Nathan Karpenko, owner and managing director of CAV’ART Designer Stone, is an expert in quality natural stone and porcelain. With more than 15 years of experience in the industry, here he shares his professional advice and insider intel on ‘everything’ natural stone…
How did you get started in the natural stone industry? I actually studied geology in school and inevitably ended up working with natural stone. I started in 2003 after 13 years in the hotel industry, but it was last year I decided to go out on my own and start CAV’ART Designer Stone. I really had a passion for natural stone and helping people. I could see there was an opening in the industry and saw myself doing something different and daring.
What are some benefits of using natural stone? The main thing with natural stone is that it’s a diverse product. No two slabs are the same and each piece is unique with its own variations. It’s an emotional selection and not something that can be man-made or digitally printed. There’s a focus now on natural stone, with people wanting to invest in themselves. You can pretty much find a well-priced and durable stone to work with most budgets.
What advice do you have for renovators using natural stone for the first time? They need to ask the right questions to ensure the stone is suitable for the applications they want to use it for. We’re open and honest and if they choose something like the wrong kitchen benchtop, we’ll recommend a material that’s better wearing. We also give advice about care and maintenance, which is easy to forget in all the excitement. It’s not a hard thing to maintain if you use a good sealer the first time.
What are some of the more unconventional ways to use natural stone? In the kitchen particularly, people are using it broadly. It was mainly seen as a benchtop material, but designers are using stone all over the kitchen now such as in vertical applications on cabinet doors, as rangehood cladding, on cooktops and splashbacks. Kitchens are bigger now because people need the space for entertaining, so they’ll also have a back butler pantry with porcelain tops because it’s so hard and well-wearing. In bathrooms, people are having a fully integrated sink made of stone or cut the walls from stone.
What are some common misconceptions when using natural stone? Stained marble is the biggest. People always say if a glass of red wine is left on a marble bench it will leave ring marks. It’s a reaction with the minerals in the marble that can etch and burn the face of the marble and occurs mainly in darker or polished finishes. People were using cream and beiges which were on-trend and not as well-wearing as white marble. But now we recommend a honed matt finish and mainly white Italian marble which is denser. And it’s still a really good idea to use a sealer to protect against staining.
What natural stone trends are you seeing now? Brazilian quartzites are really popular because they’re so beautiful and you get amazing colours, almost like it’s an artwork. The next thing is texture. People used polished marble for years but now it’s more a honed leather finish so you can feel the veins and texture. People love that tactile feel. They’re also available in bigger slabs, which fits the bill for bigger kitchens.
What sets CAV’ART Designer Stone apart from other natural stone suppliers? Being a niche business we really focus on quality over quantity. We don’t want to be the biggest, but we have a good range with great service. We make it a stone selection experience rather than a task. It’s a bit of a daunting process to select stone in a warehouse, so we try to take the fear away and be serviceable and open. We also try to be daring with the colours we bring, colours that people haven’t seen before.
What’s your personal favourite natural stone? It would definitely be Taj Mahal quartzite because it’s just such a beautiful looking natural stone that works so well with both contemporary design and also traditional, and it is a very hard-wearing material.