandmahoney.com

And finally, it’s not really stone, but I do love the look and feel of cast concrete in a house. This bedroom by Vermont architect Christopher Smith is a good example.

Photo by Jim Westphalen for New England Home. Click here to see more of this house.

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