The beauty, range and versatility of natural stone

David Mahyari, CEO of boutique stone supplier SolidNature, explains the key to creating distinctive kitchens and bathrooms in self-builds.

Natural stone should be a priority when planning a new kitchen or bathroom as it’s sustainable, versatile and adds an element of sophistication to any space. New technology and machinery mean just a thin sliver of these stunning, petrified pieces of history can be safely applied to walls and ceilings or carved into sculptural shapes. Don’t limit your options to the standard Carrera marble or black granite – nature offers us hundreds of different marbles, onyxes, travertines and semi-precious stones that will lift all manner of interiors or design schemes. 

Designing a high-impact kitchen

Now that high-quality kitchen carcasses are affordable and high street retailers offer a range of cabinet doors (or you can commission a carpenter to make bespoke ones), a large percentage of your budget should be spent on worktops. Don’t forget, they are the dominant design element in a kitchen and will be a prominent visual focal point. 

Marble comes in a range of hues from milky whites to fashionable greens, earthy browns and dramatic blacks. You’ll need to keep an eye out for spills of lemon juice, red wine and vinegar which can stain, but in a worst-case scenario, your marble supplier can just shave off half a millimetre of stone and it will look as good as new. One of our clients had a marble-clad palace with stone that had dulled over hundreds of years – we polished it up until it was indistinguishable from the new marble we fitted. 

A hard-wearing alternative is semi-precious quartzite which comes in a range of hues from emerald green to smoky grey – it’s almost impossible to stain and is as indestructible as granite. Another option is tra-onyx, which blends layers of earthy travertine and opaque onyx which can be backlit, showcasing the veins, layers and complexities of the latter to dramatic effect. Splash out on slabs of pure onyx for the ultimate statement kitchen. 

Kitchen islands, floors and contrasting finishes
Once you have chosen the type of stone, consider different applications beyond the worktops. The ‘honeycomb’ technique means you can clad walls and even the doors of kitchen cabinets with just a wafer-thin layer of stone.  A kitchen island with a wooden carcass that is clad in natural stone expertly mitred to give the impression that it is a solid block is currently a popular centrepiece. You can add shadow-gaps to make it stand out and a hardwood butcher’s block to break up a long stretch of natural stone. The latest cutting-edge machinery means you can also construct integrated sinks, gas hobs and even plug sockets in the same stone for an elegant, seamless look. 

Travertine is a popular choice for flooring as it is robust, easy to clean and has natural holes that can be filled with clear, opaque or polished resin of almost any colour to fit in with the overall design. For one of our clients who was keen to prioritise sustainability, we created a natural stone herringbone floor from offcuts taken from slabs used elsewhere in the property plus leftovers from other projects. 

Another consideration is finishes. Polished is a popular choice for worktops, but too many polished surfaces will confuse the eye, so choose contrasting finishes for floors and kitchen cabinet doors. Sand-blasted stone is often used for walls or flooring as it creates a rich, textured surface with excellent traction and a sense of tranquillity. A honed (matte) finish is a more subtle and subdued option for worktops and thanks to its non-slip properties, it’s usually installed on staircases and in bathrooms and wet rooms. 

Bathrooms of distinction

Most British clients tend to choose creamy white marble or travertine tiles with a practical, honed finish for bathroom floors. This light palette often extends to walls, shower cubicles and bath surrounds with polished white marble that has dramatic veins for a more dynamic design.

If you want the look and feel of a five-star hotel, consider using quartzite or cladding an entire wall with panels of book-matched onyx which resemble a work of modern art. If your budget can stretch to an elegant powder room for house guests, plump for book-matched Statuario marble for the smallest room in the house – a classy choice with a price-tag to match.