When San Francisco-based designer Catherine Kwong was creating a Hawaiian vacation spot for a family with minimalist tastes, she decided to keep things simple by using the same flooring material throughout the house: basalt.
But what exactly is basalt? Also known as lava rock, it actually happens when lava seeps over the surface of the earth and cools quickly, creating a hard, solid rock. The resulting material is generally dark gray to black in color and can range from smooth to textured depending on the conditions in which it was formed. (Kwong mixed both smooth and pitted versions of the stone in the Hawaii house to add more visual interest.)
Natural basalt in the Black Cuillin Mountains of the Isle of Skye.
Andrew MerryGetty Images
It’s also the perfect material for warm weather. “It’s super durable and can be used both indoors and outdoors – it can withstand extreme sun and rain,” explains Kwong. “We used it indoors and outdoors, which helped us maintain a really nice flow.” Another plus: “It stays cool in the tropical heat!”
Basalt is also not only suitable for floors. Since it does not contain calcium carbonate and therefore does not etch when exposed to acidic substances, it is a great option for kitchen countertops. Available in slab shape, cobblestone, or tile, it can also be used for anything from fireplace surrounds to accent walls.
For Kwong, the fact that the material came from Hawaii made it even more special. “We wanted to create a space that was layered and structured – rich in a calm way – rather than trying to compete with the beauty of the Hawaiian landscape,” she explains.
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