Designers embrace limestones to create warm interiors

Moving away from gritty stone surfaces, creators are discovering the softness of sandy travertines to introduce a calm sensuality to spaces and products.

Moving away from gritty stone surfaces, creators are discovering the softness of sandy travertines to introduce a calm sensuality to spaces and products.

The next chapter in the stone saga belongs to limestones in bright beige tones, with travertine taking centre stage. Whereas last year we saw rocks being carved into bombastic pieces with deep grooves, travertine’s softness lends itself more to curvy, fluid shapes. Designers are now avoiding sharp edges and highlighting the natural qualities of the material, instead of brushing or carving them away.

We see the stone appear as wall and floor covering in interiors, taking over from the ubiquitous marble. Emerging French designers use it in large slabs for statuesque, small-edition furniture pieces, while the Scandinavian brands start to bring it into their collections. The rise of travertine coincides with more interior designers switching to schemes that embrace beige in all its shades, with bright woods, and natural fibres like sisal and straw, creating depth and variety of textures to avoid monotony in what could otherwise be a very plain season

Travertine brings textural variety to a very beige season

Images: Courtesy of Studio Otto Felix, photography by Denilson Machado.

Brazilian architect Otto Felix used leftovers of Roman Travertine pieces to cover floors and walls in the Sibipuranas House, a showhome he conceived for São Paulo interior design fair Casacor. The unevenly shaped tiles cover most of the space, growing into mid-rise walls around the kitchen counter and bathroom walls. Their matte texture fits into the house’s theme of bringing nature indoors, soaking up the sunlight instead of reflecting it back as glossy surfaces would do. 

Images: Christophe Coenon

With his Console 03, designer Frédéric Saulou shows how to turn the tranquil quality of travertine into a visually impactful, yet delicate piece. He’s chosen an off-white Pierre de Bourgogne limestone for the slim pillar, which carries the fine brushed brass structure that glides into the stone. The combination of the pale stone with the golden metal creates a calm presence that doesn’t go unnoticed.

Images: Martin Massé

French designer and architect Martin Massé chose the Pietra di Medici limestone as the key material in his Orsetto collection, a series of limited furniture pieces. Rounded edges and circular shapes define the edition, which includes this low coffee table, putting the structure and grain of the stone into focus. Its massive top rests on upside-down domed feet, allowing the gaps to break up the solid appearance of the design for a voluminous yet refined look. 

Images: Francis Amiand

Dan Yeffet is another designer who enjoys transforming a rigid block of stone into a study of elegant proportions. For his Formation side tables, a slim tabletop was carved out from a Roman Travertine while the opening in the foot allows a little grey leather stool to glide in. The piece, which is produced by Collection Particulière, is another example where designers avoid harsh edges with this stone: all its corners have been rounded.

Images: fermLiving

By contrast, Scandinavian brand fermLiving integrated limestone in the autumn 2019 collection by issuing the existing angular Distinct coffee table in an all-travertine version. It’s one of the few examples where sharp angular contrasts prevail, playing up the tough quality of the stone. However, the polished finish brings out the wavy lines of the travertine’s grain, allowing for a sense of fluidity in this otherwise very rigid design.

Images: Menu

With the JWDA floor light by Danish label Menu, travertine is taking on the role of the supporting act. The stone serves as a solid pillar from which the slim metal stem, in a brass finish, extends. With its matte finish, it complements the opaque quality of the frosted glass. It’s a balancing act of thin vs. thick shapes that succeeds. And again, we see the stone carved into a round shape. 

Images: Duistt

At this year’s Decorex, Portuguese furniture manufacturer Duistt launched Copacabana, a large bookshelf, which shows how travertine can become a thoughtful detail. The design’s massive, asymmetric wooden frame is made from natural oak while the back is stabilised by two brass rods holding the stone slabs. It’s a combination of materials that could easily inform an interior scheme. 

Images: Erik Undehn

The combination of light wood and travertine doesn’t only work with furniture pieces, but also makes for serene spaces. Swedish interior designer Christian Halleröd commissioned this yellow travertine table in a Portuguese workshop and put it into the Stockholm store of fashion label Totême. The tabletop expands from an angular end into a round shape, mirroring the contrasting shapes of the room.

Images: Vaust Studio

An intriguing study exemplifying the materiality of the travertine trend comes in the form of this object by Vaust Studio. It’s part of the Toys series of objets d’art, capturing the collective’s understanding of Berlin, where they are located. The stacked discs are made from Navona travertine, dark oak, grey acrylic glass, and MDF covered with leather and ivory lacquer, all slid onto a shiny brass base. 

Images: Damien Arlettaz

Some designers are already giving us a glimpse of what’s next for travertine. Lebanese designer Najla El Zein started her Seduction series with pieces made from beige limestones inspired by intertwined bodies. This year, she added the Pair 06 for which she worked with Iranian red travertine for the first time, carving and layering the stone so it appears to be a soft, bendable material. We think the next wave of matte stone designs will be more colourful – just as we saw marble trend starting with black and white types before designers introduced red, green and pinks varieties. 

Travertine Console 02 with brass detailing by Frederic Saulou

Images: Christophe Coenon

Text: Marius Thies

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