Guide To Paving & Patio Design

Most of us have not had a lot of sunny weather yet this Summer however lots of people are still getting their gardens ready to host parties and BBQ’s for when the sunshine does finally arrive. Of course, no garden party is complete without some beautiful paving and a patio to hold the gathering on! To some people, designing outdoor spaces can seem pretty overwhelming but by following our helpful tips below, anyone can create the perfect area to hold their Summer soiree!

 1.       Keep your purpose in mind.
It’s important to never lose sight of the reason you want to build this space. Whether it’s to host big family gatherings or just a quiet space to relax and read a book, always plan for the intended purpose. It is so easy to get swept up in all the amazing design options available.

2.       Picking the perfect place.
You might be restricted to just one place to have a patio or you may have several options, either way, making sure that you get the right patio and paving position will impact on the overall design. Think about what you will most likely use the patio for and whether you want to take advantage of catching the sun, creating a private area, somewhere you can enjoy the views or a combination!

3.       Go large or go small?
Whether you are planning an intimate outdoor retreat or an area for large scale entertaining, the size of your space is key. Make sure there is plenty of room to move around especially if you are adding furniture later.

4.       Create different spaces.
Patios and paving don’t have to create just one space on one level. With a bit of imagination, you can create different zones with split levels and stepped areas and combine them using complimentary elements in each.

5.       Play with shapes.
Traditionally, many patios have been simple square or rectangle areas but sometimes that just doesn’t feel right! Try playing with circles, different angles and odd shapes to create a unique feature.

6.       Go with the flow.
Making sure that people can easily walk around, to and from the area is key to ensuring you will get the most from your patio area. Matching paving is a great way of leading people to your patio and creating a sense of flow and easy circulation.

7.       Think materials.
Like a lot of home improvements, paving and patio is something you will want to get long term use from. So whilst ensuring you have a design you will be happy with for years to come is important, it’s even more important to find a material that you are aesthetically pleased with that will also last the test of time.

8.       Plan, plan and plan some more.
Every tip so far has included some form of planning and we really can’t emphasise this enough. Look and try out every patio position, every paving layout and do your research on your chosen materials. Don’t forget to plan around your intended plantings, furniture and any extras you may want.

9.       Decide on any special details.
Would you like to add a fire feature, some particular furniture or even some built-in planters? Keep your options open but remember to think about the size of space you are building and how much you can fit in.

10.   Keep it practical and set a budget.
Some designs, layouts and materials may look great at first but do they need a lot of maintenance to keep them like that and are you able to put in the extra time? And although keeping in or below budget is always preferred, the initially cheaper options may end up needing replaced sooner than the initially more expensive option leading to the patio having a higher life cost. It is also worth thinking about size of paving as extra wastage means extra cost as does bespoke sizes.

Lots to think about and consider but these tips should keep you on track to creating your ideal space whatever the purpose may be! Some of the reasons our Caithness flagstone is so popular is because it ticks many of these boxes. It is incredibly durable leading to longer life span, it can be cut to any size but we also have stock sizes to suit differing budgets, maintenance is minimal as it is so hard wearing and its natural charm means it is suited to various spaces and styles. If you would like help designing your Caithness flagstone patio and paving, get in touch with our team today!

New Year, New Blog...

It’s the start of a new year and that means new blogs, new social media posts, new opportunities, new orders, new challenges and new design trends, just to name a few! But what does 2019 have in store for designing with natural stone? In one word. Balance.

Designers and customers are mixing things up; concrete table tops with wooden legs, glass walls surrounded by soft furnishings, large natural stone tiles set behind a traditional cast iron roll top bath. Whether small or large contrasts, both create lasting effects to its environment. On a smaller scale, this balance can be seen with fireplace designs. Many think of stone fireplaces as very traditional and even outdated but check out this Norse Stone bespoke order and how you can balance by bringing even the most ancient of materials into a modern home.

Before: Old, dull and in need of updating!

Before: Old, dull and in need of updating!

When you think of modern design usually ideas of clean lines and smooth surfaces come to mind however traditional design is usually full of character and natural imperfections especially in the materials used. So how could you combine these? Originally the customer had a dated gas fire with a matt polished Caithness flagstone hearth, stone surround and scallop edged wooden mantle. The only certainty the customer had decided on was they still wanted a Caithness flagstone hearth.

