Home & Garden

Off to a smooth start

The kitchen is a natural stone (marble) countertop with a tile backsplash.
The kitchen is a natural stone (marble) countertop with a tile backsplash.

Every year, Josh LePell travels to Brazil — not to lounge on the beaches, but to look at slabs of stone.

Josh and his wife Corrin own San Luis Marble & Granite, which sells, fabricates and installs natural stone slabs and stone tiles, as well as products made of quartz and recycled glass.

When they purchased the business in 2008, it was a small fabrication company that had been selling and installing countertops since 1986. The LePells added a showroom and slab yard.

“Back then, there weren’t any local slab yards,” said Josh. “People either had to pick from a small sample and take their chances, or drive hundreds of miles to pick their slab.”

According to Josh, there is no substitute for getting up close and personal with the slab you intend to buy. This is why he hand-picks every slab that enters their yard. He travels to quarries, often importing the stone himself. When he works with wholesalers, he selects pieces individually, rather than buying by the container.

“I’m looking for consistency in movement, color and pattern,” he explained.

He is also on the lookout for new varieties of stone, eager to be among the first to offer newly available colors.

The slab yard offers over 100 types of granite, marble, limestone, travertine and soapstone. To help customers select from this immense inventory, they offer free design services.

When selecting stone, Josh recommends starting with something already in place in the room, such as the cabinetry. He encourages customers to bring in a cabinet door, drawer front, flooring sample, or photographs of their home when they visit the showroom.

The next decision is selecting a finish. According to Josh, more people are bypassing polished stone for honed or leathered finishes that have a more organic look and are less susceptible to etching. Honed stone has a smooth, matte finish. Leathering is accomplished with Italian stone brushes that bring out the stone’s natural texture.

“Each stone has its own unique pattern because of its geological makeup,” he said. “We reseal it to make it easy to clean.”

Josh noted that countertops aren’t the only application for stone. Slabs are often used on fireplace surrounds, bathroom floors, and even showers.

“It’s a great option for people who are sick of cleaning grout joints,” he said.

San Luis Marble & Granite has branched out into products made from quartz, like Silestone and CaesarStone, as well as eco-friendly recycled glass surfaces. But Josh still has a soft spot for stone.

“Natural stone sets a precedent for the whole feeling you get when you are in the home,” he said, “a feeling of quality, substance, and permanence.”

San Luis Marble & Granite is at 5452 Edna Road in San Luis Obispo, 544-9133.