Nothing in a home says “class” like stonework. Whether it’s a stone tile backsplash or a marble medallion, a well-placed stone piece always seems to impress. And while we often associate stone with the grandiosity of a cathedral or palace, recent trends in home design and advances in stonecutting technology have put intricate stonework well within the reach of the modern homeowner.
Humans have been using stone as a building material for thousands of years. As it is among the most durable of construction materials, it suggests strength and permanence. There’s a reason it’s so often used in churches, courthouses, and capitol buildings. It’s as though stone gives us the feeling of being connected to something bigger than ourselves.
In more practical terms, stone is a great building and decorating material owing to its strength and durability. As such, it is very easy to maintain and the day-to-day upkeep is minimal.
Stonework is very easy to clean. Sweeping, dry-mopping, and wiping or mopping with plain water should be sufficient to remove most dirt and debris. A commercial cleaner may be used occasionally, though be sure the label indicates that it is safe for use on stone.
Never use acidic cleaners, including natural acids like lemon juice or vinegar. These can eat into calcium-based rock, which will mar the finish and potentially cause cracking over time. You should also avoid powdered cleaners, especially on softer varieties of stone, as they are abrasive.
When choosing which stone piece is right for your home or office, it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with some of the common types of stone, their characteristics, and their associated terms. For more information, be sure to consult with the professionals at Oshkosh Designs.
Types of Finish
Stone pieces come in a variety of finishes. You will often see stonework designated as either “polished” or “honed.”
Polishing is easy enough to understand. In this process, the stone is buffed to a mirror-like sheen. This is most often performed on naturally lustrous stone varieties such as marble and granite. This sheen may be dulled by friction and abrasives, so you may wish to avoid installing polished stone in high-traffic areas such as entryways and staircases.
By contrast, honing is the process of grinding away the surface of a stone to create a smooth, even, matte finish. This process exposes some of the rock’s pores and removes some of its natural sheen. Honing does not dull the appearance, however. On the contrary, honing can bring out the natural color and character of stone. You might think of it as the difference between a gloss print and matte print photograph. Honed rock is often a good choice for high traffic areas like staircases and entryways, as it doesn’t show dirt the way polished stone does.
Common Stone Varieties
One of the most prized of all building materials, marble is a metamorphic rock mostly composed of calcium. It is dense but soft, making it easy to shape yet resistant to shattering. Marble has a low refraction index, which means that light can penetrate its outermost layer before being refracted. This gives the rock an almost lifelike appearance. Sculptors have prized marble for its natural glow and workability since ancient times.
Marble naturally occurs in a wide variety of colors, including white, black, green, brown, red, cream, brown, pink, and yellow. Mineral streaks in various varieties can add additional character and color.
The word “granite” derives from the Latin word for grain. One look at granite and it is easy to understand why. Granite has an attractive speckled or granular appearance. It is an igneous rock composed primarily of quartz and orthoclase or microcline and is extremely strong and hard. It has thus been favored by builders for millennia.
Granite is quite lustrous and can be polished to an almost mirror-like sheen. Pure granite is white, pink, or gray in color. It is generally more resistant to scratching than softer materials such as marble or limestone.
Limestone is a sedimentary rock, and so is composed of layers of sediment – often fossil remains. Limestone is made up primarily of calcium and magnesium carbonate. It is usually light in color, often white, gray, or tan, and will sometimes contain grains or streaks. As stone goes, it is fairly soft, and so may be prone to scratching.
Slate is a metamorphic rock usually derived from shale. It is strong and durable, with many construction applications. It tends to cleave in relatively flat slabs, making it ideal to use for shingles and tiles. Slate is grainy in appearance and occurs in a variety of colors, from green to red to gray, or even black.
Travertine is actually a form of limestone, composed primarily of calcite and formed by underground streams. It is porous and, while often honed, also polishes well. It has a variety of construction applications and is commonly used for tiles. Travertine is usually light in color, ranging cream to brown, containing veins or bands of contrasting color.
If you’re wondering where you should place a stone piece in your space, the short answer is: anywhere! It’s true that a stone inlay can look great in just about any room in the house. There are several places, however, where it can be functional as well as attractive.
The kitchen is one place where stone works particularly well. Because it is easy to clean and (to a point) water resistant, polished stone makes for a natural choice of material for kitchen backsplashes. Oshkosh Designs offers a variety of attractive backsplashes to protect the walls behind sinks and stovetops.
Stone features can also add style and class to bathrooms because, again, stone is mostly water resistant. Adding a stone border around a bathtub or a backsplash behind a vanity can leave a charming impression in an otherwise unremarkable space.
