While styles and product choices may come and go, one aspect of residential design that remains constant is that kitchen and bath spaces rank high among homeowners. Meticulous thought and planning are taken to design just the right space that satisfies both functional needs and aesthetic appeal. And many homeowners are favoring stone and tile to create the kitchen and bath design of their dreams.
It is safe to say that the kitchen is the star of a home. Typically the central location of a residence, the kitchen has evolved into much more than a room for preparing meals. It has become a gathering space of sorts — a place for everything from cooking and entertaining to children doing their homework. As a result, large center islands and top-quality stone and tile products have become popular choices among homeowners.
Designer Christopher Grubb, President of Arch-Interiors design group, inc. in Beverly Hills, CA, finds that his clients are savvy, but also cautious, when it comes to designing their kitchens. “Most of our kitchens are a six figure investment — depending on the size and the appliances the client desires,” he said. “It is one of the biggest investments they will make in their home. I always feel a responsibility when designing to show the client a variety of materials at a variety of price points. I joke that they inevitably pick the more expensive ones.
“I’d say clients have waited a bit longer to start projects with the economic climate as it’s been,” Grubb went on to explain. “I think they want to feel a bit more financially stable — even if it’s just psychological. Like all projects though, I’d rather a client waits until they are comfortable with their budget than compromise. Labor is always the most expensive versus a product, and I explain to them that considering the years in which they will use a space, I never want them to say, ‘ Why didn’t I wait so I got what I really wanted?’ instead of wanting to save a bit on their budget.”
One noticeable trend Grubb is witnessing in kitchen design is that homeowners are requesting decorative panels to cover their appliances. “It seems most of our clients want to hide the appliances whenever they can,” he said. “They are fatigued with the same look of seeing all of the stainless. [Additionally], transitional homes and some contemporary still want backsplashes that are visually interesting in mosaic tiles of all sorts. The more modern — or modern contemporary — want full backsplashes that match the countertop.”
And while granite and other natural stones remain a popular choice for countertops, some homeowners are leaning towards quartz surfacing. “With the more modern/contemporary kitchens, quartz surfacing is extremely popular,” explained Grubb. “One reason is the clean look, and the other is its consideration as a green product. When given a choice, many clients are encouraging us to be as environmentally friendly as possible in our selections.”
A touch of Old World charm
One of Grubb’s more challenging kitchen designs was in a private residence located in Tarzana, CA. The homeowners were constructing an addition on to the front of their house, which included building a living room that would sit adjacent to the approximate 240-square-foot kitchen. Grubb was asked to “make the existing kitchen, which would back up to the new living room, light and bright even though it will lose its windows in the process.”
To meet his client’s request, the designer raised the kitchen ceiling, which was originally flat and boxy, upward to 14 feet high and placed a series of skylights in it. Moreover, he added to the character of the space by adding several stained cherry wood beams across the ceiling.
“The client wanted some ‘Old World’ touches in the design and loved limestone,” explained Grubb. “The client also wanted a central island for seating and an additional counter dividing the dining room and kitchen for her children to sit, as if she needed the kitchen completely cleared.”
The center island, which is the focal point of the space, is fabricated from Kashmir Gold granite. The same material was also used for the perimeter countertops. “The granite was selected because [the client] liked the motion, and the variation in the material matched all of the other hues being used,” said the designer, adding that all of the countertops were built up 2 inches and given an ogee edge to play up a classic look.
The warm color of the Kashmir Gold nicely complements large-format limestone floor tiles, which were arranged in a random Versailles pattern. “The Versailles pattern was used on the floor so it was visually dynamic, with slightly larger grout lines than we are typically doing,” explained Grubb.
Further contributing to the Old World feel of the kitchen is a backsplash comprised of tumbled limestone tiles with a woven stone inset over the sink and stove, which was supplied by Walker Zanger. “The backsplash became very detailed, with 4- x 4-inch tumbled limestone tiles set on a diagonal and a half round set at the height of a typical 4-inch backsplash,” said the designer. “Bronze buttons provide some contrast and texture, and the woven pattern over the sink and stove appears as artwork.”
The designer’s previous collaboration with the homeowners on a master bath design made for a smooth process with the kitchen remodel. “They were very trusting of our selections and wanted us to blend a lot of details,” said Grubb, adding that the project took a total of six months to complete.
A modern look
Grubb also used natural stone as a key design element for a kitchen in a high-end residence that sits on a cliff in Malibu, CA. With white cabinetry and the homeowner’s favorite color being blue, Blue Pearl granite countertops were a clear selection for the design. “The Blue Pearl granite was a perfect choice for its beauty to make the room sparkle on the countertop and the full backsplash,” explained the designer.
A large center island in the nearly 270-square-foot kitchen was a must, according to Grubb. “Because the client formally entertains, the island had to be large enough for catering to set up,” he said.
The blue and white color scheme — combined with stainless appliances — creates a clean crisp look in the space. Additionally, the seamless transition of Blue Pearl granite from the countertops to the backsplash enhances the overall contemporary feel of the room.
