Real Estate

Stone slabs can make inspiring artwork

A dramatic full slab of exotic Red Onyx is showcased on the back wall of this slick and glamorous master bath. It is the defining decor feature of the otherwise minimal space.
A dramatic full slab of exotic Red Onyx is showcased on the back wall of this slick and glamorous master bath. It is the defining decor feature of the otherwise minimal space. Submitted

I have been helping my clients select stone slabs for as long as I have been working professionally as an interior designer. And, seeing as I began my career way back in 1990, that has been a very long time.

In fact, just this week I discovered a new stone vendor in Savannah and visited their showroom in search of inspiration. It was like visiting a gallery and viewing Mother Nature’s wonderful works of art.

Over the years I have chosen some beautiful marbles and granites for kitchen counters, bar tops, outdoor barbecue grilles, bathroom vanities, tub decks, and shower seats. These stone slabs have run the gamut in appearance, ranging from subtle and elegant to bold and rustic, polished and slick to leathered and honed. I have used most every color in the spectrum, from the darkest Absolute Black granite to lightest Carrara White marble and every hue in between. However, the common denominator with these diverse stones is their horizontal application, typically employed as a countertop.

Kitchens and bathrooms have been designed around natural stone for years but what’s really coming back into vogue now are feature walls where the stone slabs are applied vertically as an accent, sometimes being the design feature of the room. Decor aficionados are taking note and filling their Instagram feeds and Pinterest boards with prime examples. It is literally one of the hottest trends right now in interior design.

This trend, like so many others, is not exactly new. In 1929 Ludwig Mies van der Rohe made extensive use of stone slabs as part of the decor when he designed the iconic Barcelona Pavilion. Enormous expanses of boldly patterned stone form the inside and outside walls, creating a tranquil, Zen-like atmosphere. This natural beauty still appeals to homeowners who seek a restful retreat where they can unwind from the stresses.

Creating a tranquil ambiance was exactly what my client Judy had in mind when we embarked on a major renovation of her Atlantic Pointe vacation home in Sea Pines. Since she and her family use the home as an escape from their hectic Atlanta lives, she wanted the house — and the new bathrooms in particular — to be spa-like and spectacular.

Judy embraces color and pattern and was immediately sold on a particularly gorgeous slab of Red Onyx. There was nothing subtle about this bold material so we decided to let it take center stage. Instead of cutting it up and using it on the countertop we used it in its entirety as an inset panel on the back wall of the newly enlarged, glassed-in shower in the master bathroom.

In order to play up the fantastic veining and dramatic colors of the onyx, we selected a stark, glass-like white tile for the rest of the walls and floors. A solid white engineered stone was chosen for the countertop of the vanity. The exception to the all-white palette was the red stain on the custom vanity. Red is Judy’s favorite color and it ties in beautifully with the onyx accent wall and the fabrics in the adjoining master bedroom.

The effect is stunning and serves as the primary accent feature and design element of the space. In fact, since no two pieces of stone are the same, it is a truly original piece of art.

Gregory Vaughan is an interior designer with Kelley Designs. Contact him at 843-785-6911 or gregory@kelleydesignsinc.com.

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