Sometimes, Mistakes Are Made

A husband and wife walk into a stoneyard dragging a medium-sized suitcase full of heavy objects, including a 12”x24” ceramic floor tile, a large section of their backsplash mosaic, and a folder-thingy full of architectural-looking floor plans. 

Before the sales rep can say anything, the wife bursts into speech, relating the long saga of the kitchen renovation through which she and her husband have been suffering for something like the past year. 

Her tale ends with a convoluted explanation of why they are here today, and all the sales rep can gather at first is that this couple was burned by the last company that sold them a stone slab for their kitchen countertop.  They have come to look at other slabs because every time they walk into their kitchen their stomachs twist with anger.  The slab they paid for was not the slab they selected, and it doesn’t go with anything else in their kitchen. 

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And so they are here today to find something that blends in with the rest of their kitchen.  The sales rep shows them around.  At first, they are looking for something warm-colored, but they are open to other possibilities, so the sales rep shows them Tropicalia (earthy colors: moss-green, taupe, a lot of movement and some sparkle, but the colors are neutral so the slab isn’t crazy-looking), Angelus (pretty: bluish greys and pale aqua, not as fluid as the Tropicalia, but still very pretty).

But, what they finally settle on is New Azul Aran: steel blue-grey with some silver and a complement of creamy-taupe for the grounding neutral.  They see a slab, they select it, and then a few days later: another sales rep sells the same slab to a different customer. 

Our sales rep calls the wife, who is understandably suspicious when the sales rep promises to replace the slab with one just like it, that will be brought in from the Long Island warehouse.  So the wife comes in to view the second slab of New Azul Aran, toting the same suitcase full of accessories she made her husband lug around the first time.  After spending a half an hour alone in contemplation with the second slab, she is satisfied that it is almost identical to the first.  A sales order is made, a delivery is scheduled, and everything is locked down.

A few weeks later, the sales rep gets a very nice e-mail from the wife gushing about how happy she and her husband are with their new countertops.  She sends pictures, and the new look is undeniably more cohesive. 

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The lesson (or moral) of this story is, as we said, obvious and simple, and yet people in customer service often do not observe it: pay attention to details—it isn’t hard, and a little effort makes everybody happy in the end!

Kenya Black: Design v. Durability

Atmosphere Kitchen & Bath at 618 Columbus Avenue recently installed a new kitchen display, using Hindustan Granite’s Kenya Black marble for the countertop. 

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Amid the gloss of cherry-red upper cabinets and charcoal lower cabinets, the highly reflective silver herringbone backsplash, and the warm beige floor tiles, Kenya Black’s flowing, earthy waves of black and multi-tone grey become the visual anchor.  

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The great thing about Kenya Black is its classic-yet-modern look—swaths of black, white, and grey veining wash across the face of the stone in a pattern that elegantly straddles the line between geometry and nature.

Far from bland, Kenya Black is neutral enough to complement a wide variety of color palettes and design schemes without competing for attention.  But it provides more than enough visual interest to stand alone: in a minimalistic setting it would certainly be a conversation piece, and the focal point of the room.

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But all that sophistication and versatility comes at a price:  Kenya Black is a marble, and like all marbles it can etch when it is exposed to anything acidic.  It can also stain if it is improperly cared for.  The best way to avoid problems is to maintain it: make sure you wipe up messes as soon as they occur, use a chopping board instead of preparing foods directly on the counter’s surface, and avoid washing with harsh cleaners that remove the stone’s sealant.

The Slab Stalker

Global Wellness = Good Business, Part One

The thing about owning your own business is that, when you do, your life and your job are pretty much the same thing.  Making money is about sustaining your business and growing it, but it’s also about being involved in the personal lives of your employees—and if you run a business intelligently and responsibly, you have to be concerned about the people around you: after all, your community is your customer base, and if your community isn’t thriving, it will ultimately hurt your business. 

The better the world around you is doing, the better your business will do.  To participate in healing the less-thriving members of the community is not only sensible from a business point of view, it’s the right thing to do.

The Slab Stalker

Good Times at Vetrazzo

Satish Conda is one of HG Stones’ most seasoned sales reps.  He travels from place to place, making sure that everyone in Brooklyn and environs is aware of new inventory practically before it’s out of the container.  So it should come as no surprise that he spent part of his most recent vacation visiting Vetrazzo’s production facility and the adjacent marble quarry in Tate, Georgia.  Here he is with David Smathers, who was kind enough to show him around Vetrazzo HQ even though the factory was shut for Christmas:

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If you don’t know, Vetrazzo is a manmade surfacing material used for countertops, floors, vanities, and a variety of other applications. Hindustan Granites just became the exclusive Vetrazzo distributor in its territory—the slabs are comprised of 85% recycled glass and 15% patented concrete, and you can find lots of information about them here: http://hgstones.com/vetrazzo/

As you can see, Vetrazzo is beautiful as well as environmentally friendly:

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At Vetrazzo’s factory, Satish saw an almost endless collection of white sacks.

