“There are few things more luxurious for the home than natural stone. Whether you’re drawn to neutrals or are ready to make a statement, my collection for Aria Stone has something for everyone.” – Marie Flanigan
This month, Aria Stone Gallery launched a collection of natural stone slabs in collaboration with Marie Flanigan Interiors. Aria brought along the Marie Flanigan team and traveled to Italy to hand-select seven marbles directly from the source. Aria Stone Gallery’s ability to source from some of the most exclusive quarries in the world paired with Marie Flanigan team’s exceptional taste, this collection of marble slabs covers everything from neutral to statement stones. Read more to get inspired by applications and insight into why Marie selected each one of these marbles featured in her collection.
ASG: How would you describe your style?
MF: I describe my style as innovative simplicity, using a balanced combination of color, texture, and light. Given that my educational and professional background is in architecture, my designs seamlessly unite beauty and structure, unlocking a unique level of depth through the mutual consideration of an interior and its framework. In addition, my style embodies the new traditional, which celebrates a modern take on a classic design. I love to layer different textures and genres to make a home feel collected and curated.
Q: What is it you love about natural stone?
MF: Designing the hard finishes in any home is all about the details. I am incredibly inspired by nature and aim to incorporate organic and authentic materials into every space I design. The beauty and intricacy of natural stone can’t match manmade imitations. I love to use it in unexpected, creative, and innovative ways.
ASG: What was your favorite memory your team has from hand-selecting the stones for your collection in Italy?
MF: Aria Stone Gallery is able to source the finest materials in the world so we sent our Design Director, Melanie Hamel, to travel to Italy and engage in the selection process for the collection firsthand. In Carrara, they built the entire city out of stone with patina on everything. The city was so stunning and it was amazing to see how it has stood the test of time.
ASG: What applications can you picture for the stones in your collection?
Verde Aver’s nature-inspired tones act as a rich neutral. I see this stone as a stunning bar.
The Calacatta Gold Borghini Diamond is like no other. When visiting the Borghini quarry in Italy, it only deepenedmy appreciation for how rare and one-of-a-kind this stone truly is.
Bianco Dolomite is a contemporary stone with subtlety and sophistication. Thus, it blends seamlessly into any space.
Calacatta Namibia is a classic with a twist. It’s a true crowd-pleaser with a clean look. I used this marble in one of my favorite kitchens paired with antique brass.
Nuvola Bianco is a dramatic marble with visual weight. It would be the ideal complement to white marble.
The dynamic movement of Fume Marble sets it apart. With warm and cool tones make it the perfect pairing for any tile.
Breccia Pernice is for the homeowner looking to make a bold statement. While still incorporating the earth’s natural hues, its rust tones create an element of surprise.
This May, Aria Stone Gallery kicked off its annual Hand-Selection Excursion to Italy with a bang, traveling in style with Dallas-based visionary and interior designer Laura Lee Clark. Aside from the gorgeous sights and sounds of the country, this sourcing trip was made even more special, ending with Laura Lee’s selection of 5 materials to be featured in her first-time-ever exclusive stone collection for Aria Stone Gallery. The Aria team collaborated with Laura Lee Clark to choose these beautiful stones to be the first of many within The Laura Lee Clark Collection. The journey leading up to hand-selecting each stone couldn’t have been more exhilarating. After the trip, The Aria Stone Gallery team sat down with Laura Lee Clark for an exclusive interview of her experience choosing the stones for her finely curated collection.
ASG: How would you describe your experience in Italy on Aria Stone Gallery’s hand selection trip?
LLC: The trip was truly all-encompassing. We saw the entire process of the quarry, from the cutting of blocks into slabs, to impregnating the slabs with epoxy, polishing/finishing the slabs, and finally the fabrication of the material for high-end projects. We met with the material suppliers and walked their magnificent showrooms. And most importantly, we learned what to look for in a block of stone in order to ensure purchasing a material that has the highest quality, beauty and integrity.
ASG: What was your impression of the Borghini quarry?
LLC: When describing the Borghini quarry, it is not possible to impress upon the listener its colossal scale. As our jeep climbed the narrow winding roads up the mountainside we were filled with anticipation of the adventure that was ahead of us. Our private tour was led by none other than a member of the Borghini family. We were truly awestruck as we entered the quarry and learned that we would soon be standing in the exact location that Michelangelo’s marble was quarried for his masterpieces. For the entire tour we were completely blanketed in the most beautiful white marble I had ever seen.
ASG: What was you most memorable moment from the hand selection trip to Italy?
LLC: The most memorable moment of our trip was definitely our exclusive tour of the Borghini quarry, because we were able to see the very earliest stages of mining blocks, to slab fabrication in our very own homes. I was also quite stunned by our accommodations in Verona, at the lovely Villa Cordevigo. This hotel was basically a 17th Century country mansion with colorful terrazzo floors, stucco walls and beautiful hand painted wall decorations. It was full of unbelievable character and charm.
ASG: What type of inspiration did you see on your trip that you would like to see in your projects?
LLC: Aside from seeing so many unique and exquisite marbles in their raw block form, I was also inspired by the use of finished marble throughout the villages that we visited. The sidewalks and streets were beautifully lined with Rosa Verona and Carrara. As we continue to educate our clients about the characteristics of the marbles used in our projects, I will never forget how these materials have held up to centuries of human contact and weathering. Due to the high quality of projects that my team is working on, I have been able to use the most genuine natural stone much more often. Therefore, I was so inspired by the unabashed use of natural stone in my hotel bathroom. I will continue to use the wealth of knowledge I received on this trip for the rest of my lifetime!
