River stone or natural rock tiles are a great way to add a natural point of interest if you want to create a unique texture, soften a plane of straight lines or bring the outdoors inside. These beautiful stone mosaics are made of whole or cut stones with a wide spectrum of colors, shapes and textures. Buyer beware – like many things you will encounter while selecting finishes, they are captivating – but not practical for everything. River stones should be used where they have purpose in the design aesthetic and enhance a look. The first time I used this type of mosaic, I had an existing handmade quarry tile floor in a sunroom that was about 20 years old, the slab had a crack on the perimeter, cracking the tiles around the entire room, so I was able to remove about a 6” perimeter and add the river rocks after making the concrete repair which saved a high quality floor and also update the look! It worked in this case because: 1) it was a perfect connotation for a room that had plants, indoor outdoor furniture, transitioned the inside and out and 2) quarry tiles are an earthy material and I was able to find a complementary blend of stone color. There are a couple of pros and cons. The first thing to consider is how textural the mosaic is that you choose- some of these river stones have varied thickness- that adds more visual interest, but will not feel great underfoot. I usually ask clients to stand on them in the store without their shoes on before they decide they want them on the floor. The next is that there will be more grout exposed, so that should be selected very carefully and the use of a modified grout that resists stains is imperative. Last is not to use this type of product gratuitously. If you are renovating a kitchen in a mountainous region- the stones would be a fun way to embrace the surroundings. A Penthouse bathroom is probably not the place you want to install too much of Mother Nature in the wrong context. Above is a picture of a project we completed about a year ago- a very modern bath with river stone used to add some Zen to the rigid contemporary lines. This composition is often associated with Pacific Rim design, but fits as well in New England Renovations with the proper selection of colors and placement. Note the use to accentuate the niche and frame the floor (avoiding an uncomfortable footing and getting more value from the texture than if it were used on its own.