Thinking about using stone in your project? Our latest guide to Dezeen includes 15 popular types of natural rocks used in architecture, interiors and design with links to hundreds of examples that inspire your own work.
Alabaster is a soft fine-grained stone that has been used for centuries to carve complex shapes and ornaments. However, it is solubility in water means it is most suitable for indoor use.
In its pure form, alabaster is white and translucent, making it ideal for light design.
Studio Tack used tubular light shades made of alabaster to lightly illuminate a cozy Japanese restaurant in New York City (above), while lighting studio Allied Maker used stone to create ornate totem floor lamps.
Amarist Studio presented the sculptural possibilities of stone in its Aqua Fossil collection, which includes a table with curved legs.
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Basalt is a dark-colored igneous rock that forms when lava cools rapidly. It is most commonly used as a concrete aggregate because it is inexpensive and very solid, but it is also a popular cladding and flooring material, especially when polished.
Examples of this include the facade of a small gallery in Amsterdam by Barend Koolhaas and the Hawaiian holiday home of Walker Warner Architects in which thin basalt tiles are contrasted with cedar details (above).
Icelandic studio Innriinnri used two carved basalt stone slabs to create a sculptural table that is also a chair or work of art, while South Korean artist Byung Hoon Choi polished the stone to create oversized outdoor furniture.
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Flint is an extremely durable stone that is found in abundance as nodules of irregular shape in sedimentary rocks such as chalk. It has been used as a building material since Roman times, but is often not seen in modern architecture.
Flint varies in color, but is usually glassy black with a white crust. In architecture, it is usually knocked down – split to reveal its shiny inner face – before being laid in mortar.
Skene Catling de la Peña used a combination of knocked and uncompressed flint to cover a wedge-shaped house in Buckinghamshire (above), which creates a subtle gradient of color across the façade.
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Gneiss, a robust metamorphic stone composed of alternating layers of minerals of different colors, is popular for use on floors and worktops. The shade can vary from pink and gold to green and dark gray.
Peter Pichler procured gray gneiss with black and white stripes from the Passeier Valley in South Tyrol to create a large counter at the bar of an Italian alpine hotel (above).
It can also be used as a cladding material, such as in the Bernardo Bader Architekten ski resort office in Austria and the Archium in a radio station in Nepal.
Granite is one of the most commonly used stones in architecture and design. It arises from the slow crystallization of magma beneath the Earth’s crust. It is used for everything from load-bearing structures to cladding, worktops and furniture.
Its popularity comes down to high compressive strength, durability and low porosity. Granite is also available in a variety of colors, making it suitable for a range of spaces and styles.
Studio Heatherwick recently used green granite to make a trio of its sculptural Spun chairs (above), while Snøhetta covered almost every area of the Aesop store with a gray variety to mimic the rocky shore.
The architectural studio NOARQ tested the strength of the material by lifting the cabin onto thick blocks of granite over the entrance to a stone villa in Portugal.
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Rust red laterite stone is formed by leaching of stones and soil during alternating periods of high temperature and heavy rains in the tropics. This procedure leaves behind a high concentration of insoluble iron oxides, which gives the rock color.
Laterite is commonly used in construction in Africa and Asia in the form of bricks, which have excellent thermal mass and low built-in energy. These bricks are made by cutting the rock below the water level when it is wet and letting it harden in the air.
Architect Francis Kéré used laterites from a local source to build the walls of a school in Burkina Faso, and Studio Lotus used it to create the pedestal of a government building in India (above).
There are many different types of limestone, sedimentary rocks composed mainly of calcium carbonate. It is considered a good versatile building material, because it is easy to cut and carve, and it usually has a uniform texture and color.
Popular varieties of limestone include travertine (see below) and Portland stone, which is used in important buildings in London, such as St. Paul’s Cathedral and Buckingham Palace.
David Chipperfield Architects recently lined the expansion of the Kunsthaus Zurich Museum in Switzerland with limestone, and John Pawson used it to line the surfaces of Japan’s minimalist flagship store for fashion label Jil Sander.
