Hmm, that’s a great question. Many people do not understand the adventurous life of a stone cutter. Perhaps a better word would be dangerous. I can attest this is not a job for wimps. As an interior designer, I see people go crazy for the gorgeous stone materials we present for their kitchens and bathrooms. However, few understand the process to harvest the stone from a mountain. Believe me, it’s not like walking into a showroom in Chicago or wherever you live. It’s actually quite an operation. So let’s take a little trip to Italy!
Colonnata is an ancient town, nestled in between the staggering Apuan Alps. The effects of the quarries is etched on the mountain faces as the sprawling green trees succumb to the blinding white of the exposed stone. Block has been quarried from this region for over two millennia, and it shows no signs of slowing down. At several sites in the region, evidence of mining dates as far back as 600 BC. The town of Colonnata was founded in 40 BC to house slaves for the Romans as they began to dig into the mountains as Grecian marble had become too expensive to continue to import.
Blinding white beauty
Carrara was removed in large blocks, and sent cascading down the mountainside, rolling over greased timber. The crude method of extracting and delivering the stone has changed in more recent years. Now, impossibly small “trucks” wind down tight switchbacks with comically large blocks of stone attached to the beds of their vehicles. Michelangelo worked here for years helping to plan roads and quarries. Eventually, he would personally select the block from which his famous David and Pieta would emerge from.
The immortal David by Michelangelo
An old man who owns several quarry plots shows me a photograph from 40 years ago: a landscape of the mountains. It’s yellowed with time, and the landscape has changed, but the hills and peaks still provide for the people here. He’s proud of the work they do. Proud of the long and storied history of the artists, the workers, and the communities that grew in the shadows of the mountains. Special thanks to Spencer Roberts of Materials Marketing for the rich background information. Click here to learn more about the wonderful products sold at Materials Marketing. http://www.mstoneandtile.com
I must say that I appreciate these hard-working individuals more than ever! Check out the fascinating video below and read on if you want to know more about natural stone.
The temples and the sculptures built by the Romans themselves to worship their Gods – and later the Christian deity that replaced them – were created from stone originating in an area of Italy known as Carrara in the province of Massa. Here over thousands of years, mountains that once raised above the clouds have been carved and sliced – transforming the landscape, making it look like a leftover plate of cheese from a dinner party. As a result, the mountain landscape has been altered for the purpose of creating products both beautiful and useful; as diverse as the Roman temples and churches, Michelangelo’s David and other statues, and of course our kitchen and bathroom counter tops.
Removing the stone is quite a process…
In a sense this is the making of a modern landscape. It’s like standing on the floor of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican with a panoramic view of the Mediterranean sea and the Italian Alps surrounding you. The three and a half hour (around 50 mile) journey through mountains is not exactly smooth sailing. Thankfully the expert driver kept perfect control of the vehicle, making sure we were not rolling off the mountain side or creating a new path. The dust alone can give you a heart attack.
The laborers go through Hell to harvest the stone from the mountain
Harvesting marble is a process that happens year round. However, weather conditions and market demand for this supremely white marble causes the process to move to a different part of the mountain range regularly. This is why the mountain’s scenery looks scarred and misshapen from here. From a distance the mountain range takes on a surreal beauty—the forest has white zigzagging lines and patches like the remaining snow from the glacier era. The beauty comes at a high price in this part of the world. The carver was covered mostly with red-yellow mud from the neck down. The man with leathery weather-beaten skin looked somewhere between 30 to 60 years old, “..now days we have machines doing all the heavy lifting once the cutting is done. You just get wet and feel cold a lot. Cutting the marble is easy. Trying to not get killed around here is a job itself.”
The carver’s main job besides separating the marble rock from the mountain is communicating using a special set of hand gestures. (See YouTube video above) What a surprise to learn that marble is a very soft when freshly cut–the huge block can easily break apart like a piece of chalk. This explains why artists like to use marble instead of other types of stone besides it’s beauty. Because Carrara’s region mountains range is part of the Apuan Alps and among the highest in the area–the weather here can be unpredictable and extremely dangerous to work in. On a clear summer day, the Mediterranean sun can bake you alive and if that does not do it, the following will. Skin cancer from over-exposure to ultraviolet light, lung failure from inhaling marble dust all day long, and long exposure to bright surfaces as well as dust can easily blind you for life. If something dangerous happens to you up here you will be lucky to make it to the hospital before bleeding to death. Standing in one of the marble quarries the size of a football field but shaped like a giant white bowl will make you feel like a stick figure.
