2018 Bathroom Renovation Trends

Overheard—perhaps once too often: “We’re so excited. It’s got lots of space, and the floors are beautiful. Big rooms, plenty of light, a dream kitchen and . . . . Well, we’ll do something about the bathroom when we get time.” While remodeling this essential room seems daunting, a wealth of materials and decorating trends let you combine the efficiency you need to start the day at top pace with luxurious and easy-to-care-for surfaces that transform it into an oasis of relaxation. The leading trends that will govern bathroom design right now and in the foreseeable future help you accomplish both goals, creating a beautiful room that will serve you well for many years.

Luxe Interiors + Design | Photography: Emilio Collavino

KEEP IT SIMPLE Whatever the style or materials, the clearest design constant is simplicity. Lines are clean, and shapes are classic. Geometric designs predominate, along with broad sweeps of subtle color and pattern. Mirrors, window-shapes, vessel-sinks, free-standing bathtubs, stools, benches, shelving and vanity sinks all display this geometric fixation. Stripped-down forms and tonal limits yield a color-block décor. A “floating” vanity, one of this year’s most-prized fixtures, illustrates the décor-technique clearly: The sink is a sparse rectangular block hung on the wall. Hardware is scarcely visible, and all plumbing is hidden from view. The rimless mirror above is round or rectangular, with no adornment.  Tub and vessel-sink shapes are equally spare. Light fixtures are strictly tailored. Fabrics appear mainly as towels, not as decorative elements. Nothing trails, drapes or flutters. Privacy is balanced with visibility and lots of light. Skylights and high or view-sheltered windows assure that much of this light is natural. Where possible, space is carved into simple zones, allowing more than one occupant and activity at a time. There appears to be a mild resurgence in free-standing tubs, although some are playfully located in bedrooms. In many bathrooms, however, tubs have given way completely to luxurious showers, glass-walled, metal-framed, with seating and separate lighting. Wet-room showers remain popular, although clearly some designers have developed reservations about managing the high humidity, room-temperature changes and ventilation challenges that accompany them. What has departed is the notion that a multi-use bathroom functions best when areas are separated by partitions, platforms, alcoves or other types of architectural screening. Designers appear to agree generally that, whether the room is small or large, it serves users best when space is open and airy. One suspects that the increased amount of time many families spend in gyms, pools and other athletic facilities with common bathing and dressing areas may have had an impact on bathroom design, emphasizing usable space and efficient function over what may have become mere remnants of old-fashioned prudery. New bathrooms put high value on getting clean, quickly and thoroughly. Pet-parents will be happy to hear that designers now have access to specialized bathing equipment for dogs and permanent litter-box installations for cats. The spa movement has also offered lessons in the pleasures of healthy body care and physical indulgence. Newly popular renovations include heated floors and heated towel rods. Shower benches bridge the gap between soaking in the tub and stand-up efficiency. MAKE IT BEAUTIFUL This slight shift in views of privacy does not mean that homeowners renovating a bathroom need to resign themselves to Locker Room Redux! The spa effect, in particular, plays out in home décor with an amplified appreciation for the simple but sustaining beauty of natural materials. In a bathroom, the spa effect can produce many kinds of intriguing interplay between wood, stone, glass, metal, light, air and water. Materials often appear with simple finishes and little artistic detailing. Woods, for example, tend to appear in light or medium shades, with a glossy sheen rather than a highly reflective hard surface finish. Bamboo, fast-growing, easily-replenished and highly adaptable to humid conditions, appears in an increasing range of uses, including flooring, wall-paneling and trim. Glass panels may be lightly etched, stippled or textured to create privacy; most often, it is colorless or only slightly tinted. Metal appears sparingly, reserved decoratively for tailored, simply-styled drawer-pulls or door-handles. Here, buffed or low-gloss finishes may have given way to small touches of high-gloss Stone may be high-gloss, low-gloss or leather-finished. Solid-color slab counters are a first choice. Both natural and artificial lighting focus on serving personal needs and on showing off the inherent beauty of decorative materials.