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These sacks were full of glass fragments;  when opened, they revealed glittering stashes of every color imaginable, from seafoam, to cobalt, to amber and beyond.

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Someday soon, these glass fragments - each and every one the souvenir of a moment in time when it was part of a bottle, a window, a stop-light - will be incorporated into a Vetrazzo slab.  And when you fill a bowl of cereal on top of your Vetrazzo countertop, you will be participating in its history too.

 

The Slab Stalker

Soapstone v. Cocktails, Grand Finale

And now, from Charlene Jones, a tutorial on how to make whiskey stones.  Ms. Jones came to HG looking for pieces of Soapstone—we gave her a few samples and broken fragments so that she could produce handmade whiskey stones for her husband—a handmade Christmas gift!

Whiskey Stone Tutorial:

Tools: You will need a hammer, a chisel, a coarse file, a fine file, and some small pieces of Soapstone.

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1. Start the process with a piece of Soapstone. Break the Soapstone apart into smaller pieces with a hammer, use a chisel to be more precise if needed. For the larger, thicker pieces, I threw them on concrete to break them apart. (This was fun and helped me get out some stress—lol!) 

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2. After breaking the stones so they were about a 1 inch diameter on all sides, I used a coarse file to shave the stones into ice cube shapes. 

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3. Next, after filing the stones into the cube shape with the coarse file, I finished the stones off with a fine file to smooth out the rough spots, striations from the coarse file and also to slightly round the pointy edges of the whiskey stones.

4. Lastly, after finishing all steps, wash the whiskey stones with mild soap and water (I used Dawn dish detergent), place the stones in the freezer for about 10-20 minutes and your whiskey stones are ready for that coveted ice cold 30 yr old scotch that would previously have been ruined by being watered down with regular ice cubes!

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I made 3 sets of 5 whiskey stone cubes and the guys ALL loved them. It took about 30 minutes per stone to get it to the exact shape and size that I desired. I used all manual hand tools, I’m sure I could have cut my project time in half by using electric…. but I believe in putting blood, sweat, tears, and love into gifts from the heart. =)

Once again thank you SO much for all of your help. You and HG Stones have been a Godsend to me and the men in my family this Christmas.

Best,

Charlene Jones

The Slab Stalker

Soapstone v. Cocktails, Part Two

Because it is in poor taste to talk about delicious cocktails without offering a recipe or two, here are a few I cadged off my colleague:

First, we have the Apple Crisp:

It consists of whiskey, a squeeze of fresh lemon, and Martinelli’s sparkling cider.  Serve cold over your handy whiskey stones.

Second, the Double Mint:

This one should be made with mint-infused whiskey and double-brewed coffee and Bailey’s. It is excellent either served over crushed ice, or hot—or, you can try it over whiskey stones.

The Slab Stalker

Soapstone v. Cocktails, Part One

Among those who drink whiskey in a serious way, there is a lot of discussion about whether it’s better to drink it chilled or not.  Purists eschew ice because as it melts it dilutes the whiskey and spoils its flavor-intensity. 

The question: if you can’t use ice, how do you keep your whiskey cold once it is in a glass?  The answer: whiskey stones

Whiskey stones are made from Soapstone.  Cut to approximately the size of ice cubes, they can be stored in the freezer and used to chill whiskey, as well as any other alcoholic beverage.

If you’d like to purchase whiskey stones, there are many places to do so online, but our top selection is a Vermont company, which makes them by hand:

http://www.whiskystones.com/

The Slab Stalker

A Note About Trends

“The [decorating] landscape is so huge that you have to approach it as self-expression, which brings you to the question of ‘Who are you?’ That’s the question you should be concerned with, not trends. When you know who you are, then you are just wardrobing that persona.” Simon Doonan on Etsy

 

The thing about trends is that they come and go.  When you’re decorating, you want to choose a look that works for your home, your taste, and your lifestyle, and you want it to stand the test of time—so choices based on trends may not always be practical in the long run.

And when it comes to selecting stone – whether it’ll go in the kitchen, the bathroom, or any other room in the house – it’s even more important to prioritize your own taste and needs, because stone lasts forever (or as close to forever as any material object in this ephemeral world of ours).  

That said, some trends are more enduring than others, and the current trend towards a minimalistic color palette of whites, greys, and soft earth tones will remain relevant because it goes with everything—like natural stone, it’s classic! 

Consider this: five years from now when every decorator in town is reupholstering furniture in baroque tapestries or lavender chevron and painting the walls chartreuse, you can jump on that jolly bandwagon confident in the knowledge that your quartzite Dolce Vita countertop, travertine-paneled shower cubicle, and black slate fireplace are going blend in just fine.  

Learning as we go.

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