Monday, March 29, 2010

Choosing Natural Stone

How to choose the correct natural stone for your project
Granite Slab Counter Top
Jan Gunn Designs / photo by D. Moore

This is a question that is often asked by homeowners when starting a renovation project. Here is my advice on how to choose the perfect counter top for your project.

The right choice of counter top material depends on whether we're talking about an often-used kitchen or a bathroom. In general, granite is the hardest and most impervious product to choose.  Marble and limestone are softer and more porous than granite and will scratch and stain more easily than granite. However, the range of colors and veining of granite is considerably more limited than in a marble slab. Much granite is very uniform and can have the tendency to look like some of the synthetic products on the market today.  Beautiful granites are now being quarried in Brazil, so with some perseverance it is possible to achieve beauty, diversity and durability. If you want your counter tops to look brand new, marble or limestone is not for you; stick to granite.  But take note that granite should be sealed. (More to come on this later.)

People tend to prefer marble for bathrooms because it comes in a much greater variety of colors and styles. Veining is random and shows the sedimentary formation that occurred millions of years ago.  No synthetic product comes close to the exquisite beauty of a unique slab of marble.

Limestone is a classic.  It comes in subtle varieties of off-white to cream to beige.  Some pieces look like a sandy beach while others have veining.  Some limestone tiles are cut so that they are actually three dimensional.  This is called "pillowed" limestone; the crown or center is higher than the edges.

                      Pillowed Limestone Tiles with                                  Rojo Alecante Marble 
                           Marble Mosaic Tiles                                                  Counter Top
                  Jan Gunn Designs / photo by M. Bruk                               Jan Gunn Designs / photo by M. Bruk  

If you really want marble or limestone in your kitchen, here are some hints to prevent undesirable markings. Some chemical cleaning products and acids found in foods and drinks (lemons, oranges, coffee, etc.) can etch limestone and marble surfaces. Etching is the erosion of the polished surface. The best way to combat this problem is to hone (pre-etch) the surface and use a good penetrating sealer for stain protection. The proper sealers will help protect the honed surface as well as enhance the natural color and veining in the material, leaving a beautiful surface patina.
Beauharnais Limestone Counter Top

 Jan Gunn Designs / photo by DFB

In conclusion, natural stone is a wonderful material to use in your home. Knowing the right application for functionality and proper maintenance will ensure a surface material that will deliver a lifetime of beauty.

For more information: Creative Stoneworks, Import Tile, Italics

Friday, March 5, 2010

Balance is Key to Good Design

By Lisa Jasper

Have you ever walked into a room and felt a little uncomfortable, like something is out of place or not quite right?  I've found that, as a professional interior designer, one element in a space that is most often missed is a sense of balance.

There are several ways to achieve balance, and all of them are fairly simple.  Start by beginning where the professionals begin and measure the dimensions of the room.  Be sure to include the ceiling height as well as length and width. These dimensions will help you determine how to plan the room for its function.  Even small rooms can be disguised to appear larger.

Next, take a good look at the room and note its focal point.  This might include a fireplace, a wonderful view window or some architectural detailing.  There may be more than one focal point and any of these provide a good starting point for redesigning the space.

Now rearrange your furniture, starting at the focal point.  One mistake many people make is in the size of the pieces of furniture filling your room.  At one time there was a trend towards big, overstuffed sofas and lounge chairs.  Most look comfortable, and some of them are.  But placed in a small sized room, large pieces visually and practically take up too much space, leaving one with a feeling of being confined. To achieve a sense of balance with furniture, purchase very comfortable smaller pieces with smaller arms.  Look for tables and storage pieces that work for you and also are better scaled for your room size. You'll be amazed at how much space you really have without changing  the actual dimensions of the room.

Other ways to bring balance to a space include the use of color, lighting and especially using architectural moldings. We'll discuss these ideas in future postings.  "Stay tuned", and in the meantime please feel free to ask questions about achieving balance in your home.