Italian-inflected stones and surfaces are a powerful way to transform your spaces. Ann Sacks’ Chief Designer DeeDee Gundberg has the inside scoop on statement-making collections that exude European elan and splendor. Magnifico!
From the Parthenon in Rome to the Duomo in Florence to the sun-kissed sidewalks of the Riviera, stone is ubiquitous throughout Italy. Whether overhead or underfoot, it’s one of the most versatile—and durable—surfaces, and an almost countless variety of options abound. Polished or rough-hewn, materials seem to suspend time and place, making them ideal for both contemporary and classic spaces alike.
And, indeed, there is a lot of celebrate, for designers and homeowners alike, particularly those who want to imbue their spaces with the spirit of authenticity, timelessness and artisanal craftsmanship.
“Italy is such an incredible source of inspiration for designers around the world,” says DeeDee Gundberg, Ann Sacks’ Chief Designer, “whether it's furniture, fashion, interiors, architecture, industrial design, or automotive design. Italian design is renowned for attention to detail, quality craftsmanship, beauty, and innovation, and that’s what we’re celebrating right now.”
Dating back 2.58 million years to the Pleistocene age, Dei Grigio is a splendid travertine from Tuscany whose surface is randomly mottled by small pools of mineral deposits and other slight demarcations, which evokes another coveted material.
“While Dei Grigio is limestone, its facial markings and mineral deposits almost make it feel like a tone-on-tone terrazzo,” says Gundberg, "giving it an interesting, modern appeal.”
Neutral, but never dull, Sorra is a chameleon of sorts, blending in with almost any decorating scenario. Its subtle coloring helps bring all sorts of other colors, patterns and textures together in harmony. Think of it as the little black dress of Italian stone—it can go just about anywhere.
“I love Sorra because it’s the perfect beige hue, with just a touch of cream speckles to give the surface some movement,” says Gundberg. “It tends to enhance the colors around it, and works with both warm and cool palettes, so it’s extremely versatile.”
Choosing a stone with strong visual interest and eye-catching appeal, without being overpowering, can be tricky, but there’s one that does both without screaming for attention.
“Crema Toscana is one of my favorite stones of all time,” says Gundberg. So much so is her passion for the material that she installed it in her own home. She adds: “With mesmerizing lineal ribbons of cream, beige and gray it goes with anything and is simply stunning.”
What makes Dei Grigio, Sorra, and Crema Toscana extra special for Ann Sacks is that each comes from the same family-owned quarry that has been quarrying stone since the early 1900s. (What’s more, their offices are clad in original terrazzo, and each room is a different color!)
“Olive trees and vineyards dot the borders of the quarry, producing fruit that is made into olive oil and wine,” says Gundberg. “Some say that the minerals from the limestone quarry produce the best olives.”
With the Pala collection, Bardiglio, Carrara, Nero and Palladium stones are featured in three distinctive designs, and the marble, limestone, and travertine stones feature a varying range of veining, mineral colorations and other demarcations. “Pala looks like the marble sidewalks of Italy, with their smooth, timeworn patina created over centuries of use,” says Gundberg. She adds that Pala is an excellent example of pulling details from the past to create something totally new and modern. It’s all about looking at materials that have stood the test of time—sometimes, for centuries—but with a fresh point of view.
“While each product is relevant and beautiful on its own,” says Gundberg, “what’s special about this particular grouping of products is that they all hail from Italy.” — DeeDee Gundberg, Chief Designer of Ann Sacks
Love the appeal of hand-applied plaster, and its sculptural characteristics and velvety finish? Then check out the porcelain Salluto collection, which is available in four colors.
“I love Salluto for the pure textural quality of these micro mosaics, and the juxtaposition between the uneven tessera and the orderly nature of the gridded mosaic. It makes for an incredibly beautiful controlled chaos.”
Need options? Including stone- and terrazzo-inspired formats? Look to Laurelhurst and its many faces.
“Laurelhurst is an interesting porcelain collection in that is was launched as one color in several different textures,” says Gundberg, “Typically, it’s one texture and multiple colorways. But Laurelhurst allows one to design a completely tonal space, changing up texture to create visual interest as he or she sees fit.”
The kitchen reno conundrum: It’s hard to decide where to splurge, easy to carelessly overspend; and the choices you commit to are lasting. Here, some industry pros talk honestly about where the money’s worth it, where not—and why. There’s one thing they all agree on: The easiest choices are guided by love.