Design projects using limestone include a block collection of furniture called Dig Where You Stand, written by students of the Estonian Academy of Arts (above).
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Marble is a metamorphic rock with veins of calcite crystals. It is formed from limestone which is exposed to heat and pressure and is found in many colors. Marble is strong, but easy to carve and well polished, which makes it suitable for many applications.
It is most popularly used in kitchen and bathroom design, but is also often used as a cladding, such as the Alexander Owen Architecture garden room in London (above).
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Onyx is a transparent gemstone composed of parallel strips of quartz, which are found in almost all colors. It has a long history of use in sculpture and jewelry, but is less common in architecture and design. However, onyx is sometimes used as a coating or lighting.
Projects using onyx include the Mausoleum in Minneapolis by the HGA and the Anne Claus Interiors office where it was used to line multicolored bars (above).
Porphyry is a strong and durable igneous stone that comes in reddish-brown to purple shades. It consists of coarse-grained crystals embedded in a fine-grained substrate.
It has been used in architecture and design since antiquity, although it is rarely seen in modern architecture and design. Today, it is mainly used as an aggregate in road construction in places where cars need winter tires with nails.
Pedevilla Architects used a block of porphyry as a kitchen island for a kitchen school in South Tyrol, while architect Claudio Silvestrin used it to line the walls of a Milan fashion boutique.
Created from sandstone exposed to high heat and pressure, quartzite is a very hard and durable metamorphic rock. It is usually found in white and gray shades.
Quartzite is a popular material for kitchen plates, because it is resistant to stains, but it is most often used as a decorative covering or floor.
Examples of this include a Utah apartment by Klima Architecture, Peter Zumtor’s spa Therme Vals (above) and Agence Pascale Guédot’s monolithic Parisian library.
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Sandstone consists of fine silicate grains that have eroded from other rocks, giving it a warm red, yellow, or orange color.
Used for construction since prehistoric times, sandstone is still a popular choice in architecture and design because it is rich, durable and easy to handle.
Recent architectural projects using the material include an upgrade of Feilden Fowles Cathedral, the Álvara Size Museum, and an oval-shaped school for girls in India (above) designed to fit into her desert environment.
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This gray fine-grained rock is one of the most common sedimentary rocks on earth. It is formed by compacting sludge and mud into thin, fissile layers. In architecture and design, slate is usually crushed and processed into bricks, tiles and ceramics or heated with limestone to obtain cement.
Aketuri Architektai used slate tiles to line a pointed forest house in Lithuania (above), while space workers wrapped stone around the basement of the Portuguese house, giving it a raw, robust aesthetic.
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Slate is a dark fine-grained rock that forms when a sedimentary rock, like slate, is exposed to high pressure. It is a foiled rock, meaning it is composed of thin sedimentary layers, allowing it to split – or split – into thin slabs.
Slate is durable and resistant to weather and frost, making it a popular choice of materials for cladding, roofing and tiling.
In interior projects, the material is often used as floor tiles, fireplaces and kitchen tiles. Natalie Weinmann sanded and polished the stone to create a blocking furniture collection.
TRIAS used it to coat a small writer’s retreat in the Welsh Valley, while Austin Maynard Architects covered a house in Melbourne (above) with a diamond, pillow, and brick slate cover.
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One of the most commonly used forms of limestone is tufa, which has been obtained from mineral springs for centuries and is used as a building material. The largest building in the world made of this stone is the Colosseum in Rome.
Today, travertine is mainly processed into tiles to cover interior and exterior surfaces, but it is also a popular material for furnishing bathrooms. As it is found with troughs on the surface, the treatment of tufa usually involves polishing its surface.
Projects using tufa include the expansion of the German museum Bez + Kock Architekten (above), the adaptation of an apartment in Lithuania by 2XJ and the David / Nicolas furniture collection.
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Recent popular stone projects on Dezeen include an inconspicuous house on the island of Serifos, the monolithic Smartvoll beach, a collection of luxury lodges on the English coast of the Jure and a Studio Twenty Seven coffee table.
The main picture is the Rajkumari Ratnavati Women’s School, by Diana Kellogg Architects, which they took Vinay Panjwani.