In two of our previous posts (here and here), we talked about sizing and measuring for tile and also went over some of the basic terms used to describe natural stone tile.  In this one, we want to help you understand and appreciate the natural irregularities and imperfections that are found in natural stone products.

Allobates granti

Ranitomeya benedicta

Ranitomeya summersi

These amazing creatures are a few of the amphibian species recently identified in the Amazon according to the World Wildlife Fund.  They are perfect examples of the gorgeous imperfections found in nature.  Their stripes are not symmetric; their spots are not perfectly round or equally spaced; and the guy in the top picture could certainly use some snazzier pants to go with that top.  But there is undeniable beauty in in each one.

Natural stone is a product of nature.  It will often have variations in
color, texture, edges, corners, pits, striations and veining.  There can be differences from one tile to another, even if you are buying the same type of stone from the very same batch.  In the natural world, perfection is an illusion.  The irregularities and variations found in a stone tile can be a big part of what makes it so beautiful.  

Know Thyself

When thinking about natural stone, a good maxim to follow is “Know Thyself.”  If you have OCD tendencies and you know that seeing
darker and lighter tiles sitting right there next to each other on the
wall will start you twitching and foaming at the mouth; or the sight of the rounded edges on the tumbled tiles not lining up perfectly freaks you out, you might want to walk (or RUN!) out of the
natural stone tile section and head over to the ceramic tile where
things are a little more orderly.  Just take a deep breath and let the calming force of the white ceramic tile wash over you.  Look at all those straight lines and perfectly square corners.  Ahhhh….that’s better.

Photo of  Subway Tile from Arizona Tile

Nothing to Fear

Please don’t misunderstand.  The paragraph above is not meant to scare you away from natural stone tiles.  Those of us who prefer a little order and symmetry in our lives can still enjoy the beauty in natural stone tile because there is, of course, variation in the variation.  Certain types of natural stone do have a very uniform and consistent appearance, while others can have a great deal of variation in the coloring and natural veining running throughout the stone.  And there is an endless range of options in between those two extremes.  Some examples below:
Example of a limestone tile

stone has a very consistent color and almost no movement or texture
differences.  One tile looks just about the same as all the other
tiles.  It is indeed, a natural stone tile.  This limestone can come with straight, non-tumbled edges, so it can practically mimic the look of ceramic tile.

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The following stone pictures are from a great stone supplier,  World Wide Stone Corporation.

Durango Ancient Veracruz from World Wide Stone
stone type has some movement, but it is very consistent in color and “visual
texture” from one piece to another.  There are lighter and darker areas
on all pieces, but the variations are spread throughout, in way that
gives a relatively uniform appearance.
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Durango Ancient Sol from World Wide Stone
This stone could also be described as having a lot of movement, however,
the variations are mostly in texture.  The color only varies because it
has both dark and light shades.  But the overall color itself is
consistent throughout.  It does have natural striations that vary from
tile to tile.  That middle tile in the bottom row seems to be almost
all one color.  The tile in the top left corner has numerous stripes of

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Durango Ancient Dorado from World Wide Stone

You would say that this stone has a lot of movement.  It has a great deal variation in both colors and textures.  Its color is predominantly a warm gold, but you also see places of dark brown, orange, lighter grays and even some spots of black.   The texture varies greatly between tiles.  The tiles in the bottom row do not have many striations or color differences.  But the tiles in the top left corner have a great deal of variations and color difference.

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Durango Red Onyx from World Wide Stone
This stone type is clearly the wild child of the bunch.  It is bursting with movement, visual texture and color differences.  You definitely could use this tile to add an LSD-inspired splash to an otherwise staid room decor.
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These are only a few examples of the different natural stone tiles you can find, but it gives you a little taste of the variety available.  A good tip is to look at more than one
piece of stone tile from
the same batch when you are trying to determine which stone type that
you like.  Four to six tiles of the same stone will give you a good idea
of how
much variation you might find in that particular type of stone.  But don’t get carried away with this.  If you find yourself asking the tile person to bring out the crate of stone so you can pick through it, piece by piece; or if you want them to promise you that all of the tile that you receive in your order will look exactly like your four sample pieces….time to slowly back away from the boxes of natural stone and shuffle on over the oasis that is the ceramic tile aisle.

Balance is the key

Like most things in life, it really comes down to balance.  You might want to choose a “calmer” or more consistent stone type if the rest of the materials that you are using in your room already have a great deal of visual texture.  Or go a little wild with your stone to spice things up in a room that is awash in mild, non-threatening neutrals. 
So go out there and embrace the wonderful imperfections and variety found in natural stone.  With all of the choices available, you are bound to find stone that
has the character and beauty you are looking for, with a level of
variation that you feel comfortable with. Another natural beauty, Marilyn Monroe, had the right idea when she said:
“Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius, and it is better
to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.”

Click below for other posts in this series:
Stone Tile Basics Part 3 – Embracing Imperfection- YOU ARE HERE
Stone Tile Basics Part 4 – It’s all about us, baby! – COMING SOON