ASG: What drew you to sourcing these particular stones for The Laura Lee Clark Collection? Where do you visualize each of these slabs?
Azul Maya Honed Marble– Guest suite bathroom. The soft, striated warm grays with white and ivory veining is elegant, serene and modern.
Calacatta Vintage – Master bath walls or kitchen backsplash. This stone has such a timeless look. I love the consistency of the veining and subtle hints of blue, lavender and sage.
Gris De Savoie Honed – A butler’s pantry. This material is has a richness and depth with the gradation of warm grey tones. It reminds me of the dramatic effect of approaching storm clouds.
Pierre Bleue Limestone Honed – The bar countertop or the foyer floor. This slab has a striking white vein that stunningly contrasts with the complex textural, charcoal backdrop.
Opal White – The powder bath walls and countertop. This is a very soft and chic material, exuding a unique luminescent quality.
Interior Designer Laura Lee Clark Falconer understands that a truly successful design blends a collection of high-quality pieces from various periods and styles, while also using tasteful restraint. “I find that careful editing is essential to good design,” Falconer says. “I like to create unexpected combinations of finishes, fabrics, and custom-designed furnishings while integrating antique elements, all the while striving for a sophisticated look.”
By listening to each client’s needs and desires, she earns their trust in order to establish the foundation and principles for successful design. This designer’s staff is as dedicated as she is to the firm’s valued clientele and they maintain a high level of organization and consistent contact with suppliers.
A student of the Parsons School of Design in Italy, she offers her clients more than 25 years of experience in high-end residential design. She is also the recipient of several Silver Style awards, Legacy of Design awards, ASID Design Ovation awards, and she has been named “Best Designer” by her peers in D Home magazine since 2005. Recently her work has been published in “Inspirations from France and Italy” and “The French Room”, both by Betty Lou Phillips.
When it comes to interior design, it is always important to consider what’s trendy or “current”, as well as keeping in mind the quintessential building blocks that stem from “classic” design. This delicate balance of popular and proper are not better exemplified than through Houston-based visionary, Laura U. We interviewed designer extraordinaire Laura and got all the details behind her “Classically Current” technique. So scroll on down to learn 6 Ways to Create A Classically Current Design by Laura U Interiors!
Black and white, cream and gray…I prefer all of my designs to carry some tension. Opposites are timeless and this powder room exemplifies that. The white floating sink rests atop the Pietra Grey Leathered Marble counter, courtesy of Aria Stone Gallery.
The lush green hues that saturate these chairs makes a true statement in this formal living room. I like to think of color as a foil to a neutral backdrop. It activates a space. To accentuate the green, we incorporate natural elements like marble and wood to ground the room.
A Classically Current interior is one that authentically reflects the personal styles of the homeowners. In this high-rise living room, the collected feel of global travelers is felt throughout. Natural elements of wood, marble and stone layer against leather, silk, and warm terra cotta hues to create a luxe space.
Incorporating the environment/natural surroundings
The blue and pink hues throughout this coastal home reflect the bright sunlight coming in from the beach. Taking a cue from the environment, we paired the interior of this home elegantly with the outside environment. For me, a Classically Current home belongs naturally to its surroundings, emphasizing the outdoors and bringing them inside.
People are naturally drawn to symmetrical elements and these beautiful sconces accomplish that perfectly. Wallpaper by Lindsey Cowles is a great partner to the marble counter. All around, a very Classically Current space.
From the pendants over the granite countertop to the marble floors and large windows, this kitchen is full of light. Good lighting is very important to my Classically Current philosophy. It never goes out of style!
Meet Laura U
Top Houston interior designer, Laura Umansky, has always had an appreciation for luxury interiors that are bold, unique, and remarkably curated. She founded the Laura U Interior Design firm to build beautiful legacies for her clients, treasured memories told through the art of high-end design and woven throughout every room of a home.
Without prescribing to any singular style, her Classically Current spaces are perfect reflections of her client’s personalities and joys. Client-centric and site-specific, a Laura U interior will always involve a bit of drama with a luxe romantic touch, bringing the environment inward and surrounding clients with what they love most.
Known for designing stunning homes all over the country, Laura has spent her life blending the beauty of art with the science of design. With over 15 years of industry experience and a background in architecture, Laura understands what it takes to execute an incomparable interior design project. She developed The Process of Design in order to keep her team organized, maintain projects on schedule, and deliver impeccable white glove service. Laura’s tailored process allows her team of interior designers to truly understand each client’s lifestyle, artfully shaping spaces that showcase every client’s unique story.
Much like any grand discovery, the unearthing of the rare and elegant Calacatta Macchia Vecchia did not occur overnight. Perfecting this beautiful Italian marble meant overcoming many trials, struggles and technological setbacks of the time period. Nonetheless, this unique stone comes with a backstory full of culture, perseverance and in the end, incredible success.
When Was Calacatta Macchia Vecchia Discovered?
The Calacatta Macchia Vecchia quarry is located among the “Marble Mountains” of Italy, within very close proximity of the town Torano. Although the exact time period is unknown, we do know that the discovery of this quarry was between the end of the 17th Century and the beginning of the 18th Century.
Excavating Calacatta Macchia Vecchia Marble
At the time of discovery, the excavation of marble blocks was very limited, as quarry crews did not have access to suitable machinery or tools. They utilized wedges and ice-axes, and were therefore only able to extract very small, misshapen blocks that required squaring by hand. Afterward, the marble blocks were loaded in wagons or carts dragged by oxen. This process was extremely complicated and physically demanding, and the quarry ceased production after years of struggling.