We never really think about where beautiful stone comes from
I hope you enjoyed learning about stone and the removal process, I really like to know where the materials I use originate from. Natural stone is unique, just like each of us, it has nuances, shading, markings and even imperfections–they truly add to the beauty of the slab which will be turned into a wall, counter tops or flooring. Do let us know if you would like to look at stone sometime, it is a fun trip to make!
Most designers tend to throw around favorite words, I suspect I do too. If you know me, you already know I tend to use the H word quite often. In this case H is for handsome! As an interior designer I must embrace many styles effortlessly to delight my clients here in Chicago and further afield. I must be well versed at all times. However, I do have a style that I really love, it’s not for everyone though. I work very hard to find the style that is best for you!
Secretly locked inside of me is a european gentleman living in grand style wherever I roam. You must know by now I’m a bit of a daydreamer! This special space resides within all my imaginary homes: the flat in Paris and London, the grand palazzo in Venice, the country house in Tuscany and in the English countryside. Each home has one common denominator. What is that you ask? Well, I will tell you all about it now, it is the gentleman’s study. The study is a place to retreat and read, have a tot or two of your favorite hooch, listen to music, work on your hobbies or whatever you wish! And never fear ladies, the room can be for you too! Here are my thoughts about creating such a space.
The Lean & Clean Study
To achieve this look you must be disciplined. No clutter is allowed, haha! But the rewards are wonderful, less is more…but there must be great storage to hide all the things people have today. Whatever happened to that paperless society we’ve been reading about forever?
This look requires great discipline
Plenty of room to spread out
This space is compact but has everything
Sometimes all you need is a quiet place to read
The Collected Study
This type of study is a bit more cluttered, but in a good way! Here is your opportunity to have more objects on display. Do you need a space for your stamp or book collection, display trophies of some sort, or perhaps artwork? Some of my clients like the newest technology, we can help with that too. What about games, whether virtual or old school like cards, billiards or darts? Just relax, we have you covered.
This is not Granddad’s study
Clean, modern, slick & sexy
This space has plenty of room for modern & old school games
The study and dressing room combined
This study is fresh, clean & not fussy
The Old World Study
To some, a study must have paneling, leather chairs and the smell of cigars, I understand this very well. But this is not for everyone. The study is all about the inhabitant, it must speak to you. How will you use it? Is it just for you or will you entertain in it? No room for such a space you say? You would be surprised, this kind of space can be kitted out in a studio apartment. The photo below has everything you need, a bar, a hidden tv on a lift and a murphy bed behind the wall panels.
Old World meets the 21st century with hidden technology
This long space allows plenty of room for billiards & cards on one end
The other side of the room is for sitting, watching TV and reading
Heaven…just add scotch
Who Are You?
Think about what you like to do, what are your hobbies, will you entertain in the space? What is your budget, what is realistic to achieve within the space you have? I have created three “study profiles”. I am definitely not a one size fits all kind of guy, neither are you but you will get the idea–scroll down for more.
Professional athlete and adventurer, he is interested in the world around him.
Magazine editor, man of the world, loves wine, reading and collects watches.
Actress, mother and fashionista, a mix of old and new, she loves beauty.
Inspiration To Build Your Study Around
Do you like antiques?
Are you looking for a multi-purpose space?
Perhaps you live in an old building but want a little fun.
Sometimes it begins with a pair of chairs!
A cozy and petite space can also double as a study
The rustic study
The study and art gallery combined
Is this what you are looking for…
The study is a wonderful space to hang out, read or merely daydream. Let us know how we can help, I would be delighted to create a little slice of heaven for you. I’ll be heading home now so please excuse me, my first stop will be my study/dressing room to change out of my work clothes.
