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Interior Design Choices: The Sustainability of Natural Stone

Interior Design Choices: The Sustainability of Natural Stone

Kelly Wearstler

Stone is making its way back into homes in a big way in 2017. Rustic looks and reclaimed wood continue to be used to create a modern farmhouse look and feel, but they’re now sharing the limelight with this dramatic, organic material integrated into interiors in a much bigger way than granite countertops. Stone, like travertine, marble and limestone, is making appearances on wall surfaces as seen above in interior designer Kelly Wearstler’s beach house in the Fall 2016 edition of InStyle Home & Design.

While the the luxe appeal of of gold and copper metallics in interiors is still going strong, we’ve noticed that, in some new builds and remodels, those tones are being replaced with the softer sheen, but harder surfaces, of organic materials like stone. The grey paints that rose to fame in the last year perhaps opened the door to the rebirth of stone’s interior inclusion. Of course, we’ve also been speculating that the long-standing geode trend is simply moving onto larger surfaces. Regardless of the trend’s origin, stone has been a preferred building material for ages, and, with advancements in quarrying technology and the demand for green buildings, natural stone is the new go-to material.

stone floor

As the owner of a home built in the 1970s, I can attest to the warming benefits of my own massive stone wall that holds a large fireplace. I’ve added a wood stove insert in place of the original fireplace because it’s way more efficient and heats most of the house. The wall, constructed with mostly 12″ by 12″ stones, heats up nicely and makes the wall-length hearth bench choice seating in the wintertime. Natural stone has beneficial thermal mass (the ability of a material to store heat and slowly release it), which creates a higher indoor ambient air temperature. Energy efficiency has never looked so good!

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Because of the high demand for green building practices and materials, architects and designers are harnessing everything from the obvious aesthetic appeal to the solar reflectance benefits of natural stone. Adding in regionally sourced materials, as well as recycled stone from century-old barns and other structures, architects and builders are able to provide homeowners with the green building materials and practices they’re looking for.

LEED-certified design (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) continues to become more affordable and available in new home construction and additions to existing structures. These LEED certified buildings have many advantages: energy savings, water conservation, improved indoor air quality, and attention paid to best practices for harvesting natural materials and resources, like stone.  While developing the capacity for ecological thinking and sustainability is thought of as being cost prohibitive for first time homebuyers, investigating natural materials for a home down the road should be on the to-do list of everyone. I began this process when I first decided it was time to dive into the home buying process as a way of motivating myself to see beyond the first five years of homeownership.

Click through for more beautiful stone features in interiors and how I used the home buying process as a tool for learning more about sustainability! —Caitlin

This post is brought to you in collaboration with MIA+BSI: The Natural Stone Institute. Visit their website here to learn more about the sustainability of natural stone. 

Images above: 1. InStyle Magazine | 2. Steven Graver | 3. Minimalisti 

If I didn’t like a feature of a home in my price range, I’d try to envision it with a slate or tile roof and then I’d price out what that would cost in the long run, what I’d need to save to get there, and what value it would add to my future home when I sold it down the road. This type of exercise also helped me decide on the home I ended up purchasing. The stone wall, combined with the energy savings from my wood stove investment, helped me understand that this home would work for me now and in the future.

As I considered my own home lifecycle in terms of my life in it, I realized it was a great introduction into learning about the lifecycle of buildings and materials in general. Stone measures up as a much more sustainable material than common synthetically produced home materials like laminate flooring and countertops. Extraction technology and techniques have vastly improved the environmental impact of quarrying and it now takes less energy and water to extract stone. Its durability for high-traffic areas and the fact that there are no gases released make it a material worth investing in, either now or in the future.


via Design*Sponge