Natural stone tile trends continue to evolve as new products constantly enter the market enabling architects and designers to enhance their designs in all sorts of applications, including interior and exterior, commercial and residential or floors and walls.
While standard polished and honed finishes remain staples today, rough-cut tiles or a natural cleft finish can add depth and texture to a wall or floor application. Moreover, pairing a tumbled stone floor tile with edgier materials softens the look of a room, creating a nice balance in the design. Combinations of contrasting colors, the mixing of square and rectangular shapes to form modular patterns and the variation of finishes such as polished, semi-polished and matte, also allow companies to offer their customers more design options.
While 12-by-12-inch tiles continue to be a popular option, stone tile sizes have gotten larger, and the industry is seeing more 16-by-16-, 18-by-18- and 24-by-24-inch sizes being commonly used. Large-format natural stone tile is in demand for a variety of aesthetic reasons, including the fact that it can provide an open look for floors and walls in residential and commercial settings. Additionally, consumers welcome the natural beauty of a large stone size and can appreciate the fact that less maintenance is required due to the fact that there are fewer grouted joints involved with the application.
In order to enhance basic floor and wall natural stone tile applications in residences, designers often incorporate a complementary stone backsplash or a stone countertop - typically a granite slab, although a recent trends leans towards the use of white marble. Moreover, for both residential and commercial spaces, a mosaic border or decorative accents of steal, glass or wood can also transform a space into a more chic and upscale looking atmosphere.
The bigger, the betterAccording to Gerlind Kennedy, who serves a distributor and salesperson for commercial applications throughout Southern California for her own California-based company Gerlind Kennedy Architectural Products, as well as Royal Mosa of Holland, the bigger the natural stone tile, the better. “It looks better and involves less grout,” she explained, as to why homeowners and architects alike are following this trend. “The smaller the tile, the more grout joints you have which gets dirty and tends to be a weak link when it comes to stone installations.”
“Also, technology today allows you to cut larger tiles in a thin version,” she continued. “Years ago, you had to use thicker pieces, create a mortar bed or float the floor, which was very expensive. Machinery today can cut stone tile thinner and thinner.”
According to Kennedy, the standard tile size 15 years ago was 8-by-8 inches, while today a more commonly used size is 12-by-12 inches. However, she is recently finding that larger pieces such as 16-by-16, 18-by-18 and 24-by-24 inches are on the rise in both commercial and residential settings. “Architects like to use 18-by-18-inch stone tiles whenever the budget allows for it, and depending on the stone you can still use a 3/8 inch thickness. Royal Mosa supplies a variety of sizes in 3/8 inch, but when we use 24-by-24- inch pieces the thickness is raised to a 1/2-inch.”
Kennedy is also finding that long rectangular shapes such as 24-by-12-inch tiles are a recent craze in the industry. And, moreover, Royal Mosa produces sizes measuring 1-by-4-foot.
Simpler designsPeople are looking for simple spaces, rather than using a variety of pattern in their designs, as was the case years ago. “We have gone away from the idea that ‘more is better,’ and consumers are demanding much more simplified, starker designs,” said Kennedy.
“Often you have one main color and another accent color, or one size tile with a smaller size accent, or a honed floor with polished accents, or a common tile offset with steel or mosaic accents, and that is all,” she continued. “Patterns are simple nowadays and are often simply created by accent colors. Beige is still a very common color in general, especially on the West Coast.” According to Kennedy, although lighter colors still remain the most popular, she is finding that the commercial trend is moving more towards shades of gray. “The younger or more cutting edge architects are incorporating more gray colors in their deigns,” she said, adding that the residential side seems to still lean towards shades of beige and more classic colors.
Exterior and wet areasWhen it comes to exterior design, cost is almost always a factor in material selection, but when the budget allows for it, natural stone tile is usually the preferred choice for exterior applications. According to Kennedy, slate is a common material for exterior installations such as patios and pool surrounds, as well as interior applications for wet areas and high-traffic places because of its slip-resistant qualities.
The George M. Silliman Community Activity Center in Newark, CA, which houses an Aquatic Center, activity lounge, teen center and childcare room, makes extensive use of Chinese slate from Echeguren Slate, Inc. of San Francisco, CA, for flooring throughout the public spaces of the facility.
Echeguren Slate supplied around 3,800 square feet of China Imperial Blend slate flooring tiles for the facility, according to company owner, Alex Echeguren. Pieces of the material varied, including sizes of 24-by-24, 12-by-12 and 6-by-6 inches, and it was specified with a natural cleft finish.
A number of installation products were used, including Dynamic deck mud and fat mud, Bone and Delorean Grey sanded grout from Custom Building Products, Hydroment Classic Bone, Mobe Pearl, Linen and Heron Blue grouts and HMK S-34 Impregnator Sealer. Furthermore, a number of Mapei products were used, including Sahara Beige Kerapoxy grout, Mastic Type 1 Glue, Ultra/Flex rapid set white thinset, Keralastic Addivie, Keraset White thinset and Keraply. The workers also utilized a 3/4-inch aluminum backing system from Schlüter Systems of Plattsburgh, NY.
Accent materialsAccent materials such as stone or tile mosaics, glass tile, steel and wood can also help to liven and dazzle up a space, whether it be a commercial or residential setting. In order to upgrade the look of their 5,600-square-foot corporate headquarters in Phoenix, AZ, Cawley Architects added elegant stone materials in exotic, bold colors with varying finishes and sizes.
The flooring throughout the office building features 16- by-16-inch tiles of honed Montauk Black granite with 6-by-6-inch diamond inlays of Verde Fire granite. And, to meet a more contemporary design aesthetic, polished Verde Fire Granite from Arizona Tile was selected for the reception desktops, credenza back bar and the adjacent coffee bar.
Another example of combining different materials and various finishes to add texture and depth to a space can be found at the Embassy Suites Hotel Dallas-Frisco in Frisco, TX, where interior designer, Barbara Elliot Interiors, Inc., used honed marble and polished onyx to create a sense of luxury for hotel patrons.
Flooring throughout the main lobby features 16-by-16-inch tiles of honed San Mateo marble from International Stone Design, while 12-by-12-inch pieces of polished Multi-colored onyx were utilized for applications such as walls and columns throughout the main lobby and hallways. Mosaic tiles complement the stonework, and were used for decorative accents on the wall, as well as for a mosaic inlay on the floor in the hallway near the elevator shafts.