Luxe Interiors + Design | Photography: Joe Fletcher

COLOR IT NATURALLY What is noticeably absent from new bathrooms is the old reliance on ceramic tile for nearly all surfaces. Where ceramic tile appears, it is more likely to be in large, square or rectangular paving-style floor tiles reminiscent of terra-cotta or stone than the smaller, high-gloss every-surface tiles. Vertically, ceramic tiles may provide a feature-wall of both color and pattern or texture. The old days, when ceramic tile carpeted floors, ceilings, walls, shower stalls, bathtub surrounds and vanities, are definitely gone, taking with them most of the rainbow colors that distinguished ceramic tile as much as its ability to fit almost anywhere. No longer does morning begin with a potentially frazzling shot of Mango Madness or Lavender Chiffon. Today’s bathroom is most likely to be characterized by a monotone color scheme, and the most frequent color-scheme is likely to feature shades of gray.  Hues range from near-white to near-black. Some designers favor pushing the spectrum on both ends, and contrasts are sharp. A black-white backsplash or feature-wall pattern can range from formal geometric to Mediterranean to the kind of free-form pattern created by natural mineral veining in stone. Just as often, color-schemes contain several less stringent levels of gray, from very pale to medium. Designers following this track will rely more on the natural reflective qualities of the stone than on high-gloss, polished finishes. With wood-tones for warmth, glass and metal for shine and a single choice of color, perhaps conveyed by textile selections, the room will appear both refreshing and tranquilizing. A NATURAL FIT Within these design parameters, stone counters are a perfect choice. An experienced designer or contractor can help you choose the best stone for the look and service you want.  Although certain types of building stone have been used in bathroom construction and renovation for centuries, today’s choices extend considerably beyond your great-aunt’s marble-or-nothing point of view. Two major criteria govern your choices: hardness and density. And, surprisingly, when these are your standards, your great-aunt’s marble bath doesn’t meet the mark. On scientific scales of hardness, marble scores as a relatively soft stone (a 4 on the Mohs Scale, with soapstone and talc scoring a 1 and diamond a 10). Marble is less hard than quartzite (low 7), granite (mid-7) and engineered quartz (high 7-8). It is hardness that determines durability. Harder stones are less prone to the cracking, scratches, scuffs and nicks of day-to-day surface-wear. Both hardness and density determine resistance to staining and corrosion, the other major wear-and-tear issues for kitchen and bath counters. Cosmetics present a number of staining issues, and using harsh cleaners can etch surfaces. Regular sealing can help keep counter surfaces looking new, and denser stones make cleanup of spills and stains more successful. A low-gloss finish or textured finish can help minimize wear-issues. The highly popular “leather” finish is just one of several new surfacing techniques that keep stone counters looking fresh even under heavy usage. Stone is not just for counters. And stone need not always be used in solid-color form. The natural veining, swirls, speckles and other patterns formed by mineral deposits make both natural and engineered stones a spectacular way to resolve the tensions between plain and patterned, monotone and color, smooth and textured. Choose a strongly-veined stone for vertical wall panels, a tub surround or facing on this year’s most wanted feature, one or more “floating” vanity sinks. Contorted lines of black and copper-brown across a pale gray stone evoke images of tree-branches, flowing streams and mysterious maps. Choose a more subtly variegated stone to introduce even a wider variety of colors. Smudges of blues, greens and browns apparently just under a white surface add visual texture to an otherwise-austere décor scheme. Patterns in stone panels can suggest flowers, clouds or splashes of water and other natural objects in dream-like states, enhancing the spa-like sanctuary quality of your room. WRITING IT IN STONE How long are the design decisions you make in 2018 likely to stay up-to-date? In general, designers who follow the trends take a long view of the changes homeowners are making in bathrooms. Some of this view is practical: renovating a kitchen or bathroom is major work, involving plumbing and electrical decisions as well as construction and décor. Some of it is pacing: many of the new natural features available for bathroom décor have evolved slowly from warm-climate areas, where the relationships between indoors and outdoors are more varied and less structured than in colder climates. Bringing the pleasures of an outdoor rain-style shower indoors, for example, involves more than shower-head technology. Many designers expect the relaxing changes in bathroom design to remain popular as long as the natural materials on which they are based.

Granite, Quartzite or Quartz? Making the best choice for your kitchen countertops

Stone countertops can turn a kitchen into an elegant place to prepare meals and entertain family and guests. Whether you’re building a dream home or renovating the love of your life, one of your most important goals is choosing materials that will create beautiful, lasting effects. In the kitchen, that means high-performance appliances, quality cabinetry and countertops that will bring beauty and high function to your space while keeping maintenance at a minimum.

Building or renovating a kitchen is guided by several overall principles: Appliances, fixtures and working surfaces need to have a lasting, classic quality of beauty. Classicism makes them anchors in changing color schemes and decorative fashions over long periods of service. Classicism is in no way dull or pedestrian; rather than being lowest-common-denominator, it reflects intelligent design principles, executed with care and craftsmanship. Materials need to be of consistent high quality, combining visual interest with reliable performance. Low maintenance is a direct outcome of exacting materials choices. Good design materials need little support to look good.

The choice of stone countertops is an excellent way to meet these design goals. For an enormous rainbow of colors and textures, a wealth of finishes, and superb durability, no other counter material offers a lifetime of high performance with such little maintenance. Within the category of materials, however, there are some further choices to be made. You have scaled the biggest boulder in the decision-path by choosing stone for your counters. Take the smaller steps needed to choose among proven varieties of stone to meet your exact needs.

THE VOICE OF EXPERIENCE

Every renovation can have its ups and downs, but the decision to renovate and the professional attraction to the craft are both based on the recognition that, overall, renovation is a positive, pleasurable process of change, stories with happy endings. When you’ve chosen to work with knowledgeable, experienced professional renovators, the stories you will tell for years contain a lot of fun as well. To insure maximum success with new ideas and costly new materials, thorough prep is the key to ultimate success. Almost anybody can be a daring superhero with a paint-brush. Luxurious, long-lasting materials like stone, however, have some qualities and conditions that need to be respected and managed by experienced professionals for best results.  Seek out craftspeople who have earned their reputations. They can help you make the step-by-step decisions that work for you.