A rustic remodel
To create a feeling of rustic elegance for a 280-square-foot kitchen space of a home in Suwanee, GA, designer Andrea Cullen specified a combination of glass mosaics and Trend Stone — an engineered material consisting of 95% granite and 5% polymer produced by Trend USA and sold through Granite Transformations. “The clients wanted to modernize their kitchen and bath,” said Cullen. “They had an old Corian countertop/backsplash that looked outdated compared to the rest of their home. They wanted to update the kitchen towards their taste and for resale, if they decide to sell their home in the future.
“My clients love darker colors,” Cullen went on to say. “They wanted a rich look without making the whole kitchen feel dark and dreary. Glass mosaics are a great material for a backsplash. They reflect light so you can use darker colors without it absorbing the light.”
While the Trend Stone was employed for the perimeter countertops as well as a large center island, the glass mosaics clad the backsplash. The combination of the two materials — along with a hardwood floor and wooden cabinetry — creates a warm yet upscale environment in the space.
Cullen explained that the mosaics were adhered to the backsplash with a glass grout. “The client didn’t want to do much maintenance,” she said. “With glass grout, you don’t need to reseal it.”
The same combination of Trend Stone and glass mosaics is repeated in the home’s master bath. “They loved the countertop in the kitchen, so they wanted to use it in the master bath too,” said Cullen. “They wanted to carry the same look into their master bath.”
The designer explained that the original master bath was clad in white tile. “We opened the shower up and put 10- x 4-foot slabs [of Trend Stone] over the existing tile,” she said. “It is non-porous and easy to clean.”
Trend Stone was also employed for the dual-sink vanity as well as the bathtub surround. “There was an access panel to get to the plumbing in the tub,” said Cullen. “It was not very pretty. We added three tiles — set on a diagonal — as accent pieces, and the access panel is behind one of them.”
The glass mosaics create an accent band in the shower stall, above the tub and as the backsplash for the vanity. “I tied the mosaics in as accent pieces in the shower and tub,” said the designer. “I also framed the mirror with custom mosaics molding.”
The coloring of the Trend Stone and glass mosaics complements the existing porcelain tile floor well. “The client was very happy in the end,” said Cullen.
A custom bath
Mosaics were also the choice for a 400-square-foot master bath in a newly constructed home in North Atlanta, GA, which was designed by Wes Busby of Granite Transformations in Atlanta. The focal point of the room is an accent wall behind the vanity, which features “Virgin” wallpaper mosaic from Trend USA. The accent wall provided the inspiration for the rest of the material palette.
“The color scheme was inspired by the wallpaper mosaic,” explained Busby. “The slab material on the shower walls, which is a glass product made by Trend USA [and supplied by Granite Transformations], is Tiger Beige. We pulled the same colors out of the wallpaper.”
The shower walls are formed by slabs that measure 50 inches wide x 120 inches long. “Basically, we were trying to create a maintenance-free bathroom,” said the designer. “We did a lot of slab material — even on the floor. The color of the slab has a little more gray tone to it. The Virgin wallpaper mosaic is a little warmer. We did a white border to bring the two together.”
Additionally, mosaics were chosen for the bathtub surround and as a decorative piece in the shower. “To break up the monotony, we put an accent line in the shower,” said Busby.
The mosaics chosen for the bathtub surround and accent border are a custom blend from Trend USA. “We pulled some colors out of the wallpaper,” explained the designer. “It was neat because you can do any percentage [of color]. We did 50% on that.”
In keeping with the warm color range, Trend Stone in “Sabbia D’Oro” was selected for the dual-sink vanity. The material contrasts nicely with the darker custom cabinetry.
According to Busby, who collaborated on the project with an in-house designer, careful consideration was given to the selection process. “We went back and forth with the material selection — three different times,” he said, adding that construction of the master bath was completed in five days.
An Asian-inspired feel
A combination of natural stone and tile was chosen to create an Asian-inspired master bath designed by Tina Roth from FLOOR360 in Delafield, WI, and installed by Chris Boyce of Ancora Stone in Elm Grove, WI. “The overall goal was to create a more open feel,” said Boyce, explaining that the project was a remodel. “We downsized the giant corner tub to a Neptune Japanese soaking tub. This created the space we needed for the walk-in shower with a bench. We also removed a giant ugly cabinet that was previously storage and created custom, but cool, storage options.”
The shower wall consists of 12- x 24-inch travertine tile with a brushed finish and the same material in 3- x 6-inch subway tile format forms the tub surround. “We knew from the beginning that we wanted to use stone,” said Boyce. “We wanted a clean looking, but warm stone.”
Subtle texture and contrast is added to the approximate 200-square-foot bath with Medici Mosaics’ Nova Roma Collection Amalfi Matchstick tile. The strips of mosaics line a custom shower niche as well as four custom-designed “cubbies” that line the bath surround. Additionally, the bath surround accent ledge is tiled in Botany Bay Pebbles in “Stacked Crème.”
“The homeowner wanted an Asian-inspired feel,” explained Boyce. “That’s why we introduced the matchstick glass mosaics. We wanted to give the tub deck some texture so we stayed with travertine, but went with the beveled 3 x 6 inches.”
For the double vanity — measuring 8 feet long with a thickness of 1 ¼ inches — Verde Butterfly granite was chosen, with Medici Mosaics for the backsplash.
According to Boyce, the homeowner was involved in the selection process. “She gave us control though,” he said. “She knew what kind of feel she wanted, with that little bit of Asian flare. She loved the final result, and she still thanks us for the great design and craftsmanship.”