(Family Features)–Move over, marble and granite. There’s a new, old stone that’s coming back into vogue. After first coming into use 5,000 years ago, soapstone is once again becoming a “go-to” material for kitchen and bath designs, indoor and outdoor living spaces and more.
There are three primary reasons for the revived interest in soapstone, according to Steven Schrenk, digital media director and design consultant at Polycor, who has been working with natural stone for 22 years.
Aesthetics: One major factor driving soapstone’s appeal is shifting aesthetic trends. While designers and homeowners have been fascinated by the bright, wide range of colors and bold patterns that could be discovered in natural stone, people are coming back to a tonal, more muted palette, according to Schrenk.
Schrenk sees more designers working with textures within a similar palette of color and playing up the tactile qualities of materials and patterns within that limited palette.
“This is where soapstone plays well in pairing with these different finishes,” he said. “It tends to blend into its space and become more integrated in the whole design instead of being a separate, individual entity.”
Another aesthetic benefit of soapstone is that multiple tonalities can be achieved depending on the finishing techniques.
“It may be a cool, blue-gray color when left in its natural honed state or a deep, sultry black when waxed or enhanced,” Schrenk said. “You can go from a highly figured, dramatic statement piece to a minimal and moody silky surface in the slabs that are neutral without veining.”
Function: When it comes to home design, there’s no doubt that appearance is key, but so is a material’s ability to stand up to its task. Soapstone is nonporous, so it doesn’t stain. It’s softer than granite and marble, dense and heavy, but not brittle. It doesn’t chip easily, but if it does chip, it can be repaired with sandpaper. Those high-performance features make soapstone well-suited to serve numerous functions.
Versatility: “No matter how you slice it, there are 101 ways to style soapstone; whereas with some other materials, there are more limitations,” Schrenk said.
Because of the stone’s ability to absorb and radiate heat, it can be used for unique items, such as pizza ovens and foot warmers, says Glenn Bowman, owner of Vermont Soapstone. He has also seen soapstone used in a variety of everyday applications, both indoors and outdoors, including tiles, flooring, backsplashes, sinks and a variety of custom stonework.