In my professional opinion if you have never experienced the process of selecting marble or granite slab material then you have been missing out on one of the most unique and enjoyable design selection practices.
When I visit a slab yard I resemble a kid in a candy store. Earlier this week I made a trip to the Daltile Stone Center in Phoenix so I could select an additional slab of Emperador Dark for a project. Initially my clients participated in the selection process however during the project we decided to use more stone in other areas of the home thus I wanted to make sure that the additional slab we required would be similar in appearance to the one we had already purchased.
When visiting a slab yard I highly recommend making an appointment so that staff is available to assist you during your search. Slab material is large and, needless to say, extremely heavy, thus trained professionals are required to assist you in moving slabs so that they can be viewed properly.
Before I even got down to the business of selecting the slab I needed, Gregg Uzueta who is the Daltile Phoenix Stone Center Manager took me on a little tour and showed me some new “boutique” species of granite that Daltile is now offering. Gregg knows my appreciation of natural stone and in my 20 years I have used so many different species on my projects I am always interested in the opportunity to be able to view something new and unique. For me it equals the thrill of standing in front of a Monet for the first time.
Stone species are graded and priced on a category basis so you can be assured that the more unique a slab is in color and appearance the higher the grade will be. Grading is also based upon availability; stone that is difficult to obtain or manufacture is going to be more expensive than a common or readily available species of stone.
Each species of marble and granite as well as limestone and onyx offers something different in the way of color and appearance. Most showrooms who offer countertop fabrication will have an assortment of small samples of stone for you to get a good idea as to color and pattern however since stone is a natural resource it varies greatly thus not all slabs are identical. To admirers of natural stone this is the pure beauty of it. If you want to guarantee that the small sample you have picked in the showroom will be exactly what you think then you should have your designer, architect or builder assist you in hand selecting the material at the slab yard.
Some stone species are flecked; with lots of tight spots and dots; which is referred to as a very dense pattern with little movement and some material is so varied in color and movement that it appears to be an abstract painting with wave upon wave of color that is just waiting to be framed and hung in an art gallery. My personal favorites in granite are those which appear to have a lot of depth and by this I mean that when you look at them there is the illusion of dimension; you see color and crystals below the top surface of the slab. Most granite is polished which I prefer; however I have seen some instances where the slabs are honed [not polished].
This reminds me of Van Gogh.
I love limestone and while it requires certain maintenance and care I feel that it definitely has a place in design and should not be overlooked during the selection process. I prefer limestone that has been honed; [not polished] as it provides an old world look. Because limestone is a very porous stone it can stain easily however using one of the newer sealing products available these days some of the “worry” and maintenance of limestone can be minimized.
Onyx is not one of my “go to” stone selections and this is just my personal taste that I am expressing. My favorite use of onyx is on walls or tops of furniture pieces that are backlit as onyx has a translucent quality and while not transparent it does produce a very nice effect when illuminated.
Marble is one of my regular “go to” materials for my projects and has been since the beginning of my career when I was designing the floors, bathrooms and showers for Versace’s Casa Casuarina in South Beach. I love that marble can provide a classic or modern feel depending upon the species selected and whether or not it has a polished or honed finish.
If you desire the look of limestone and granite without using a natural resource then a quartz product is an excellent substitute and will provide all of the durability of granite and more. Daltile has a product known as One Quartz which is available in 2cm as well as 3cm slabs in addition to tiles that are also offered in various sizes.
If you have never been to a marble or granite yard then I highly recommend you put this on your list of “Things to Do” as this excursion provides most people with a new appreciation for the beauty and use of natural stone. I have yet to visit an actual granite or marble guary where they process the large blocks of stone and cut them into slabs. This is on my “Must Do List” but until then I’ll continue to visit the slab yard every chance I can get.