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Bianco Carrara: a design star that continues to shine brightly

02.2021

An introduction to Bianco Carrara marble

Say the word “marble” and usually the first stone that comes into your head is Bianco Carrara. It’s little wonder, given how many extraordinary works of art have been carved over the centuries from the blocks transported from the quarries high above Carrara in Northern Tuscany. Of course, Carrara is not the only type of white marble in the world, but it is surely the most widely-known and at Salvatori, we have a special affection for it, because from the windows of our head office, we can see the mighty Apuan Alps which are the home of the Carrara quarries.

In the same way that certain foods and wines take their name from their location, for example, champagne or Parma ham, only marble that is extracted from the Carrara quarries can be called Carrara. All types of Carrara marble are not, however, born equal, and you can find varying shades, but the most famous of all is the Bianco, or, to give it its more prosaic English translation, white version.

This extraordinary stone is not only beautiful to behold, but also incredibly hardwearing and enduring. We can see the way it stands the test of time simply by the number of wonderful edifices and monuments built hundreds, if not thousands, of years ago, that still stand today, from the Parthenon to Florence’s glorious cathedral to David’s Michelangelo.
But Bianco Carrara’s fame doesn’t rely on past glories and classical architecture and art. It continues to be chosen by designers and architects today, who are just as enamoured and inspired by its special qualities as their peers of yesteryear.

So, just what is it that makes it so beloved? Let’s take a closer look at this enduring and fascinating natural material and discover how it is formed and extracted, its technical characteristics and then just some of the many surprising and innovative ways it can be used to add a touch of Italian beauty to everyday life. We promise not to get too technical or scientific, and, as ever, we’ll include plenty of gorgeous and inspiring photos, so let’s start getting up close and personal with the world’s most famous marble!

Bianco Carrara is an extraordinary stone, very enduring and versatile

A quick look at how Bianco Carrara is created

Like all marbles, Bianco Carrara is primarily made up of calcium carbonate and is the result of a long metamorphic process in which the calcite of a pre-existing sedimentary rock slowly, oh so slowly, is transformed over time by a combination of physical and chemical factors.

The calcium carbonate in the original rock recrystallises in a pattern of crystals, that are always completely unique. Most types of marble descend from limestone or dolomite, and the higher the level of calcium carbonate in the stone, the more calcite crystals are created during the metamorphosis and – this is the important part – the whiter the marble becomes.

That’s why, even in the same quarries in Carrara, you get different grades of whiteness, and the blocks with the highest percentage of crystals in their makeup emerge with that more uniform, compact and pure whiteness that is so revered in all sectors, from construction to design to sculpture.

An overview of how Bianco Carrara is extracted

The first records of Carrara stone being extracted date back to around 100 BC. Although extraction tools and methods have changed since then, it’s fair to say that those used today are not so different from the ones developed in the late 19th century, revolutionising the entire sector.

Two inventions in particular transformed the marble industry at that time. These were the helical wire and penetrating pulley which worked to simultaneously penetrate the marble and cut it into blocks. Today, this technique continues to be used, with the only major difference being that diamond wire has replaced its helical predecessor.

The technical side of Bianco Carrara

Like most types of natural stone, Bianco Carrara has its own specific characteristics that determine how it can be used and how it will age. As we mentioned above, it is extremely durable and hardwearing, able to withstand extreme temperatures and force, which makes it incredibly versatile as it can be used both inside and out.

Its low porosity means it also has a low absorbency coefficient, meaning it is suitable for tables and countertops or kitchen worktops, subject to the usual caveats when it comes to natural stone, ie, that it does not love acids, so it’s always a good idea to quickly wipe up lemon juice and the like before it seeps into the stone.

Because of its sensitivity to acid, not just Bianco Carrara, but any marble needs to be treated with products that slow down the absorption process and protect the stone so that it remains as beautiful in years to come as the day it was installed. As an aside, with over seven decades of experience (we know, that’s nothing compared to the metamorphic process, but it’s pretty impressive in the sector!), we always recommend an oil-water-repellent as a protective coating, and then, in terms of daily cleaning, just a damp cloth and neutral soap. Nothing too complicated!

Textures in Bianco Carrara

Now that you’ve had a mini crash course, you know besides being famous for its aesthetic, Bianco Carrara is considered superior to other marbles extracted from the same region due to its composition, durability and hardwearing properties. These are also the very qualities that lend it to being used in a host of different ways, from grand buildings and extraordinary works of art to small, but perfectly formed accessories and decorative pieces.

Over the years, we’ve had plenty of joy experimenting with it, adding just a small twist to its natural beauty. It’s the most versatile of all the stones we work with, and in fact, it is the only stone that is available in every one of our 16 of textures. We’re talking about:

Each texture brings out the gorgeousness of Bianco Carrara in its own way, highlighting various aspects and, in many cases, you may even think you are looking at completely different stones. That, for us, is the essence, not just Bianco Carrara, but any type of marble. Each is totally unique.

Well, we promised you gorgeous pictures, so let’s take a brief look each texture and see how it interprets our beloved white Carrara.

Honed

Honed is the most classic finish of all, found around the world in buildings, furniture, sculptures and accessories. It’s the only one on our list of 16 which we didn’t invent, but it’s a mainstay in any portfolio for its versatility and subdued, semi-matt finish which we consider elegant and neutral. We frequently pair it on the floor, for example, with one of our own textures on the wall, and the majority of items from our Home Collection, and many from our Bathroom range, are honed.

We offer a honed finish not only Bianco Carrara, but all our signature stones, ie Grigio Versilia, Crema d’Orcia, Gris du Marais®, Pietra d’Avola and Silk Georgette® as well as many others on request.

