Design: Back to the stone age

From lamps to linoleum, the pebble is the new `rock' star. By Christopher Hirst
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The Independent Culture
Though the chap who paid pounds 9,500 at Sothebys this month for a fragment of moon rock is an extreme case, pebbles and virtually anything made of stone have suddenly become the motif of the moment. From zen rock gardens (so much more labour-saving than the distressingly unkempt green variety) to slate-topped tables, rocks are hot. But in this new megalithic age, the stones which appear in our homes are more likely to be pebbles than Stonehenge-style menhirs.

Pebbles are featuring as door knobs and curtain tie-backs. Images of pebbles are appearing on vinyl floor-coverings in fancy hotel bars. They are even providing the screen background on the Apple laptop being used to produce this article. The latest issue of Vogue devotes a page to the trendy pebble, revealing that crunchy beaches provide the backdrop to the ad campaigns of fashion houses ranging from Burberrys to Diesel.

No dinner table can consider itself to be fashionably dressed without Ella Duran's table mats which bear images of black and grey pebbles with delicate white striations. A matching set of earthenware is also available - the image of a red shale pebble slowly appears at the bottom of your cup as you sip your tea. I asked where the pebbles came from, but Duran's reply "from the Cornish coastline", scarcely pinned down the location.

At Habitat, you can get the real thing. Slate table mats are available in three different sizes. Unfortunately, the largest (approximately 1ft by 2ft) has a slight disadvantage in that it is virtually impossible to pick up. The store also sells "rock lights", internally illuminated boulders made from resin. Turned off, they look realistically like granite. When switched on, the effect is rather odd, like a special effect from The Ten Commandments.

Conversely, Habitat offers utensils which you might not believe could be made from real stone. The "hot rock" casserole (pounds 65) and sizzler (pounds 35) would not look out of place in Wilma Flintstone's kitchen "hot pots". Carved from light-grey Mexican stone, they are said to require no cooking oil. After warming them in the oven, you use the stored heat for cooking. But perhaps the most remarkable item of stone fashion offered by the store are tiny bags of pebbles. Available in white, green or grey, they are Lilliputian versions of the sacks of aggregate sold by builder's merchants.

Alternatively, you could pop along to the seaside and collect your own pebbles. At Chesil Beach, we have one of the largest stone beaches in Europe. Moreover, the 17 miles of flint cobbles are conveniently graded in size (the largest are at the Portland end). Though the pebbles of the south coast are mere youngsters of 140 million years or less, in north- west Scotland they can be up to 3,000 million years in age. Antiques for free.

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