SAN ANTONIO, TX -- Materials Marketing, a fabricator of high-end custom architectural stone and tile, has opened showrooms this year in Dallas, Chicago and Denver. The new showrooms are styled on historic European mansions to help customers see the stone products within the context of a real home.

In each showroom, period antiques and furnishings create a home-like ambiance and show off the company's decorative tile, hand-carved stone columns, fireplaces, fountains, kitchen hoods and door surrounds. Integrated within the rooms of each "house" are assorted stone and ceramic tile samples, so customers can see the full range of products the company offers.

The Dallas showroom, which opened in June, recreates the grand Renaissance style of Andrea Palladio, a famed architect and stonemason known for villas, palaces and churches in Northern Italy. The showroom was inspired by Palladio's designs for two Italian villas built in the mid-1500s. It is entered through a replica facade and foyer with a colonnade of stone columns and pilasters. Other features are a grand staircase with hand-carved stone balustrade, a marble mosaic domed shower made from 25,000 polished tiles, and a two-story stone-clad wine cellar. Architectural design services for this showroom were provided by Dallas architect Eric Ullman.

The new Chicago showroom is upscale French Provincial, with d¿r based on an 18th century house near San Remy, once the home of the Geslot and Voreux families of Flanders. The restoration of the original house was recently featured in several French publications and Veranda magazine. At the Denver showroom, rather than replicating a real home, the design is based on a typical Parisian limestone townhome of the mid-1800s and decorated for a doctor who might have lived there, with period antiques and memorabilia. The showroom is in one of Denver's own historic red brick buildings, which was once a fire station. Architectural services to rehabilitate the building and preserve the exterior look were provided by Fisher Associates Architects & Engineers.

The showroom inspirations are the work of Materials Marketing Creative Director Marty Fahey, who conceived the idea of recreating real homes to escape the more typical warehouse look often associated with tile and stone showrooms. "[The] showrooms allow the customer to walk through an environment which looks and feels more like a home," Fahey said. "It allows for a more relaxed selection process and a more fruitful one because our products are shown in context with beautiful furniture, paintings, and wall colors. Customers might hear music or the sound of a stone fountain. It's a radical departure from typical industry showrooms, which tend to have acres of products tacked to white painted walls and are often neutral and cold. In that kind of environment, it can be difficult for customers to feel inspired or understand how their selections might actually feel once they have made their purchase."

Materials Marketing now has nine showrooms in the west and central United States, and plans another in the Los Angeles area by spring.