Aria Stone Gallery recently hosted a “Stone is Art” Industry Panel Discussion Event, sponsored by D Magazine. This one-of-a-kind panel discussion focused on stone and its natural artistic characteristics. The discussion featured a variety of extremely talented industry professionals including Sherry Hayslip from Sherry Hayslip Interiors, Laura Baggett from Domiteaux + Baggett Architects, Botond Laszlo from Marvelous Home Makeovers, and Chris Wynn from Statement Furniture Fabrication. The questions were specifically targeted to each professional’s forte including topics such as stone trends, types, use, applications, and experience.
Q.What is your best piece of advice for someone who is looking to incorporate natural stone into their project?
SHERRY:In a practical sense, be patient and endure and think of it as solving a puzzle. Once you have your preliminary selections made, it is really an adventure to see the beauty of each stone and try to incorporate that in conjunction with everything else that you are doing – not too busy not less – but it is important that you keep in mind that there is nothing more unique except perhaps a snowflake – than beautiful marble because it is natural and it doesn’t repeat its pattern.
Q. What tips or guidelines can you give to help them in their selection process?
BOTOND: Our motto at Marvelous Home Makeovers is exceptional, personal craftsmanship. The process starts with who our clients are and finding out what their needs are. One of the first steps in many of the larger projects is to select the natural stone (i.e. countertop, art piece, or accent piece) and then create the designs around the stone. What I have found with my clients is that natural stone speaks to you. You see over and over again my clients come in they walk the isles and they go back to the first stone that they saw. The process is psychological. Also, for me, observing that thought process during selection and receiving that feedback really helps me to understand who the client is. It gives an insight into what their desires are and who they are deep inside, which enables me to truly cater to that and create a better experience and better crafted project.
Q. At Aria, we utilize a 1-10 scale grading stone based on clarity, consistency and quality. What are some of the aspects that you look for when you educate clients and customers about natural stone? Are there any types of natural stone you prefer working with over others? Why?
CHRIS: First, I listen to my customer to see what it is they are looking for. Once they select a material we view the material to see how beautiful it is, look for any fissures and cracks, look into the structure of the slab to see if it was completed [before extraction] or not. Overall we check to make sure that the client has chosen a quality material. I haven’t ran into any issues here at Aria. Everything that Vinny goes out and chooses is always grade A material.
Q. No stone is 100% perfect, and their can oftentimes be beauty in the imperfections. However, there are a lot of fabrication challenges that are intrinsic to the stone business. In particular, onyx is a very difficult stone to procure due to the nature of the material and that it is often not widely available in large format, along with inconsistencies that lead to needing fill. How do you as a fabricator overcome these obstacles?
CHRIS: There are many different ways to handle this. As far as fissures are concerned, there are different type of epoxies available to assist. If there is a slab of onyx that has an issue I can bring it back to my shop and do “surgery” that needs to be done for the customer. Of course, the fabricator should always explain the process to the customer beforehand, as different epoxies can have different outcomes. There are certain epoxies that you can penetrate and fill cracks with. Sure, natural stone is going to have some hiccups here and there. But they are all soluble if the fabricator has the knowledge to do so.
Q. In your designs, you incorporate natural stone frequently in your projects. What is it about natural stone that captivates you?
SHERRY: The reason is emotional in that stone captivates me . I just love the idea of this beautiful, gemlike quality being harvested. When I was studying, designers and architects are encouraged to use real materials -natural materials – so that there is an integrity to the things that you create and design. I don’t think there is any way, frankly, to discount the romance of natural stone and the story and history behind it. Once, a client sent us to a quarry in France that had been continuously quarried since Roman times. We climbed up, marked the stone, threw water on it, and the story, the connection, the history – there is nothing more exciting.
Q. Inspiration is everywhere. Can you tell us more about your process and where your inspiration comes from?
LAURA: Most of our projects, our inspiration, comes from the client. Our approach is to find out exactly what the client wants, even though most of the time the client doesn’t yet know what they want. For us it is a puzzle to try and figure out where our clients want to go and where they will want to take the design, because every one of our projects come from that person.
