Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Beautiful design element: cabochons

After my recent post on stone floors in entries, several of my readers commented that the floors I posted did not seem like ‘me’ – most of them the pictures contained floors that are large scale black and white, high contrast and graphic. Truthfully, I wasn’t really planning on including so many pictures of large scale black and white tiles in my post, but the inspirational picture of Windsor Smith’s entry caused me to go down that path.

So, what is more ‘me’? I love the look of a subtle tone on tone, or a stone floor made up of one material, and I also love the look of a floor with a small contrasting stone worked into the pattern here and there. When I heard my architect and designer mentioning the possibility of ‘cabochons’ in the floor of the entry, I immediately had the feeling that they were talking about those cut diamond or square shape tile insets that I like so much.


Several years ago, when I renovated my master bathroom, I knew that I wanted to use cabochons in the stone design (even though I did not know what they were called!). A friend who is a designer suggested that instead of putting the pattern on the floor, I put it on the walls of the shower. I renovated my bathroom over 6 years ago, and not a day goes by when I don’t admire the pattern in the shower.


A floor with cabochons (cabochon pattern?) is a timeless look, and strikes me as very French; the classic French design uses limestone inset with black marble cabochons. Image via Trouvais - Art and Decoration January ’10.


A stone floor with cabochons is more of a formal design, so it is often reserved for places that are elegant and special, like a foyer. I saved this image many years ago, from an old Atlanta real estate listing, with interiors by Henrietta Spencer Churchill. The beauty of the floor and the elegance of the railing really captured my eye.


In a space like this, the orientation of the cabochon really takes the eye to the distance in both directions. Image via Robert Stern.


The orientation of the cabochon is a specific design decision. In this foyer, with architecture by Steve Giannetti and interiors by Brooke Giannetti, the cabochon is placed to emphasize the square, and makes a nice contrast to the diamond shape of the larger tile.


In one of my favorite images of an entry with cabochons in the design, Mary Douglas Drysdale effectively breaks up this large expanse with the small dark tiles, which grounds the space and makes the dark accents repeated in the chairs and table even more effective. The cabochons are placed on every other intersection, which is a design that I prefer as it makes the cabochon element more subtle.


This beautiful entry treats the section with cabochons like its own rug, with a dark tile border to define the space. Image via Cote de Texas.

Kevin Reilly 18%5B3%5D[1]

Another beautiful entry with a similar treatment, seen recently on Belgian Pearls.


One of my favorite dining room pictures has a stone floor with cabochons.


Here is a striking dining room, with an interesting twist on the classic black and white pattern – this time, the cabochons are white. I like how the scale of the cabochons are larger, showing that it is possible to shake up this classic pattern with interesting plays of scale and form. Image via Belgian Pearls.


Another play on scale with larger cabochons. This floor looks particularly beautiful in combination with the stone stairs.


It’s interesting how many of my favorite entry images have cabochons in their floor design. This floor also appears to have the area with the cabochons defined with a border of tile, creating a rug like space.


This home, with its stone floor with cabochons, mellow oak floors upstairs, iron railing, and beautiful lantern, combines many design elements that I appreciate. I think the reflection of the floor in the mirror above the mantle is beautiful.


This picture, from an Atlanta real estate listing a few years ago, has a beautiful stone entry with cabochons as the predominant design feature. The darkness of the cabochons look great with the dark stain of the floor and door.


Here is a close up of the floor, which I was able to see before the house sold. What appeared to be larger tiles are actually small, and the cabochons alternate between dark and light. It is quite a striking pattern! I am also realizing that I am a fan of the cabochon set to emphasize the diamond shape.


Although I love the look of contrast in a stone floor with cabochons, I also appreciate the more subtle tone on tone look that is often achieved using limestone and a slightly darker (but not black) stone. The scale and proportion of the large and small tiles in the floor pictured above are perfect – and I really like this particular pattern – every other axis has cabochons, which provides visual interest but prevents the pattern from overwhelming.


Another great tone on tone example of a cabochon design in a stone floor, from a house that was in the final stages of construction. I love the scale of the cabochon – it provides just the right delicate touch. Architecture by Rodolfo Castro.


Upon first glance, this floor appears to be solid stone. However, when you look closely, you will see that there are cabochons in the same material as the stone of the floor, which creates a beautiful and subtle pattern.


Here is a close up of the floor. This is one of the prettiest guest bathroom floors I have ever seen, and the subtlety of the pattern has great appeal to me.

So, what do you think - are you a fan of cabochons, or are they too traditional for you? Do you like them to emphasize the square or the diamond? There is no question that floors with cabochons are more of a formal design element, and would not go in every decor scheme. However, they have great appeal to the side of me that likes the more elegant feel in a home.

