Whether neutral travertine for a dining room, turquoise marble for the living room or onyx for the bedroom, you can never go wrong with natural stones.
As the real estate market embraces various flooring options, more Kenyans are going for natural stones as opposed to ceramic tiles.
Moshe Noiman, the director and owner of flooring products company Classic Mouldings says demand for natural stones has risen in recent years, with Kenyans willing to spend a premium to style their homes.
While there are millions of natural stones available, granite, marble – including carrara – and travertine are the main types used in construction. These stones occur naturally with either linear or wavy veins.
Most of the natural stones sold in Kenya come from Germany, Poland, Belgium and Italy, according to the Israeli businessman.
Mr Noiman explains that natural stones are formed from lava that has encrusted over millions of years, often without air bubbles, to create giant rock material.
‘‘The aging process of travertine, for instance, is beautiful. The older it gets the better it looks. How the stone is laid is also critical. Stone gives a space a nice, warm feel,’’ he says.
He adds that the translucence, picturesque and veined formation of marble makes it a more superior flooring option.
‘‘Stones are products of nature. The grey veins running through the stone give them a stunning look. They are also very clean. Travertine lends more warmth to a room than rather a posh feel.’’
For large spaces such as lounges, he recommends polished or honed travertine stones, noting that unpolished and less shiny natural stones are ideal for a living room.
‘‘Honed natural stone is more popular these days than the polished one.’’
Still, some stones occur with holes that can be filled with grout for an even finish. ‘‘It is common to see black holes with white grout and vice versa. We like to use stones that bring [out] nature home rather than a cold, sleek and the posh feel that you get from white and other marbles.’’
When laid, a small Persian rug complements natural stones without the floor appearing to be over-styled. To attain elegance, he says a good adhesive such as tile glue should be used to lay the stone.
‘‘White cement is a second option, but the laying must be done carefully. Laying natural stone takes more time than laying ceramic.’’ He cautions against the use of grey cement to lay natural stones as capillaries emerge that could cause blackening of the stones.
He explains: ‘‘This happens when stone draws water from the cement, thus loosening the adhesion. The bottom of the stone should be covered tightly with a sealer to prevent water absorption.’’
Most natural stones, he says, contain iron and that when exposed to water, they develop rust. This explains the yellowing of tiles in patches or entirely. ‘‘This is common with white marble which has a tendency to absorb water. This type of marble is also fragile.’’
He says polished stone should not be used in wet areas, but adds that it is possible to restore corroded stone, except the process is expensive.
Mr Noiman adds: ‘‘It is important to use the right size of the stone for a room. You cannot lay giant tiles in a small room as this would look disproportional,’’ he says, adding that deciding whether the space requires a shiny, polished, brushed or jugged finish is as critical as choosing the type of stone for a space.
On laying of stones, Mr Noiman says diagonal and parallel styles are common, with the former being vivid but consuming more stone. The latter is laid parallel to the wall, is less impressive but takes less stone.
Like normal tiles, the colour of stone to choose too matters. He says that what works for a home often depends with the type of furnishing, adding that browns, beige and grey furniture blends well with white or blue marble.
‘‘Culture stones also do well. They can be quite stunning for the fireplace.’’ In Kenya, however, these stones are mostly used in paving.
In terms of lighting, Moshe says travertine goes well with warm illumination, with yellow and orange bulbs, in particular, doing well. ‘‘Grey marbles are great with daylighting (natural light in a space). White light is great for silver or grey marbles.’’
Is there a business case for using natural stones for flooring as opposed to ceramics? The two types of stone are in different leagues, he says. He notes that the local market has ‘‘endless levels’’ of and prices for ceramics/porcelain, which he describes as factory products.
‘‘These are used mostly for waterproofing in public bathrooms, airport lounges and termini, banking halls and other public places.’’
There are also high-end and pricey porcelain varieties such as sapphire matt grey, Osby blue patterned and Chatham blue brick tiles, used mostly for luxury homes.