Work in progress!

Work in progress!

The customer started their fireplace makeover when they accidently stumbled across a stove they really liked and actually based most of the fireplace design around it! The initial plan was to use a Caithness flagstone hearth and mantle with stone surround however the customer decided they wanted more contrast in materials and colours. Once they had settled on an overall design, they began hauling out the existing fire, hearth and surround.

Oak surround with Caithness flagstone slips.

Oak surround with Caithness flagstone slips.

It was decided that because of the new layout, they wanted a new hearth with an entirely new design and different surface finish. After looking through Norse Stone samples, they decided on brushed riven with pencil round edging on the hearth. That’s when the oak surround and mantle came into play with a contrasting coloured back and balanced out with matching Caithness flagstone brushed riven slips inside the oak mantle and upstands. These not only added further textural contrast but also complements the hearth, tying it all together.

Showing off the bespoke hearth shape.

Showing off the bespoke hearth shape.

The shape of the hearth is the focal point! The size and shape of the surround, mantle and slips were designed around the overall appearance of the stove however the hearth was designed to almost mirror the shape of the glazed window on the front of the stove. The window was the design feature that caught the customer’s eye in the first place! By using this bespoke hearth shape to complement the stove, which in turn influenced the final design of the surround and back, all the elements tie together to create a beautifully balanced and truly bespoke piece.

Before and….

Before and….

After - What a transformation!

After - What a transformation!

At the beginning, the customer specified that they wanted to achieve a balance of traditional materials, contrasting textures, different colours and contemporary design with neither intruding on the other and, ultimately, having a unique end result. No small order but with some patience (and drawing up lots of different ideas) the customer thinks the finished design is the perfect balance for them and, most importantly, they were able to make sure that they still had a Caithness flagstone hearth. They even managed to complete the installation in time for Christmas!

All ready for a visit from Santa Claus #festivefireplace

All ready for a visit from Santa Claus #festivefireplace

Of course fireplace design is just one small area of design where balance and contrasts play a vital role. In reality, all areas of interior design require some contrast to add something extra special. Throughout households, buildings and even in exterior or landscaping design projects, natural stone, like our Caithness flagstone, can be used to add textural, material and colour contrasts. How will you use natural stone to create both balance and contrast in 2019?

With the range of finishes available and orders made to each individual customers specifications, get in touch with the Norse Stone team today for your design project.

From The Quarry To Your Door...

If you find yourself surrounded by the beautiful landscapes of Caithness whether you are driving round the North Coast 500, on route to Orkney or just here to enjoy the local culture, you may notice something that appears almost everywhere you look. Caithness flagstone.

Norse Stone Caithness Flagstone

Buildings are clad in it, walkways are paved in it, fireplace hearths are furnished with it and the endless rolling fields that make up the countryside are enclosed by large vertical slabs of it. Caithness flagstone is literally everywhere! Having it everywhere gives the impression that it is an easily accessible material and you could almost be forgiven for thinking so as well but the raw material used to produce these unmistakeable stone products first have to be extracted from the earth below our feet.

Every kind of stone has different properties and that means the extraction processes can have differences from stone to stone as well. Caithness flagstone is extracted from a 3m high bed which is quarried in 16 individual layers. These layers are then split into flagstones, cut to shape and finished to produce Norse Stone’s stunning product range. Sounds straight forward, right?

Recently we have been opening new sections in both our Lieurary and Banniskirk quarries but it’s not as easy as just picking any old spot and lifting the first layer of stone, we have to find the stone and dig down to it first! Reinforcements, in the form of Alan Gows Groundworks, have been on hand to help with this stage. Luckily we already knew where to dig, but it still took a joint effort and 1 week of hard graft to lift 4m of overburden (or top soil) to get down to the first layer of the flag bed.

Norse Stone Caithness Flagstone

With the flagstone layer now in sight, it’s time for the Norse Stone team to individually extract and sort each layer of stone before it is brought into our workshop and made into the wonderful items you see across our website, social media and brochures. With so many products to choose from that are suitable for a wide range of projects, the only question left is which would you choose?