CLIMBING THE STEPS

Although experts can provide information on a wide variety of stone products, there is general agreement that three varieties of construction stone excel as choices for durable, beautiful kitchen counters: granite, quartzite and quartz. Granite and quartzite are both mined natural stones.  In mineralogical terms, granite is an igneous rock; its mineral content may vary depending on where it is found. Avid hikers tend to associate the granite they encounter in mountains and hills with hues of gray. Granite can, however, range in base-color from white and subtle blues and greens to black. It can be flecked, streaked or veined with a variety of minerals present when the stone was formed far under the earth’s surface. Quartzite is a metamorphic rock, transformed by heat and pressure from sandstone. Its origins add a range of warmer tones to the color-palette, from pale gold to warm beiges and browns. Some quartz patterns mimic waves or cloud formations, adding further visual interest. Quartz is an engineered stone, composed primarily of ground natural quartzite and small amounts of polymer resins and, in some cases, color pigments.  Quartz is known as an agglomerated rock or engineered stone. Its manufacturing process allows great latitude for imaginative color- and pattern-blends. At the same time, engineered stone manifests great aesthetic respect for its origins in nature. Manufacturing can also address issues of consistency. Just as fabrics come in dye-lots, natural stones display variances that may make it hard to achieve the exact level of visual unity a designer or homeowner wants. Enough-of-a-good-thing is less of an issue with engineered stone.

STEP 1: HARD AS A ROCK, RIGHT?

One of the most important qualities that assures longevity in stone countertops is hardness. Differences between a homeowner’s vision and that of an experienced designer or contractor are often based on the unexpectedly wide range of hardness-levels in stone.

The standard scale for determining the comparative hardness of rocks was developed in the 19th century by a German mineralogist, Friedrich Mohs, and to this day is called the Mohs Scale of Hardness throughout the industry. The scale was simple common-sense: varied stones were rated by their ability to scratch other kinds of stone. Talc, as the softest, is rated as 1 in hardness, while diamond merits a top score of 10.  (The dastardly villain cutting a hole in the palazzo window with a diamond ring is actually applying respected scientific principles to purloining the Countess’s necklace!).

Within the scale, both natural granite and natural quartzite score in the range of 7. Individual pieces of stone may score higher or lower, depending on exact chemical content and origins. The hardness of quartz benefits from technology. Engineering lets manufacturers control the position and consistency of scores at the high-7 level.

The New World Encyclopedia contributes one more important element to understanding the Mohs hardness scale and the way it is used by designers to choose appropriate materials. As levels rise, they become exponentially harder. At the bottom of the scale, gypsum (2) is absolutely twice as hard as talc (1). In the upper levels, absolute hardness levels increase drastically, and those nonlinear increases may explain why professionals no longer favor wide use of decorative marble. Although homeowners have long associated marble with enduring beauty, its Mohs score is only a surprising 3. Quartz, quartzite and granite, at level 7, are more than 10 times harder than marble.  Hardness is a major consideration in terms of whether counters are subject to staining, scratching, cracking and chipping.

WHEN’S DINNER?

The last decision-steps that need to be taken bring homeowners right into the kitchen. The most critical factor in making design-choices is creating a kitchen that fulfills the needs and desires of its occupants.  Every family is different, and the closer you can look at present and future needs and activities, the longer the life of your design.

Granite, quartzite and quartz countertops all offer similar advantages over laminates, softer stones, concrete and wood.  All three leading stone surfaces are highly resistant to scratches, cut-marks, chipping, and cold- and heat-shock. Daily maintenance requires no specialized cleaning products. Stone counters are best maintained by wiping them down with a damp cloth and a simple, non-corrosive kitchen cleaner. Natural granite and quartzite surfaces should be maintained with an annual reapplication of sealant. Engineered quartz counters do not require annual resealing.  Their superior hardness makes them maintenance-free so long as you provide prompt daily care.

The major vulnerability that stone counters share with other surfaces is staining, and the question of staining may help you make a final choice between natural granite or quartzite and engineered quartz.  First, prompt attention to spills or streaks can make all the difference between partial and complete removal. Some sources of staining are obvious: brightly-colored children’s soft drinks, the food-colorings used in baking, strongly-hued seasonings like turmeric or chili powder, and adult beverages like red wine. Less obvious are the substances that, combined with colors or on their own, have strong corrosive or penetrating powers: food acids like citrus juices, vinegar, white wine; other clear alcohols; fats, like olive oil and shortening; and penetrating marinades like soy and Worcestershire sauces. Accidents happen: baking dishes bubble over, liquids splash, mixtures drip. The faster you can act and the more you know about the properties of fallen foodstuffs, the easier it will be to keep your counters in spectacular condition.

Since any kitchen design or renovation is a long-term decision and stone counters have a potential lifetime durability, consider what could happen in your kitchen as time goes on. Which do you like better: your kitchen table or your dining room table?  Do you see your home as a social magnet during your children’s teen and college years? Is your idea of a great party potluck, buffet or sit-down? Does your renovation include an indoor grill, a deep-fryer, a built-in griddle or extra space for all your small appliances? What new cuisines do you want to try in your new kitchen?

Whatever your answers, your new kitchen sounds like a wonderful place, the welcoming heart of your home. You will keep it that way with the enduring choice of stone countertops. Natural granite and quartzite bring warmth and beauty with relatively low maintenance. Engineered quartz combines natural materials and technology to maximize your enjoyment while minimizing care. High-performance stone counters will help keep your new kitchen a happy place to work and entertain for a long time.

