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The DNA of Stone Design

by | Jun 21, 2019 |

Note: An earlier version of this article originally appeared in Masonry Design Magazine.

The author at a quarry in Northern Italy.

As a stone designer, I am intrigued with and will collect anything unusual extracted from the earth. Since childhood, I’ve been fascinated with the journey of a stone and inspired as an artist to find spectacular, awe-inspiring gems that will become a masterpiece in a designer’s portfolio.

Designers are always waiting for the rumor that something astonishing has been found, so passion can engineer gigantic ideas that will surpass our previous project. We seek to create a design that will pay great respect to the geological wonders.

One never knows how deep, far, or long one must dig, sifting through the dirt before finding a worthwhile stone. But once an unusual find is exhumed, it soon becomes the talk of the industry and the centerpiece to a new luxurious space.


Quarry Tales

Photo courtesy of Neil Landino for Gregory Lombardi Design.

The quarry has a mystical charisma that shimmers and whispers behind the shadows, releasing intense captivating stories and energy from the past. Natural stone like granite, marble, and quartzite takes you back in time and contains millions of years of geological history. It extracts secrets, history, and beauty. It creates a deeper understanding of the turbulent creation of our earth. As stone specialists, we try to understand and predict prehistoric materials and how they might be relevant today.

Passion for natural stone leaves many breathless and is the collateral for many sparkling unique friendships. I have met exciting, high-voltage collectors from all over the world who need tranquilizers when talking about their love of natural stone.

Stone projects of all kinds rely on imaginative design. When I see a new rock, I can’t wait to create its new use and locate its new home. The design world is small and the adventure to be the first to use something just discovered is a world of adventure for any stone professional. My design clients are always hoping to be the first to see new stone. They are waiting for my call alerting them that something new is on the market, perfect for the project they are brewing.


Turning Dreams to Reality

Photo courtesy of Gregory Lombardi Design Inc., Zen Associates..

Our quest to be surrounded by the marvels of Mother Nature is influencing design more than ever.  Once the unique stone has been found, we return to our blueprints feeling inspired. Design masters worldwide will use their talent and imagination to create a dreamy space that can shake our soul and make us feel brand new. Once we have procured the objects, we then seek the advice of stone masons and fabricators who will cut, grind, carve, and polish the dream into reality.

New England is a region that craves outdoor living spaces. With short balmy seasons, designs must be flexible, top performing, stable, and engineered with extreme weather consideration. Extreme freeze-thaw cycles can create an expansion that can crack, chip, and irritate elegant installations.

Ruggedly built spaces that remain delicate and worthy of royalty have designers like me on the hunt for materials that can stand the test of time. Natural stone serves as both exquisite and invaluable for the outdoor room.

There is a thin, almost invisible wall that divides the world of interior and exterior stone use. Walls of glass with continuous rock gardens allow one to enjoy these spaces year-round. Clever placement of natural stone can connect your home to the beauty of the outdoors.


Design that Awakens the Spirits of Another Time

Stone chambers and modern-day fire pits have us designing spaces that reach back to a time when fire was first used for warmth, protection, cooking, and bonding. We create these spaces as unique and intimate gathering spots that reconnect us, perhaps, to our ancestors.

Photo courtesy of Gregory Lombardi Design Inc., Zen Associates.

Outdoor kitchens embellish our landscape and have become works of art that draw us to the outdoors. They yank us from the screens of our electronic devices and return us to simpler times surrounded by the stars, wind, trees, birds, and wildlife. Outdoor spaces give you a spot to hear yourself think, dream, appreciate, and improve.

There is nothing like the original New England recipe for using natural stone. There is something magical about driving down an old country road and seeing earthy, moss-covered, textured patina covered rocks that some of our greatest writers have written about.

I am only one writer among many who enjoys telling this tale. Writer John-Manuel Andriote writes in his incredible article about geologist Robert M Thorson’s study on the walls of New England: “It was American Poet Laureate Robert Frost, perhaps more than anyone else, who imbued New England’s stone walls with mythological significance. Frost’s poetry helped solidify the heroic, all-American image of the Yankee farmer — independent, self-reliant and resilient — standing up, defiantly, to the relentless stone.” Thorson says that for Frost, “stone walls were more than symbols. They were oracles.”


The Enduring Legacy of Natural Stone

The fusion of wood, glass, stone, and metal truly awaken my design spirit as an artist. I have been weaving these materials together since I was a teen. These unique combinations support each other and cast their own spell. Unique stone structures tell dazzling stories that speak to stability and the significance of preserving our great outdoors. Natural stone remains popular because it sings the rhythm of the earth.


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