In the 1950s, the Macchia Vecchia quarry reopened when the helicoidal cable, a primitive version of the wire saw, was discovered. The first official owner of the quarry, Mr. Serri, worked tirelessly for many years to excavate pristine blocks of Macchia Vecchia without successful results. The low quality of marble produced combined with lack of technology eventually forced Mr. Serri to shut down the quarry and retire.
After 40+ years of extensive research and technology development, new owners Mr. Ribolini and Mr. Santi re-purchased the quarry and spent the first 5 years not excavating, but cleaning. They understood that in order to start fresh and produce the best possible quality of marble, they had to keep the levels clean and safe for their crews. They were finally provided with essentially a clean slate, and conditions in which they could extract large, blocks of white marble with luxurious flowing veins of gold and grey.
Calacatta Macchia Vecchia Production and Use Today
As production increased and technology continued to develop, Calacatta Macchia Vecchia marble took off and people from all over the world longed to use it and experience its grandeur. Today, Mr. Santi and Mr. Ribolini remain active owners of the Calacatta Macchia Vecchia marble quarry and extract between 2,500 and 2,800 tons per year. To prevent extensive damage to the surrounding landscape and ecosystem, they limit production in this specific area of the Marble Mountains, making Calacatta Macchia Vecchia a luxury and privilege to witness.
Calacatta Macchia Vecchia marble has dramatically increased in popularity within the design world, as it resembles an elegant impressionist painting and flows well with all aesthetics. Its clean white canvas and golden undertones make a very attractive option for kitchens, bathrooms and bookmatched feature walls. Since Calacatta Macchia Vecchia is a marble, we do recommend sealing this stone if you plan to use it in an area of the home that gets a lot of traffic. This will protect it from scratching and etching, and keep it looking beautiful for years to come.
April Hannah is a sculptural-based designer, whose inherent interest is transforming material through form. April examines the creative process across media and through multiple generations. The structure of The Lotus Collection was discovered by April while playing with her son, as she noticed how a particular modeling toy of his interlocked and transformed. After borrowing an appropriately shaped form from one of her large Totem sculptures, April produced a prototype of The Lotus Dining Table with six, interlocking plywood pieces.
“I like to think the functional pieces I create exhibit a simple sophistication and playful nature. I strive to transcend the banal and create an unpredictable universe of meditative energy and childlike wonder.”
– April Hannah
The process April uses to create paintings and sculptures is an attempt to mimic the systems of growth and evolution found in nature. Using basic materials (charcoal, wood, paper, canvas) and elementary mark making techniques (scribbling, tracing, repetition), forms organically emerge from within the chaos of creation. April sees these resulting forms as “DNA blueprints” for further exploration – each form evolving into another within each painting or sculpture. The technique is simple and the process is meditative, and like nature, an underlying intelligence exists within.
The Lotus Collection
Each consisting of six interlocking pieces, the Lotus Dining Table and Lotus Cocktail Table classically evoke the mandala form of the lotus in unexpected stone.
“The form of the Lotus Table, like the lotus flower rising above the surface of the muddy water from which it grows, takes shape within a muddled web of chaos. The lotus flower symbolizes spiritual awakening and enlightenment. In Taoism, as in nature, paradox is a driving force. It is the emptiness of the vase that holds the water. Being is non-being. Serenity is found when we let go and just be. This is how I approach enlightenment.”
– April Hannah
After working for several years as a graphic designer in the city where she was raised (Erie, Pennsylvania) April Hannah moved to NYC in 1999, to pursue an MFA at the School of Visual Arts (SVA). Upon graduation, Hannah established a studio in DUMBO, Brooklyn, where she produces abstract paintings and sculptures inspired by patterns and networks found in nature and urban environments.
For more information on the Agata Granite Lotus Dining Table, or if you are interested in customizing the Lotus Dining Table using one of Aria Stone Gallery’s natural stones, contact the Aria Stone Gallery showroom in either Houston or Dallas for pricing and customizing options.
Aria Stone Gallery recently hosted a “Stone is Art” Industry Panel Discussion Event, sponsored by D Magazine. This one-of-a-kind panel discussion focused on stone and its natural artistic characteristics. The discussion featureda variety of extremely talented industry professionals including Sherry Hayslip from Sherry Hayslip Interiors, Laura Baggett from Domiteaux + Baggett Architects, Botond Laszlo from Marvelous Home Makeovers, and Chris Wynn from Statement Furniture Fabrication. The questions were specifically targeted to each professional’s forte including topics such as stone trends, types, use, applications, and experience.
Q.What is your best piece of advice for someone who is looking to incorporate natural stone into their project?
SHERRY:In a practical sense, be patient and endure and think of it as solving a puzzle. Once you have your preliminary selections made, it is really an adventure to see the beauty of each stone and try to incorporate that in conjunction with everything else that you are doing – not too busy not less – but it is important that you keep in mind that there is nothing more unique except perhaps a snowflake – than beautiful marble because it is natural and it doesn’t repeat its pattern.
Q. What tips or guidelines can you give to help them in their selection process?
BOTOND: Our motto at Marvelous Home Makeovers is exceptional, personal craftsmanship. The process starts with who our clients are and finding out what their needs are. One of the first steps in many of the larger projects is to select the natural stone (i.e. countertop, art piece, or accent piece) and then create the designs around the stone. What I have found with my clients is that natural stone speaks to you. You see over and over again my clients come in they walk the isles and they go back to the first stone that they saw. The process is psychological. Also, for me, observing that thought process during selection and receiving that feedback really helps me to understand who the client is. It gives an insight into what their desires are and who they aredeep inside, which enables me to truly cater to that and create a better experience and better crafted project.