Bathroom Renovation 411

Few remodeling decisions have the intensely positive impact on a homeowner that can be achieved by renovating a bathroom. We conceal the functions of this very personal place with a slew of nicknames– “the necessary,” “the sandbox”and “the loo.” We’re seldom there for glamorous reasons, and privacy is precious. Renovating a bathroom can be logistically inconvenient; people say you don’t get your investment back when you sell; and it’s hardly the best focus for animated party discussion. There are excellent and seemingly endless reasons to postpone renovating a bathroom.
REASONS TO RENOVATE Reality-checks, however, suggest that updating a bathroom can be one of the most satisfying decisions a homeowner can make. New materials provide beautiful surfaces tailored specifically to your needs and wishes. The most durable, like natural and engineered stone, can reduce maintenance time and your exposure to harsh chemical cleaners. The relatively small size of a bathroom may expand the choices of luxurious materials, since smaller quantities are needed than in a family room or bedroom. New trends, including elements of universal design (providing easier use by those who are elderly or disabled) can have a substantial impact on how long you actually choose to remain in the home. In the hands of an experienced provider, today’s luxury materials take advantage of both traditional and new technologies to help you fit renovation into your hectic schedule. Natural and engineered stone countertops and vertical panels may last nearly forever but take only reasonable time to install. Knowledgeable providers work with your other professionals, to tailor counter design and materials specifically to your room and activities. Placement and installation are incorporated organically into the overall design plan. This means that you are spared tight spaces, shortfalls, sharp corners and other impediments to easy movement and activity. Expert measurement and cutting, along with creation of an easily-modified template, mean that problem-solving precedes, rather than follows, installation. Choosing to work with a knowledgeable stone provider lets you make informed choices that you will enjoy for a long time. Surrounding yourself with the very best, most durable decorative materials makes daily beauty and personal-care a relaxing pleasure. Instead of scrambling for a refuge from a deluge of demands, you can relax and recharge in a visually and physically soothing oasis before plunging back into your hectic routine. Renovating and updating the common rooms and bedrooms of your house make everyone more comfortable. Renovating and updating your bathroom rewards you for your hard work while letting others share in the benefits of your planning.
GETTING CREATIVE Incorporating stone counters and surfaces into a bathroom renovation plan can add color and texture to any décor. Most important, stone counters enhance, recharge or even reconfigure room space, making it work more efficiently for family needs. Stone counters come in a huge range of natural and nature-based colors, from creamy white to glossy black, with shades of almost every color you can imagine in between. Stones reflect the natural striations and shadings of beach, mountain and desert rocks. Engineered stone can offer even more natural colors that evoke the darkness of sea water and the forest floor, the paleness of clouds and the warmth of sunlight and firelight. Look to stone, rather than plastic laminate or porcelain tile, to make texture a prominent element in design. Color selection follows general design principles: light colors tend to make spaces look larger and less defined, while darker shades offer stronger definition and may limit feelings of spaciousness. There are, however, no absolutes. A warm, glossy peach-blush curved counter draws the whole room toward its centering glow, while the uninterrupted sweep of a narrow slate-blue counter across two adjoining walls suggests a much larger room than its actual dimensions offer. Using stone surfaces vertically as partitions in coordination with counters can completely reshape space and redefine patterns of use in beneficial ways. Punctuating the sweep of a stone counter with two vessel sinks halves the pace of morning “chores.” A second shelf close to a mirror provides a display area for decorative elements in a vanity corner. A single vertical stone panel with backlighting, of translucent onyx or gemstone quartz, provides a extraordinary decorative focus that lets you keep other surfaces spare and muted. Especially in climates marked by high humidity or extreme dryness, the very air in a room is hard on décor. Laminates, ceramic tiles, water-resistant woods and other trendy bathroom materials may be highly unsuitable to long-term upgrading. Unlike other surfaces, stone counters will not flake, chalk, blister, discolor, streak, mold or warp. Maintenance requires only a soft cloth and mild cleaner. An easy annual renewal of sealant keeps stone counter surfaces looking beautiful in spite of heavy use.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT PROVIDER What should you expect of a knowledgeable stone provider? The answers may feel obvious but are not. Breadth: In consumer terms, breadth describes the number of choices available to meet the need you are trying to address. While all stone may seem heavy, rigid, dense and durable, not all varieties of stone make good counters, especially for the splashes and steam of a busy bathroom. Victorians favored marble bathrooms because marble surfaces repelled more water than wooden ones. Modern providers, though, will offer a broad range of granites, quartzite and engineered stones that will survive harder wear and stronger chemistry, retaining their beauty for many years. A knowledgeable provider offers you with a number of different materials to solve a problem. Depth: Ideally, within the breadth of a knowledgeable provider’s stock are lots more choices. Henry Ford’s old saw about choosing a car in any color so long as it was black rings hollow when you’re selecting an essentially permanent design element. The shape, color and surface texture of stone bathroom counters will dominate every changing color scheme and help to integrate new décor trends with existing favorites. For the best choice of this durable design element, depth of choice is essential. A gray with just a bit more rose in it echoes the sunset from west-facing windows. A granular beige brings the feel of the lake shore into the room. Brilliantly polished white surfaces reflect all the light from both windows and fixtures, making the room seem larger and immaculately clean. A knowledgeable provider carries a wide range of choices within any category of materials. Breadth, depth and experience. Of the three, experience may be the most important criterion. That doesn’t just mean choosing the provider who’s been in business the longest. The old ways and old styles are not always the best. A knowledgeable provider works to stay educated in his or her field. That can mean maintaining a design background with further study, making it possible to work expertly with your designer or contractor or give you the best advice for the job you are doing yourself. A knowledgeable provider stays up to date on the newest technologies and has done or designed many different kinds of jobs within the field. Experience on paper and experience on site inform every new job. A knowledgeable provider has language skills, translating technical knowledge into practical advice and planning. A knowledgeable provider has listening skills, knowing what you mean when you talk about the sunset and also how you need to balance design decisions against pending college tuition.
GETTING YOUR MONEY’S WORTH Choosing the right materials provider also means recouping some of the value of your choices when the time comes to sell your property. Realtors warn that money spent on many design and décor decisions is hard to redeem when ownership changes. Especially in rooms where decisions may be particularly personal, they warn, what you most enjoyed may constitute the greatest aesthetic obstacle to a prospective new owner. Remodeling Magazine’s annual Cost vs. Value Survey offers much-needed perspective. On their list of the 29 or so renovation decisions they track each year, bathroom redesign lands mid-list. Surprisingly, redesign (15th on the list) surpasses bathroom addition (19th). Even more interesting, on the 2017 list, universal redesign of a bathroom (making changes which allow easier access and use by those with disabilities), has risen to 12th and is expected to score higher on return of investment in the future, according to Realtor.com. Even at position #15, renovating and updating your bathroom can result in a 64.8 percent return on your investment at time of sale, while a universal-design renovation can return as much as 68.4 percent. Two lessons are clear. While the decisions you make about materials and design for your bathroom may be the most personal choices you exercise, good materials and good design are a good investment. Given the impact those choices can have on your daily life and well-being, perhaps you need to schedule bathroom remodeling early in your overall renovation plans so that, no matter what return you finally see on your costs, you reap the rewards of good choices for as long as possible. Choose the finest materials, the most future-focused design goals and the most knowledgeable provider you can, and enjoy the results.

