Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 7
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Coldwell Banker Princeton Office

Prudential Fox and Roach, Realtors

Gloria Nilson GMAC Real Estate

Henderson Sotheby's International Realty

N.T. Callaway Princeton Office

Stockton Real Estate, LLC

Weichert, Realtors

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Iris Interiors

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Weather Forecast

It’s New to Us by Jean Stratton

TAPESTRY OF TILE: “Our strength is our collection of choices at reasonable prices. We streamline our selection, so people are not overwhelmed, and we can accommodate any budget.” Darlene Flood, one of the partners in A Step in Stone, is seated by a collection of decorative ceramic tile, including Art Deco and classical modern pieces, suitable for bathroom walls, backsplashes, and bar areas.

What’s the Latest in Stone and Tile Today? Find Out From A Step in Stone in Skillman

A Step in Stone’s spacious showroom is filled with a wonderful display of stone and tile — every style, size, design, color, and texture. Ceramic tile, stone, glass, mosaic, porcelain, metal, and leather are among the categories available, and indeed, customers who step inside this inviting setting will discover a myriad of choices and friendly, helpful service.

“We have the expertise to help customers find the right color and materials to help them become happier in their home,” points out Darlene Flood, one of the store’s partners.

“The economy has not been great,” she continues, “but we are still doing well. Customers have been investing in their home and want to make it really nice. Also, in a hard real estate market, updated kitchens and baths can make a big difference in selling or not. Adding new tile and stone adds value to the house.”

A Step in Stone at 1149 Route 601 in Skillman opened nearly four years ago, and the partners have operated another Step in Stone in Red Bank for the past eight years. “We opened in Skillman because we saw a need,” says Ms. Flood. “None of the exclusive lines we carried in Red Bank were in the area stores here.”

Visual Aptitude

She is passionate about her work, and wants to share her enthusiasm with customers. “One of the things I’ve learned is to know what your passion is. If you want to be successful, you have to find the passion. My background was in corporate America, and it happened that I helped out a friend in a tile store. After two days, I realized this was my passion, and within six months, we had our own business. I did a lot of research, and I also had a visual aptitude.

“We shopped all over the country so we could find artisans who create tile not found in other places in the area, and I built a relationship with these small business artisans. This is really our niche.”

Ms. Flood is excited about the showroom’s newly expanded space which features a new, exclusive collection. “We have products from boutique quarries, with colors you won’t find anywhere else. They are from Italy, Spain, Turkey, Israel, and the U.S., including wonderful handpainted ceramic from California. These new lines offer an absolutely amazing range of tiles, from timeless ceramic borders to decorative stone accents. The displays feature different materials including 1-inch to 4-inch ceramic arches, uniquely designed glass decos and glass combined with etched stone. The color palettes offered can blend or contrast with any cabinetry or countertop.”

Ms. Flood notes that the clients who come in are often knowledgeable. “They understand quality. We offer a unique design service, focusing on quality, design, and reasonable prices. Key considerations are budget, life-style, availability of product, color, texture, and size of space. We pride ourselves on being good listeners.

Stone and Tile

“We also often visit the client’s home to gain perspective on their tastes and to see how we can design our tile to enhance their space. Knowing the size of the space is another key step before selecting products and designs.”

Indoor and outdoor living spaces can be enhanced by tile and stone, she adds. Shower walls, shower stalls, backsplashes, foyers, mud, laundry, and sun rooms, cabanas, fireplace surrounds and hearths, patios and walkways are some of the areas well-suited for stone and tile.

“Everyone wants something a bit different today,” continues Ms. Flood. “Fresh new directions in wall tile for shower walls, backsplashes, and fireplaces include bold shapes and extravagant hues that have been inspired by designs from the 1960s and ’70s. These tapestries of tile consist of playful forms to crispy modern angles with geometric designs. Also, large format tiles are popular now; not the typical 12 by 12 but 12 by 24. Whether you want to create a funky bathroom design or add a bit of retro to your backsplash, we’ve got it covered!”

Bathroom renovation is a specialty, she adds, with work in Princeton and the area, as well as beyond, including beach houses and second homes. There are a lot of repeat customers and referrals.

Ms. Flood points out a perfect backsplash for a beach house, incorporating seashell and starfish design in tones of blue and beige. Just one of the many tempting possibilities available in the showroom!

“We recently worked with a retired couple to renovate their master bathroom,” she notes. “It was more than 20 years old, and needed to be updated. When they came to visit our showroom, they didn’t know where to begin. We started by showing different types of materials. After looking at ceramic tile and various natural stone, they fell in love with a combination of glass and stone. We next talked about design styles, and I showed them options from very formal to contemporary. This helped them focus on the type of look they wanted. By listening to our customers, we understand what they are trying to achieve, and this helps us narrow down the choices.

At Ease

“I visited their home to ensure that our selections worked with the rest of the space. This helped the couple feel at ease about the choices made. We prepared design plans, ordered the product, and coordinated delivery to their home. After the tile was installed, they contacted me to tell us how beautiful their bathroom had turned out. They didn’t realize how much they would enjoy the new look, and asked me to design their guest bath too!

“At the end of the day,” continues Ms. Flood, “when the customer is so pleased, and says ‘I love my new backsplash’ or my new bathroom’, it is wonderful’. I love what I do!”

A Step in Stone will hold design and training events to introduce designers and architects to the store’s new products, she adds. Educating and enlightening people about the attributes of tile and stone is a big pleasure for Ms. Flood.

“Tile and stone are more in demand than ever. They are very durable, offer easy maintenance, and have a great look. Also, people are more interested now in the sustainability of tile. We have environmentally-friendly products, and something for every taste and budget.”

A Step in Stone is open Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday 11 to 4, and by appointment. (609) 333-0610. Website:

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