Natural stone offers authenticity

Natural stone offers authenticity

Tuesday, May 08, 2018 by Floor Covering Weekly

Industry experts agree that stone is seeing a big surge in exterior settings.
By Ryane DeFalco

A home is the best place to express your own individual style — and what better way to do so than with a unique, distinctive floor? For an unparalleled look, many consumers turn to natural stone. Outside of its inherit beauty, natural stone also sets itself apart from other categories with its individuality. “No two pieces of natural stone are identical,” said Barbara Haaksma, vice president of marketing for Emser Tile. “Texture variations, fissure lines and rich tones combine to tell a story of their own for innate one-of-a-kind designs. Over time, natural stone develops a unique patina and becomes a product of its environment.”

Amy Oakley, communications manager, Natural Stone Institute, agreed that stone is a unique product. “The colors, veining and movement in each slab were created by nature and tell a unique story,” she said. “No two slabs of stone are alike, so when you choose natural stone, you’re choosing a product that no one else is going to have.”

And while categories like ceramic tile can try to replicate stone visuals, natural stone has elements that technology cannot duplicate. Roy Viana, director, natural stone and slab, Dal-Tile, spoke to the benefits of natural stone, saying, “Natural stone has the advantage and the benefit over most manufactured flooring products because of the sheer depth and natural variation that comes with stone. Depending on the specific makeup and minerals within the stone, the minerals create a lot of depth, unique movement and colorthat you don’t get in ceramic tile.”

Mohawk’s Viana has seen larger stone panels growing in popularity. “12” x 24″ has been a pretty standard size, but now we are seeing 12″ x 36″, 16″ x 48″, and even larger formats that are creating visually large spaces with natural stone,” he observed.

Beauty certainly isn’t the only benefit that natural stone has to offer consumers — it offers added benefits of functionality as well. “Natural stone is durable, sustainable, unique, easy to maintain and versatile. It also comes in a wide variety of price points; we like to say that there’s a stone for every budget,” Oakley explained.

Haaksma also spoke to the practicality and sturdiness of natural stone. “Eco-friendly by nature, stone carries unmatched durability for indoor and outdoor floors, walls and surfaces,” she commented.

For busy households or even households on a budget, natural stone is an investment that won’t just satisfy a customer based off looks. Viana highlighted how stone is a viable option for households with the most stubborn of problems. “Depending on the type of stone and the climate in which your home resides, stone can conduct heat or cold better in some cases, so it has properties that you don’t necessarily get with a manufactured tile product,” he said. “For example, travertine holds very well in heated conditions; it stays below room temperatures, so you get a cooling effect.”

“The natural variation, depth and reflective qualities you get in natural stone due to each stone’s unique make up is unrivaled.  This level of natural beauty is what the tile industry is still striving for.” — Roy Viana, Dal-Tile

Not only can stone visuals transcend the test of time, but natural stone products can also last long in the home. Sudha Ramakrishnan, merchant, MS International, spoke to stone’s longevity, saying, “As long as it is maintained properly, natural stone can last decades. With natural stone there are no worries about exposure to harmful chemicals in the home or released into the environment during production or disposal.”

What’s trending in 2018
As interest in natural stone increases, one thing is certain — design aspects of stone will only keep expanding. While Emser’s Haaksma said she’s seeing “darker colors, as well as a mixture of colors and formats being used,” NSI’s Oakley has seen lots of “bright, vibrant granites.” Oakley added that interest in quartzite has increased, and Viana agreed. “People are looking for softer looks with more natural movements and natural quartzite is definitely the popular trend,” he explained.

Viana also made a prediction to where the stone segment is going — the transition to outside of the home. “I think consumers are going to start to look at stone for the exterior segment even more, specifically because we are living more outside — we are extending those kitchens and eating spaces to the exterior,” Viana said.  “And when I say stone for exterior living, I am talking about floors, walls and even countertops.  Generally speaking, natural stone plays very well for exteriors where certain other manufactured products don’t.”

Haaksma agreed that stone is headed to exteriors, saying that, “Natural stone is making its way from indoor to outdoor – and vice versa – namely throughout open-concept kitchen and living spaces. Create seamless design by carrying stone across the floor or repeating a pattern across indoor and outdoor fireplace façades.”

“From marble to limestone, natural stone brings a timeless luxe feel to residential and commercial spaces alike — one which will never go out of style.” — Barbara Haaksma, Emser Tile

And when it comes to exteriors, Oakley believes that stone is the picture perfect product. “Natural stone works well in outdoor settings — outdoor kitchens, walkways, pool surrounds, exterior cladding … the list goes on,” she added.

Selling Stone
For customers unfamiliar with stone, retailers can help educate consumers on natural stone based on its placement in a showroom. “Consider positioning different types of stone near products with a similar aesthetic,” Haaksma suggested. “Encourage customers to envision indoor to outdoor designs with natural stone alongside rustic wood or concrete looks.”

Viana agreed that position in a showroom can spark a customer’s interest. “Lead with your most unique high-end type products,” he recommended. “I definitely would position stone in the front of the store or in the pivotal point. Each showroom has a certain flow and focal point, so I would make sure that stone is part of that focal point.” He insisted that understanding the consumer is what can make or break the sale. “Customers want to start with the ‘most’ in-style options, and then work down in choices, depending on the budget.”