Prized for indoor use, glazed volcanic lavastone is also an excellent material for the garden and outdoor design. I recall seeing it regularly in my London city days where it is often used to clad buildings and decorate urban entrance ways. There are lots of reasons to consider this beautiful material and only one reason not to. It isn’t cheap. But if you have the budget and you are looking for a sustainable product that is really special this is worth considering.
Enameled lavastone is made of volcanic stone, harvested from the bases of active volcanos (Mt. Etna in Sicily is the source for many European manufacturers). The raw material is cut and fired and then glazed to create a variety of finishes. The matte and metallic finishes are quite modern and in my opinion are not unique enough to justify the cost. There are plenty of other materials that look and perform similarly for less expense. I love the glossy and transparent finishes. My personal favorite is the ‘craquelle’ finish that resembles cracked porcelain. It has a unique depth of color and luminescence that is both modern and vintage feeling at the same time.
The intense heat of the glazing process (over 1700 deg F) creates a surface that is very durable. It is resistant to an extreme range of temperatures, corrosive chemicals and UV exposure. It can be left outdoors through the year and it requires practically no maintenance. The French have used lavastone to make road signs and historical markers for much of the last century. The iconic art deco Metro signs in Paris are all made of lavastone and the association lends the material a ‘tres chic’ quality.
Here are 10 ways to use it:
- Tiles can be used like stone veneer to give walls and garden features beautiful detail.
- Clad a building with it. It comes in more than 50 colors and you can create custom colors too so a unique design is easy to create.
- It can be cut and finished into light fixtures and planting containers.
- Use as countertop or table top for outdoor entertaining
- Create a modern outdoor fireplace.
- Swimming Pools and outdoor showers are great applications for this nonporous material.
- Add custom designs to create signage
- Make Art (my favorite!)
Have you been to the Montmartre area of Paris? Near the Abbesses at Montmartre is a garden in the Jehan Rictus square. In this garden, on the wall of an adjacent building is a popular work of art (made with over 500 custom lavastone tiles). It was created by calligraphy artist Frédéric Baron and mural artist Claire Kito. Imortalized in glazed lavastone, they collected the phrase ‘I love you’ in 250 languages and used them to create this monumental work. It is a beautiful midnight blue color with white writing and red splashes that symbolize pieces of a broken heart. The ‘I love You Wall’ (Le mur des je t’aime) is a popular place for couples and is open to public free of charge.
Enameled lavastone is available from these vendors:
- American Made Lavastone – lavarte
- Danish company Made a Mano
- French company Pyrolave.
- Villa and Garden offers a variety of lavastone table tops in pre-made patterns and colors.
- Italian company Ranieri Lava Stone