Marble has always been bespoke. If you look at the columns of ancient buildings or the floors of old churches, natural stone has for millennia been cut specifically for the place it is intended to be used. It was only recently, in the 1950s, that the industry changed, with marble slabs being cut into standardised one-foot by one-foot tiles to simplify export to America. Now nearly every stone company in Italy produces marble in this format.
So we certainly didn’t come up with the idea to offer a bespoke service, but we have kept the original ways of cutting marble as an option for our customers. And in recent years we have worked at standardising the bespoke side of our business, developing a system and using technology that simplifies the process. It’s easier today, for example, to work remotely on floor plans and products that are not standard, and to measure and cut the stone to specific measurements using lasers and ever more sophisticated machinery. We can now send a file straight to the factory floor, where a machine will understand and reproduce exactly what the designer had in mind. Much has changed from my early days at Salvatori, when measurements were still taken by hand and worked up into technical drawings by skilled draftsman.
And yet, despite the technology now available to us, there is still a real need for a skilled and experienced professional who understands the characteristics of natural stone and can interpret what the designer or architect intended. Our bespoke service depends on expertise like this – it’s a still a very artisanal process which cannot be fully automatised. Just like a tailor, the bespoke team need to understand not just what the client wants but how the space will be used.
As a result, little by little our team has grown to include experts in materials other than stone, in metals and fabrics and wood, in lighting and the use of laser scanning and 3D printing, as well as being able to continue to draw on over 70 years’ experience in natural stone. It’s this expertise that enabled us to build an enormous curved staircase in a rare, ancient stone for a villa in Russia, which we installed on a replica support we built in our warehouse to ensure everything fitted perfectly. It’s also meant we could find marble identical to that originally installed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, despite the quarry having closed down, and create exact replicas of the intricate sculpture bases.
It has been a big shift for us, developing our bespoke service in this way, but we are now the only stone company to understand stone in such a holistic way. We can offer the security of knowing that there is one supplier who is able to check that everything works together, and who is involved in the project from the site survey to fabrication and installation. We may have started as a marble company but Salvatori can now offer much, much more.
– Gabriele Salvatori –