Q. At Aria, we utilize a 1-10 scale grading stone based on clarity, consistency and quality. What are some of the aspects that you look for when you educate clients and customers about natural stone? Are there any types of natural stone you prefer working with over others? Why?
CHRIS: First, I listen to my customer to see what it is they are looking for. Once they select a material we view the material to see how beautiful it is, look for any fissures and cracks, look into the structure of the slab to see if it was completed [before extraction] or not. Overall we check to make sure that the client has chosen a quality material. I haven’t ran into any issues here at Aria. Everything that Vinny goes out and chooses is always grade A material.
Q. No stone is 100% perfect, and their can oftentimes be beauty in the imperfections. However, there are a lot of fabrication challenges that are intrinsic to the stone business. In particular, onyx is a very difficult stone to procure due to the nature of the material and that it is often not widely available in large format, along with inconsistencies that lead to needing fill. How do you as a fabricator overcome these obstacles?
CHRIS: There are many different ways to handle this. As far as fissures are concerned, there are different type of epoxies available to assist. If there is a slab of onyx that has an issue I can bring it back to my shop and do “surgery” that needs to be done for the customer. Of course, the fabricator should always explain the process to the customer beforehand, as different epoxies can have different outcomes. There are certain epoxies that you can penetrate and fill cracks with. Sure, natural stone is going to have some hiccups here and there. But they are all soluble if the fabricator has the knowledge to do so.
Q. In your designs, you incorporate natural stone frequently in your projects. What is it about natural stone that captivates you?
SHERRY: The reason is emotional in that stone captivates me . I just love the idea of this beautiful, gemlike quality being harvested. When I was studying, designers and architects are encouraged to use real materials -natural materials – so that there is an integrity to the things that you create and design. I don’t think there is any way, frankly, to discount the romance of natural stone and the story and history behind it. Once, a client sent us to a quarry in France that had been continuously quarried since Roman times. We climbed up, marked the stone, threw water on it, and the story, the connection, the history – there is nothing more exciting.
Q. Inspiration is everywhere. Can you tell us more about your process and where your inspiration comes from?
LAURA: Most of our projects, our inspiration, comes from the client. Our approach is to find out exactly what the client wants, even though most of the time the client doesn’t yet know what they want. For us it is a puzzle to try and figure out where our clients want to go and where they will want to take the design,because every one of our projects come from that person.
Q.It is apparent that we believe stone is art, and with that comes some unique applications. Can you talk about what a designer or client should keep in mind when it comes to a variety of applications (floor, wall, pool, outdoors, etc.)?
CHRIS: First, I would think about the application and the durability of the product. For floors, of course marble has been used as floors for thousands of years. And it will wear over the years, but I think the most important part is educating the client on the upkeep of marble. They need to know that the marble is going to get wear and tear – and this is normal. Many companies exist that can resurface marble. Although sometimes manmade materials may sometimes be stronger, you will never get the beauty and look of marble.
Q.When it comes to designing for commercial versus residential projects, the stone selection can vary as a result. Talk to us about things you consider when designing for each of these types of projects?
LAURA: Everything is client driven, and in the residential world, people mainly react to designs and what inspires them. Most of our commercial projects are very specialized and our clients are attached to them. No matter what, budget always comes into play.
Q. Is there a certain kind of material that you lean towards?
LAURA: When it comes to natural stone, we do not lean toward one type of natural stone for particular applications. It is just a matter of what the project wants to be. To me, it is more of a reaction to the stone itself; and we are going to use that stone where it makes the most sense.
Q. At Aria, we believe every stone is suitable for the application, it just becomes a question of how do we work with the space and with our fabrication partner to achieve the result that we are looking for. As a fabricator, can you speak more to this?
CHRIS: There are quite a few different sealers on the market to help out. One of my favorites is a stone color enhancing sealer that will bring out all of the beautiful colors of the stone, while also protecting the stone. So, in the case that you are using a marble or onyx, you will get more vibrant color, and if you scratch the stone you can put the color enhancing sealer on the scratch – sometimes the scratch goes away completely, sometimes mostly, it all depends on the material.
If you do not want to change the color of the stone there are natural sealers that are impregnating sealers and nothing changes it just blocks the moisture from penetrating the stone.
All stones have pores in them and you are going to want to seal your stone. There are now sealers specifically for limestone – which needs to breathe more than other stones –and these limestone sealers help to protect the stone, while also allowing for the breathability needed.
Q. Is there anything that you can recommend for etching? Or how do you handle resolving etching?
CHRIS: Oftentimes, people like to use onyx on a countertop or vanity, which can be prone to scratches and etches. A fabricator can come to your home and bring a machine to buff the etch out of the stone. Alternatively, if you are looking for something you can do at home to prevent etching, I would suggest using a high grade car wax – or even a high grade furniture wax – and leave it on overnight and buff it off in the morning. This helps to keep the stone from etching through a lemon, lime, or other household items with high acidity. You, the homeowner, can buff the wax back into a shine. But if you do not use a wax, the acidic chemicals can sometimes penetrate the stone. Both options are a very similar process, it is just a matter of trying to do it yourself or having a fabricator come do it for you.
