Scotland

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!

Getting Into The Community Spirit

The schools are on holiday, daffodils are blossoming and lambs are bouncing merrily round fields whilst the talk of the Easter Bunny and how many eggs he will leave is on every child’s mind! In Caithness, Spring has well and truly arrived with our wide open views and rolling countryside bursting into colour in contrast with their surrounding Caithness flagstone walls and fences which have weathered another winter.

 

If you followed our #MarchMeetTheMaker posts or blog (or even just our social media posts!), you may have seen how much we, at Norse Stone, really do love Caithness. We love our heritage and culture, our dialect and local produce as well as our landscapes and amazing community. A big part of the community spirit in Caithness is down to the supportive businesses in the area and we are so grateful for the support we have been shown that we have decided to give back. But we aren’t doing it alone, oh no! We have teamed up with a fantastic group of local businesses and decided to give back to two of our local charities.

 

All of the following Caithness businesses have joined forces with us to create a wonderful hamper which will be up for grabs via an online raffle on Saturday 27th of April 2019: G S Donn Mechanical Maintenance & Repair, Eye Candy, Caithness Chocolates, Inspired By Caithness, Lindsey Gallacher Studio & Workshop, Shore Seaweed, The Ulbster Arms Hotel, Wolfburn Whisky, KW1CK Deliveries, Dunnet Bay Distillery , Highland Drones and Marks & Pencils. Make sure to check out our social media and the up and coming Facebook event page over the next week where we will post all the photo’s and information on the raffle but for now we will give you a wee sneak peak of the hamper contents.

Norse Stone Caithness Flagstone

Teaming up with some of our local businesses was the easy part, trying to choose only two local charities to benefit from this raffle was the really tricky part but we finally came to a decision. Our two chosen local charities are the Castlehill Heritage Centre and Balmore SSPCA Rescue Centre.

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The Castlehill Heritage Centre is a real community gem and a must see for any locals or visitors! It has wonderful exhibitions including a journey through time from the early Caithness flagstone industry right up to the present day. Found in the village of Castletown, it is a wonderful visitor experience with changing exhibitions about local history, heritage and biodiversity as well as workshops all year round. The converted farm buildings, which now holds the centres wonderful displays, are immediately adjacent to the old Castlehill flagstone quarry and visitors can explore the area further following the Heritage and Sculpture Trails.

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Most people will have at least heard, if not possibly even visited a SSPCA centre. Balmore is the rescue and rehoming centre for Caithness and Sutherland and is based just a few miles outside of Reay. Having run for over two decades, this small but busy centre has a dedicated team dealing with a range of animals coming from a number of different situations and all with the end goal of being able to rehome animals to their forever homes or release wildlife back to their natural environment. From dogs to cats, guinea pigs to rabbits and hedgehogs to birds of prey, this SSPCA centre does an amazing job for the local community and its animals.

So make sure to check our social media for updates over the coming days and help us give back to the Caithness community by raising money for these two amazing charities. We can’t thank the local businesses who have donated towards the raffle enough as well as the Caithness Voluntary Group for their help in making this happen. If you find yourself with time to spare, make sure to check out these amazing businesses, charities and group!

Burns Blog

Every year on January 25th, celebrations are held all over Scotland to commemorate our national poet, Robert Burns. And, to be fair, it doesn’t stop at Scotland’s borders, tributes are paid across the world in the form of traditional Burns Suppers. If you haven’t experienced a Burns Supper, here are a few things you have missed out on which we think make the ultimate Burns Night celebration.


Set the Scene

Whether a smaller affair at home or a large community event, make sure to set the atmosphere for the night with flashes of tartan. Tableware, sashes, kilts, dresses, hats, jewellery; anything with Scotland’s beloved material is sure to make you and the venue look the part. Feel free to throw in some thistles and lucky white heather in simple vases or bottles to complete the look.

Following Tradition

Particularly at larger Burns Suppers, the tradition of several toasts and speeches with some of Robbie Burns poems and songs laced through typically make up a significant part of any Burns Night. Some choose to stick stringently to it whereas others take a slightly more relaxed approach (we once heard a Burns Night toast done to the tune of ‘the Fresh Prince of Bel Air’!). There is no right or wrong way but we love having even just a small toast or recite a single Burns poem, after all, the night is to celebrate him!

Entertainment

Along with tartan and Burn’s poems, traditional Scottish music plays a huge part in any Burns Night celebrations. From having a solo piper piping in the haggis to a full blown ceilidh band to dance the night away into the wee hours after the meal and toasts are finished, no Burns Supper is complete with out it!

Food & Drink

The final piece to the Burns Supper puzzle, is a hearty meal and a good dram. Ask anyone what you have to eat on Burns night and the answer is always haggis, neeps and tatties (that’s haggis with mashed turnip and mashed potatoes to anyone outside of Scotland!). Often served with oatcakes and a wonderful whisky sauce, there is nothing else like it! It may not be to everyone’s liking though so many Burns Suppers also provide an alternative like mince or sausages with neeps and tatties. Whatever your meal of choice, the traditional beverage to wash it all down is always a Scottish whisky. We are lucky enough to have Old Pulteney whisky on our door step however we are also big fans of the nearby Rock Rose gin, we think either are perfectly acceptable really!

 

However you decide to celebrate Robbie Burns, whether a full on traditional supper complete with ceilidh or a quiet meal at home with just a Burns poem in your mind, we hope you have a wonderful Burns night and would like to leave you with our tribute. As you probably know, Burns was born and lived in Ayrshire however he travelled and saw other parts of Scotland. This inspired some of his writings and, most notably, the Highlands was an area he grew very fond of even leading to the song “My Heart’s in the Highland’s”. As we are based in the Northern Highlands, we decided to show you some of the sights we have near our quarries that may have influenced Scotland’s most famous poet and have our very own managing director, Michael Ronaldson, to thank for the musical accompaniment. Enjoy and have a great Burn’s Night!

Norse Stone's tribute to Scotland's national poet, Robert Burns.


 


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.

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!

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!