Francini Inc. Blog

 
01Mar

A Designer’s Perspective on Selecting Stone | Leigh Ann Raines of Chic By Design

It’s an honor to be invited by Francini to write a design post. It’s no accident you arrived on their website, so I’d like to take this opportunity to share the process I undertake when selecting stone.

There is so much information on television and online. I imagine that choosing the perfect stone for your home may seem daunting with so many options available. In this guest post, I’ll explain what I do and why, providing real examples from various projects. It’s important to note that wonderful designers may approach choosing stone in very different ways. This is my approach, and it’s all based on color and movement. (Of course, budget is a factor, but we’ll get to that later.)

I was trained in color by Maria Killam, who I consider to be the best in the business when it comes to understanding undertones and how colors do or don’t work well together. Color is one of my specialties, so the first thing I need to determine with clients is the color direction we desire for the space. Simply put, do we want warm tones or cooler tones? It is possible to mix warm and cool, but you really want an expert to ensure it’s done correctly because warm/cool and clean/dirty colors often fight one another. When you walk into a room and everything just “feels” right, it usually didn’t happen by accident. In our profession, careful consideration goes into every detail, so our clients will love living, working, playing, or relaxing in the space.

Color is the first step to focus our direction and narrow down the options. What colors will be in the space? If we desire a neutral palette, do we like warm tones or cool tones? Without a color direction, we can get lost in the sea of possibilities and decision making is hindered.

Once we’ve settled on a color story, I prefer to explore stone options first, before selecting tile. The stone is a large, fixed element. I refer to it as a fixed element because once installed, it’s not likely you’re going to change it anytime soon. Tile is also a fixed element for the same reason… once installed, that investment needs to have a good, long shelf life. I like to begin with stone for a couple of reasons. For one, there are thousands and thousands of tile options on the market, so I know that no matter what stone I choose, I will easily be able to find a gorgeous tile to complement the stone. Another reason I prefer to begin with stone selection is because it’s helpful to determine how much movement we like in the stone. And that in turn may influence the tile I choose. By movement, I’m referring to the pattern in the stone. Is the stone pattern more calm or more busy? Is it more uniform or does it have bold sections (movement)? When looking at natural stone, the movement of the slab can vary from bundle to bundle. The colors can even vary based on the quarry location and lot number of that particular cut. As a result, it’s helpful to know we have reserved the actual slabs that will go into the project. Occasionally I will fall in love with a (usually bold) tile and choose the stone next. But if I’m honest, it’s infrequent that I begin with tile.

What I can tell you is that before I step foot in a stone supplier’s showroom, I have already met with the client, and we’ve reviewed inspiration images, so we are on the same page as to the aesthetic they like. I ask questions to gauge what clients will enjoy best, for the long term. There are no right or wrong answers; what you like is personal. We can change throw pillows and even paint on the walls easily, but we’re not going to toss out our beautiful new stone anytime soon. Let’s get specific.

Case study: Light & Bright with a Touch of Drama

In the kitchen below, my very fun clients knew they wanted to brighten up their already attractive kitchen. This was a cosmetic remodel, and color enabled us to accomplish our goals. My clients love light and bright, with a touch of drama. The days of their wood-stained cabinets and medium-dark granite countertops were over. Time for a refresh. Where did we begin? Inspiration photos of course!

Lightening the space would include painting their existing cabinetry (and extending them to the ceiling). [Designer tip: always go to the ceiling with cabinetry or as high as you can afford (unless your ceiling is insanely tall).] Calm, light quartz countertops would replace the tired, busy granite. We liked the uniformity of the quartz and the low maintenance. But we still needed drama. Where would that come from? I knew Francini was the answer. On the walls in the showroom lobby are slabs of gorgeous stone in the form of porcelain. The thin porcelain slabs were a perfect application for a dramatic backsplash. The result was light and calm, yet amazingly dramatic. To add more drama and to contrast the new elements in the kitchen, we included a dark painted hood and painted tuxedo trim around the island. Voila! Mission accomplished. What do you think?

Chic By Design: Leigh Ann Raines | Francini Designer Guest Spotlight

Photo Credit: Jodie Brim Creative @jodiebrim

Chic By Design: Leigh Ann Raines | Francini Designer Guest Spotlight

Photo Credit: Jodie Brim Creative @jodiebrim

Next case study: Soaring Fireplace

I am so lucky to work with terrific clients. And this next project was no exception. My clients were moving from Los Angeles to North Carolina, into their forever home. The home had a gorgeous lake view, but the interior was dark and rustic. My clients wanted to cosmetically update the home, making it brighter and more modern. Once again, color was the name of the game in every aspect of the refresh.