Q. What do you look for the ideal kitchen stone? What are you looking for?
BOTOND: Educating the client is always important because each material is very different. For example, very early on in my business about 10 years ago, we did a big white kitchen with all Carrara marble. They had two babies, loved to drink red wine, and I thought the white marble might not go over well, because, at the time there were not as many good sealers as there are now. Luckily, they were the type of people that were really disciplined with taking care of the marble. A few years ago I had the opportunity to go back to the house and their countertops still looked impeccable.
I do not believe there is a set rule about what materials should go where. In general when people hear marble they think “oh no that can’t go in the kitchen” and I always say, “why not?” Marble, in my opinion, looks better 10 years from now than it does today. Marbles creates a patina. Think about copper and how it oxidizes, or think about if you have a leather jacket or briefcase that looks awesome now, but when it is brand new it looks almost rough or too crisp.
Similarly, we have done a project many years ago and it had a lot of gold and copper flakes in the stone and depending on how the light hits and the angle – the stone always appeared differently. Later on, I spoke with the client and they told me that they have lived there for over 5 years and have seen this stone every day and were always finding elements in the slab that we never saw before. That to me is very powerful and unique and you will never find that with a manmade material.
So really educating the clients, and explaining to the clients that you can use any stone and let them know how to take care of it. In my opinion, it all comes down to if you can connect with the stone and when you see it every day in your bathroom or kitchen and think it is beautiful – that is priceless to me.
Interior Designers often look to fashion and the different fashion week events around the world to get a sense for how styles are constantly evolving and pushing the envelope. Oftentimes, fashion styles are translated into the design world. Recently, Hong Kong fashion week veteran, Winnie Witt, created a collection in where fashion design was created in a way that highlights many of the same design principles that interior designers frequently use.
Winnie Witt’s Trinity Collection, as seen in Aria Stone Gallery’s #STONEISART exhibit, closely examines three pillars of Winnie Witt’s foundation of style: geometry, body, and space. The Trinity collection is composed of unexpected shapes and silhouettes from a unique and innovative style of pattern cutting.
Witt is a master in tailoring, which can be seen in her focus bold, architectural designs that offer a full, rounded, asymmetrical silhouette. Every angle of her outfit offers a new outlook to her conceptual designs.
Using thing, gossamer-like material to showcase bold, heavy objects, Witt tests the limits of space and physics. Witt incorporated tights and jagged remnants of marble and quartzite from Aria Stone Gallery into her installation to experiment with different types of shape and weight. When the two contrasting elements of sheer tights and natural stone combine together to create a third sense of space.
In applying the concept to the design, the garment will appear flat on the surface but its design is to revolve around the body, when you look at it from the side it is a cylinder. The pattern has to revolve around so the body is circular in shape and it gives the garment space around the object.
Authentic, high-drama, and unexpected, Chicago’s PROjECT Interiors founder, Aimee Wertepny, is leading the charge for her high-end take on grit and glam design. In this special Chicago edition of our Designer Spotlight series, we sat down and had a one-on-one conversation with Aimee to learn what inspires her and how to achieve her signature look.
Q. Architecture is very prevalent in Chicago, how does the architecture influence your interior design choices for commercial projects?
I’m incredibly lucky to have a company that is headquartered in a world class city like Chicago, known for its incredible skyline and architecture- steel and glass is a no-brainer here! I’m inspired every day just leaving my apartment, which is in the historic neighborhood of Wicker Park. There are art deco period buildings, greystone walk-ups, turn of the century churches, as well as public art works, graffiti installations and classic A-frames, punctuated with recently developed modern style dwellings. I pull that influence into my interior schemes- grit with glam, modern, edgy and rustic all melded into one scheme. I appreciate classic details for sure, but the mid century modern architecture that Chicago is known for is my personal favorite- those Mies Van Der Rohe buildings are timeless, and I’d like to think my work is as well. Modern architecture is all about clean lines, beauty in simplicity and an unfussy lifestyle, which is a part of my design ethos. “Interior revival” is what I call it- as it states on the back of my business card in a scribble I can barely read 🙂
Q. Natural stone has long been a part of art and design in Chicago. What is it about natural stone that captivates you? What type of stones do you and your clients in Chicago gravitate towards?
Nothing compares to the impact a quality natural stone has on a space. It immediately exudes a sense of calm, because, as a natural product, it reflects the beauty of nature. I think Calacatta marble is timeless, and I use it all the time for hard surface specifications- especially in the leather finish. I’ve been especially drawn to the bold and textured slabs recently, such as Panda and Pietra Grey- I can’t get enough of that elephant skin looking slab!
Q. All of your designs are incredibly personal with a refined and modern aesthetic that is true to the client’s personality and desires. What are some of the unique design directions that we will be seeing in your future 2017 Chicago projects as they are completed?
I’m really digging street art, dream catchers and macramé these days. Bold color and patterns- but only the “weird” stuff. Tribal and deconstructed influences will still run steady through our work- and architecturally there will be blackened steel, brass reveals, black lacquer, stone and porcelain slabs, matte black and rose gold hardware, angular facets and tunnels, portal entries- we love a portal. There’s a drastic mix of transitional suburban to glass box and steel structures that make us want to take more risks in materials and details in all of the above. We’re always searching for the unexpected which certainly pairs nicely with the client who is willing to go there- which we are seeing more and more. *heel clicks*
I love to travel, and this year is all about Latin- Mexico, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico, which is destined to influence my work and train of thought- I’ve even enrolled in Spanish lessons! So maybe some bright colors (um, did I say that?) with splashes of mezcal + rum for sure. Vamonos!