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  1. What caught my eye the most was that fabulous chandelier in your favorite dining room! Lovely pics. ~Debby xo

  2. I think that is why I saved the picture - for the chandelier! I always love a good fussy crystal chandelier.

  3. There you go again, teaching me something new! Had no idea this pattern even had a name! Loving it in the darker motif in that dining room, and in the pale subtle color way in the powder room. (The foyer with the oak floors upstairs, is amazing! So glad to see you added a photo...now I have a lovely face to go with this lovely blog!)

  4. Holly,
    Cabochons are a favorite element of mine too and all the examples shown here are equisite!!!

    I put them on the wall in a shower for a client and would most definately like to use them in mine own master bath floor when we renovate it later this fall! Sadly, our foyer is a small asymetrical space where they would not show their true beauty.

    I think you must have them...somewhere...and the rest of the house details and your team will lead you to the very best choice of shape,size and layout!

  5. I love them. I think it is really hard to get a floor to look authentic like the beautiful ones in Greet's posts. They are exquisite. I can't wait to see your house. I know you are so excited. Hope you are well.

  6. What a great collection of images! I love them in entries and halls when they have a dark border and look like an area rug. Although I do like the subtlety of the cabochons being the same colour as the tile (especially in bathrooms), I prefer them to be black and hence more "French." If they were continuing through a hallway, I prefer them on every other intersection. Diamond vs square - both look equally pleasing.

  7. My husband and I remodeled an 1960's ranch home in Houston a little over a year ago. Our ENTIRE master bath is about the size of a small closet-hardly a "master" by any means. We needed something to give scale and interest to this tiny space, so decided to inlay black cabochons into our slate -and- we LOVE what it has done for the space. The master bath has turned out to be our little piece of swanky heaven in the middle of the big city!

  8. Oh my gosh, so many images just took my breath, I am serious. Timeless and French, sigh, perfect.

  9. So they are called cabachons and I have been calling them diamond accents all these years. I have an entry floor with cabachons in absolute black granite on a carrera floor with an absolute black band framing the entry. I only used a limited amount on the diamond shape in order to not get too busy. I do not like when there is one on every corner. I chose to just put them where they would make the eye flow not jolt. I love it and would not change a thing about it. I also used glass mosaic on the square in my shower wall as a feature panel. Love it also. Here is a post showing my floors
    This shows my shower: http://goodlifeofdesign.blogspot.com/2010/04/small-but-spa-like.html

  10. I used this design element in our current master bathroom. We used a tumbled marble and to create the design we inset marron imperial marble that matched the vanity tops. I just love the element of surprise and the style it gives the room!!!

  11. Beautiful post Holly. I usually prefer the square pattern; I think the repetition is easy on the eyes.

  12. I love the cabochons, especially the floor and design by Mary Douglas Drysdale. The detail of the black gilt Louis XVI chairs is perfection. Super post. Can't wait to see your floors.

  13. My vote goes to the tone-on-tone, ever so slight variation in color, and the use of the cabochons in every other corner. To me subtle is better! Holly, you always teach me so much. I have even started a file of design terms and poetic phrases describing design elements...The English teacher in me just loves learning new words, so thank you!

  14. This is such a great post. I'm 100% sold. You have so many amazing pictures here that I probably have seen at least once but didn't save because I wasn't honing (no pun intended) in on this particular element. My favorite is definitely the PTB example. Picture #2 and the example from Cote de Texas are also favorites. You'll have to tell me which you're pursuing.

  15. LOVE the last example (but I am a simple no pattern type of girl!). I am saving it for my files and will use it in one of my bathrooms for sure! Thanks so much

  16. I didn't know what a cabochon was, I think I had to look back at the word twice just now to get the spelling correct. But-I like them! So glad you added the correct term to my repetiore! The contrasting colors are my favorite. The impression is just such an indicator of timeless glamour.

  17. Beautiful post and wonderful pictures. A great resource for inspiration.

  18. So many beautiful rooms! It's the small details that often "make" a room. Thanks for the stunning post.

  19. How do you pronounce cabochon? I had a hard time separating the room from the floor.

    The room I most wanted to be in was the Robert Stern hall. So formal but so lively. A plain floor wouldn't cut it. But it's probably a million dollar hall.

    So maybe the cabochon floor is one of those "if you give a mouse a cookie..." deals if you know what I mean.

  20. That dining room with the black tiles and white cabochons is stunning! I also love that oval foyer with alternating white and black cabochons as well!

    There is something about the this timeless look with a twist that speaks to me; it's more of a nod to the past while still reinventing the norm. Overall I cannot get enough of the crisp delineation between the white and the black stones!

