stone interiors

Biloxi Revival - Part II

Last time we took a look at a few of the rooms in this Biloxi home, which Stone Interiors fabricated and installed the majority of the stone inside the home. As we take a look into other rooms in the home, the Tuscany Chateaux tile flooring is replaced with a hardwood planks and the stone details become less prevalent. The overall style transitions from a somewhat mediterranean charm to a classical appeal. This is the heart of the home, where comfort is the guiding motif. Decorative details of any sort are all rendered in wood, from the furniture and doors to the picture frames.

An interstitial powder room marks the return of stone applications in the home. Thyphoon Bordeaux tops the vanity and an adjacent shower is veneered with beige tiles. In the midst of the surrounding wood details, the stone here is made more noticeable. In a nearby bedroom, a fireplace sits in the corner, adding warmth to the cascade of comfortable furniture and soft lighting in the room. The fireplace cornice is backed by a remnant of White Carrara marble. The marble remnant was fabricated with rounded corners which echo the shape of the cornice. The fireplace is the only application of White Carrara marble up until this point in the home. It’s odd considering that there are plenty of other kitchen spaces and bathrooms where the marble would make an excellent choice as a countertop or floor material. This was certainly a deliberate choice by the designer, seeing as the most comprehensive application of the White Carrara marble is only accessible by proceeding through this bedroom.

The master bathroom is a symphonic collection of White Carrara marble situated in practically every functional nook and cranny! Upon first impression, the sight of the room alone makes is stunning as it’s in due contrast to the wooden floors and furniture of the adjacent bedroom. Marble wainscot tiles wrap around the perimeter of the bathroom. The tub deck and the vanity are slabs of the White Carrara with a delicate ogee edge profile, adding extra emphasis to the luxury of the space. The floor is composed of large, 18” × 18” marble tiles and can be electronically heated! The wainscot tile flows into a shower which is completely covered, top-to-bottom, with White Carrara marble. This master bathroom is a fantastic finale to the home’s design. Nowhere else in the home has stone been so comprehensively applied and in such a luxurious fashion!

We hope you enjoyed this tour of this beautiful home! Stay tuned for more Signature projects from us. Thanks for reading!

Signature · 1 August 2013

Biloxi Revival - Part I

In the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, the city of Biloxi, along with numerous other communities along the Gulf Coast, was devastated. A stretch of Highway 90 had collapsed, buildings were flooded, and neighborhoods were levelled. The magnitude of repairs needed to restore the beauty of the city and the morale of its people seemed insurmountable. After some time, as the city began to be rebuilt, a local couple decided to initiate the revival of their neighborhood by rebuilding their home, which had been completely destroyed in the storm. Now their home stands tall, within walking distance of the beach, as a hallmark of the enduring spirit of the South in the face of strife.

The home, pursuiant of both security and comfort, is a refreshing and luxurious display of quality materials and tasteful design. Upon entering the foyer, it becomes clear that the majority of the home’s flooring is composed of Tuscany Chateaux stone tiles. The beige tile has a handful of varying tones and sizes. The rhythmic arrangement brings movement and a subtle energy to each room into which it flows.

The main kitchen expands on the rhythmic motif of the tile flooring with a unique choice of granite for the countertops. Typhoon Bordeaux, as its name might suggest, has a pattern which resembles calm ocean waves gliding over the shoreline. The bullnose edge profile tapers the granite’s movement and distributes it into the light and open surrounding kitchen space. All of these details combine to give the kitchen a soft and serene character, a theme which emerges several times in the house.

Elsewhere on the first floor, a guest bathroom negotiates some light and airiness with the outdoors through two oval windows set near the ceiling. Below them, in keeping with the serenity brought by the tile floor, another smooth variety of granite, called Laguna, tops the vanity. Reflected in the mirror above is the grand tile shower, fully opened into the space without any sort of enclosure. It’s almost as though the Tuscany Chateaux floor tiles have danced up the walls of the bathroom to form the shower! This effect is accomplished in part by an installation technique called “vertical course” where rectangular tiles are installed lengthwise, perpendicular to the ground. The ceiling is punctuated by three exposed rafters which point to the exterior of the home.

These rafters pierce through to a comfortable patio space, once again, opened up to the outside without an enclosure. Fresh air and bright, natural light flow through the room. This room bravely embraces the beauty of the surrounding Biloxi landscape, not yielding to the devastation that brought about the restoration in the first place. It is a powerful statement on its own, brazenly expressing a welcoming intent and a comforting atmosphere.

Signature · 30 July 2013

Mining Stone in the 19th Century

flickr D.arc.y

Being composed primarily of quartz, feldspar, and mica, granite ranks at around a 7 on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness. This effectively means that it is rather difficult to scratch a piece of granite. Only a few other minerals, such as topaz and diamond, are actually capable of cutting it through. Of course, metallic tools are much more capable at drilling and cutting granite. But one can imagine the difficulties of mining granite and marble in an era where powerful and complex machinery was scarce or even nonexistent. The question emerges then, how was granite and marble mined in, say, the 19th century? As it turns out, the old practice was effectively the same as the modern day approach, but the techniques were pretty crude in comparison.

