Move Over, Travertine: This Stone Will Dominate Kitchen and Bath Renos in 202

published Oct 8, 2021
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Montauk Kitchen with red stone countertops designed by Studio McKinley

Linen, white walls, the second season of “The Office”… some things are just timeless in their appeal, thanks to their comfort, versatility, and universality. A duo of materials that should be added to that list of things? Calacatta and Carrara marble. Perennial favorites for literally centuries, these tend to have all the characteristics of what many people consider “classic marble:” milky-white backgrounds, thick grey veining, and an undeniably luxe appeal.

However, there’s always room to mix things up a bit, which is exactly what’s happening in kitchens right now. For every designer or home chef that opts for traditional Calacatta or Carrara marble countertops, there’s another that’s pushing the envelope with something even more bold and dramatic. Red stone is edging out sandy travertines as a popular pick for countertops, backsplashes, entire wall coverings, and even furniture and smaller furnishings. 

Credit: Laure Joliet

Natural red stones — think Rosso red marble, Red Levanto marble, Red travertine, and more — can be just as chic, timeless, and neutral as their calmer white counterparts. Just look at the solid block of Rojo Cehegin marble used for actress Kirsten Dunst’s kitchen island (above), which was just published in Architectural Digest. In her Jane Hallworth-designed space, the russet red really reads like an earthy brown. It’s not just natural stones popping up in reds either; even engineered versions are getting in on this shade, too; Cosentino just released a new colorway, Arcilla Red, in their popular Silestone quartz product, as seen below. The trick lies in knowing how to work these somewhat livelier materials into your decor.

That’s where the pros come in to offer their input, many of whom have been already working these dramatic stones into their projects. “Bold deep hues are the trending colors for 2022 — think crimson, deep teal, and mustard tones,” says Taniya Nayak, a Boston-based interior designer and featured designer on “Restaurant Impossible.” “Neutrals have been the hot look for the last five years, but now people are looking for more depth and richness in their space. Perhaps because it gives a feeling of much-needed comfort like a big warm embrace. And let’s clarify a bit — when we say “red” we actually mean deep clay or brownish-red. Not ‘in your face’ riled-up red.”

Credit: Cosentino

Designer Robert McKinley, founder and creative director at Studio Robert McKinley, recently used red travertine in the kitchen of a Montauk project, the Edison bungalow, which is pictured at the top of this story and just down below. From this space, you really get a sense of how striking this kind of stone can be, particularly when it’s given the room to be the star of a design scheme. Part of its appeal is that, while totally unexpected aesthetically, it reads as timeless with the right styling and accompanying materials.

If you do decide to go big with a red stone on a countertop or backsplash in an upcoming kitchen or bath reno, both McKinley and Nayak encourage striking the right balance in the rest of the surrounding decor. “Always play with texture and materiality,” suggests McKinley. “Stone, even in a more eye-catching color, can fall flat if it’s accompanied by materials of the same depth, and it won’t pop or stand out in the room. I would suggest pairing it with organic materials and fabrics in the space, such as wicker, rattan, or even pine wood.”

According to Nayak, it’s all about putting what you learned in your elementary school color-combining days to use. “When in doubt, remember the color wheel back in third grade art class,” she says. “Offsetting the red tone with deep opposing colors like green or teal is a win — and it can never hurt to balance it off with some neutrals for good measure.”

If large applications of a bold material like this feels like too much of a commitment, both in design and budget, don’t worry. Red stones are slowly but surely making their way into the decor and accessories market, too, making smaller items an easy way to experiment with natural hues of clay, brick, and more in your decor. “I love seeing the stone applied to more decorative items in a space,” says McKinley. “A small side table or even vases or sculptures in a red stone would do the trick.”

Credit: CB2

Test out the look for yourself with a chunky tripod side table, a trinket tray, cheese board, or even a tic-tac-toe game. Keep your eyes peeled for more red in 2022, too, from paint to textiles and even building materials like red stones.