RENOVATING A MID-CENTURY MODERN HOUSE WITH STONE

Photo by Modern Architects

A long-loved house is like an old friend, welcoming and always ready to meet your needs. Like friends, though, houses age. Surprisingly, the design principles known collectively as Mid-Century Modern are now very close to retirement age. Like other prospective retirees, many Mid-Century Modern houses are showing their age. Fortunately, these more-than-middle-aged homes are prime candidates for renovation. Advances in decorative materials let you keep the valuable principles of Mid-Century décor while producing a higher-quality version than the original. To restore a beloved home and further enhance its most appealing qualities, the growing wealth of decorative stone counters and slabs are a wonderful resource for Mid-Century Modern homeowners. WHAT’S MID-CENTURY MODERN? Although greatly empowered by immigrant architects and designers, Mid-Century Modern architecture has always seemed uniquely American. Many of the reasons for that can be found in the design principles gathered from the Bauhaus and International styles brought to this country from war-torn Europe in the 1930s and 1940s. Added to the melting pot of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie School, Mid-Century became powerful and popular. Combined with building methods  and new materials developed to meet the challenges of a large continent’s highly varied climates, Mid-Century Modern residential design said—and continues to say—“home” all over the country. Although individual architects put their own stamps on it, all paid their respects to some general and unifying principles of design. The strongest of this was the assertion that “form follows function.” Taking its cues from both nature and industrial development, Mid-Century focused on solving problems in the simplest, most straightforward fashion. A heavy reliance on natural materials and exposed construction elements like ceiling beams recalled a past when humans lived more simply in harmony with nature. Laboratory-style simplicity, often called “minimalism,” addressed a comfort-focused present in which houses needed to be seen as efficient containers for human activity rather than free-standing ornaments to be curated with care. A mixture of natural and new synthetic materials emphasized a science-based future in which human health, comfort and convenience took the lead in shaping home and workplace. THE CHALLENGE OF RENOVATION Perhaps more than any other design issue, renovation of Mid-Century Modern houses centers on the visible aging of these once-innovative materials. Time has tested and finally clarified the useful lives of plastic, vinyl, aluminum and other once-new synthetics. Prolonged exposure to light, moisture and other environmental factors like deteriorating air-quality have damaged manufactured and natural substances alike. Wood surfaces show wear from foot traffic and fluctuating moisture levels in the air. Aluminum has pitted, and vinyl surfaces have lost color and sheen. Visual pathways between interior spaces and the surrounding environment have been interrupted or destroyed. Successful renovation and restoration of the home depends on replacing vulnerable materials with new, more durable ones that can meet Mid-Century’s broad range of goals.