Granite is an intrusive igneous rock, meaning that it is formed by the natural cooling of molten rock underneath the surface of the Earth. Granite deposits, therefore, must be exposed by digging down into the Earth’s crust, hence the “bench” or staircase-like shape which is characteristic of open-pit mining. Explosives are used to fully expose the granite, or whichever target stone variety, from the excavated quarry. In the following account of a controlled explosion for mining stone by George Frederick Harris, a 19th century British lecturer on Economic Geology, it’s made clear that concerns for safety were minimal in the early days of the mining industry:

“Meanwhile, in those quarries where necessary, a man is sent round warning people not to come near, and sending all horses and carts out. All the quarrymen then either leave the quarries or shield themselves behind masses of the rock. A man then lights the two ends of the fuse and we, who have watched the operation run as fast as possible out of the way, hear a rumbling noise and a loud report, see hundreds of small pieces of granite fly up into the air, a crash, dense smoke, and then cautiously approaching the scene of the explosion, where the smell of powder is sometimes almost unbearable, observe the effect of the blast.”
Granites and our granite industries

From that point, blocks of granite (or marble) were often extracted using a method called "plug and feather”. In this method, a number of steel wedges are driven into the face of a segment of stone, along the lines of its grain. The wedges are braced on two sides by somewhat flattened guides, the “feathers” in “plug and feather”. After the wedges are driven, the miners wait for the stone to begin fracturing under the added pressure of each set of wedges and guides. When successful, the process is repeated until a rough block of stone could be separated from the stone face. At that point, the blocks of stone would be smoothed and cut for whatever application for which they were to be used.

Given the simplicity of the “plug and feather” procedure, it is evidenced the method was used to mine blocks of stone used in building the ancient Egyptian pyramids! In fact, while the technology of mining stone quarries has evolved, many of the same techniques, such as those described here, are still practiced to this very day. That is, without the running, screaming, and haphazard safety measures!

History · 23 July 2013

Granite in Ancient Egypt

Historically, granite has been the material of choice for embellishing architectural details and honoring great leaders. The many stone monuments, sculptures, and structures of ancient Egypt include some of history’s earliest instances of granite used in art and architecture. Although limestone was generally the building material of choice in ancient Egypt, granite was sometimes used for applications of a more luxurious nature. During the 26th century BC, granite was used in the massive tombs of ancient pharaohs, particularly in the tomb of Menkaure.

In Giza, along with the Great Pyramids, sits a 204 foot tall pyramid built for the purpose of entombing the pharaoh Menkaure, ruler of Egypt during the Fourth Dynasty (roughly around 2530 BC). When originally constructed, the pyramid was 215 feet tall, later being dwarfed by the pyramid of Khufu, which currently stands at 455 feet. Pyramid construction methods were still being developed during the building period of Menkaure's tomb. This is evidenced in the shape of the Bent pyramid, which was constructed with a narrower angle near the peak of the structure. The unique shape was probably implemented in the face of structural integrity concerns.

flickr SpanishSoul

The pyramids, as you might expect, were constructed in layers called “courses”. The first 16 courses of Menkaure’s tomb are lined with blocks of granite. In addition, the same granite covers some of the floors and walls of the inner chamber of the tomb. The blocks of granite were imported from Aswan, where several quarries line the Nile river. Aswan granite has a red color and was used in numberous sculptures in ancient Egypt.

Though we mostly see it in our kitchens at bathrooms in the present day, granite, as you can see, has been used to construct some of the most expensive and meticulously crafted structures in all of history. In this case, granite’s reputation as a luxury material has lasted over 4500 years! Having proven its durability and enduring beauty, is there any question in your mind as to which material to use in your kitchen?

History · 18 July 2013

Alabama White Marble in American Art and Architecture

If not for Giuseppe Moretti, the Murphy Marble Belt (32½ mile long deposit of Alabama White marble) in Sylacauga would probably be used merely for its calcium carbonate, crushed into a powder and added to such miscellanea as paint, cosmetics, and glass. Giuseppe Moretti was an Italian artist who introduced the idea of processing stone for art and architecture to the marble industry in Sylacauga.

Moretti’s formal training as an artist gave him a penchant for fine stone, and as such, Alabama White marble became the subject of his highest praises. Out of the first piece of Alabama White used for art, Moretti sculpted “Head of Christ”. Both the bust of Jesus Christ and Vulcan (the largest cast iron statue in the world), also sculpted by Moretti, were a part of Birmingham’s contribution to the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis. The sculpture is currently on display at the Vulcan Museum in Birmingham, AL.

flickr WillEckrich

After this point in American history, Alabama White marble found its way into some of the most treasured collections of American art and architecture.

In 1908, the man who sculpted the portraits on Mt. Rushmore, Gutzon Borglum, crafted a portrait of President Lincoln from a block of Alabama White marble. The massive sculpture, now in the U.S. Capitol Crypt, was originally a study, according to the artist.

flickr USCapitol

In 1929, Chief Justice William Taft (formerly President 16 years earlier) chose architect Cass Gilbert Jr. to design the Supreme Court building. In his design, Gilbert used Alabama White to veneer the walls and floors of the Great Hall, the entrance passage to the courtroom.

In 1848, the construction of the Washington Monument was delayed soon after commencing due to a lack of funds and the onset of the Civil War. Members of the Freemason Lodge of Alabama persuaded Congress to receive donations of stone blocks to use for the interior of the obelisk. In 1854, The Freemason Lodge of Alabama donated an engraved block of Alabama White Marble to the construction of the monument. The block is located at the forty foot level on the West side of the monument. Alabama was the first to make such a contribution to the monument, a gesture that would be followed by organizations all over the world.

What might otherwise be viewed as a mundane material, Alabama White marble is deeply involved with the history of Alabama and of the nation as a whole. From the largest deposit of white marble in the world, Alabama White marble finds itself among the nation’s most important landmarks and artworks.

History · 16 July 2013

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