How I choose the right stone for every project – and how it inspires my interior design

Stone, especially marble, can often be the starting point for my scheme, inspiring the colors, textures and materials in the rest of the space

In the world of interiors, materials are the building blocks for the very ambiance of a space. One of the most impactful materials I employ in creating the right palette for my clients' homes is stone. 

Selecting the perfect stone can set the tone for a much larger story. Akin to a painter searching for the right hue, a musician hunting for the perfect note, it can set into place the order of a room or entire project. 

I am always on the lookout for the most exquisite patterns and the richest colors within marble, the palette upon which I lay down the foundational themes of a home's color story. 

This story is then meticulously woven into the foundation of the design. From these natural patterns, I derive inspiration for window colors, cabinetry, doors, warm wood flooring, tiles, fabrics and wallpapers. Each element is woven together, resonating with the tonal colors deep within the chosen stone.

Living room storage in alcove with marble

(Image credit: Christopher Horwood)

But it's not just about patterns and colors. The vein of a stone is its signature, its story. Personally, I gravitate towards a gentler, softer veining, reminiscent of sprawling landscape. I favor a more prominent wave of veining that paints a picture rather than merely creating a pattern. 

On the other hand, larger striated, harsh, skinny, and weblike veining often fails to provide visual harmony. These variations in the stone’s makeup lack the soothing energy that I believe a home should radiate.

White kitchen designed by Cortney Bishop

(Image credit: Cortney Bishop)

Today's market offers an array of man-made designer stones, specifically crafted for durability. But while these might be sturdy and more resistant to wear and tear, they often lack the innate, mystical allure of natural stone. The patterns in these synthetic stones are often stamped and repetitive, devoid of the organic charm that a stone carved out of the earth boasts.

In the vast spectrum of natural stone, there is an unparalleled beauty. Marble, with its classic elegance; quartzite, reflecting subtle sophistication; soapstone, exuding an old-world charm; onyx, with its exotic appeal; and even granite, which has been the backbone of many architectural marvels – each its own feeling and unique beauty. When these stones are brought into a space, they don't just serve as countertops or flooring; they become the centerpiece, the heart of the home.

Bath and bathroom in marble

(Image credit: Sam Frost Studio)

As I embark on a project, I use stone as a muse. In my statement piece project, I selected a verdant green marble (top) which serves as an anchor that ties everything together. 

A room’s individuality and the home's holistic theme hinge upon the colors, textures, and stories of the stone. Like a masterful painting within a slab, it inspires and guides the flow of design, flipping and transitioning the style, energy and vibe seamlessly throughout the space.

The power of the right stone in design cannot be understated. It's not merely about aesthetics but about creating an experience. A home is meant to be a sanctuary, a reflection of the soul residing within. 

For this very reason, when you are on the quest to find the perfect stone, do more than just see; listen, feel and connect. This is the way to tune into the right stone material for your own project.

Cortney Bishop
Contributing Editor

Cortney Bishop, principal design and owner of Cortney Bishop Design, founded the full-service interior design firm in 2007. She holds a BBA in business marketing from the University of Georgia, and pursued her design career by blending her passions for travel, art, fashion and music. Her wide-ranging talent and innate ability to mix patterns and hues has resulted in a robust portfolio of diverse, inspiring residential and commercial projects, each reflective of a client’s lifestyle, personality and aesthetic. Cortney regularly contributes to Homes & Gardens.