I have Springtime on my mind! This is a tough road to travel for an interior designer or anyone who lives in Chicago during the winter season. I want my clients to feel comfortable at all times, that includes telling me their honest opinion. I experience hesitancy sometimes when we are doing a project that requires outdoor furniture. My clients have said: we don’t have a long enough outdoor season, our summers are so unpredictable, we don’t live in Florida, should we even bother…I get it, I feel your pain too. However, we don’t have to live like monks (unless we are), yes Virginia, we can embrace the beautiful weather when it hits, so let’s get ready for warmer weather my little crocodiles!
You don’t have to live on an island or in the desert to employ some of these tricks. Why not try bringing nature in, consider neutrals or light colors, add greenery and light if you can, it will work wonders.
2. Having a great meal together is something most of us can agree upon. Many of us wish we had a terrific patio or terrace to entertain on. Not all of us have this lavish amount of space, but here are some tips we can use from any of these photos.
I really prefer round tables, look at this great lazy susan–genius!
This works very well in a more compact area
One of our clients has a huge pool area, this really helps when creating multiple groupings
Love this indoor/outdoor room, open the doors and let the breeze in!
Here is another great round table in a no-maintenance material
What a handsome mix!
3. Well now, let’s go out on a limb here…who doesn’t like to lounge around occasionally? Haha! Here are some gorgeous shots that are breathtaking as well as inspiring. So happy the sun is out today as I write this!
A nice mix of two different materials are shown on this furniture
These photos show there’s really nothing like teak!
Wicker and Teak, why not?
I find this quite ship-shape, ahoy!
Clean & Modern
4. The big obstacle I find as an interior designer is many of our clients lack the required space to lay out furniture. This is typical in Chicago and many other cities across the country, fear not–I have solutions for those of us who are spatially challenged!
Perfect grouping for a medium sized patio
This is perfect for a back porch, terrace, or fire escape if space allows
A compact dining solution in a happy orange
Stack chairs can be a real blessing
Sometimes all we have room for is a chair & table outside our door, this works!
5. I like to carve out little places to hide out, chill and take a breath, you’re welcome! Perhaps you have a little area we can convert into a delightful little haven.
Just outside the kitchen or a hidden corner of the yard
Perhaps off the driveway, behind the garage or near the pond
Perfect for those oddly small areas of hardscape
Why not seize the area off the kitchen for outdoor dining?
I hope these ideas will inspire you to enjoy the warmer weather. You don’t have to live in California or the south to enjoy your outdoor area. Cheers to warmer weather, ring me up–I know we can come up with the perfect solution for you!
Are you a good judge of character? This post is all about adding character to a room. Many of us think this comes from a paneled room, thick moldings or other architectural features. Yes to all of the above, we can also add character in other ways. This room is chock-a-block full of character although it is clean and simple. The space has a terrific bow window paired with handsome antique mismatched chairs and old table. Character can arrive from other elements such as a mantlepiece, a carved wood accessory, statement pieces of furniture or even a found object–let’s explore further.
Elements or Features
Wow, instant character! I hope this post will inspire you to move some things around your space. Is there something you have always wanted? It may be time to visit a vintage shop, antique dealer, or salvage yard. Other great places to go are estate sales and auctions, don’t forget treasure troves such as the attic or basement at your parents or other relative’s home. You never know what you’ll find, have fun!
Live, love, laugh and big hugs,
October is here, the chill is beginning to set in. Are cooler nights better for sleep? Many say they are. I have been focused on getting my home ready for the cooler weather and the holidays right around the corner. We are here to help you get ready. It is definitely not too late to make changes. Here are a few suggestions.
Modern, Spare and Warm
Cuddle up with a soft rug, real or faux
Let’s Get Cozy and Snuggle
Clean and Cozy
Modern and Rustic
A well placed throw can make all the difference
The shorter days make me want to sleep more, how about you?
Put another log on the fire and open the wine
A well placed daybed makes a great place for a nap or a cuddle
The right artwork is calming and restorative
Now that the golden hour arrives sooner I must time my dog walks earlier to enjoy the last moments of light. For some reason this is now my favorite time of the day. I love the crunchy leaves with the setting sun in the distance. What do you enjoy about Autumn?