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It's as old as time, but as popular as ever. Stone is rapidly making its way into homes as perhaps one of the fastest growing decorating trends. The European Old World look brings with it not only a luxurious style but also an ease and comfort that gives a home personality.

Homeowners are leaving behind the once-preferred 70's looks of wall-to-wall carpeting throughout the house, linoleum kitchen floors and vinyl tiles in the bathroom, and instead choosing natural stone, Versailles patterns, travertine, and limestone, with honed-matte finished surfaces. For countertops, homeowners are using two tones, finishing their kitchen island in maybe limestone and the surrounding kitchen countertops in granite materials for a unique style.

At one time granite and marble were only seen in office buildings, while rustic style stone only was used in vacation homes.

"People are trying to personalize their homes more than they did before. Before you used to go through the house and you'd do everything pretty much the same overall. Now people are bringing in different types of materials like glass tile, mosaics, different designs, different sizes, textures, into the same room. They tend to want to give each room more personality by adding different types of products," said Giovanna Gomes, President of Stones Unlimited on Miramar Road.

What is completely losing a place in homes is the white tile countertops that was the staple in every home for decades. "White tile used to be typical when building or remodeling a house. Now we're seeing all white ceramic tile is being replaced with solid surface countertops such as granite which has no grout lines and is easier to care for," said Lilliana Bosforo, Director of Fabrication for Stones Unlimited.

There are many different choices, sizes, textures and styles of stone. Pricing varies depending on the type selected. Some very expensive flooring is even brought back from old chateaus and farmhouses in Europe that are scheduled for demolition. The 100 to 200-year-old stone material is brought to the US for cleaning, sanitizing, sizing and cataloging.

The chic look and durability of stone makes it appealing to homeowners. But experts caution that before it's put in homeowners should understand the maintenance required and the issues that may come up. One of the most common problems is stains. Because stone is very porous, if you spill things on it, the stone can easily absorb the liquid. However, proper care such as sealing the stone can alleviate this problem.

Gomes also said that you should consider how much foot traffic you have in various areas of your home before putting in stone floors. "Honed surfaces are usually the best because they're matte finishes so they don't wear like a polished material would. A polished marble will scratch and if you drop something acidic it'll etch which means the polish will be removed in that particular area. So there are more maintenance issues with polished surfaces," said Gomes.

However, honed surfaces show less wear pattern. Gomes said you can also be more aggressive with your cleaning, "It'll always look beautiful."

For countertops Bosforo recommends granite because it is dense and easy to maintain. "You're going to have your least amount of problems with a granite over marbles or limestone which some people do put those in their kitchens, but we let them know that there will be more maintenance with a marble or a limestone and, of course, you'd want to do it honed," Bosforo said.

Another reason granite is recommended over marble or limestone is because acids in some foods can etch the stone and cause it to leave marks or rings on the materials.

When deciding which stone to choose, keep in mind these handy tips from Stones Unlimited:

  1. Granite is most suitable for kitchens and bar counters because it is the most dense. It also resists hot and cold. Acidic foods will not etch the polish.
  2. Marble is not as dense as granite but is more so than travertine. Marble works well for bathroom flooring, on back splashes and fireplaces.
  3. Travertine is not as dense as marble but is more so than limestone.
  4. Limestone is the softest and most porous of the stones. It requires more frequent sealing.
  5. Slate is an excellent choice for outdoors or indoors.
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