Stone in Architecture / Residential

Exotic stone creates nature-inspired design

A Pennsylvania residence incorporates the distinctive tastes of the homeowner with the qualities of nature through the use of various marbles and granites

April 1, 2013
Trans

The design goal for a residence located in the Pittsburgh, PA, area rested heavily on the personal tastes and existing ideas of the homeowner himself. Through collaboration with the distributor, stone suppliers, fabricator and architect, together they were able to accomplish the atmosphere most complementary of the owner’s prized possessions.

“The biggest challenge was to understand his taste,” said Bill Werder, President of Avanti Marble & Granite Inc., which supplied the interior stonework for the project. “Money was never an issue; I just needed to find the stone that was unique.

“The homeowner was a big game hunter, and he wanted earth tones and building materials that would mimic nature and the environment,” Werder continued. “The job was centered on the homeowner’s game collection; he was very concerned with his trophy rooms. Additionally, he possessed several Persian rugs, and making sure that the floor in the study complemented these rugs was very important to him.”

Werder took a hands-on approach in selecting the materials to be used for the project. “I personally travelled to Italy to locate and select stone that met the owner’s specific criteria,” he said. “I e-mailed many photos directly from my phone to the owner, during each supplier visit, to get his immediate feedback.”

A broad stone palette

While 2-cm Verde Borgogna marble was supplied in 24- x 24-inch tiles for the upper trophy room, the same size was chosen in 2-cm Rainforest Brown marble for the Lower trophy room. Upon arrival, however, further work was needed on the Rainforest Brown, which came from India. “All of the pieces we received were cut out of square by the factory,” he said. “We had to send them to a [local] shop to be re-cut before they could be installed.”

Additionally, there was an installation concern with regard to both the Rainforest Brown and the Verde Borgogna. Since both of these materials were produced with a fiberglass mesh on the back of the tiles for support, the installer was concerned that the mud-bed installation would not allow for proper adhesion to this mesh backing. “We researched it and discovered that there were acrylic additives that could be added to mixture of the mud bed to insure proper adhesion, but the installer was not comfortable with this,” Werder explained. The installer made the decision to grind the back of each piece before installation to be sure the floor would not fail. This is something they had not considered in advance.

“We worked closely with everyone and even shared in some of the costs to resolve this,” said Werder. “Also, the Indian supplier, Global Stone PVT, owned their mistake and issued us a credit to pay for the cost of re-cutting each piece of the Rainforest Brown. The client was willing to accept the slightly smaller size required to correct the problem.”

In addition to the trophy rooms, various types of marble flooring flow throughout the residence. The study features book matched Fusion, which shows the veining in a very dramatic fashion. This material also covers the pantry floor.

A warm elegant feel is created in the kitchen with Durango Veracruz travertine floor tile, which was vein cut and given a honed finish. The beige coloring of the floor contrasts nicely with the movement in the full-height backsplash and countertops made of Fusion marble. Adjacent to the kitchen, the mudroom includes Copper Star marble countertops.

The guest bathroom features Blue Eclipse quartzite and Durango Ancient Veracruz travertine for the vanity and the wall. 2-cm thick Sensation quartzite was used on the walls in the master bathroom. The slabs were installed with the veining in sequence pattern, creating a natural and seamless look. The floors were Durango travertine with accent tiles cut from the Sensation slabs. Additionally, the tub deck, vanity and dresser top were fabricated from the Sensation.

A collaborative process

“This whole process was an education,” Werder said about material selection. “The homeowner was previously educated in what he was looking for; he knew different types and colors of stone he was interested in and gave a lot of names and materials for Werder to work with. Alternatively, if a product was not fit for a certain aspect of the project, Werder was able to let his client know. “My taste in stone was very similar to his, so it was fun to do this job with him,” he said. “It was definitely unique working directly with the homeowner.”

In regards to the most complicated aspect of this project, Werder explained, “Working directly with the owner, trying to satisfy his desire to find the perfect stone for each room was challenging. At times it became difficult trying to manage his expectations and not overwhelm him. Since the cost of the stone was never really a factor, there were very few limitations and almost unlimited possibilities. He became most decisive only when the deadline to ship the material approached.”

While searching for the eventual $250,000 in stone used, there was a great deal of research, speaking to suppliers and waiting for the stone to be produced. “It took a lot of time,” he said, “I enjoyed doing it. A good relationship and trust was built along the way. Overall, it was a really challenging, fun, rewarding job. It was a rare job where we were able to use our strengths to create a fabulous result and satisfy a very selective client.”

The fabrication

The project was fabricated by Premier Granite & Marble of Carnegie, PA. In processing the stone, equipment included a Park Industries bridge saw, a Park Pro Edge III for all straight edge polishing and a Park Odyssey II for all CNC cuts (holes, radiuses, sink cutouts and ogee edges). “Everything was assembled here in the shop as it is in the house for all hand work and final quality control checks,” said Jim Radcliffe, Shop Forman, and Trevor Osbourne Project Coordinator, both of Premier Granite & Marble. For this handwork (blending seams, cutting notches, polishing edges and sink cutouts) an Alpha hydro-pneumatic hand polisher with several types of diamond grit pads and grinding blades were used. Installation tools included an Omni Cubed vacuum seam setter, hand lifters for carrying and sink saver support bars along with standard construction tools.

“The most challenging pieces to fabricate were the pieces that required perfect matching of the seams on both the study floor with the book matched Fusion, and also on the shower walls in the master bath with the Sensation, where the stone had to round the corners and still appear as if it was all one continuous piece,” said Radcliffe and Osbourne. “We also provided book matched Fusion on the full-height backsplash in the kitchen.”

Private Residence
Pittsburgh, PA

Architect: DeNinno Architects, LLC
Stone Distributor: Avanti Marble & Granite
Stone Fabricator/Installer: Premier Granite & Marble, Carnegie, PA
Stone Producers: Santucci Armando s.r.l., Italy (Blue Elipse); World Wide Stone Corp., Scottsdale, AZ (Durango Ancient Veracruz); Antolini Luigi & Co., Italy (Graphic Feldspar, Verde Borgogna, Septaria, Sensation); Stocchero Attilio & Co., Italy (Fusion); Marmi Graniti Favorita, Italy (Copper Star); Global Stone PVT, India (Rainforest Brown)

There were several trips made by Premier during the installation process. Each trip required two to four installers. “Due to the exotic nature of the stone on this project, each trip required extra handling and care, so a full workday was allotted for each trip,” the fabricators stated.

In templating the job, Premier Granite & Marble used a combination of hard templates (Luan strips) and digital renderings. “This allowed our customer the opportunity to come to our shop and lay out the templates on the stone at his preference and with assistance from our staff, so that a vision of what the final product would look like in the house could be produced,” said Radcliffe and Osbourne.

The fabricators explained that the most difficult aspect of the project was the layout of the kitchen with the full-height backsplash. This was because the material, Fusion, had a large amount of movement and dominant grain direction. Another challenge was presented with the handling of the Honey Onyx for the bar top in the trophy room. “Due to the backlighting of this stone, we could not install reinforcement rods into the stone, which meant extremely meticulous and careful handling throughout fabrication and installation,” they said.

Avanti Marble & Granite were awarded this job because of the trusted relationship developed between them, Premier Granite and their Pittsburgh salesperson. “The presence of our salesperson living in Pittsburgh was critical for the high degree of communication required between myself, the fabricator, the architect and the client,” Werder said.       

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