The rock with the props

Marble still signifies luxury and quality for real estate developers

Marble has the translucency and durability that captivates architects and designers. Since Roman times, architectural splendour relied much on this metamorphosed limestone, and still does today.

Once popular for sculptures, marble has more recently become a popular choice of building material for Thailand's property developers, looking to add a dash of history to the interior of homes and office buildings.

The presence of marble has an alluring beauty and sophistication that few other materials can match, says Srettha Thavisin, president of Sansiri, one of the largest real estate developers in Thailand.

"Marble is probably one of the few materials that offers an element of luxury, glamour and prestige to the design, especially with its diverse colours and patterns that can be picked to suit a particular taste.

"The timeless rock is an interior trend to watch," he remarked.

While marble from each country is unique, Srettha said Italy's Carrara Mountains is a popular destination to source the material because of its colourful history. Its namesake town is best known for its legendary marble quarries used to build the Pantheon and Trajan's Column in Rome, and a place with over 2,000 years of history.

The marble quarries of Carrara are housed in the valleys of Torano, Miseglia, Bedisano and Colonnata, where an abundance of white and coloured marbles can be located. It is common to spot flawless reproductions of Michelangelo's David in surrounding townships.

Srettha said the most sought-after Italian marble varieties are Carrara, Calacatta and Statuario. To the untrained eye, these stones may all look like the same type of white marble, but in fact are differently unique.

From experience, he said Thai homeowners and architects prefer marble patterns that are straight and unbroken, opting for natural colours -- nothing too loud. On the other hand, Westerners opt for the more unconventional patterns.

Srettha, speaking on the usage of marble at Sansiri's latest property, the 98 Wireless, said that while the majority of his company's designs in the past have been contemporary, the new one aspires to be a testament to timeless beauty, inspired by classical edifices in Europe.

After conducting an extensive study of classical architecture, they found that most of the material used in these buildings was made of natural stone, including marble and limestone. So the property developer travelled with his team of experts to source the material from the Carrara Mountains.

The hard work that goes into cutting marble can be seen in this quarry in the Carrara Mountains.

He explained: "In order to create each unique pattern in each unit, we wanted to make sure we had a wide selection. I flew with my team to select each individual slab directly from the quarry in Italy. This is the case with a lot of our projects, not just 98 Wireless."

There are special features in Italian marble that makes it stand out.

"Besides the unique patterns, the way designers have applied this material in art, designs and architecture has made it grander. The popular examples are the Pantheon, Michelangelo's Sculpture Of David and many more. So in other words it is like bringing Roman history into your home.

"Also, using marble in homes is a worthwhile investment."

Sansiri has been sourcing Italian marble for over a decade for their luxury condominiums.

"Marble from each country has its own character, thus the decision to use which one depends on the design concept of each project. Within architecture and design, the material used is defined by the abundance of that natural material in that region, i.e. in Thailand it is wood, in Italy it is marble. Therefore, it is no wonder that these materials become part of their design culture."

In his estimation, very few rocks boast of having as many applications as marble, which to this day is used for its beauty in architecture and sculptures. Stair treads and risers made from Brecciated marble and floor tiles made from marble in a variety of colours has become a trending fashion statement catching on.

Natural chemistry means marble is formed in a diverse spectrum of colours. When formed from the purest limestone, the colour is white. Iron oxide impurities in the limestone can result in a spectrum of colours such as pink, red, yellow and orange.

Marble in its rawest form.

Clay minerals, on the other hand, can create grey colours, abundant while bituminous materials can produce dark grey to black marble, while marble that contains serpentine often has a green colour.

"Although many high fashion brands have also been using marble as part of the interior of their stores, the use of marble is not so much a fashion statement, but more on the lines of having the same thinking in using a quality product that has its beauty from nature. There is a natural beauty in the marble, as the patterns are have been created from thousands of years of formation.

"This is in itself is amazing," said Srettha.

So just why do interior designers prefer marble over other rocks? According to Srettha, one of its unique qualities is in its permanence. When owners construct their habitats with marble or for that matter other natural stones they can be assured about the longevity of the construction. The fact that marble and granite are known to be some of the most heat resistant materials around only adds to its plus points.

When it comes to picking marble to compliment the interior of one's condo or house in a tropical country like Thailand, he said, for starters it is pivotal to conduct a weathering test; a system for determining weathering characteristics of materials and coatings. It is utilised to enhance product durability and as a tool for decision making.

"For instance, the Moleanos limestone imported from Portugal that we use for the facade of 98 Wireless, has been weather tested on its absorption rate in our humid environment," said the Sansiri executive.

"While working with a neutral colour such as palette, white marble can make small rooms appear more open. It can even be used to freshen up your home over spring and summer as it will add light to dark, confined spaces.

"Though marble can be grand and austere, if chosen wisely and used in small doses, the gleaming stone can add a classic touch to any decor."

Different ways marble can be used in the interior of a home.

About the author

Writer: Yvonne Bohwongprasert
Position: Senior writer