Welcome to the second installment of our Stone in Your Home Series, where I will be guiding you, our faithful reader, through the different rooms in your house and offering my advice concerning the natural stone you have in or want for your home.
Today, let’s talk about the living room.
Except for maybe bedrooms, living rooms tend to offer the fewest opportunities for natural stone.
Of any room in your house, you probably spend the most time awake in your living room, and there is a desire for warmth, comfort, and ease.
Natural stone is often very presentational and can lack warmth, which isn’t necessarily what one wants in the space where they relax.
But there is one facet of many living rooms which is the exception to this rule:
It’s no secret that I love a good fireplace.
The memories of many a cold evening spent beside a crackling fire brings as much warmth to me as does the fire itself. Stone’s natural durability, especially to heat, makes it a no-brainer in terms of fireplace material, so all you really need to think about is how your fireplace fits in with your overall design goals, and how much maintenance are you willing to put in.
Let’s imagine that you, like me, gravitate towards a more grounded, earthy motif.
A brick fireplace, though perhaps something of a stereotype, evokes feelings of warmth and strength, and offers greater latitude for design than one might expect.
New brick is can be uniform in size and color and give you a clean, consistent look, whereas reclaimed brick will offer you an awesome amount of texture and visual variety that makes the hearth feel more rustic.
You can also use bricks of different tones to create interesting patterns in the facade of your fireplace. You can also paint over the brick and mortar altogether for a hip look akin to a back splash. Brick is also an exceptionally economical choice, often 30%-50% cheaper than its natural stone counterparts.
But be mindful, though, that with brick comes a greater responsibility towards maintenance.
Brick tends to be porous and can’t be sealed at the same level as natural stone so you are more likely to see the effects of smoke and soot than you would on a polished granite. That porousness makes it challenging to clean as well. You’ll probably need stiff nylon brushes and a heavy duty degreaser to clean into the pores and cavities in the brick and mortar.
Natural stone, whichever you choose, will automatically elevate your space.
Many, if not most, of the natural stone options will be lighter in color as well, which will brighten your space.
From a maintenance perspective, it’s really hard to go wrong, so it really comes down to your design goals and your budget.
Jura stone is economical as far as they go, and very popular with gas and electric fireplaces, but might not be the best option for a solid fuel fireplace burning at a high temperature, which could cause it to crack.
This is true of most limestones, which don’t conduct heat evenly, and even granite if it isn’t cut and installed with room to expand with the heat.
Marble is thought of as the most pricey. Often you can find marble to fit a modest budget, and it survives heat very well, making it an extravagant option that will bring no small amount of elegance into your living room.
If you use marble for your mantle, as well as your facade, be mindful of what you set upon it. As we discussed in our kitchen post last week, marble will etch and stain easily in the presence of acidic liquids such as wine, juice, and vinegar!
Don’t forget the natural stone options that span the gap between the extravagant and the rustic.
Stacked travertine, fieldstone, and soapstone are all excellent options that will bring a more natural spirit into your living room without sacrificing elegance.
Whatever you choose for your fireplace, it will be important to be mindful of the maintenance required. If you’re having problems with smoke stains, or if you are restoring an old fireplace that needs a lot of love, check out my previous blog entry on dealing with the soot and grime that builds up as a result of inadequate attention.
If you have a question I didn’t answer here, feel free to reach out and I’m happy to see how I can help. And if you’re in the Santa Barbara area and have a fireplace that needs some professional attention, Santa Barbara Stone Masters is here to answer the call!