When it comes to designing the perfect interior space, every detail counts. From furniture selection to colour palettes, each element contributes to the overall ambiance. However, one crucial decision that can significantly impact the aesthetic, functionality and cost of a space is choosing between natural stone and tiles for flooring and wall surfaces.
Both natural stone and tiles offer unique advantages and lend themselves to a variety of design styles. As professional interior designers, it is essential to understand the characteristics and drawbacks of each material and how they align with your clients' vision. In this article, we will explore the distinctive qualities of natural stone and tiles, helping you make the right choice for your next project.
The timeless elegance of natural stone
There's an undeniable allure to natural stone that has captivated designers and homeowners for centuries. The inherent beauty and individuality of each slab or tile exude a sense of luxury and refinement. Whether it's marble, granite, limestone, or travertine, natural stone adds a touch of beautiful sophistication to any space.
What are the pros of natural stone?
- Durability and longevity: Natural stone is highly durable and can withstand the test of time. When properly maintained, it can retain its original beauty for years, making it a long-term investment for high-traffic areas.
- Versatile applications: Natural stone can be used for various applications, including flooring, wall cladding, countertops, and even decorative accents. Its versatility allows it to adapt to different design styles and create stunning focal points within a space.
- Natural (and potentially) sustainable: As the name suggests, natural stone is sourced directly from the earth. If sourced locally and from quarries with appropriate working conditions, it can be a sustainable choice that minimises environmental impact. Natural stone is much more sustainable than you think, so make sure to check out this article by Artisans of Devizes for more information.
- Heat and fire resistance: Natural stone has excellent heat resistance, making it suitable for areas prone to higher temperatures, such as kitchens and fireplaces. It can withstand direct heat without warping or discoloration.
- Hypoallergenic and allergy-friendly: Natural stone does not harbour allergens, making it a great choice for individuals with allergies or respiratory sensitivities. It is also resistant to mould and bacteria growth, promoting a healthier indoor environment.
- Adds value to properties: Incorporating natural stone materials into a design project can increase the value and desirability of the overall design of the space in renovation. Its luxurious appeal and durability make it an attractive feature for potential buyers or tenants, and can be the best choice for a final design that focuses on its marketability.
- Easy maintenance: While natural stone does require some maintenance, such as periodic sealing, it is relatively easy to clean and care for. Regular sweeping and occasional damp mopping can help maintain its beauty over time. Also, natural stone can be restored so it chips or dulls it can be brought back to its original finish. Plus, any chips or scuffs can be sanded out.
What are the cons of natural stone?
- Cost: Natural stone can be more expensive than other materials, especially high-end options such as marble. Depending on the type of stone and its rarity, quality, and sourcing, the pricing will change. The installation costs can also be higher due to the expertise required to handle and install natural stone properly.
- Porosity and staining: Natural stone, particularly softer stones like marble or limestone, is porous and susceptible to staining. Spills of acidic substances like dark wine, juice, or harsh cleaning agents can etch or discolour the surface if not promptly cleaned. The pores in an unglazed stone are larger, which means at its natural state, stone will not be the best option for wet areas. Of course, this changes when we talk about a glazed surface. But don't forget... While a sealant, sealer, glaze or protective finish of any kind can make it more stain-resistant, natural stone tile is more prone to damage.
- Vulnerability to scratches and chips: While natural stone is durable, it is not invulnerable to scratches or chips, especially in high-traffic areas or when subjected to heavy impact. Softer stones like marble or travertine are more prone to these damages. Regular care and caution are necessary to prevent surface imperfections.
- Limited colour options: Compared to tiles or other manufactured materials, the colour range of natural stone may be more limited. While it offers beautiful natural hues, finding a specific colour or shade to match a particular design vision may require more effort or compromise.
- Weight and installation: Natural stone is heavy, which can present challenges during transportation and installation. Structural considerations must be taken into account, ensuring that the space can support the weight of the stone and that proper installation techniques are employed.
- Environmental impact: Although natural stone is a natural resource, the extraction and transportation processes can have an environmental impact. It's important to consider the sustainability practices of quarries and suppliers and opt for responsibly sourced materials when possible.
The glorious versatility of porcelain and ceramic tiles
While natural stone offers a sense of opulence, tiles provide endless possibilities for creativity and versatility. Tiles are manufactured in a wide array of materials, including ceramic, porcelain, glass, and even engineered options. This diversity allows designers to experiment with various colours, patterns, and textures to achieve their desired aesthetic. From modern and sleek to country or even glamorous, tiles really have no limits in terms of their versatility.
What are the pros of tiles?
- Durability and longevity: Tiles, particularly ceramic and porcelain options, are known for their exceptional durability. They can withstand heavy foot traffic, resist scratches and wear, and maintain their appearance over time. This makes them suitable for both residential and commercial spaces.
- Moisture resistance: Tiles, especially porcelain tiles, are highly resistant to moisture, making them ideal for areas prone to water exposure such as bathrooms, kitchens, and entryways. Their non-porous nature prevents water absorption and helps prevent the growth of mould and mildew.
- Ease of maintenance: Tiles are relatively easy to clean and maintain. They can be swept, vacuumed, or mopped with regular household cleaners. Their smooth and non-absorbent surfaces make spills and stains easy to wipe away, making them a practical choice for busy environments; much more than stone.
- Cost-effective options: Tiles offer a wide range of price points, making them accessible to various budgets. There are affordable options available that can replicate the look of natural stone, wood, or other premium materials, allowing all kinds of clients to achieve their desired aesthetic.
- Precise sizing and uniformity: Tiles are manufactured with precise dimensions, ensuring uniformity in size and shape.
What are the cons of tiles?
- Limited natural texture: Unlike natural stone, tiles may lack the natural texture and organic variations that some clients prefer. While advancements in tile manufacturing techniques can replicate the look of texture, it may not provide the same tactile experience as genuine natural materials.
- Grout maintenance: The grout lines between tiles can be a challenge to clean and maintain. Grout is prone to staining, discoloration, and the accumulation of dirt or grime. Regular cleaning and occasional resealing are necessary to keep the grout looking fresh and to prevent issues such as mould or mildew growth.
- Vulnerability to cracks and chips: Despite their durability, tiles are not immune to cracks or chips, especially in areas subjected to heavy impact or improper installation. Dropping heavy objects or sharp impacts can damage the tile surface, necessitating repair or replacement. Unless tile installers come to help you out, tiling can be a dangerous (and expensive!) game.
- Sound reflection: Tiles have a hard surface that can reflect sound rather than absorb it. In spaces where acoustic considerations are important, such as offices or restaurants, additional soundproofing measures may be necessary to minimise noise reverberation.
- Limited heat insulation: Tiles have limited natural heat insulation properties, which means they can feel colder to the touch in colder environments. This can affect the overall comfort of the space, especially in areas where warmth is desired, unless underfloor heating or rugs are used to provide additional insulation.
Which is better, stone or tile?
Choosing between stone and tile isn't about a clear "better" option. It depends on your clients' preferences, lifestyle, and space requirements. Natural stone offers a luxurious, timeless, and nature-inspired look, ideal for upscale projects. Tiles, on the other hand, provide versatility, durability, and design flexibility with a wide range of choices. Sometimes, combining both materials can achieve a balanced and appealing result. In sum, there are beautiful options for both.