Stunning Surface Style
By Linda Parker
This month, we are bringing you a detailed look at gorgeous collection of stone surfaces from the very clever team at stone suppliers Gerald Culliford. Director of Sales & Marketing Oliver Webb guides us through the options available and offers some pertinent advice
Caption: Confusion Dark Satinato splashback
Q: What are the strongest trends in stone surfaces at the moment – and how do you see things changing and developing over the next couple of years?
The marble look is still very much the trend in the mid market, we sell a huge amount of natural Carrara marble and also quartz composite Carrara looks; we have different products across varying price ranges to cater for different budgets. At the moment, our clients really want to use a veined material in their kitchen, and more and more people want something unique, so we are seeing a strong tendency to natural quartzites. Many of them can be very expensive and there is a range of durability among the types on offer, but as each block is unique you really do get that ‘wow factor’ and something amazing for your kitchen or bathroom. We tend to see this trend from the people coming to view their actual pieces at our yard. Quite often, our visitors make the trip to choose specific materials. It’s a big investment and each piece is unique, so clients and designers need to see and decide upon each piece. I can only see this growing in the next few years as people search for something unique to them.
Azul Aran polished kitchen island and frame feature
We think there will be a shift away from polished surfaces too. This makes many natural surfaces a little more durable. We see some companies introducing unpolished in the quartz area, but in the past these surfaces have been problematic (the slightly open pores can hold traces of oils and other spills), so it will be interesting to see how this trend develops. We also see a trend to more terrazzo-looking surfaces, or what we call in the stone world brecciated stones, which is a bit more of a retro look. It’s a move away from the classic plains to something a bit busier in structure, colour and pattern.
Q: What are the most popular stones, colours and pattern effects at the moment?
Carrara marble is still the most popular look, and then we sell a lot of Piracema granite, which is from Brazil. The price point is good and there’s a lovely ‘wow factor’ from the sweeping veins. A lighter look for the work tops seems to be the most popular choice at the moment, teamed with darker units. We also like the work Norwegian natural stone brand Lundhs are doing, they have the most durable materials for kitchens. From a mason’s point of view their surfaces are easy to cut, yet still so hardwearing that they will outlast any house. We think there will be a shift to slightly darker materials in the next few years and already we are seeing the Lundhs products stand out against other materials as an ethical and beautiful choice. As above, we also see a trend for centrepiece stones to give the kitchen a wow factor. The market has moved away from the plain quartz look and we think that’s because higher-end customers and designers go a little further to find something special … the trend will develop from there.
Marinace Aquarius worksurface
Q: Is it getting harder to find such colourful and vibrant stones such as these?
Yes. As the trend for these stones is increasing, there is generally more supply to meet the demand, but this doesn’t mean it’s easier to find a good block and at the right price. It really just gives us more “chaff” to sort through before we find the right blocks! Many of the more vibrant quartzites are from Brazil and can often have inherent features/veins/cracks in the slabs which can make them more or less desirable. Some customers don’t mind blocks that have all the colour, pattern and variation that nature can provide – but we invariably have to find blocks that are as close to perfect as possible. That means we can ensure that we are supplying the best possible product for fabrication and end use.
Also, as more materials become available we need to quickly understand their performance and their suitability for different applications. This is always a tricky area, and we spend a long time here with our customers discussing the merits of different materials. Invariably everyone wants the most amazing stones, which in the case of quartzites and marbles, can be considered ‘soft’. So, we try to help our customers make the right choice depending on their priorities and desire for upkeep and practicality. Some people really don’t care at all, but others have a great fear of wear and tear. Most natural stone gets a lovely patina over time, so its not something to get too hung up on, but its very personal choice. We are always here to help with questions before purchase and offer plenty of samples to take away and play with too.
Fusion Fire polished worksurface
Q: Are you seeing a more adventurous use of stone for different surfaces in the kitchen (and home in general) – i.e. for waterfall island sides, full-height splashbacks, other types of paneling?
Yes, which obviously commercially is great, but it’s also wonderful to see us Brits getting a bit more adventurous with design at home – and these colours and patterns make this completely possible. The great thing about these natural pieces is that each one is unique and gives people the opportunity to do something different, and ultimately have fun! There is very little these days that’s not made in a big factory to a predesigned pattern that ultimately the big companies want to sell en-mass. Our stones give designers and customers a large element of individuality and freedom. Some people get very scared about the design and commissioning process, but natural stone gives you something you can truly fall in love with and it always looks great. I rarely see a finished piece of stone in situ that looks terrible, (thank goodness!). Down-stands are definitely a trend at the moment, as are marble splashbacks, I’d like to see more vibrant quartzites used here too as people often say they are works of art. But, making a feature wall is also an option. We are also supplying a lot of table tops too, which again is great way to add a non-permanent look to a room, it is often easy to find a base and then add a top for a similar amount to what you would be paying in the shops. We also supply quite a few pieces for outdoor tables, kitchens, dining and barbecue areas.
White Beauty polished island with waterfall
Q: Can you explain the best way to treat, clean and maintain these wonderful stone surfaces?
I always say, “relax”. These are wonderful pieces of natural stone to be enjoyed for what they are, some softer ones will get scratched and a little stained over time, but they wear with use and get a little character round the edges, like we all do! If a client really wants to maintain a “show home” look all of the time, then most stains can be removed by the many products on the market. That’s if stains do occur, but it’s quite rare. There are also quite a few companies offering in situ re-polishing, grout refreshing and stain removal, which is a benefit of natural materials, they can be rejuvenated, unlike engineered quartz which fades overtime with UV and general use.
On a day-to-day maintenance basis, we would say to just use a chopping board in heavy use areas for the softer stones. Use a little soapy water as a general clean, and for doing a thoroughly good clean use some of the Method or Lithofin specialist stone cleaners. The best advice is to always make sure finish off with a dry, clean cloth and a bit of elbow grease! We often get call outs to look at tops that are marking but find that people tend to use too much washing up liquid and then don’t remove it all from the surface properly. Washing up liquids have high oil content in them, which can make a greasy film after time on the tops.
Luana Multicoloured polished worksurface
Visit Gerald Culliford for further details and inspirational ideas, or call 0208 390 4656.
Fusion Light used for wall panels