Matchmaker to gutsy and glamorous, a chic co-conspirator with smoldering curiosity and an earth driven heartbeat, she’s a Chicago girl that prefers not to waste time on the dress rehearsal.
PROjECT founder Aimee Wertepny established the studio nearly 10 years ago— all indie rock, now-or-never sweat and stamina—after realizing the solo gig wasn’t for her.
On her watch, PROjECT is an organic-glam-mashup a curated, layered, collected trip. Luxury cut with a little grit, surfaces that purr— her seductive rip shred aesthetic atones for the laconic sins of beige and invites an intriguing totem.
Travel and charity fill her spirit, but as the all for one ethos of the studio, she’s the irrepressible 90s girl who takes the side entrance instead of waiting in line.
Here at Aria Stone Gallery, we talk about how we have the most unique and beautiful slabs; but what does that mean? How are Aria’s slabs different from the rest? Aria’s owner, Vinny Tavares, travels around the world, from the Carrara Region in Italy, to the quarries of Brazil, to hand select every slab that is brought to Aria. What is it exactly that Vinny is looking for when he purchases Aria’s slabs?
Quality over Quantity
In the natural stone industry, many stone suppliers will carry stock colors and commercial-grade materials that they always have on hand. Aria Stone Gallery focuses on quality over quantity and does not carry stock materials. If we sell out of a material and find that the quarry isn’t currently producing a slab that meets our standards for that same type of material, we won’t bring it in. Instead, we will wait until the quarry finds another incredible and rare bundle.
Aria Stone Gallery’s Standards and Criteria for Purchasing Stone from the Quarry
When our owner Vinny goes to a quarry, he uses a set of standards, where he grades every slab of stone from 1 to 10. The quality and uniqueness of slabs are graded based upon the 5 factors: richness of color, structure (i.e., whether the slab is sturdy or has core holes), size, vein composition, and natural quality. Vinny only purchases slabs that are considered a nine or ten.
Grade 1-2: Should not be mined from the quarry.
Grade 3-6: Lacking in 2 or more of our quality standard test.
Grade 7-8: Okay material, but lacking in one of the standards.
Grade 10: Perfect in color, structure, size, veining, quality.
How does Aria mitigate between beauty and natural fissures?
Sometimes when a stone is more exotic, it is more delicate. The reason many stone suppliers don’t carry exotic material is that it is a risk to transport internationally. The stone supplier really has to know how to move the material safely. Sometimes things are so beautiful, they are worth the risk.
Has Aria ever sent material back because it arrived in a lesser condition than you bought it?
Yes. Once Aria’s material arrives in the states, our staff inspects each slab, and if the slab is not up to our standards, it will never make it to either Aria’s showroom or online. For example, not too long ago we received a bundle of Lemurian. When the quarry polished the surface, they did not allow enough time for the drying process before the slab was loaded into the crate. So, when the slab was unloaded in the States, the slab had cracked and had huge divots everywhere. In this case, we would send the material back to the quarry rather than selling the stone at a discounted price.
How are Aria Stone Gallery’s standards different from other stone suppliers?
We are providing to a niche. Aria stone Gallery’s product is just a fraction of what is out there. As mentioned before, we do not carry stock products, staple colors, or low-to-mid grade exotics. In the off chance that we do have a middle grade exotic, it will be the most beautiful middle grade exotic that the quarry has every produced. Typical stone suppliers tend to carry five to ten percent of the quality that is stocked at Aria.
Unlike buying a man-made product, which can be done on demand, purchasing stone is a much more subjective exercise. Quarries go through bad phases, yielding undesirable blocks, and they often face regulatory issues, all of which restricts the fine buying or what Aria calls the “pursuit of the perfect stone.”
Many stone distributors are primarily focused on filling purchase orders – and that may be okay settling for an ordinary slab. At Aria Stone Gallery, we don’t sell ordinary slabs – we don’t have a standard list of “stone we carry”. The good thing about natural stone is that new quarries are always being discovered, new blocks are constantly being processed and you never know when the most dramatic slab is about to be cut. It’s a bit like baseball – the trick is not to fall for the temptation of swinging at every pitch. At Aria Stone Gallery we would rather be out of a popular stone color than have a mediocre slab in stock.
We had a chance to sit down with Vinny Tavares, owner and founder of Aria Stone Gallery, who shared with us his manifesto for natural stone and what he believes makes natural stone an irreplaceable art form.
What happened to waiting for the great things in life to present themselves when the time is ripe? And further, what does this mean in the context of natural stone?
You cannot rush natural stone. No one can dictate how the next block – or using today’s direct-to-consumerism phrase – the next “batch” will look. Only nature can dictate which direction the veining will run or how white the background will be. No one can set parameters or define the “next production” for natural stone. The “next production” may not come until next spring because the winter was too wet in the Apuan mountains. Winemakers cannot simply reengineer their grapes into the next special Bordeaux vintage. Not only do you need the right conditions, the proper soil, weather, and temperature but also the right attitude: you cannot speed through the process and expect greatness. Some describe this art form as the ability to work or respond to the environment in an appropriate matter. This couldn’t be truer for marble.
Unfortunately, all of that means you can’t really pre-design a marble slab. There is not a machine where you press “start” and voila, out comes the perfect marble slab on the assembly line. Maybe this quest for the perfect surface is what led to the creation of quartz slabs. But if quartz is indeed better, why model quartz after natural stone? Why can’t it stand on its own, by its own design? Where is its authenticity?