Photo by Studio Build

RENOVATION WITH STONE One of the most effective materials in this process is the wealth of natural and engineered stone counters and slabs available to revive and upgrade aging décor. Perhaps this seems like a statement of the obvious: in many parts of the country, Mid-Century homes use local stone for patios and other surfaces that provide visual continuity between indoors and outdoors. What today’s natural and engineered stone products offer to the home designer is so much more. Today consumers have access to beautiful granite, quartzite, marble and other kinds of stone imported from all over the world.  Durability, innate beauty and easy maintenance make them primary players in renovation. Beyond “form follows function,” see how these wonderful resources fit with other guiding tenets of Mid-Century design. ENVIRONMENTAL INTEGRATION What settled Mid-Century Modern in its new homeland was the practice of joining the house to its environment, through thoughtful siting in its natural landscape and reliance on natural and local materials for construction and décor. Designers developed revolutionary links between life indoors and out, placing heavy reliance on natural light, passive heating and cooling and engaging landscape as a major element in décor. Large windows and glass doors facilitated easy entry to room-like patios and outdoor entertaining areas.  What keeps the style going is a remarkable tension between privacy and openness, founded on the belief that homeowners inhabit and interact with the whole environment around them, not just isolated rooms in a house. Both natural and engineered stone products strengthen links between a home and its surroundings. Local stone may bring more problems to interior design than it solves; a bumpy, porous counter that collects stains merely adds to the housework.  By contrast, professionally-produced natural and engineered products can create wonderful visual echoes of colors and textures from the landscape. The nearly endless spectrum of colors—solid, striated, veined—offer many opportunities beyond just copying local stone. Choose a cool blue-gray and pebbly texture to bring the nearby lake beach indoors, or a warmer gray to prolong the stillness of early-morning fog.  Bring the bark tones of nearby evergreens or the fresh greens of bamboo and other grasses inside with stone. It is hard to imagine an element in the environment around your home that cannot be included in your décor using the colors and textures of decorative stone. Stone products can make independent contributions to your home environment as well. Using the same stone inside and out, for workspace counters in the family room and buffet counters around your outdoor entertaining area, for example, builds a visual ribbon joining interior and exterior spaces. Look to stone counters, benches and tabletops to soak up sunlight’s warmth, restoring some of the passive heating that was part of the home’s original design. Whether your stone surfaces are pebbly, leathery, low- or high-gloss, they will serve as a major tool for reflecting natural light, also a major original design element.

Photo by Flavin Architects

CLEAN LINES AND FLEXIBLE SPACE This attitude accounts for much of Mid-Century’s ongoing popularity. Its clean lines, clear views and low-maintenance construction emphasize relaxation over regimentation. Mid-Century design welcomes a busy, active casual family with open arms, and in even the most elegantly designed homes, it does not seem out of the question to go barefoot now and then. Clean lines and flexible space combine into the principle known as “minimalism.” The focus on design on its support for human activity dictates furnishings and accessories that are just-enough and not too-much. Whenever possible, furnishings are intended to serve multiple purposes. Within minimalist design, therefore, a handful of molded vinyl chairs, a wood trestle table and a long stone counter are all the equipment needed to hold a neighborhood committee meeting, serve a family dinner, make a Hallowe’en costume, do your taxes, and throw a New Year’s Eve buffet. Flexibility is not a word frequently associated with stone, but within minimalist design, stone’s flexibility has very specific applications. With precise measurement and cutting, stone surfaces can create and expand space for work and hospitality as few other materials can. Counters can be sculpted to make previously empty corners and odd bits of space productive. A curved edge, unconventional depth or unique placement are easily managed by professional stone providers, and their talents make space even more responsive to human needs than before. HIGH UTILITY AND LOW MAINTENANCE One major reason for the enduring popularity of Mid-Century Modern home architecture stems from its beginnings in the 1940s. Homes were built with social upheavals firmly in mind; and pride in full-time, lifelong home maintenance became one more WWII casualty. Mid-Century Modern houses offered, and have mostly kept, a promise of low maintenance, letting families spend more time leading their lives than cleaning up after them. Stone products fit perfectly into this scheme. Whether natural or engineered, they require only gentle cleaning and occasional sealing to provide years of literally care-free beauty.  Spills do need prompt attention, especially if, like fruit juices, alcoholic drinks or corrosive cleaners, they contain acids that can etch or stain sealed stone surfaces. Most accidents are, however, quickly managed with a damp sponge or cloth. Stone surfaces tend to have higher tolerances for heat and cold than synthetic laminates or wood, although common sense dictates using a pad under any container directly off the stove or out of the freezer. TECHNOLOGICAL ADVANCEMENT AND ADAPTATION Concurrent with architectural efforts to redefine the relationship between humans and their environment, Mid-Century builders and interior designers also set a new future path for furnishings and décor. Some of this involved developing peacetime uses for materials originally useful in wartime. Results varied widely. Consumers encountered colors not found in nature, lightweight portable furniture in shapes imitating natural objects, and multipurpose objects like built-in counters, shelves and storage drawers. New products featured materials like plastic and aluminum, whose full ranges of use and durability were yet to be determined. Natural colors, recalling a simpler past, were joined by un-natural colors of a chemically-fueled future—“hot” or “neon” pinks, oranges and greens predominated.  Bathrooms and kitchens became more colorful and easier to care for with the development of inexpensive surfacing materials like formica. Wood products progressed from solid timbers to laminates, spreading luxury in ever-thinning layers over a greater variety of surfaces. Metals exposed to the elements like aluminum and steel functioned both architecturally and aesthetically. The tensions created by combining seemingly contradictory styles generally fueled more enthusiasm than confusion as consumers explored new concepts in home décor. Give your Mid-Century Modern renovation similar energy with some of the newest stone décor. Onyx and travertine panels are only two choices of stone products that add intense color and dramatic patterns to both wall and counter surfaces. Colors remain naturally rather than chemically inspired but definitely bring décor from Mid-Century to This Century with powerful appeal.

