Designers find craft and community in global destinations (businessofhome.com)
STRAIGHT TO THE SOURCE
With many design materials, the finished product often becomes entirely disconnected from its origins. According to Marmi Natural Stone president Magd Riad, that’s frequently the case with marble—though a trip to one of the company’s international quarries can be transformative.
“It’s pretty easy for somebody to pick through some slabs and be like, ‘Oh, I don’t like these, do you have ones with more of this or more of that,’” he says. “But when you’re standing in the quarry, it becomes different. The education will make you realize that, ‘Wow, I’m buying a piece of earth, a piece of history. It’s not this man-made manufactured piece.’”
Over the past several decades, the company—which is based in Atlanta, with an international home base in Cairo along with various outposts in Spain—has completed roughly 50 trips with architects, designers and their clients, ranging from solo guided tours to group events. In the past, the experiences have been planned in conjunction with major design events like Maison&Objet, Salone del Mobile or the Chelsea Flower Show, and have included site-specific field trips.
A trip to Paris, for example, provided a private tour of the Paris Opera, which utilizes an “exquisite amount of stone,” according to Riad. Others have focused on individual designer-and-client project needs. For a team working on a project based in Texas, where the client’s dream was to re-create a Roman villa, the designer, architect and client traveled together to Rome to tour historic properties and private residences before heading to the company’s offices in Carrara, Italy, to source the proper stone for the project.
Trips can range from two to five days, with costs varying from several hundred to several thousand dollars depending on the location. The company encourages designers to inquire about personalized excursions, and later this year will likely host a trip to Egypt, where it was instrumental in supplying the stone for a new museum.
Marmi Natural Stone isn’t alone in offering stone-sourcing trips. For the first time, New Jersey–based tile brand Artistic Tile is also hosting its own guided trip abroad this spring, bringing a group of clients on a four-day food- and wine-filled excursion to Italy through various quarries and cultural destinations, culminating in a visit to Salone del Mobile.
If ceramics is more your speed, Ceramics of Italy (the brand of the Italian Association of Ceramics) is gearing up for the third edition of its sponsored trip to Bologna, Italy, for a visit to Cersaie—the International Exhibition of Ceramic Tile and Bathroom Furnishings—held each year in late September. The trip had been operated on an invite-only basis for the past two decades before the organization created a new program in 2021 called Destination: Cersaie Bologna, allowing all qualified architects and designers to apply to join the trip. The all-expenses paid, five-day journey includes a trip outside the city to observe tile production in person and a guided tour of the show, along with various cultural experiences (such as a visit to a historic balsamic vinegar producer, one of last year’s highlights). For interested applicants, the trip is fit for all types of designers as long as they’re based in the U.S. and Canada, and specify hard surfacing.