Does producing 300 identical slabs per day seem special? Maybe it seems special if you are the only factory creating it. But what happens when there are 300 factories creating it? Are all those slabs as special as their manufacturers aspire to convince us to believe? Or is it just another mass-produced reinterpretation with the intention of tricking us into believing it is a better version of the original? Fake pearls, anyone?
Whether it’s synthetic fabric, artificial turf, or engineered stone, you can’t out-design the real thing. However, that doesn’t mean the attempt to standardize Mother Nature shouldn’t have its place in society. But we can’t kid ourselves that quartz slabs items are in the realm of luxury. Two key aspects associated with luxury are scarcity and genuineness, and both aspects are lacking in these Calacatta-esque slabs. Processed cheese, anyone?
Some of the most succulent apples might come with spots. But it’s much better than the chemical, bountiful, perfectly shaped alternative. As the song goes: “Hey farmer, farmer, put away your DDT. I don’t care about spots on my apples, leave me the birds and the bees.” The same thing can be said for natural stone. Fissures and natural pits are part of the natural process. That’s where craftsmanship and human ingenuity play an important role. We don’t need to kill the bees to enjoy the apple. We only need to incorporate these aspects in the art (process) of harvesting the fruit. What do we call again the ability to work with what the environment has to offer?
I personally would rather work with truly special things. Things that are subject to the spontaneity of nature and are outside of our control. Things that maybe at first frustrate us more than we are willing to understand. But eventually the “thing” always reveals itself. The same way that a shiny piece of plastic is not diamond, that faux leather is not parchment, that nylon is not cashmere, and that forcefully compressed quartz minerals blended with artificial pigments and chemicals IS NOT genuine stone.
At Aria we promise the real thing, the best nature has to offer. It might not be “human expectation” perfect but it’s the best that has always been and probably ever will be. We are proud to work with the natural elements in their most genuine and authentic form, which in our case is the naturally perfect marble slab.
Dating back to the Egyptians, onyx was used to create bowls and other decorative elements and nowadays onyx is commonly used to create jewelry, decorative surfaces, and wall materials. The unique patterns and striations, in addition to a wide range of colors, make onyx the perfect material to add a dramatic focal point to a space. One of the many appeals of nature’s beautiful onyx is that it has the ability to be backlit due to its unique translucent properties. When a slab of onyx is able to be backlit, it is able to take on a completely new life, showcasing the unique veining while adding additional ambiance to a space with a subtle glow.
The key to backlighting is using the correct LED panels to ensure an even coverage of light and eliminating any “hot spots.” To further analyze key tips when it comes to backlighting, we connected with the backlighting expert himself, Patrick Dwyer from Knema LLC (dba LuminousFilm), and picked his brain so you can backlight with confidence. Read on.
Q. What do you need to consider before lighting a countertop? Power source? Size? Material? Is there anything that is different about lighting a wall vs a countertop?
A. Actually, not really. As long as you are mounting the panels to a surface and securing them with something like mirror clips, or c-channel you should be fine.
Q. What should you know before choosing an LED bulb for backlighting onyx?
A. When picking a light color, you should be aware of the overall affect it will have on the room. Do you want to contrast or match existing light fixtures? And you should be aware of how the light will affect the color of the stone. If you have a honey onyx using a very warm color temp (2700K for example) would help bring out more of the yellows in the stone.
Q. What are the LED backlighting color options?
A. Our panels have two main color options. White light LEDs (ranging from ~2700K-6000K) and we have RGB LEDs, which allows for millions of different color options.
Q. How much does it cost to backlight a stone?
A. Cost per square foot varies greatly depending on the project and the products used. Variables such as the thickness of the stone, distance of panel from the stone, and how translucent the stone is can affect the square foot price greatly. Generally, we find the cost to run roughly ~$45-100/square foot.
Q. What is the maintenance on the LED lighting panels?
A. Typically there is very little – to no maintenance on the products.
Q. How often do LED panels need to be replaced?
A. If properly installed, the panels should last a very long time. We usually end up replacing power supplies before we replace panels. Our LED edge-lit panels have an L-70 rating of ~50,000 of continual use and our large LED modules have and L-70 rating of ~120,000 hours of continual use.
Note: L-70 is a rating that means that at 50,000 / 120,000 hours our lights should still produce 70% of their original brightness.
Passionate and personal, Lucinda Loya, of Lucinda Loya Interiors has built a name for herself as one of the nation’s premiere interior designers. Lucinda’s enthusiastic and sensible approach to design, along with her keen eye for detail, has led to much success in the world of interiors. Lucinda is a master at incorporating her client’s passions with her invigorating artistic spirit. Read below to see what Lucinda and her team have been up to and what she sees in the coming seasons for 2017.
“My philosophy is make it your own, and it will be timeless.”
Q. What are some of the top trends that you are most excited about for kitchen and bathroom design in 2017 and what is on the way out?
A. Heavy kitchen design is not just on the way out, it’s gone. These days, we are more interested in simplifying our lifestyle with interiors as a way of balancing our hectic lives. To achieve this, keep things light, bright, timeless, and classic by using clean lines. In a traditional home, you could take this approach by using a wild marble installation, preferably bookmatched or a large, bold patterned tile to make a statement. Stay away from browns. I always choose a large scaled tile selection over the typical 12×12, and slabs of natural stone is always preferred. Take a chance by going extra large on floor tile, and it will appear to be cut from slabs!
