Moderno Porcelain Works recently opened its first facility in North Carolina – increasing the company’s number of locations to 16. The company specializes in the fabrication and installation of large-format porcelain panels and slabs. Below is the second part of a conversation Stone World had with company CEO Roberto Contreras about the growing trend of porcelain slabs in residential and commercial design, and points of consideration when working with the material.
SW: There seems to be a surge in large-format porcelain slabs. Why do you think this is?
RC: The bottom line is this – there is a lot of sintered stone manufacturing capacity in the world right now. A lot of companies have invested in production facilities. Just look at Porcelanosa, Cosentino, Neolith, Marazzi, Atlas, Florim, Levantina, Laminam, Crossville, Coverlam, Infinity, Nuovocorso -- so many more. This is the next evolution of surfacing. It is here to stay.
You can make this material look like anything you want it to. The digitization technology now available can replicate the most beautiful natural stone in the world. Any material you want can now be replicated with such precision that it is difficult to distinguish between the real thing. It’s never going out of fashion because it can evolve with the trends.
It's also incredibly versatile. The applications are unmatched. The ability to use this material seamlessly indoors and outdoors is also an emerging trend right now. It is the only material that can stand up to all outdoor conditions.
Wellness and sustainability have become very important in our industry. As people become increasingly conscious of their impact on the environment and their personal well-being, they are seeking materials that are sustainable, non-toxic, and promote a healthy living environment. Mined materials like quartzite are very harsh on the environment due to waste at the quarry.
Additionally, as consumer demand continues to rise, the need for specialized fabrication and installation services will also increase. Skilled experts in these fields will play a crucial role in meeting the growing demand and ensuring the success of these materials. It is their expertise and craftsmanship that will ultimately determine the quality and longevity of the finished products.
SW: For what applications do you find large porcelain slabs are most popular?
RC: Today, the most popular uses are for countertops. Tomorrow, the most popular, I believe, will be shower walls. There is absolutely no better material for showers than large-format porcelain and sintered stone materials. The large slabs can be used to create stunning spa-inspired bathrooms. Their design potential is five-star hotel worthy, but they also provide a seamless surface that is easy to clean and maintain. Gone are the days of small tiles and endless grout lines.
The outdoor applications are also seeing a big rise in popularity. It has a high resistance to moisture, stains and UV exposure. The color will not fade or yellow. Quartz and other materials cannot compare. It can be used for everything from decking to outdoor kitchen countertops to pools. And, not just pool coping and surrounds. We are working on a hotel pool project now that will be completely surfaced in porcelain with a custom designed print.
Wall cladding and flooring are also great applications because you can take advantage of the size of the slabs. The large-format creates a sleek and contemporary look with design centered options, including vein matching, custom shapes and mosaics. Moderno is launching a Cut-to-Size Flooring Program to the trade that will offer full slabs cut-to-size in a standard template or custom dimensions.
In Europe, we are seeing it used a lot with furniture because you can create a strong veneer to build beautiful pieces. This is also perfect for outdoor settings. We have recently launched our first collection of fine furniture. The first in the series will include two coffee tables and end tables in select sizes, colors and finishes, as well as custom, made-to-order pieces. Our collection is made locally at each of our locations and available online.
SW: There are fabricators/installers who are hesitant to work with porcelain slabs. Do you have any advice for those who would like to try incorporating cutting and/or installing into their work?
RC: Not all sintered stone material is created equal. There are so many materials in the market and some brands that are much better than others. Just because it is called porcelain or sintered stone doesn't mean it was all made the same, therefore, they do not cut the same. Frankly, we have found that there are some materials that shouldn’t be in the market at all. They are too difficult to fabricate and too easily broken.
Transparency in the market around manufacturers needs to improve. We need to encourage distributors to disclose the manufacturer of their material. This is very important.
At Moderno we have a list of preferred manufacturers/brands we work with. If you are not on our list, we will not work with that material. If you want to be on our list, we encourage you to reach out and learn what our process is to be a preferred brand.
Countertops are still dominating the industry right now. Fabricators have become experts in that application, but not in all the other applications where large-format and sintered stone are being used. They are very used to staying in that lane, but that is going to have to change.
Traditional stone fabrication and installation methods do not work with this material. This can be costly in terms of breakage and the long-term investment in the right equipment and technology. There is a stiff learning curve to migrate to fabricating porcelain. It’s much harder than you think to fabricate and costly to learn. I would suggest if a fabricator wants to learn, they should develop good relationships with manufacturers so that they can test the materials, but they will still have to invest in the right equipment.
The other way to get up to speed quickly and the most cost effective, is to line up with Moderno as a licensee or franchisee.
SW: Is there anything else you would like to share?
RC: As I mentioned before, the industry is lacking a comprehensive network of fabricators and installers specializing in large-format porcelain and sintered stone. This is the next evolution in surfacing. Moderno will be the first to create a national network.
Our franchise and licensing offerings allow people in the industry to get up to speed quickly and get all the training and support of Moderno’s expertise and proven business model. This includes our purchasing power, our expert know-how, and our fabrication and installation methods, as well as our customer relationships.
We have two types of franchise models: Fabrication Franchise and Retail Franchise. Both have specified territories.
The Moderno Fabrication Franchise covers all aspects of the sale, measurement, warehousing, fabrication and installation of porcelain projects. There is only one fabrication franchise in a city. A Moderno Fabrication Franchise typically involves a 15,000- to 25,000-square-foot facility, which includes a showroom, office space, warehousing and fabrication.
The Moderno Retail Franchise is a “satellite” operation of a fabrication facility and involves only the sale, measurement and installation portion of the business. A Moderno Retail Franchise will consist mainly of a Moderno showroom, typically located in a high-traffic retail area, yet supported by a nearby fabrication facility (fabrication franchise or company-owned hub).
For experienced fabricators with a minimum net worth of $5M and two years of being in business, who may be looking to add this to their existing business, we have a specialized licensing offering, which provides all the benefits of Moderno’s networks without some of the complexities of a franchise.
If you are interested in learning more about these new opportunities and becoming part of our national network, I encourage you to reach out to us: email@example.com
Thank you very much for this opportunity to tell our story and share our excitement for the next evolution in the industry.