Stone Veneer Offers New Inspiration for Multifamily Developers

Stone is a key design element that breaks up the monolithic look while also minimizing mass.

By Ed Perez, Boral

Responding to the demands of today’s homebuyers and renters, many developers are incorporating striking stone designs into new multifamily home developments—both inside and out. Thanks to innovative products from stone manufacturers and designers, developers can integrate a wide variety of appealing products to make their communities stand out from the competition. In fact, stone as a design element is stronger than ever.

The growing trend of stone in modern design taps two major elements—clean lines and natural color-ways—and is found prominently in exterior landscaping. Even better, as designers select hand-crafted stone veneer over natural stone, this investment can be both affordable and attractive.

Beyond the obvious benefits of using more stone in both interiors and exteriors—increasing property value and selling points—the new style also falls in line with a next-level necessity for both builders and buyers: staying green and budget-friendly. Multifamily designs that stick to stone offer a fresh, current and valuable option for buyers and renters of all ages.

Choose hand-crafted stone veneer over natural stone
Hand-crafted stone veneer, beyond being green, typically costs less and is easier to install. Veneers, which come in more than 100 colors and textures, are often employed when a full stonewall is cost-prohibitive, impractical, or simply not available due to color or palate restrictions. They are versatile, low maintenance and climate-tolerate even in harsh conditions.

Boral Stone Products is one of the few stone veneer manufacturers that meets the high standards of the strictest requirements in the industry. The predictable strength, quality and consistency inherent to this rating translates to accountable weight, moisture absorption and strength. To comply with building codes, stone veneers cannot exceed 15 pounds per square foot, allowing for greater design flexibility. Property values will benefit from the care and consideration that comes from the variety, versatility, quality and strength of stone.

Keep it close to home
Discerning buyers today appreciate local products that help their communities, yet another benefit of versatile stone in design. To assure that design looks at home in its setting, designers are seeking both style and stone native to the area.

An excellent example of stone mirroring its environment is the master-planned community Tsawwassen Springs, in Vancouver, Canada. By implementing American Arts & Craft architecture and a pulled-from-the-land stone aesthetic with Del Mare Ledgestone® from Cultured Stone® by Boral®, the development blends beautifully with its natural landscaping. By placing the stone strategically throughout the community, developers created a consistent and well-crafted look and feel. Thanks to the design flexibility of stone, numerous colors, textures and installation styles will match regional preferences across the globe.

“Stone may be used to create scale, emphasize design patterns, fashion focal points, bring gravity to a space or structure, and especially in multi-family projects, stone may be used as a common element which ties or brands the community as one,” says Annie Tutunjian, president of AT Design Consulting, Inc., a design firm that provides architectural color and material design as well as project theming to clients such as Brookfield Residential, William Lyon Homes and City Ventures.

Clean lines with contrast
Clean is a hallmark of today’s design trends, but contrast is still integral—especially in multifamily housing. Stone becomes a key design element since implementing a variety of stone facades, textures and colors breaks up the monolithic look while also minimizing mass. Using different materials and colors provides a three-dimensional quality, creating more interest and depth to a building.

“By their very nature, multifamily buildings typically are architecturally homogenous due to budget constraints. As a result, one really needs to stop the perception of repetition by creating elements of delight,” says Miriam Tate, exterior designer and president of Miriam Tate Company.

While color blocking with paint can be effective in achieving this, Tate added, stone cladding creates a warm atmosphere while visually differentiating a property. “Repetition, height and consistent materials can make a multi-story building seem dehumanizing, but clever use of materials will make it much more friendly and inviting. The positive effects of this are often seen in larger apartment properties.”

Tutunijan echoed this sentiment, adding that, “Stone with its organic shapes, colors and textures can bring tremendous value to any space both aesthetically and in terms of longevity. Stone produces projects and neighborhoods which look and feel timeless.”

Urbanize the outdoors
Stone’s most obvious new placement is in the great outdoors, but not necessarily where you’d expect. Stone makes landscaping more elegant, more vivid, and more livable; for example, a low wall around a garden bed, a retaining wall to hold back plants or cladding for a barbecue or cabana. As mixed-use spaces become increasingly more popular and an emphasis in community continues to rise, shared outdoor spaces in multifamily communities will become an even greater selling point.

“No matter where they are used, pavers, stone and brick make a lot of sense,” says landscape architect Kurt Buxton, senior principal for ValleyCrest Design Group. “Because they’re such strong design elements, even a small amount can make a large statement. High-quality hardscape design is definitely appreciated by my clients because that small attention to detail is often overlooked.”

Stone goes beyond the basics
Today, stone veneer is being used nearly everywhere––indoors and out. It is also becoming increasingly more prevalent in multifamily communities straddling commercial and residential sectors.

San Jose, Calif.’s latest addition, Verdant, is a perfect example of this, offering both residential and retail zoning. The community opted for the Cast-Fit® texture from Cultured Stone® by Boral® in its outdoor spaces, which exemplifies the clean, uninterrupted aesthetic trend.

“You are much more likely to see these paint and stone treatments in a multitude of retail settings, anticipating that shoppers will feel more comfortable in the environment, stay longer, and spend more money,” Tate said. And isn’t that the point of any mixed-use space?

Here are a few more innovative ways to implement stone veneer into a multifamily community:

Exterior facades: Both accents and full wraps integrate a community with its natural setting when using a veneer that mirrors local stone.

Fireplaces and fire pits: Cultured Stone® by Boral® manufactured stone veneers are commonly the go-to in contemporary design, but are easily customizable to fit a variety of preferences, depending on the style and size of a community.

Doors/arches/windows: Stone transforms an ordinary window, door or arch into an architectural feature in a community, adding to buyer incentive and general curb appeal. Keystone windows and arches are the most common additions.

Bathrooms and kitchens: Decorative stone accents in interiors add value and differentiate multifamily communities from their competitors in urban markets.

When implementing modern design, stone veneer is a great choice. It’s a strong, but not overpowering element and offers a terrific return on investment. Small spaces, in particular, can be ideal for stone, allowing developers to invest in the highest quality materials and residents to enjoy the best of community design and living.

Ed Perez is the area sales manager for Cultured Stone® by Boral Northern California and Northern Nevada. Boral USA is headquartered in Roswell, Georgia.

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