Placing stone borders around fireplaces and mantles is a time-tested decorating tradition found in some of the finest homes around the world. Stone, of course, works well in this application as it is non-combustible. Before installing any materials close to heat sources, however, be sure to consult your local fire-safety professionals and building codes.
Another of the great things about using stone in decorating is that it fits well with other materials. With modern advances in technology, such as waterjet cutting, it is relatively easy and cost effective to cut intricate designs that allow the incorporation of metal and glass into a design. These combinations can be downright stunning.
Stone inlays also create an attractive and eye-catching contrast when set in wood floors. Installing decorative stone accents and borders in wood floors is relatively simple and can easily be performed after a floor is already installed.
As should be clear by now, it’s hard to go wrong with a stonework piece in your home or office. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t seek out additional guidance. For more information, or for assistance with choosing a stone inlay, border, backsplash, or decorative accent, don’t hesitate to contact the experts at Oshkosh Designs. Our expert artisans are waiting to help bring you that feeling of permanent satisfaction that only quality stonework can bring.
If you’re looking for inspiration as you consider a home makeover, look no further. Oshkosh Designs has been keeping an eye on what’s hot in the flooring and design world, and we’ve put together a collection of the latest fashions for 2019 and beyond.
If there’s a word that could sum it all up, it’s “simplicity.” Making loud statements and clamoring for attention can be left to technology and the media. At home, it’s all about peacefulness and sanctuary. To achieve this calming effect colors have become less flashy, textures more subdued, and patterns less cluttered. Additionally, looks that are vintage-inspired tend to borrow from the fashions of simpler times. Here’s a look at where these design trends are now, and where they’re headed.
The trend towards greater simplicity in home décor seems to reflect a desire to get back to what’s really important in life. As designs that evoke the peaceful feeling of simple living grow in popularity, it should come as no surprise that the farmhouse look, or rustic chic, continues to be popular. This trend has been around for a while, so unfinished beams, wide planks, shiplap, and whitewashing no longer come across as calculated and deliberate. All the better: this allows for a more nuanced incorporation of the look. Colors are muted and less distracting. Texturing is becoming more subtle and less pronounced. Wide planks and unapologetic use of character grade lumber continue to be popular, thus highlighting the natural characteristics of wood.
The desire to get back to essentials and recreate the vibe of less complicated eras can also account for the enduring popularity of the vintage look. Simple patterns on floors and backsplashes, as well as areas of uniform color that evoke the 50s and 60s, remain fashionable. The minimalism of the 1980s is also making a comeback, including uncluttered geometric patterns and the sparing use of black-on-white accents. Here again, the trend is away from bold, attention-grabbing looks and toward a more tasteful incorporation of these concepts.
Patterns tend to be simple, orderly geometric shapes incorporated in a way that is not overpowering. Chevron and herringbone patterns continue to be prevalent. Often, homeowners will use these in one area, such as on a kitchen floor or backsplash, and repeat the pattern subtly on drapes, lampshades, or even pieces of wall art.
Such patterns tend to work better in smaller spaces. The design can thus give the illusion of added three-dimensional space. In larger rooms, however, these patterns can make the space feel busy or cluttered. Avoid this by using wood species with less or more subtle graining, or by including patterns on, say, an accent wall. Another idea would be to incorporate patterns into a simple accent inlay or with a hardwood border.
Many homeowners utilize area rugs and stair runners as a way of adding patterns or color without these effects becoming overpowering. These also serve to define a smaller space in an open floor plan. A similar, low-maintenance way to achieve this effect is to frame in a medallion or add a simple inlay border to offset the space and create unity without clamoring for attention. Defining the important spaces in a home, such as family rooms and dining areas, highlights the importance of personal connections over material possessions.
It’s no secret that the use of grays has been immensely popular over the last decade. This trend shows no sign of slowing. After all, grays tend to be subdued and don’t distract from the important features of a space. When painting or finishing floors and walls, many will opt to mix in some gray with browns and other colors to help mute the effect. Whitewashing floors and hardwood beams continues to be popular as well.
Interestingly, both very dark and very light floors continue to be fashionable. While this may sound contradictory, there is a consistent theme: whether floors are light, dark, or gray, it is cool color tones that dominate. Warmer colors – those with red or yellow undertones – are not in style. If you’re reading this and worried because you have warm tones in your woodwork, not to worry. These can be balanced out with cool-colored furnishings and décor.