Coordinating Cabinets with Countertops in Your Kitchen Design

When remodeling your kitchen, it’s sometimes hard to decide what type of design you want, what will look best together, or even what materials to use. To get started, you’ll first want to coordinate your cabinets with your countertops. The style that you choose should reflect the look and feeling of your home as well as your preferred aesthetic. A Light, Bright Look
Fiorella Design LLC

Fiorella Design LLC

For a rustic or country look, you should select natural wood for your cabinets. Unstained or lightly stained wood creates an airy look and feeling in a kitchen. If you want a unique look, mix natural wood with an unusual color applied only to your pantry or island cabinetry, such as a soft green or a rust color. For the countertops, try using dark soapstone. This dense, natural stone is not as hard as granite or marble, but the countertops won’t stain. Soapstone is also heat resistant, and using a deeper color will provide contrast. For contemporary or modern décor, simple white cabinetry works well. A Shaker design for your cabinet doors will enhance most current kitchen styles. Shiny white cabinets look great in a modern style. Match a quartz countertop with your white cabinetry for a luxurious look. Light gray, either plain or with a little sparkle embedded, will keep your space looking clean and elegant. A quartz countertop comes from an engineered stone, but it’s mixed with natural quartz and requires no extra upkeep. A Richer, Sophisticated Look
Vondae Kitchen

Vondae Kitchen

For a more traditional look, dark walnut cabinets will give your kitchen an affluent appearance. Match these cabinets with natural granite countertops for a great result. You can select almost any color as long as it contains a darker color woven into the design. Golden hues tend to look the best and will keep your kitchen from looking too murky. Granite with hints of green also makes a lovely choice and offers a nice contrast. For a classy look, you can’t beat the beauty of mahogany cabinets. The reddish-brown tone is a fashionable choice for almost any home. For your countertops, choose marble for a lavish addition to your kitchen. A white or cream-toned marble will look gorgeous and distinctive. Try a white with cream veining for your regular countertops, then a cream color with darker veins for your island top. Completing Your Kitchen Design After deciding on your cabinets and countertops, select flooring with complementary color tones. Don’t match the colors too closely with your cabinets or countertops, or your kitchen will lose definition, and the colors will all run together. The colors should provide balance without overwhelming your eyes. Finally, you’ll want to add a backsplash to your kitchen. A backsplash can match exactly or provide additional contrast. Subway tiles work well for a contemporary look. Small glass tiles in one or two complementary colors look great in a modern kitchen. Try a mosaic design for a traditional or rustic look. Many design choices exist for kitchens. However, if you take a little extra time to think about colors and materials before you begin to remodel, your kitchen can become a beautiful and stylish room that your whole family will love.

Hot Trends in Kitchen Cabinetry

Updating your kitchen cabinetry is a great way to create a functional and unique space that fits your style. Current trends include diverse options that can complement any home. Here’s a look at what’s hot in kitchen cabinet trends. White and Off White Kitchen Cabinets
Clean, sleek, and classic, white is a favorite color for kitchens; pair it with off-white for a creamy, more natural appearance. White kitchen cabinets work well in any size and help reflect light, making your whole kitchen brighter. They are particularly nice in small kitchens, where they help open up the space by making it feel bigger and brighter. Choosing white granite countertops is a popular way to complement white and off-white cabinetry. Chalk Paint Kitchen Cabinets Chalk paint is becoming increasingly popular, and it’s no surprise that people are choosing it to give their kitchen cabinets an aged, distressed look. The nice thing about this trend is that painting your kitchen cabinetry with chalk paint is a relatively easy way to transform the feel of your kitchen, giving it a rustic or farmhouse style. Glass Cabinet Doors
Adding glass doors lets you take advantage of the popular open shelving trend without worrying about your dishes falling off the shelves or getting dirty. Clear glass panels open up your cabinetry while keeping your dishes protected. As an alternative, you might choose frosted glass for a sleek, modern look that opens up your kitchen without displaying all your dishes. Two-Tone Kitchen Cabinets

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Black and white, dark grey and light grey, and black and grey are among the many combinations of black, grey, and white that are popular in kitchens. Two-tone cabinets are a great way to incorporate this trend in your home. Whether you choose to create a focal point by having the island a different color or create contrast between upper and lower cabinets, this method adds diversity and interest to a kitchen. In addition to contrasting colors, contrasting finishes are also popular. Mixing modern dark-brown cabinets with stainless steel cabinets or breaking up a wall of natural wood cabinets with a few painted cabinets are a couple ways to develop an interesting and unique feel. Mixed Finishes Mixed hardware finishes are also becoming common as homeowners choose appliances and accessories with different finishes. This creates an eclectic, unique space. Countertops are also following this trend as people choose from a wider variety of countertop materials, including quartz, natural stone, marble, and butcher block. Having an island with a different countertop material or a butcher-block work space, while the rest of the countertops are made of natural stone, can create a complementary look with your countertops. Current trends in kitchen cabinetry provide an exciting array of options for creating a unique look in your kitchen. Whether your style is transitional, contemporary, mid-century modern, farmhouse, or others, carefully chosen kitchen cabinets add to the overall feel of your kitchen and complement your particular style.