Bamboo

Bamboo is one of our oldest, and most popular textures, invented by Gabriele Salvatori and his father Alfredo back in 2003. Its clean, fluid lines make it a versatile choice, perfect for creating a minimalist yet elegant environment.

Available in Bianco Carrara, Silk Georgette®, Light Travertine, Pietra d’Avola, Grigio Versilia and Crema d’Orcia Select.

Chevron

In Chevron, an evolution of our Piero Lissoni-designed Raw, Bianco Carrara is cut in sharp ridges, making up an elegant and contemporary herringbone pattern when two tiles are placed side by side.

Also available in Crema d’Orcia, Pietra d’Avola and Silk Georgette®.

CNC

Inspired by the computerised numerical cutting machines he saw during visits to our factory, Piero Lissoni created CNC, this distinctive texture with its angular ridges that transform tiny chips and imperfections into charming design components.

Available in Bianco Carrara, Crema d’Orcia, Pietra d’Avola and Silk Georgette®.

Cotone

A contemporary take on a centuries-old sculpture technique, Cotone’s artful delicate scuff marks and ultra-matt surface create an understated, elegant texture, ideal for both walls and floors.

Available in Bianco Carrara and Pietra d’Avola.

Cuscini

In Italian, the word “Cuscini” means cushions and it perfectly captures the game of contrasts in this texture in which the hardness of stone is shaped to suggest the softness of a cushion, finished down to the smallest detail in the form of a “button” that completes the effect.

Part of designer Ron Gilad’s Soft Marble collection, a homage to the beauty of Bianco Carrara, it is also now available in Pietra d’Avola and Crema d’Orcia.

Infinito

This simple but striking texture plays with the idea of infinity, as its name suggests, creating a wonderful fluid effect, with each tile designed to line up with the next so precisely that the human eye can barely detect the joint between them.

Infinito is available in Bianco Carrara, Silk Georgette®, Pietra d’Avola, Crema d’Orcia and Gris du Marais®.

Ishiburo

Designed by Kengo Kuma, Ishiburo brings his fascination with the interplay between water and stone to life. Its irregular slender batons of natural stone are thrown into relief with the magic ingredient of lighting to create a striking, minimalist texture that is ideal for bathrooms, interiors and exteriors.

Available not only in Bianco Carrara, but also in Crema d’Orcia, Pietra d’Avola and Silk Georgette®.

Lithoverde®

Our flagship product when it comes to sustainability, Lithoverde® Bianco Carrara is 99% made up of stone offcuts, with the remaining 1% a natural resin used as a binding agent. Contributing valuable points on the LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) scale, the US Green Building Council’s international recognised benchmark when it comes to sustainable architecture, Lithoverde® delivers eco-friendly credentials without compromising on aesthetics.

Available in Bianco Carrara, Crema d’Orcia, Gris du Marais® and Pietra d’Avola.

Plissé

Taking its name from the French for pleat, Plissé perfectly expresses the effect of clean, crisp lines which plays with light to evoke a sense of lightness and continuity.

Supremely elegant in Bianco Carrara, it also comes in Crema d’Orcia Select, Pietra d’Avola and Silk Georgette®.

Rain

A continuation of Piero Lissoni’s explorations into Japanese design, Rain’s rhythmic and gentle pattern of vertical lines in moulded natural stone is an elegant interpretation of a rustling grove of bamboo stalks.

Available not only in Bianco Carrara but also in Crema d’Orcia Select, Pietra d’Avola and Silk Georgette®.

Raw

Designed by Piero Lissoni, Raw represents the ruggedness of hewn wood, translated in stone to create a striking rough-cut yet elegant effect that is decidedly fresh and unconventional in the world of natural stone.

Available in Bianco Carrara, Crema d’Orcia, Pietra d’Avola and Silk Georgette®.

Romboo

Romboo in Bianco Carrara is an example of how simple scraps of unwanted material can be given a gorgeous new life. In this case, we take offcuts of our Bamboo, and cut them on the angle then lay them together in such a way that they create a dramatic three-dimensional effect, especially with the additional of artful lighting.

Available in Bianco Carrara, Crema d’Orcia, Pietra d’Avola and Silk Georgette®.

Stone Parquet

As the name suggests, Stone Parquet is an interpretation in natural stone of traditional wooden flooring and can be laid in a staggered or classic herringbone pattern.

Available in Bianco Carrara, Crema d’Orcia, Imperiale and Pietra d’Avola.

Stone Tatami

In designing Stone Tatami, Piero Lissoni drew inspiration from traditional Japanese matting, creating a refined, understated texture that evokes the clean lines and tranquillity of Oriental design.

Available not only in Bianco Carrara, but also in Pietra d’Avola, Crema d’Orcia and Silk Georgette®.

Tratti

This texture was inspired by the idea of juxtaposing metal with natural stone and the result is Tratti, pairing Bianco Carrara in our Cotone texture with accents in midnight black painted metal.

Since then, we have also added Pietra d’Avola and Gris du Marais®, together with a gold-coloured metal option.

So, you can now consider yourself a fully-fledged Bianco Carrara expert, and we hope you, too, have become a fan of this incredible stone that is not only incredibly hardwearing and gorgeous to look at, but also extremely versatile, whether you are an artist, architect, interior designer or builder wanting to bring your ideas to life.

If you’re now feeling inspired, why not take a look at our website and see just how many hundreds of ways you can use Bianco Carrara marble to bring contemporary yet timeless design to your home or, if you’re in the sector, your next project.