Love the look of the stone, brick and concrete hardscapes in your yard? You don’t have to stop there! These materials are all making their way indoors as “interior hardscaping” becomes more popular in modern homes. Whether you’re building a stone fireplace, using the latest brick products to spice up your walls or installing concrete floors or countertops, the line between indoor and out is becoming increasingly blurred.
Many of the interior hardscaping applications are in basements or rooms that open directly to the backyard. If done well, this can create the illusion of a home that’s becoming one with its surroundings.
Evan Hunter of Hunter Reising Design & Build Inc. in Atlanta recently built a home addition beside an existing pool, creating a room that opens right out onto the pool. “We wanted to match the bluestone that we installed around the pool with a bluestone floor in the family room,” he says. “When the four doors are opened all the way, the floor helps blur the line between inside and outside.”
Right now, stone seems to be the most popular product used in interior applications. “Interior stone is still probably the most requested interior hardscape,” says Tom Dwyer of Harbour Towne Construction Inc. in Atlanta. “We are removing brick and installing stone on fireplaces.” Fireplaces tend to be the most common indoor hardscaping features, which makes sense, as they are often the focal point of a room.
However, fireplaces aren’t the only areas where stone can create a unique interior hardscape look. “Right now, we are seeing more clients liking the stacked-stone effect in an interior application,” says Matt Hoots of SawHorse Inc. and The Hoots Group Inc., both in Atlanta. “Recently, we’ve installed stone around bars, structural columns and even on bathroom walls.” Those who like to change their homes to fit the latest trends may find that once stone is installed, they have no interest in changing it as years go by. “Stone seems to be timeless; it endures forever,” says Judy Mozen of Handcrafted Homes Inc. in Roswell.
While stone is all the rage right now, brick is taking on a modern twist. Generally, you may picture indoor brick only in very contemporary spaces, such as lofts. “Lofts tend to be more contemporary, so you may see exposed brick walls from the interior,” Dwyer says. In older homes, many fireplaces are surrounded by brick, which maintains an elegant, timeless look. Today’s brick, however, often takes on a new style.
Recently, Walter Lewis of Neighbors Home Remodeling in Roswell used the latest brick products in a unique kitchen remodel. “We used ‘thin brick,’ which is actual brick that is thinly sliced and applied like tile. The owner wanted the feel of an old New Orleans warehouse on the interior walls,” Lewis says. Thin brick is being used in a variety of applications, from entire walls to backsplashes or accent areas. Like stone, brick is super-durable and easy to care for.
Most often used for floors and countertops, concrete has become much more versatile over the years. “I’ve had requests for stained concrete basement floors and concrete countertops,” Dwyer says. A concrete floor is not one that resembles your driveway, but rather a smooth, elegant surface that can withstand plenty of wear and tear.
“Lately, concrete has really come into its own as a design feature on a floor,” Mozen says. “It can be etched, stained or painted. We’ve recently been doing a lot of staining on concrete slab basement floors. It’s quick and easy.” While you can create special designs or use a variety of colors for staining concrete, many homeowners are choosing nice, neutral shades. Because many basements in the South open out to a lower level of the yard, concrete floors can blend seamlessly with outdoor patios and hardscaping.
Incorporating hardscape materials into your home is easier than you might think. In most instances, you can add them without any major remodeling or structural changes to your home. “Since most of the materials are veneers, the existing structure is sufficient to hold their weight,” Dwyer says. He does point out that you should consult a professional before you go ahead with a project in an existing home, however. “Some older homes were built with smaller framing materials and should be checked by someone knowledgeable before you add, for example, a concrete island top.”
While full-size stone and brick take a little more time and effort to work with, the stone and brick veneers that are so popular generally go in pretty quickly. “The thinner veneers are easy to install since they don’t require a concrete footing like full-size stone or brick,” Hoots says. “Most of the veneers install like tile, so they go up quickly and are easy to handle.”
Whether you’re adding stone to a family room that opens onto an outdoor entertaining area or using brick veneers to create an old-world look in your kitchen, indoor hardscaping will make your home one of the most unique houses on the block.
Keep It Clean
Generally, stone, brick and concrete are all low maintenance. There are just a few things to consider when caring for these products:
• Dust or vacuum them regularly to keep them looking bright and clean.
• Grout cleaning may be required once every few years on stone floors.
• Concrete finishes may need sealing and intermittent resealing depending on the use.
Sources: Tom Dwyer, Harbour Towne Construction Inc.; Matt Hoots, SawHorse Inc. and The Hoots Group Inc.; Judy Mozen, Handcrafted Homes Inc.
Because materials such as stone, brick and concrete are timeless and extremely durable, they tend to be significantly pricier than other choices. Here are a couple things to keep in mind:
• Jobs are usually priced depending on accessibility and materials used. Per-square-foot pricing usually will not apply when the quantities are smaller.
• Real stone costs the most, and manufactured stone and brick are usually less per unit.
Sources: Tom Dwyer, Harbour Towne Construction Inc.; Matt Hoots, SawHorse Inc. and The Hoots Group Inc.
To create a passive solar feature in your home, you only need to install a masonry floor or wall near windows. The masonry will absorb the sun’s heat during the day and release it at night. This is a wonderful benefit in the winter. You can even go barefoot at night on the masonry—it’s warm and toasty!
—Judy Mozen, president, Handcrafted Homes Inc.