Home Is Where The Hearth Is

Summer holidays are over, the days are starting to get slightly shorter and some are even considering putting on or turning up the heating!

If you are following our Facebook, Twitter or Instagram accounts, you may have seen some of our team recently went to Glasgow and, whilst there, they visited a few of our hearth suppliers and stockists.  So with the seasons getting ready to change from Summer to Autumn, we decided it would be a wonderful time to show off our beautiful hearth range.

A Caithness Flagstone hearth can add so much to any home whether you are looking to add a bit of heritage and traditional or a stylish and contemporary design feature.  As with all of Norse Stone’s products, our hearth range is made using our bespoke design service but we do have some standard shapes including:

Norse Stone Square and Rectangle Caithness Flagstone Hearth

The Square and Rectangle are the most simple and traditional shapes available, these can be combined with inserts to be added inside the fireplace for a stove to be placed on top of. It can be perfectly complemented with a full mantle and surround to a simple but beautiful oak beam.

Norse Stone D Caithness Flagstone Hearth

A stylish alternative to the more traditional hearth shapes, the D hearth combines the practicality of the Rectangle and Square layouts with a modern twist. It can equally be complemented with a surround and mantle or a simple beam above the fire place.

Norse Stone Corner Teardrop Quadrant Caithness Flagstone Hearth

Not all hearths are placed in the centre of a room, a fire or stove placed in the corner can create a subtle but stunning feature. The standard Corner hearths are a more traditional design with clean straight lines leading to a focused front edge. Whereas the Quadrant and Teardrop hearths provide a contemporary corner hearth design with their rounded front edge.

Norse Stone Bespoke Caithness Flagstone Hearth

Although these are our standard shapes, anything is possible. Our bespoke service has given us challenges such as creating full circle hearths, double sided hearths, hearths with no right angles at all and hearths to be made to a specific template provided by the client, to name a few! However the shape of the hearth is not the only important decision to make.

In one of our previous blog posts, we explained our selection of surface finishes and what their recommended uses were. All of them are perfect for hearths and so here is our mini guide.

Norse Stone Caithness Flagstone Finishes Guide

Now you have all the information you need to design your ideal hearth! Check out our Hearths & Fireplaces page for more photo’s as well as our Hearth Brochure. So whether you are looking to add a feature to your home or become a new stockist, all that remains is to get in touch with the Norse Stone team!

Ready-Made, Made-To-Measure or Bespoke?

Hearths, worktops, flooring, paving and building stone have always been highly sought after products with a vast range of natural and man-made options readily available but what happens when readily available and mass produced just don’t fit? Whether it’s because you have a structure with uneven walls, a boundary at slightly unusual angles or boxed services that cut into your dream kitchen layout, Norse Stone can produce products to your exact requirements.

You might come across three main product descriptions; ready-made, made-to-measure and bespoke. Ready-made are standard designs, shapes and sizes that you buy off the shelf and made-to-measure is the standard design and shape with the option of choosing your sizes although the available sizes can still be limited. So what is the difference then between made-to-measure and bespoke? Bespoke is where almost every aspect of the product can be chosen. Let’s take a hearth as an example, one of our most popular bespoke made products. Each customer can have different requirements whether it is specific dimensions, a different hearth shape, a preferred finish or if cut outs are needed for service connections. With each project as unique and individual as the client themselves, why choose an inadequate “one-size-fits-all” when you could have a bespoke piece made to suit and fit in its surroundings?

Norse Stone Caithness Flagstone
Norse Stone Caithness flagstone hearth

Check out this work in progress photographed at our Lieurary quarry. It usually starts off as a simple sketch, more accurate dimensions are then added and, from these, a template can be produced. The optimum stone having been extracted from our own quarry is selected by our expert team and the template is placed on top, ready for cutting to shape.

If you have read our previous blog posts, you may have seen our stone finishes guide, it’s at this point that the chosen finish is applied to the newly cut stone. As a recap, Riven is the natural texture, Brushed Riven is slightly smoother, Antique is just a slight texture, Matt Polished (or Honed) is a smooth surface and High Polished is perfectly smooth with a high sheen. Edge finishes are also added along with optional sealing, oiling and cut outs.