As homeowners and retailers become more environmentally conscious, they’re beginning to steer away from materials that increase their carbon footprint. Generally, there is more interest from consumers in using sustainable materials. When purchasing wood, one wants to know that they’re getting materials that were responsibly harvested. This goes for both exotic and domestic species. Oshkosh Designs purchases all our wood from FSC Certified suppliers, guaranteeing the wood we purchase is from forests around the world that are responsibly managed. To this end, the use of reclaimed wood continues to be popular as well.
The use of materials containing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) is also decreasing. For this reason, carpets and finishes that contain VOCs are less popular, while the use of waxes or oil-based finishes for hardwood floors is on the rise. Although this is more expensive and requires somewhat more maintenance, the natural patina that is created over time when wood is finished with linseed or grapeseed oil is exquisite.
Made in the USA
Along with a greater concern for the environment, homeowners are also showing more interest in purchasing goods produced in the U.S. This goes for both materials and manufacture. Purchasing American-made products, like those made by Oshkosh Designs, helps ensure responsible harvesting practices for wood, and also contributes to domestic economic growth. There is thus a greater interest in using domestic hardwood species, including oak, maple, hickory, which are abundant in the U.S.
One of the trends whose endurance is unquestionable is the widespread use of materials that appear natural. Just about everyone wants the look of hardwood and stone. Their popularity is so universal that many companies are going out of their way to produce vinyl or laminate planks and tiles that mimic the natural character of wood and stone. These include adding distressed marks and variations that have slightly less of the assembly line about them.
Though many manufacturers go to great lengths to make their artificial materials look natural, there is no substitute for the real thing. The timeless beauty of real hardwood and stone continues to be sought after by homeowners and designers alike. Not only are these materials naturally pleasing to the eye, but they tend to age well, have impressive lifespans, and add value to any space where they’re installed.
Inspiration and Custom Design
With all the emphasis on simplicity, it might be tempting to say that the above suggests we’re headed towards blandness and uniformity. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Even within the parameters of subtlety and simplicity, there are endless variations to choose from.
In fact, we are arguably headed towards greater variety in home design than ever before. There has never been such a wealth of options to choose from, and customizing a space to your unique taste has never been easier. And since the expert artisans at Oshkosh Designs are just a click or call away, expressing your unique taste with custom-made, one-of-a-kind home installation pieces has never been simpler. And simplicity is what 2019 is all about.
Are you the kind of person who loves home makeover shows? Or wandering through the lighting section of your local hardware store? Will you spend hours browsing to find the perfect style of handle for your kitchen cabinets? Or pore over paint samples until you’ve found the shade that’s just right? If you answered yes to any of those questions, chances are you know a little secret about home improvement projects that others don’t: doing those things can be really fun!
Custom-ordering artisan-made installation pieces – such as medallions, borders, backsplashes, wood walls, even furniture – is one of the ultimate home improvement thrills. You get to decide exactly what you want and then specify this to a manufacturer. Beyond getting the perfect piece for your space, part of what is enjoyable about hiring someone to craft something unique for you is participating in the process.
And it is a process. Unlike buying prefabricated inventory where you browse, point, and purchase, hiring a company to custom-build a piece for you involves a series of steps. But for those of us who delight in being unique, each of these steps is part of the fun. A quality manufacturer will help to ensure that the process is as easy and enjoyable as possible. The reward for your involvement? A one-of-a-kind conversation piece to beautify and personalize your space.
Here are a few tips on getting the most out of ordering customized installation pieces for your space.
Small Business, Big Gains
One of the keys to a satisfactory experience is choosing the right manufacturer. Small, reputable, boutique-style artisans are your best option. In some cases, they may be your only option: many large-scale manufacturers won’t do custom work. Even if they do, massive operations often outsource everything from labor to customer service. Having a responsibility to an enormous customer base means less time devoted to each customer’s unique needs and concerns.
In boutique-style operations, however, the designers, craftspeople, shippers, and sales reps often share the same roof and know each other by name. Team members are generally acquainted with each arm of the operation and may fill multiple roles. This creates greater accountability among departments and thus an atmosphere of teamwork. Everyone is centered around the same goal. That goal? Ensuring you get what you want.
If the thought of having to make all these creative decisions is intimidating, though, not to worry. One great thing about working with experienced professionals is that, when you’re feeling stuck or indecisive, they’re there to advise you. That’s part of what you’re paying for after all – not just craftsmanship, but expertise.
Generating a Design
So you’ve chosen the perfect manufacturer. Now what? Do you know what you want? Chances are you have at least a vague notion. To get started on your design, you can provide us with a photo, a brief narrative of your concept, or something as simple as a sketch on a napkin. Ultimately, your idea will need to be rendered as a line drawing. You can do this drawing yourself, of course, though you don’t have to. For a small fee, Oshkosh Designs will render a line drawing for you, based on your input; this fee will be deducted from the final purchase price should you choose to follow through on the design’s manufacture.
