Michelangelo, says Gabriele Salvatori, always thought that sculptures could be found inside of stone. It was his way of saying that masterpieces begin with material – and that’s something Salvatori, the CEO of his namesake stone company, understands intuitively. Headquartered 30 minutes from Northern Tuscany’s Carrara mountains, the largest source of marble in the world, the company has been cultivating a reputation for boundary-pushing product and high-profile collaborations with the likes of John Pawson, Vincent Van Duysen, Kengo Kuma and Piero Lissoni. More on them in a moment.
Indeed, Salvatori has been evolving from “a traditional stone company to a design-driven company.” It’s been developing new perspectives on an ancient material. “Stone is something really mystic and poetic,” the CEO says. “So many designers are constantly asked by companies to work on furniture, but stone is something really alive.”
Since Salvatori, whose grandfather Guido established the company in 1946, became its CEO in 1995, the company has been undergoing an evolution: it established outposts in Zurich, Milan and Sydney, and is rapidly growing in the U.S. It developed a network of stone suppliers who source new, innovative and novel product from quarries around the world. And true to Salvatori’s word, it has become design-oriented: it has developed its own bathroom, home and accessories collections.
Better still, the company has developed new ways to develop, ship and install their products. “If someone wanted a basin made from marble, they used to have to rely on local fabricators, someone that’s not involved in industrial production,” says Salvatori. “About 50 per cent of our business is contract – so high-end hotels, residential projects, condominiums – and it’s a waste of time and money to do things this way. So we tried to understand the problems one might have on a job site. Now, when you open up one of our vanities, all the tools an installer needs are inside the box.”
Screwdrivers, silicone and tape may be inside Salvatori boxes, but beyond job sites, the company is known for its outside-the-box collaborations. At this year’s Milan Design Week, for instance, John Pawson unveiled the striking Span table using Salvatori’s Bianca Carrara. Piero Lissoni’s ever-popular Dritto table (above) stretched stone to its technical limits, developing a table top that tapers down to 5 millimetres. Ron Gilad’s Soft Marble benches make marble seem malleable. And Michael Anastassiades, the London designer renowned for his lighting, used Salvatori stone to create a sculptural coffee table – which the CEO describes as “a piece of art” – and Azure’s very own 2018 AZ Award.
The company’s stone, in other words, has attracted Michelangelos of all stripes. Just don’t ask Salvatori to describe his favourite collaborations. “Look,” he laughs, “they’re all my kids. Certain products end up being more successful, but there are some things I love to do more than commercial products, things that involve experimentation and research.”
Salvatori’s approach to research has also impacted its commercial product – and its sustainability efforts. For instance, when asked about how the company innovates, Salvatori points to Lithoverde (below), which is a “melting pot of all the scraps we have.” Instead of sending broken tile and offcuts to the landfill, the company developed a method of layering scraps and binding them; the result is 99 per cent recycled stone, 1 per cent resin. The result is a brand-new block that can be “sliced like salami,” which can be used for floors, walls, kitchens and bathrooms. The product has become so popular that Salvatori has begun using waste from quarries and other manufacturers for Lithoverde.
Like many of their products, Lithoverde was noticed immediately by designers: Pawson, for example, used the material to build the House of Stone, an installation he showcased at Salone del Mobile in 2010. “It’s one of our most beautiful installations,” Salvatori says of House of Stone. “There are environmental benefits, of course, but Lithoverde turned out to be a beautiful product, as well.”
Michelangelo would surely agree.
This story was published in partnership with Salvatori.