Q. It is apparent that we believe stone is art, and with that comes some unique applications. Can you talk about what a designer or client should keep in mind when it comes to a variety of applications (floor, wall, pool, outdoors, etc.)?
CHRIS: First, I would think about the application and the durability of the product. For floors, of course marble has been used as floors for thousands of years. And it will wear over the years, but I think the most important part is educating the client on the upkeep of marble. They need to know that the marble is going to get wear and tear – and this is normal. Many companies exist that can resurface marble. Although sometimes manmade materials may sometimes be stronger, you will never get the beauty and look of marble.
Q. When it comes to designing for commercial versus residential projects, the stone selection can vary as a result. Talk to us about things you consider when designing for each of these types of projects?
LAURA: Everything is client driven, and in the residential world, people mainly react to designs and what inspires them. Most of our commercial projects are very specialized and our clients are attached to them. No matter what, budget always comes into play.
Q. Is there a certain kind of material that you lean towards?
LAURA: When it comes to natural stone, we do not lean toward one type of natural stone for particular applications. It is just a matter of what the project wants to be. To me, it is more of a reaction to the stone itself; and we are going to use that stone where it makes the most sense.
Q. At Aria, we believe every stone is suitable for the application, it just becomes a question of how do we work with the space and with our fabrication partner to achieve the result that we are looking for. As a fabricator, can you speak more to this?
CHRIS: There are quite a few different sealers on the market to help out. One of my favorites is a stone color enhancing sealer that will bring out all of the beautiful colors of the stone, while also protecting the stone. So, in the case that you are using a marble or onyx, you will get more vibrant color, and if you scratch the stone you can put the color enhancing sealer on the scratch – sometimes the scratch goes away completely, sometimes mostly, it all depends on the material.
If you do not want to change the color of the stone there are natural sealers that are impregnating sealers and nothing changes it just blocks the moisture from penetrating the stone.
All stones have pores in them and you are going to want to seal your stone. There are now sealers specifically for limestone – which needs to breathe more than other stones – and these limestone sealers help to protect the stone, while also allowing for the breathability needed.
Q. Is there anything that you can recommend for etching? Or how do you handle resolving etching?
Oftentimes, people like to use onyx on a countertop or vanity, which can be prone to scratches and etches. A fabricator can come to your home and bring a machine to buff the etch out of the stone. Alternatively, if you are looking for something you can do at home to prevent etching, I would suggest using a high grade car wax – or even a high grade furniture wax – and leave it on overnight and buff it off in the morning. This helps to keep the stone from etching through a lemon, lime, or other household items with high acidity. You, the homeowner, can buff the wax back into a shine. But if you do not use a wax, the acidic chemicals can sometimes penetrate the stone. Both options are a very similar process, it is just a matter of trying to do it yourself or having a fabricator come do it for you.
Q. What do you look for the ideal kitchen stone? What are you looking for?
BOTOND: Educating the client is always important because each material is very different. For example, very early on in my business about 10 years ago, we did a big white kitchen with all Carrara marble. They had two babies, loved to drink red wine, and I thought the white marble might not go over well, because, at the time there were not as many good sealers as there are now. Luckily, they were the type of people that were really disciplined with taking care of the marble. A few years ago I had the opportunity to go back to the house and their countertops still looked impeccable.
I do not believe there is a set rule about what materials should go where. In general when people hear marble they think “oh no that can’t go in the kitchen” and I always say, “why not?” Marble, in my opinion, looks better 10 years from now than it does today. Marbles creates a patina. Think about copper and how it oxidizes, or think about if you have a leather jacket or briefcase that looks awesome now, but when it is brand new it looks almost rough or too crisp.
Similarly, we have done a project many years ago and it had a lot of gold and copper flakes in the stone and depending on how the light hits and the angle – the stone always appeared differently. Later on, I spoke with the client and they told me that they have lived there for over 5 years and have seen this stone every day and were always finding elements in the slab that we never saw before. That to me is very powerful and unique and you will never find that with a manmade material.
So really educating the clients, and explaining to the clients that you can use any stone and let them know how to take care of it. In my opinion, it all comes down to if you can connect with the stone and when you see it every day in your bathroom or kitchen and think it is beautiful – that is priceless to me.