At Home With Nature

We have a lot of granite in our house but it’s not in the kitchen counter: instead there are egg-shaped stones strewn across the mantelpiece and piled elsewhere in baskets and bowls — like hors d’oeuvres from the Pleistocene Era.

Stones 002

My wife is very supportive (er, long-suffering) and my brother-in-law shares some of this granitic obsession: he once sent me a large and very heavy box. When the mail carrier delivered it he asked me “What have you got in here, rocks?” And of course I had to reply: “Why, yes.”

But in the waning days of summer my thoughts often turn to the seasides and lakeshores where these stones were found, and a little of the vacation feeling returns. I even use one of the rocks as a paperweight on my desk. (I guess it could also be a sort of “writer’s block,” which seems to snowball now and then.) It’s an easy way to incorporate nature — and perhaps even a refreshing Zen moment — into your home.  I am inspired by a painter like Alan Magee, who turns such a simple subject into high art, for example, in his “Convergence” shown below,

convergLg alan magee convergence

which seems to merge painting and sculpture with geology and memory. But I can’t paint so I collect.

Stone and pebble accents in living environments have a long history — just think of the pebble mosaics in some ancient Greek and Roman houses and especially in their communal baths.

3399525700_f2cc7bd662 ancient mosaic shot by miriam.mollerus at flickr

This example is from Pella in ancient Greece (Macedonia) courtesy miriam.mollerus at Flickr Creative commons. And by the way, the best book on home life in Roman times that I have read is Fires of Vesuvius: Pompeii Lost and Found (Belknap Press, Harvard, 2008) written with immense verve and a good deal of saucy wit by English classicist Mary Beard. The descriptions of cooking and bathing rituals are especially vivid.

Here’s a somewhat more recent application of the pebble idea: an outdoor shower defined by a wall of pebble stone


tiles from Zation Stone, by Los Angeles designer Justin Davis of True Design Build. (Photo courtesy Sunset.) The tiles enhance the outdoor feeling.

A floor of well grouted stones in the shower

thumLMieles shower floor

is good for  massaging the feet while you stand under the shower head (example also from Zation Stone).

Stone accents are always possible in the garden, whether as a small Japanesque fountain

image.php Stone Forest Natsume basin

like this Natsume basin from Stone Forest, or to support a dramatic fire vessel

image.php stone forest fire vessel

from the same company — the big stone has been cleaved in two to form the base for the steel grate.

You can even find a wide variety of pebbles mounted as cabinet and drawer pulls,

providence stone knobs from pulls direct

like these knobs from Pulls Direct. Or this hook


from Uncommon Goods.

The trick with using rocks as accents is not to overdo it — to suggest nature, not start an avalanche…I guess that would be good advice for me too!

Have another pebble. They’re delicious.

One response to “ROLLING WITH STONES

  1. Pam-Anela Messenger

    I met a man a few years ago who collected rocks from around the world and from friends. He told me he had a garden full of stones and he remembered people with each one. He had some stones from Burle Marx’s Copacabana Promenade because they were repairing and re-setting them when he was on a visit there. The mason told him that the black and white stones represented the blending of the peoples of Rio. I don’t know if that’s true or not but it makes for a wonderful story.

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