The finished product is a combination of careful planning, thoughtful design and the use of high quality materials, skills and techniques. Using these, the customer can be sure of a stunning end product perfectly suited to their space.

Norse Stone Caithness Flagstone Hearth
Norse Stone Caithness Flagstone Hearth

But the hearth is just one example that our onsite design team specialise in with bespoke services available across our range of worktops, memorials, flooring, building stone and paving. So when planning your next design project, don’t settle for a simple ready-made or made-to-measure, which won’t do you or your project justice, find out how you can have your perfect product made exactly the way you want!

Get in touch with the Norse Stone team today.

Perfect Paving

Spring is finally upon us and that means it’s time to start planning those home improvements and design projects. For a lot of architects, urban designers and homeowners, that means looking outdoors and changing a drab, unused and uninviting space into a contemporary, relaxing environment perfect for spending those long summer evenings. One of the most popular ways of achieving this is using paving and that instantly starts the debate of which paving material is best to use. That’s where Norse Stone can help as our Caithness Flagstones and its natural properties are known worldwide and as such is considered one of the best paving materials. Don’t believe us? Have a look below and see why you should choose Caithness Flagstone for all your paving needs starting with our own Ugly Duckling story - The patio version!

(There once was an ugly patio with slabs all worn and brown....)

(There once was an ugly patio with slabs all worn and brown....)

As you can see from the before pictures, this outdoor space was in need of some TLC. The existing patio slabs were well used and passed their best with several cracked. Fast forward after some thoughtful planning and a lot of hard work and you have the finished result below.

(Say who’s an ugly patio? Not I! Not I!)

(Say who’s an ugly patio? Not I! Not I!)

Using a variety of sizes and shapes of Caithness Flagstone, and some gravel for contrasting colour and texture, the once unloved space is transformed into a modern outdoor retreat!

Of course, it’s not just small residential areas than can benefit from using this natural material, Norse Stone has collaborated on commercial paving projects as well. If you find yourself indulging in some retail therapy at the Glasgow Fort shopping centre, you only need to look down to find you are walking on our stunning  Riven paving. On your way to the Isle of Skye? Well, surrounding the Eilean Donan Castle holiday apartments, and overlooking views of the castle itself, is an eye-catching selection of crazy paving from our Banniskirk quarry.

Glasgow Fort shopping centre (left) and Eilean Donan Castle holiday apartments (right)

Glasgow Fort shopping centre (left) and Eilean Donan Castle holiday apartments (right)

No matter the size of project, our stone can adapt to suit the new environment but why should you chose Caithness Flagstone over other paving materials?

As early as the 18th century, the Caithness flagstone industry exported from the North Highlands of Scotland, where this iconic stone is quarried, to destinations all over the world including New York, USA and Sydney, Australia. Even the streets of Boston, which were commonly said to be paved with Gold, were in fact paved with Caithness flagstone. To this day the original stones are still lining the streets with many walls and buildings around Caithness showing off stone dating back 200 years. This combination of durability and strength comes from the stone naturally forming over 370 million years ago. Even in comparison with some of the most popular UK and imported paving materials, Caithness Flagstones combination of strength and durability shines through.

Caithness flagstone comparison

So when you decide it’s time for your outdoor space to receive a facelift and turn it into a beautiful outdoor extension of your home, workspace or commercial project, make sure Caithness Flagstone is at the top of your wish list.

Get in touch with the Norse Stone team to order a sample and discuss your requirements.

Guide to Stone Finishes

With many domestic and commercial projects following the current trends and incorporating natural stone materials into their proposals, it can be difficult to tell what will be most well suited for each part of a design project. At Norse Stone, we are going to try to make that a bit easier for you!

You may have seen, heard or even experienced why we are so passionate about our local material, Caithness Flagstone, and know about its fantastic durability properties but did you know that not only can it be made to your dimensional requirements, but to your choice of surface and edge finish as well? In case you didn’t, we have put together a mini guide to the finishes available at Norse Stone and some of their most popular uses.

