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Collecting rocks and minerals was one of those activities that made me a gigantic dork in elementary school but a hip, cool adult — at least I like to think so, anyway. While other kids were lining shelves with G.I. Joe figurines and comic books, I was arranging stones of all shapes, sizes, and colors to create a kaleidoscope of Mother Nature in her most untouched (and historical!) form. While a career in geology never panned out, my interest in the field never dissipated. Instead, it took on a new form — err, formation — as a subtle design element in every place I have ever called home since. And your home might just be missing out on the totally easy (and free!) extra oomph that rocks lend.
People have installed stone slabs and tiles in their kitchens and bathrooms as countertops and floors, respectively, for centuries. Rocks and minerals, smaller and in their most basic form though, don’t get nearly the same decorating love as other natural elements like plants, seashells, and fancier crystals do. Instead, regular rocks are often dismissed as “dirty” or just dust collectors or strictly meant for the lawn.
Well, it’s my mission to flip the script and prove that humble rocks just might be the accent pieces you need more of in your home, especially if the environment around you feels a little sterile or uninspired. Now’s the time to bring the outside world in with rocks, and here’s why.
There’s a rock for every type of decorator
No two rocks are created alike, which not only makes the ones you choose special, but also easily adaptable to any type of design idea you have in mind. Not only can a rock address almost every shape, color, or size you’re envisioning in a room, but you can also bring raw rocks and minerals to a lapidary, otherwise known as a gem cutter, to have them shaved down, shaped, and polished to your liking (think of it as commissioning an artist to customize what goes on a canvas). It may take a little money and effort to reach a desired outcome, but it’s a piece you’ll own and cherish forever.
The ways you can ultimately choose to display your stones also run the gamut. Use a larger rock to anchor one side of a shelf or to top a stack of coffee table books. Let a collection of tiny rocks hold court on a windowsill. You can even create your own tabletop or nightstand sculpture by stacking a few small, smooth stones. If you feel like a vignette is missing something, try adding a rock to the mix. It’ll bring a subtle touch of nature to that spot and feels a little less expected (and is lower maintenance!) than a succulent.
Rocks can be free/inexpensive and easy to source
You can start a rock collection by simply going in your backyard or strolling around a beach or park. Don’t expect to stumble across a diamond, but coveted geodes can be common in some areas and cut open to reveal colorful quartz and amethyst. That said, plenty of common rocks — you know, the grayish-white to browish-tan ones — can be visually beautiful, too. You can also easily purchase pieces online (I’m a big fan of KALIFANO’s assortment, like this angel aura quartz geode), but I think it’s more fun to harvest them on your own.
Traveling gem shows have also become popular, and you can always find rocks and minerals on display at antique stores and local flea markets. Treat the buying process as you would with any other home accessory by honing in on the specific qualities that are mandatory for filling your space: rocks of a certain color, size, and/or (potentially) purpose. This will prevent you from feeling overwhelmed, especially when it’s easy to walk out with bags and bags of rocks and minerals that you may not have the room to display.
Rocks can serve multiple purposes
Rocks and minerals aren’t just pretty to look at; they can serve a functional purpose, too. A few of my favorite rock uses include being repurposed as bookends, doorstops, and paperweights, the latter especially so for holding down napkins while dining al fresco. I also love taking a simple clear vase and lining the bottom with rocks that either share a physical characteristic (maybe they’re all shades of gray) or are just a hodgepodge of nature at its finest. One clever idea I’ve seen recently is to cover a mirrored jewelry tray with a handful of rocks to display bracelets, watches, and necklaces. It’s an interesting and oh-so-meta contrast to see polished, cut, and set stones among rocks and minerals in their most raw form.
Many crystals are also believed by some cultures to bring healing powers to the mind, body, and soul. There may be no real scientific basis for these claims, but I am a huge believer in mind over matter, so I encourage anything at home that promotes good energy or puts a smile on your face when you see it.
Perhaps the only thing more interesting than a rock itself is the story of how and why it looks the way it does. Common rocks can be up to billions of years old (!!!!!); rocks and minerals never really disappear, they simply change their form based on erosion, environment, and other factors that break them down and cause them to chip away. Not only is there a story to be told with a rock’s composition and classification (best identified through the fossils embedded among it), but you can also collect beautiful stones on vacations for them to serve as mementos and future conversation starters. It’s a fun way to document a trip and its memories by taking something that is representative of the local geology (so long as it’s legal to do so).
If you’re still not convinced that rocks and minerals would make an excellent addition to any living space, then maybe you’ll at least begin to develop a deeper appreciation for the stone, quartz, marble, etc. that dazzles your favorite rooms. We’re certainly not living in the era of “The Flintstones,” but the use of rocks and minerals is as timeless as it gets, both in style and in actual composition. That’s something not to take for granite.