Marketplace Intro: The return of real stone

Everywhere you turn, some company is marketing natural or organic. Whether it’s dog food, fast-food hamburgers or glass bottles, the American public demands natural products. That trend has found its way to hardscaping, and experts say consumers can’t get enough of this natural look.

“The natural look is a mindset right now with everything; people are trying to move the outdoors inside,” says Ron Tolf, general manager, Concrete Edge. “That tree hugger mentality is back. It’s almost like a ’60s revolution.”

This trend is paying off for Brannon Seaman, owner of Seaman Hardscaping in Oxford, Pennsylvania, who has a stonemasonry background. Seaman finds homeowners appreciate real stone because it never fades. And, he says, high-end homeowners appreciate the durability of the earth-tone color hardscapes that complement the color of their home.

“I always tell customers if they want [the stone] to fade into the architecture of house to go with a neutral color like a grey or charcoal,” says Seaman, whose work is inspired by the French countryside. “I like to add a lot of arbors, bring in a timber framer with stone columns. I like the natural look.”

Patrick Roach, founder of Borderline Stamp, says the Belgium brick technique is an up-and-coming trend. Through this technique, the curb is rounded and mortar joints or grooves give it the brick look in different colors.

“People are just starting to understand that there’s more to curbing than just plain grey stone,” Roach says. “Belgium brick, for example, is a very simple application and it’s not that hard to do.”

Flexibility a plus
When it comes to inlays, landscapers are more creative than ever, Seaman says. “It’s not just straight lines anymore.”

But this is not necessarily about creativity. Commercial landscapers are diversifying to survive, Tolf says.

“Homeowners are not spending a lot more money right now, so the trend is versatility, using curb for lining driveways and parking lot curbs with smaller machines,” Tolf says.

Roach says landscapers are laying curb behind gardens, flowerbeds, sod and just about anywhere else. And, he says, consumers are moving away from the typical square look.

“Where you’ve done contours as opposed to square and straight lines, there’s nothing more pleasing to the eye,” Roach says.

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