natural stone

Highland Business Awards 2019

We were absolutely delighted to recently learn that Norse Stone is one of three finalists shortlisted for the Caithness & Sutherland Business of the Year at the 2019 Highland Business Awards. This was some really exciting news and, although we are keeping our fingers crossed for the final, we are thrilled to have made it this far!

During the application process, we got to thinking about just how far Norse Stone has come since the company was founded in 2015. Humble beginnings of three men in a shipping container with a saw and a polisher has grown to two quarries, eleven members of staff, a fully equipped workshop and bespoke production line.

Our quarries, Lieurary and Banniskirk, are both located on what is known as the ‘Spittal beds’ which is where you will find the finest quality Caithness flagstone. Lieurary is our main quarry and is also where our processing facilities are located. Banniskirk is our newest quarry just a few miles from Lieurary. It has already shown real potential in a variety of products giving Norse Stone customers even more options for their products.

Lieurary Quarry

Lieurary Quarry

Some of the Norse Stone Team

Some of the Norse Stone Team

The Norse Stone team is a unique mixture of people; men, women, age, background, training, experience. Some of the team, including our own managing director Michael Ronaldson, have been in Caithness flagstone industry for years whilst others had no previous experience but have learned, adapted and thrived in what is truly a diverse working environment.

Our workshop is kitted out with saws, polishers and fully automated CNC machinery with a specially built production line to increase our paving productivity. Caithness is known for its stunning landscapes and we are lucky to have our quarries surrounded by some of these. We want to protect our local environment and landscapes by developing low carbon production and extraction techniques such as recycling water to our saws, reusing offcuts and even working towards being as paper free as possible.

Community has had a huge impact on the Caithness flagstone industry and is something Norse Stone has always held in high regard. The local community is the backbone of Caithness flagstone. Even when stone production had all but stopped, it was the community who continued to pass down the working knowledge allowing the industry to once again be revived years later. Over the years, Norse Stone has been able to increase the support it can provide to the local community whether donations, sponsorship, information, photos of modern practices and, of course, local job opportunities.

We are immensely proud of how far Norse Stone has come in what is really a short amount of time and will continue to learn and develop so we can support our local community. Our product range will grow and mature to match the needs of our customers whilst we will endeavour to bring greater awareness of the versatile and durable indigenous natural stone we use.

We can’t wait to see what the future holds but, in the meantime, we hope you will keep your fingers crossed for us on the 27th of September when we attend the Highland Business Awards.

Summer Stands & Support

Whilst many people are getting ready to go on holiday or music festivals this summer, the Norse Stone team are getting ready to attend and support some of our local events.

For those following us on Facebook , Twitter or Instagram, you may have seen our posts on Friday and Saturday about attending the Caithness County Show. It’s a local agricultural event that is always well attended not least by the selection of trade stands. It’s not all just tractors here (all though there are quite a few of those!). From clothing to crafts, distillers to hot tubs and this year, Norse Stone!

We came armed with samples, brochures, a display complete with hearth (borrowed from RDI Renewables) and paving layout as well as our popular lego selection and some diggers for all the kids (big and small) who came by to say “hello” on the day. We met lots of people, both old and new, handed out most of our brochure packs and overall had a great day out. Despite a bit of typical Caithness County Show rain, the afternoon stayed dry enough that we didn’t even need towed off the field at the end of the day (another typical Caithness County Show activity!).

Norse Stone stand at Caithness County Show

Norse Stone stand at Caithness County Show

Hearth, stove and paving display

Hearth, stove and paving display

Samples and brochure display

Samples and brochure display

Our attempt at a Lego flagstone wall

Our attempt at a Lego flagstone wall

During the summer months, Caithness is host to a number of wonderful shows and events. Next on the calendar is the Halkirk Highland Games which always takes place on the last Saturday of July. We don’t have a stand at it this year, but we are a proud sponsor and we know some of our team will definitely be attending to enjoy the stalls and watch as the field events unfold. It’s a huge event on everyone’s calendar with competitors travelling from all over the world to compete! Rain or shine, it’s always an enjoyable day out.

Our last event of this summer will be another Highland Games, this time the Mey Highland Games. These games have been transformed in recent years with the inclusion of para events on top of the traditional heavy highland games. It is also a great chance to sneak a look at a royal! HRH, Prince Charles, Duke of Rothesay, is the chieftain of these games and attends every year to mingle with the crowd and also judges the tug of war event. We will be keeping our fingers crossed that we are able to meet HRH as we attend the games this year with our own stand as well as being sponsors. Who knows, maybe we will be able to convince him to get some Caithness flagstone!

Keep checking our social media for more event updates and news.

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.

Trick or Treat...

Have we ever mentioned that our Norse Stone team are a group of amazing multi-talented people? It’s true! They deal with everything from quarrying the stone, running the business, marketing, splitting stone, machining and hand finishing our products all from our own quarries in Caithness. But their talents do not stop at the quarry. Some turn wood, others are keen bike and car enthusiasts, there are musicians, budding photographers, amazing bakers; the list goes on and in the run up to Halloween some of our team got into the “spirit” of the holiday and turned their creative hands and tools to pumpkin carving!

Once they decided on their designs, they had to draw it on their chosen pumpkins and gut them out. Unfortunately some of our team realised they made a big mistake using washable pens to mark out their designs. Next year, they will use something more permanent!

Norse Stone Halloween Blog Pumpkin Carving
Norse Stone Halloween Blog Pumpkin Carving

Let the carving, BEGIN!

Norse Stone Halloween Blog Pumpkin Carving
IMG_20181028_203322520-edit.jpg

After some precision cutting, slashing and slicing, the Norse Stone team produced 4 spooktacular pumpkins.

Norse Stone Halloween Blog Pumpkin Carving

What do you think? We will be holding a vote on our Facebook page later today so make sure to check back and let us know which is your favourite fangtastic carving.

We loved changing it up and taking you behind the scenes a bit with this Halloween blog but fear not, we will be leaving the squash behind and focusing our tools back on flagstone for our next blog!