What’s my client’s favorite color? Purple, all shades of purple. She also loves pink, blues, soft greens, generally colors in the pastel family. Sure, lavender isn’t for everyone, but it’s her forever home and we enjoyed creating special touches that aren’t what you’d find at the Joneses (no offense to the Joneses). Drama and gorgeous color came into this home using quartzite stone to clad the fireplace from top to bottom. Francini had beautiful Zumala quartzite with tones of lavender, gray, and a light water blue. The slabs were book matched so we could choose how we wanted the pieces to align on the vertical plane.

Let’s be clear, this is not for the faint of heart. You must commit and most importantly have a fabricator who makes the magic happen. It takes a real artisan to carefully cut the slabs, so the veins wrap and line up perfectly. These slabs are heavy, so safety is paramount. Pepe Aguilar at Dynamic Marble & Granite is an artisan I trust to be creative and meticulous with more intricate and complicated installations. His team creates the focal points that bring our concepts to life.

The bold pattern on the fireplace stone led us to use a quieter quartzite around the kitchen perimeter, and another quartzite with lavender and gray tones on the island. Our clients love their new home, and the fireplace is a showstopper.

Chic By Design: Leigh Ann Raines | Francini Designer Guest Spotlight
Chic By Design: Leigh Ann Raines | Francini Designer Guest Spotlight

Photo Credit: Jodie Brim Creative @jodiebrim

Chic By Design: Leigh Ann Raines | Francini Designer Guest Spotlight
Chic By Design: Leigh Ann Raines | Francini Designer Guest Spotlight

Photo Credit: Jodie Brim Creative @jodiebrim

Next case study: Updated Kitchen for Young Family

This next project was for a young family who moved into a new (to them) home for their daughter with special needs. They are drawn to timeless, classic beauty. We removed a wall for better access and usability, unifying the kitchen, breakfast, and family room. The wood-stained oak cabinets were painted (also modified to the ceiling) and we chose a marble countertop. I always ensure clients who like the look of real marble also understand the implications of using real marble vs a quartz marble-look alternative. Marble is porous. It’s gorgeous, but please know that you want to wipe up spills quickly and it may etch over time. If you’re a perfectionist, perhaps consider a quartz option. But if you can embrace the imperfections that may appear over time, with each one telling a story of the love that was shared in the kitchen, the beauty of natural marble can’t be beat.

She chose a honed finish, so we selected a glass tile backsplash in a soft neutral color to complete the look. The light gray of the Carrara work well with the blue and green colors incorporated elsewhere in the space. We did not replace the kitchen tile floor, so we had to balance the colors of the tile floor, countertop and backsplash tile. The shine of the polished nickel plumbing fixtures and hardware along with the small amount of shine in the tile create a touch of elegance beside the classic honed marble.

Budget

Budget does not have to be a limiting factor when choosing your stone. Technology in manmade materials makes them look increasingly more realistic and often affordable alternatives to exotic stone. There are pretty granites with color and pattern that provide a nice foundation in the home and are extremely family friendly. The beauty and performance of quartzite can’t be beat, so it’s a splurge worth having as you consider the lifetime of your new space. I also love the creative applications with an increasing array of porcelain slabs in beautiful patterns, making installation less cumbersome for large surfaces like walls and showers.

Your local Francini expert can guide you through the benefits of each option. Don’t be shy to call upon an interior designer who can ease the burden of so many decisions. In new construction, for example, your builder may have an allowance for stone, while a designer can guide you through options (including saving in one area to splurge in another), so the outcome is exactly what you hoped it would be. Stone plays a major role in design decisions and Francini showrooms are our playground. Best wishes on your journey to a new or refreshed space! I’m excited for you!

Leigh Ann Raines is the founder and principal designer of the full-service boutique interior design firm, Chic By Design, based in Winston-Salem, NC. Her design career began in Los Angeles, with the invitation to attend designer bootcamp training under the direction of Kathryn M. Ireland. Chic By Design was subsequently established in Los Angeles in 2013. “With more and more people relocating to my home state of North Carolina, and having moved more than 10 times myself, relocation is one of our specialties. We ensure the transition into your new home is as seamless as possible. We also cater to clients with investment properties on both coasts.” Leigh Ann is a Certified True Color ExpertTM and certified Aging-In-Place Specialist. You can reach her at chicbydesign.com , on Facebook @chicbydesignla, and on Instagram @chicbydesignla.

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