  21. I agree that these floors seem more "you" than the high-contrast b&w floors...though obviously you can go for more or less contrast with this style as well (though even with the b&w, the smaller inset tiles in the contrasting color come off a little less loud than the alternating b&w tiles).

  22. I really like how these tiles are laid on the diagonal with blunt cut edges. The inserted center small tile sets it apart from plain rows of tiles. Black on white or white on black or even the more neutral color choice is wonderful!

  23. Not too traditional to me!! I love these floors, they are quite stunning. They really give an air of grandeur and classic beauty. I would love to have any one of the floors you have shown above!

  24. Holly, beautiful illustrative photos - you are so perceptive. I always saw and noted these things but did not realize there was a name!! Have noticed these floors here and there. Love your shower.

    Hope you are well and all goes well with the house. I am horribly behind on reading blogs, so apologies for not being around much!! I have gone the Blogger "lite" route these days, posting very little. Work is just too busy, I've been exercising more and had some business travel and the evenings just slip away. You know all about that. Hope you are not too weary with all the house decisions. Going to read more of your posts....

    xo's Terri

  25. I love the cabochon insets, and really adore the one that is from Greet. They can be exremely elegant or more subdued and undestated!

    Art by Karena

  26. I love the cabochons and agree that they are timeless rather than trendy which is definitely a good thing.

  27. Love love the cabochon effect; thank you so much for all the lovely photos and instruction, as usual...!! Our floor in Burgundy is similar; http://frenchbasketeer.blogspot.com/2010/06/rez-de-chaussee-beaune.html

    the long entry hall and new bedroom are in cabochon but perhaps closer to your 3rd pic; funny I never noticed the orientation of the cabochon but will now pay attention :) many thanks, Andrea

  28. I learned something new. I just blogged about loving this look but didn't have a name for it. Now I know... I love the cabochon effect in a diamond shape as it looks to make the space larger in my opinion. I also like the dark cabochons, at every other intersection with the dark stain wood floors. It's a timeless and fav look of mine.

    Thank you for sharing.

  29. Wow - I, too, didn't have a name to put on those little accents. Love learning something new! And, I like how it can be either an exclamation point or just a subtle transition element.

  30. I love the classic pattern of the inset cabochons... very simple, but has a great impact. I really love the flooring and room in the photo from Cote de Texas... ~Terri

  31. I never knew the term!! (and this isn't the first design term I've learned from you either!! ;)

    All beautiful and cannot wait to see what you choose.

  32. Love cabochon pattern tile floors... in fact have a bone & black one in our powder room. Traditional yes, but timeless. I like the subtle version you prefer as well.


  33. I love the tone on tone version in your last images. One thing that strikes me with the floor in the red and white bathroom is the rather random color of each tile, some places the large tile is light and the small one dark, and vice versa. It looks both traditional and timeless as well as random and natural.

  34. I love Windsor's entry. The cabochon pattern in the classic black and white sets the tone for her entire home, which is elegant, romantic, and dramatic.
    We used a cream and gray color scheme on the floor of our clients' home. It was a bit softer and neutral, which was in keeping with the feel of the entire home.
    I love the look of the tone on tone cabochon. This definitely feels more like you (at least to me!).

  35. I love that long hallway where the cabochon just leads the eye down the length. They're lovely and personally I've always loved the detail they give to tile but, never knew its name!
    Lila Ferraro
    Queen Bedroom Sets

  36. I do love the cabochons. I am a great fan of black and white, but the subtlety of the tone on tone is lovely. I definitely see 'you' in the tone on tone!

  37. What a beautiful collection of images. I, too, love the cabochon pattern. It's a classic.

  38. you did a good job. You did a good decision by choosing cabochons for your shower walls. The patterns are beautiful.

  39. such a beautifully compiled and thoughtfully constructed post -- most certainly a fan of cabochons, and have fallen madly for the mary douglas drysdale entryway -- how stunning!

  40. The bathrooms are all gorgeous. However, I feel your pain in making tile selections. I recently remodeled and went with the polished marble in my master. Beautiful to behold, but the upkeep is tricky. Not sure if I had it to do over again, I wouldn't do matte floors and counter tops. We are very careful in the care, but one drop of body lotion that I didn't see, made a dull spot on the floor. Just something to think about!! Good luck with everything.

  41. I was smiling at your reaction to the discussion your architect and designer were having. If I ever told my tile layers that I wanted them to install a "cabochon" patterned floor I would receive only a deer in the headlights look. Now if I gave instructions for a diamond inset laid on the diagonal~ you would get the floor of your dreams.

    Another case of hoity toity tomato, tomatoe. :)


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