Riven Paving

Riven Paving

Weathered Riven Paving

Weathered Riven Paving

Brushed Riven Interior Flooring

Brushed Riven Interior Flooring

Antique Hearth

Antique Hearth

Matt Polished Worktop

Matt Polished Worktop

High Polish Coping

High Polish Coping

Let’s start with the most natural finish, Riven. A slightly rough textured surface, it isn’t machined at all and instead the unprocessed finish is determined from extraction. This finish is mainly used for exterior projects including paving, wall coping, cladding, window sills, slates, lintels steps and garden features but is also commonly used for hearths.

Weathered Riven has the same textural properties as standard Riven however instead of the well known dark grey Caithness flagstone you may be used to seeing, this stone comes in a variety of colours. Quarries, such as our Banniskirk site, have had stone left exposed to the elements for years causing the stone to oxidise and the colour to weather to create stunning brown/grey variations.

A Brushed Riven finish is machine brushed so that it has a slightly smoother surface than the stones natural texture but maintains the rustic appearance. Better suited to interior design projects, this finish lends itself well to flooring, hearths, fireplaces, steps and signage.

To achieve an Antique finish, the stone is machine smoothed and then brushed leaving just a slight texture behind. This finish is used predominantly for flooring, hearths, fireplaces, worktops and signage as well as memorials.

Matt Polished (also known as Honed) finish, is machine polished to a smooth surface texture and perfectly suited for interior use. Flooring, hearths, fireplaces and worktops are popular Matt Polished interior products alongside furniture, shower trays, window sills and tableware with some opting to use it in exterior design for memorials and signage. A further option with this finish is for the polished stone to be sealed and enhanced which gives the stone a darker, almost black, appearance. This is our most popular finish due to the stunning end result it gives across our product range.

The last, but by no means least, surface texture is the High Polished finish. Machine polished to a high sheen, it is then sealed and enhanced making it the perfect show stopping interior finish. Used throughout the home, it is most popular for hearths, fireplaces, worktops, tableware, window sills, wet wall, tiles and shower trays.

Now for our most popular edge finishes starting with the Flamed Edge. This effect is accomplished with a straight sawn edge which has been flamed using extreme heat to blister the cut surface giving the edge a natural Riven appearance to match a Riven finished top. The edging effect is used primarily for building finishing materials including rustic hearths, steps, window sills and benches.

Another alternative option is our Natural Edge finish. Natural fractures in the quarry are prone to sources of calcite and minerals and with these fractures leaving stone exposed to many years of water filtration, they combine to alter the stone providing an edge effect with variety of colours. 

Now that you know your Riven from your High Polished (and everything in between!), you can decide on the perfect finish for your Norse Stone product. If you do have any further questions on stone finishes, please get in touch with our team or request a sample and let us know which Caithness flagstone finish is your favourite!

Stone Trends 2018

Norse Stone Blog

Like flared trousers and avocado bathroom suites, trends come and go but one item that never goes out of fashion is natural stone.  From modern and contemporary buildings to rustic country cottages, there is always a place to use natural products; inside and out.  And with architects and designers more commonly putting emphasis on using sustainable and crafted materials, stone is an obvious choice of material to use.

When considering stone, most would think of paving, roof tiles or walls and whilst these are all excellent uses, with its striking appearance and durability, Caithness Stone can do so much more.

As a truly versatile material, our stone can be used throughout interior design to bring a sense of nature and the outdoors in to your home.  A robust and non-absorbent material, it is ideal for kitchen or bathroom worktops and flooring, especially with the use of underfloor heating.  Frame your fireplace with a bespoke Caithness Flagstone surround and hearth to make it a stunning focal point for all to enjoy.  Whereas subtle touches including tables with stone tops, coasters and placemats add some interesting textures without intruding too much on the overall interior design.

Outside spaces, too, can benefit from using natural stone in its design.  Formed and quarried in a place that can see all four seasons in one day, Caithness Flagstone is amongst the most durable available making it ideal for exterior use.  Commonly sought after as a building material, it is used to produce traditional roof tiles and can create striking textures when used as external cladding.  It has been shipped all over the world to be used as paving and can be cut to your design for memorial benches and standing stones. Whilst exterior designers continue to use natural stone in landscaping to create a rugged but relaxing space to reconnect with nature.

With these trends set to continue the only question is, how will you be using natural stone in your projects?