Do’s & Don’ts of White Marble

Everyone wants white; white granite, white quartz, and most of all white marble. Sitting on top of the trend pile as it has been for several years, white marble is the most sought after look by homeowners and designers. From Bianco Carrara to the most expensive Calacatta’s, it seems that there’s a white marble for any client’s budget. And while white marble is a beautiful and classic choice for the modern home, there are some important things you need to know before selecting it for your space. 57a24016861290c627c83d1d129c59df Do consider how you live Making a large investment in your home can be stressful. Even more so if after you finish the project, you come to regret colors, finishes, or other aspects. Before you jump on the marble band wagon, you first need to honestly evaluate if white marble is going to work with your lifestyle. For most, the kitchen is the hub of all household activity, a place of cooking, homework, and one or two glasses of pinot noir. Consider how you really use your surfaces and how you expect them to look after years of use. White marbles are primarily made of calcium carbonate, a soft mineral that gives marble its bright whiteness. This mineral is also very porous and susceptible to staining and etching. Sealants and polishing can help prevent stains from occurring, but nothing is foolproof.  A white marble kitchen requires regular maintenance and care to keep it looking optimal. But here’s the question, do you want your countertops to look brand new every day? Or does the patina of love and use appeal to you more? Certainly, not many people want to have red wine stains all over their counters, but normal wear and tear give a kitchen a lived-in vibe and white marbles are the most classic of stone that lend an air of elegance, despite the presence of pop-tarts. If none of this worries you now, you might look ahead to your future in the space. Will you be having kids? Will you start spending more time in the kitchen? Are you going to be opening a cupcake shop in your home? Always be cognizant of your potential future uses in the home. 4cf5840be0999405682f5897ee5ca1a0 Don’t rule it out because you are scared! I’ve seen many a homeowner shy away from the marble they love because they are afraid of the upkeep. It’s important to know that while yes, marble requires special care; it is a great addition to your home and is the gold standard in luxury surfaces. If a routine maintenance program sounds like a drag or you’re still nervous about staining, there are specialized, after-installation coatings that can be applied to your surface that make it impervious practically any assault. Make your decision knowing all the facts. White Macaubas 4ac2f587822f6821dc8ab3ffb104f02d Do check out the MANY different types of marble Did you know that you can buy marble from the same quarries as the Lincoln Memorial or Michelangelo’s David? With an abundance of marble from around the world, you can find the one that truly speaks to you. You don’t have to go with the same-old, tired stone that everyone else is using. Try a South African gray marble. A Portuguese white. Obviously different marbles vary in appearance but there is also variation in the performance. Did you know that Vermont Danby marbles are more resistant to staining than Italian Carrara? Not all marble is created equal. 7c86e65e80df9406954f43a3202dfbbd Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions Your stone supplier and fabricators know a thing or two about marble; feel free to ask them anything. tumblr_o77cufZV211uj9a4xo1_1280 Do learn about taking care of marble beforehand Before installing marble, read up on its care and maintenance. Have the products on hand in case you need them. Make sure that everyone in the household knows the basics about marble. This can prevent those “oops” moments before they happen. Don’t worry! Adding marble to your home is going to enhance its appearance and value. Don’t spend your time fretting over care and maintenance. Once you train your household to treat your marble with a little care, it will become a part of your routine. Just sit back and enjoy the natural beauty!

Quartz Vs. Quartzite: Countertop Confusion

If you’ve been reading up on the latest trends in countertops for kitchens and baths, chances are you’ve probably seen the words quartz and quartzite counter bandied about with nary an explanation about the difference between the two. Today, we’re here to set the record straight about these 2 extremely popular and vastly different materials.

A kitchen using both natural stone and engineered quartz.

The first and most important difference is that materials that are referred to as “Quartz” are man-made, engineered stones made of natural quartz and resin in a factory. Quartzite is a 100% natural stone that is dug up out the earth, polished and cut into slabs. They both are made mostly of quartz, one of the hardest substances on earth, which make them ideal for kitchens and high use areas. Because of this natural hardness, both resist staining and etching from acidic liquids. A subtle difference between Quartzite and Quartz is that Natural quartzite can be polished to a high gloss. Engineered quartz often cannot achieve that level of sheen. There is a small subset of material known as “Soft Quartzite” which performs more like a marble. Be sure to ask your salesperson about the specific varieties you’re considering
Calacatta Capri

Engineered Maestro Quartz

Engineered Quartz can be made into a wide variety of colors, textures, and even made to simulate the look of natural stone veins. Because it is made primarily of quartz, it offers excellent performance in demanding spaces. It is often sold under well-known brand names like Caesarstone, Cambria, and Maestro. The best thing about engineered quartz is that it offers great consistency across all slabs. Because it is made in a controlled environment, a large kitchen can enjoy a uniform appearance of countertop surfaces. Long term maintenance with engineered quartz is minimal. It doesn’t require sealing or specialized cleaners that natural materials need.
natural quartzite slab

Natural Quartzite

Natural Quartzite offers the splendid character of natural stone with lasting durability. For those looking for a veined, natural stone, most people immediately turn to marble. Marble has its own characteristics that might not work for all homeowners. Quartzite can offer a similar look but with performance that can keep up with a busy lifestyle. Available in a variety of colors, the only limitations are the natural supply and new material colors come to market quite often. When debating which one is right for you, consider your lifestyle and your own taste preferences. Do you prefer the look of natural countertops? Or a consistent, smooth coloration? When your choices are down to Quartz and Quartzite, you will get great performance either way.