If you’ve fallen in love with the idea of a custom-made piece but don’t know what you want, don’t worry. Coming up with a concept is half the fun.
What Does Your Space Say About You?
Start with your interests. Say you’re a golf nut, or you love sailing, or you have a thing for roses. Any image or motif can be incorporated into a piece. If these seem too on the nose, geometric patterns, abstract shapes, initials, words – anything can work. The only limit is your imagination.
Look at a lot of pictures to spark your imagination. Use social networking sites like Pinterest, Instagram, Houzz, and Facebook to gather ideas. Follow users whose work interests you. Scrolling through websites and flipping through catalogs is part of the fun And don’t forget the timeless pastime of window shopping!
Gather Photos and Make an Idea Board
Taking photos of inlay work in friends’ homes or public buildings is also a good way to spark your imagination. You need not like the entire piece. Design elements can often be recombined in interesting and original ways. When browsing online, save photos and screenshots to keep track of eye-catching designs. Pinterest is a great social media site for assembling your ideas. Create a board dedicated to your project and add pins and comments whenever you see something you like.
Use Your Home
Another way to collect ideas is by studying your space. Obviously, the parameters of your custom design are largely going to be determined by the room where it will end up. Use these parameters to your advantage. Size, color, and wood species are obvious factors, but design elements will, of course, come into play as well.
What’s in the room now? What are the highlights? Is there a repeating motif in the room? Incorporate it into the design. Is there some feature of the room you’d like to accent? Use your custom piece to draw attention to it. What materials are on display? Use them in the piece.
Adapt Existing Pieces
If you’re overwhelmed by the endless possibilities, start by browsing the manufacturer’s existing inventory. You may find a design that you love, but wish that the colors were different. If that’s the case, simply pass the design on to the manufacturer and specify what you’d like changed. View Oshkosh Designs’ Medallion Customizer to visualize wood substitutions and submit a quote request.
At Oshkosh Designs, every handcrafted artisan piece is completely customizable. There’s no reason you shouldn’t get exactly what you want.
When you have a satisfactory line drawing of your design in the proper dimensions, it is then time to undertake what is perhaps the most enjoyable part of the entire process: choosing materials. Here you get to decide on the color, the look, the feel of your piece the way an artist chooses colors from a palette. Peruse the materials the manufacturer has available. Be sure to coordinate with what is already in the space.
At this point, consulting with the manufacturer is also a good idea. Materials found in nature have their own natural variations. Oshkosh Designs can advise you on how materials will age and withstand traffic, and they’ll provide you with information on required maintenance.
It’s Your Call
While the above may make it seem like there is a lot involved with a custom order, remember that you get to dictate the terms of your involvement. You may submit a photograph or a line drawing to the designer and specify exactly what materials you want for each element. Or you may say, “Here’s my idea and a photo of my room. Can you come up with something?” If you can communicate your vision, a professional can translate that into a finished piece.
Remember, too, that it’s okay not to know every single detail of what you want. Oshkosh Designs is used to working out different variables and addressing any concerns a customer may have – it’s our job! Our customer service reps will do all they can to make you feel comfortable asking questions and will deliver the information you need to realize your creative vision.
With the right manufacturer, custom-designing your own piece can and should be enjoyable. No, it isn’t as easy as buying products right off the shelf. There are multiple steps involved. But each of these steps allows you to be a part of the creative process. The key to a good experience – and ultimately to receiving a piece you’re happy with – is good communication. That said, have fun with it! Each decision you make will be an expression of your singular vision and taste. There’s a thrill in that kind of creative expression.
To custom order a one-of-a-kind, artisan-made inlay piece from all-natural materials, contact Oshkosh Designs today. A customer service representative is waiting to answer your questions and help you realize your unique vision.
Although there was a time when wood wall paneling was synonymous with dated décor, those days are fading fast. Real wood panels, parquet, and three-dimensional wall coverings are currently making a comeback in the design world. Forget cheap faux wood laminates and shag carpet. Today’s real wood wall coverings are chic and modern, using all-natural hardwoods to create classy, upscale interiors.
Plus, as many modern wood wall panels are designed for self-installation, you don’t have to spend a fortune on installation to achieve that upscale look. The following is a brief guide to installing wood panel walls, as well as some design ideas to help spark your imagination.
It is recommended that wood wall panels be installed in climate controlled interior environments with humidity and temperature controls. As with any natural wood product, be sure to acclimate the wood to the environment where it will be installed. Stack wood panels in alternating rows and allow them to acclimate for one week.