Q. How do you think new technology will have an effect on new designs in 2017?
A. Technology in general is broadening horizons and informing the general public and experts, alike. Now that the vast majority of people have access to social media, information has the ability to travel quickly and spread further than ever through design related social platforms. We are happy to know that the average consumer is being educated on interior design, whether they are interested or not.
“When two colors are combined in a clever way, the overall design is more interesting and original.”
Q. What type of color palette do you see for the future?
A. I believe that right now and for a long time – whether in fashion or interiors – anything goes! That said, I don’t like to think there is a color trend we are headed toward and I would like to see it stay that way. With fewer limitations we gain creative ability. My philosophy is make it your own, and it will be timeless.
In all of our projects, CONTRAST is key, and not all have color. For high contrast, black and white is the obvious choice, always being my go-to. When a project does call for color we use it in many different ways. I especially like to pair the un-expected. Mixing citrus and cranberry would be a great example. When two colors are combined in a clever way, the overall design is more interesting and original. The space becomes personalized, therefore, no trend to recognize.
“In all of our projects, CONTRAST is key, and not all have color.”
Q. What are some of the unique design directions we will be seeing in your future 2017 projects as they are completed?
A. One might guess that we lean toward a modern aesthetic, but we work in the entire spectrum of interior design. We have just been given the opportunity to work on three beautiful ranch style homes, and all three will look separate from one another. Whether our clients are looking for a Traditional, Mediterranean, Eclectic, even say a Western flare, our design principles of clean lines and authentic character are evident. We take comfort in knowing our projects remain TIMELESS!
Textures, neutrals, and layers, oh my! Marie Flanigan’s design aesthetic is the epitome of classic elegance with a cozy twist. With a fresh take on color and scale, Flanigan beautifully mixes old with new, modern with traditional, and cozy charm with sophisticated elegance; letting the space speak for itself. There truly is an art to incorporating colors, textures, prints, and patterns into a space and Flanigan strikes the perfect balance. Lucky for us, we were able to sit down with Marie herself for this one-on-one interview. Read on to discover how Aria Stone Gallery teamed up with the talented Marie Flanigan to discuss Natural Stone 101, her newest featured blog.
Q. As we gear up for fall, what trends do you foresee picking up speed?
A. In a world where fresh trends are constantly on the rise, I’ve been really excited to see a return to a more thoughtful and sophisticated celebration of personal style. That means doing less of what the latest trend reports tell you to do and more of what speaks to your heart. The design industry has responded to this change by increasing and enhancing customization services, allowing designers to source pieces that truly speak their client’s language, and by furthering their dedication to furniture rejuvenation, which means that existing pieces our clients hold dear can be reimagined and reused instead of being replaced with something new.
Q. We absolutely love your light and airy aesthetic. What advice do you have for our readers that are looking to incorporate this feel into their space? Any advice on how to successfully mix prints and patterns?
A. Our daily lives are busy and filled with distractions, and my goal has always been to create spaces that offer a respite from that constant stimulation. I love using pieces that boast strong, clean lines accented with fabrics that play with weight and texture in soft, dreamy hues. It’s so important to become a master editor when it comes to achieving a light and airy feel. Pull everything out and start replacing items slowly, only incorporating pieces that lend an overall sense of balance while also pulling at your heart strings.
Q. Inspiration is everywhere. Where do you ﬁnd inspiration for your designs?
A. My first source of inspiration is always my client. I love hearing stories about where they’ve lived and how they found themselves in the home they’re in today. I spend time learning about the styles, cultures, and environments that are meaningful to them and why, so that I can bring their unique story to life. Once ingrained in the design process, I often look to the relationships between form and function, and strength and delicacy, that exist in nature for a steady flow of inspiration.
Q. It seems like you incorporate natural stone frequently in your projects. What is it about natural stone that captivates you? Which types of stones do you typically gravitate towards in your designs?
A. Natural stone has a remarkable way of lending authenticity to a space. I’ve been using a great deal of marble, soapstone, onyx, and petrified wood in my latest designs, and I love that every slab is singular in color and grain, which guarantees that no two designs will ever look alike. I’m inspired by the intricate processes in which natural stone is crafted, and love that these durable beauties have been used since the earliest days of design and construction, infusing a natural sense of history into any home.
Q. What’s your best piece of advice for someone who is looking to incorporate stone into their space? What tips or tricks can you give to help them in this selection process?
A. Throw away the blinders and try to keep the bigger picture in mind. So often, when picking flooring, countertops, or backsplash, we get bogged down in that one detail and forget to step back and look at the space as a whole. Not every element needs to make a bold statement; a subtle piece can serve as a serene backdrop to surrounding bursts of color and texture. And if you decide you want your island to tell the grandest story, then perhaps you should consider choosing something subtle for the perimeter. Lastly, I like to remind clients to examine the veining and grain of the stone carefully so that they can clearly envision what the stone will look like once those elements are running across the expanse of their counter or floor.
About Marie Flanigan Interiors:
Marie Flanigan Interiors is a full service interior design ﬁrm that manages projects throughout Texas and around the country. Our experienced team has a comprehensive understanding of custom furnishings, antiques, textiles, and ﬁne art. We specialize in high-end residential and commercial build-outs, sharing solid relationships with some of the industry’s most talented architects, contractors, and vendors. At MFI, we believe that homes should reﬂect the people who live, work, and play within. We weave the unique stories of our clients into every inch of space we design, and our passion for innovative interior design, unparalleled attention to detail, and extraordinary professionalism set us apart from other design teams in our ﬁeld. From space planning to furniture and accessory procurement, our skilled team looks forward to working with you from conception to completion.