If you are preparing to install wood panels in a newly constructed space, use plywood for the walls instead of drywall. This will ensure a smoother installation process and prevent damage should you choose to remove the panels later on.
If you intend to install panels on an existing wall you have two options: If you don’t want to construct a new wall, you will first need to clean the walls. Wipe down papered or painted walls thoroughly. If the wall is coated with glossy paint, rough the surface with sandpaper to improve the grip of the adhesive. When all walls are thoroughly cleaned and prepped, apply a coat of primer, just as you would if you were about to paint.
Installation on drywall surfaces presents a slight challenge, as removing panels fixed to drywall with an adhesive will effectively destroy the drywall. It is therefore recommended that you avoid applying adhesives directly. This option is using just pin nails to fasten your panels. However, depending on the pattern and wood species it may require puttying to hide the nails. Alternatively, fastening a substrate, such as thin sheets of plywood, to the drywall can provide a surface that can take an adhesive. Furring strips – long, thin lengths of wood – can also serve as a substrate, and are available at most hardware stores. Placement of furring strips should be based on the pattern and size of the wood panels.
When the primer is dry, you are ready to begin installing your wood panels. Consider your focal point, the floor or ceiling, and start there. Work bottom to top or top to bottom to create horizontal panel “columns.” Using a 1/8-inch notch trowel, apply a layer of adhesive to the wall where the first panel will go. Set the panel in place and apply medium pressure. Drive pin nails into each of the panels to secure it. A pin nailer will speed up the process and help prevent damage to the panels. Repeat these steps until there is less than one panel’s width to the corner.
Unless you’re extraordinarily meticulous (or extraordinarily lucky), you’ll need to cut some wall panels to fit snuggly into the corners. To do this, measure the distance from the last installed panel to the corner of the wall. Using a table saw, cut the final panel in the row to size. It is recommended that you measure and cut panels one row at a time. Though it may be tempting to cut all the corner panels at once and to one measurement, this will only work if your walls are straight and the distance to the corner is consistent from top to bottom. If your walls are slightly crooked, the distance to the corner at the bottom might be wider than that at the top, or vice versa. This will create unsightly gaps.
Wood is a naturally combustible material. You should, therefore, be aware that adding layers of wood to your space can increase the risk of fire. It is recommended that you avoid installing wood panels near any heat source. To minimize the risk of fire, you can treat panels with a fire retardant spray. While coating panels does not render them fireproof – they are wood, after all – it can reduce the possibility that a fire will start and/or spread. If you have doubts or questions, contact your local fire department for more information.
Single Wall Coverings
Paneling need not be applied to all the walls in a space. In fact, there are instances where this may be overkill. Covering one wall with dynamic, wood panels and offsetting that with simple painted or papered walls on either side can work well, particularly in smaller, enclosed spaces.
Stairways are another area rife with possibility. Though we may not be conscious of it, we tend to look straight ahead as we climb or descend staircases. The walls above staircase landings are the perfect place for visually-engaging wood panels.
If you like the idea of wood wall coverings but don’t want to commit to paneling an entire wall, a partial wall covering might be just the thing. This can be a great way to transform an otherwise unremarkable area into a dynamic focal point. Wood panels can make ordinary pillars, kitchen islands, and focal points pop. Focal points such as windows or mirrors can be accented with a border of panels much the same way a picture is enhanced with a well-chosen frame.
More subtle applications can also be effective. Placing wood panels along the interior of niches or recessed shelves can create dazzling contrast with the flat walls they’re built into.
Flooring On Walls
One ingenious way to create visual interest on your walls is to decorate them with wood flooring materials. Most strip, plank, or parquet flooring can be adapted for vertical installation. Not only is this eye-catching, but it can create visual unity as well. The time-tested design concept of repeating motifs can be used to tie spaces together and create harmony between floors and walls. Seeing the floor pattern repeated on the walls will not only create a conversation piece but will also help draw the eye around the room.
If you like this idea for wall décor but have no intention of redoing your floors, consider custom work. Designers can work with you to replicate the same materials and style of your current flooring for adaptation to your walls. The wood professionals at Oshkosh Designs will work with you to custom-craft any design concept you can imagine.
Talk to the Pros
When it comes to wood wall coverings, your only limitations are your imagination and your budget. Browse the internet and our online gallery for ideas to get your creativity flowing. And as always, consult with woodworking professionals. The experienced artisans at Oshkosh Designs can address any questions or concerns you may have and will help to ensure that your wood wall project is an exciting one-of-a-kind.