Marble, tradition, technological innovation: the Opus collection illustrated by a company at the very cutting edge, Lithos Design, and by a designer, Raffaello Galiotto, who has put his love of natural stone at the heart of his research Lithos Design sees marble cladding as an innovative decorative element and tool for architects and professionals in the world of interior design, both for domestic settings and the contract industry.
With this in mind, the company is taking a further leap forward this year, introducing the Opus collection onto the market: comprising five models spread out in twelve different colour palettes that revisit the ancient art of inlay work, giving it a contemporary touch and lending it a more palatable appearance.
Opus is the perfect combination of past and present. While traditional inlay work is a unique work of art that is tailor-made, Opus is instead a ready-made inlay work: thanks to its ingenious modular formula, it solves first-hand all problems relating to sizing, design, colour combination, choice of materials, transportation and installation, which have always made this type of application more complex.
What’s the difference between classic inlay work and Opus?
Raffaello Galiotto, designer: Classic inlay work is a design that is reproduced in multi-coloured marble, searching for the most suitable colours and materials for each individual sketch, carving parts of it and disposing of all excess pieces. Opus is the reinterpretation of the technique and rendering of classic inlay work, proposed with designs that are reproduced continuously and that recall graphic concepts and languages. This collection of floors and claddings retains the superior styling and symbolic value of the natural material with the addition of a fresh contemporary feel that enhances the appeal of the ancient technique with a modern twist.
Alberto Bevilacqua CEO
What is the revolutionary scope of this project?
RG: Working with graphic concepts at the base of the Opus collection means also being able to study an excellent production process that involves topics such as limited waste, process economics and optimised installation. From an operational perspective, industrial inlay work produces a ready-made product in terms of colouring, choice of colours, technical solutions and it helps the purchaser who can see the end result first-hand.
Alberto Bevilacqua, Lithos Design CEO: Imagine wanting to create an exclusive, modern and easy-to-use designer surface yet one which is freely inspired by the major examples of ancient architecture, for instance the floor of the Basilica of San Marco in Venice… and that has the same intrinsic, if not historic, value. There, that’s what Opus is.
What technical-production difficulties did you have to overcome for Opus?
RG: The biggest difficulty was devising an industrial process that would take a superior-quality product such as Opus into mass production. Keeping in mind the capacities and the limits of the machines which process marble (numerically-controlled milling, water jet cutting and diamond-disc cutting), we created a different production process for each of the five models that make up the Opus collection: how it is cut, how it is joined together, how it is glued, how the finish is achieved. The 60 x 60 cm module is easy to fit and delivered in a completely finished form.
Using 25 different colours and marble types means travelling around the world: how are the supplies for the Opus collection organised?
AB: We are lucky to live in Italy, an area which in the stone and stone-working sector is unrivalled world-wide in terms of culture, tradition, experience, know-how and ancillary industries. A cross-roads of stone materials that makes it possible to select and source any material quarried in the world quickly and of the finest quality, benefiting from the profound expertise of people who have dedicated their lives to the pursuit of new quarries and new materials. This melting pot of know-how is the ideal breeding ground for entrepreneurial spirit, to optimise procedures for sourcing, storing and quality control, which are at the heart of the Opus collection, which is based on that product traceability that distinguishes genuine industrial design.
The Opus collection introduces a new dimension into your product offering, namely colour. Where did the idea come from?
RG: I love stone in all its complexities and stone has two inherent qualities: its sculptural and its pictorial appeal. In the past, I have focused more on the sculptural aspect, neglecting the pictorial one somewhat, although it has always fascinated me: in 2013, again with Lithos Design, we performed a study on the colours and colour renderings of marble with surprising results (Opus Motus video). Because marble is not just white, but rather a myriad of miscellaneous colours.
AB: When we develop our collections, the innovative and determining boost is our company’s need to innovate, in a continuous process that does not comply with set dogmas but rather whose main purpose is to create something different, something beautiful. The great variety of colours is one of the characteristics of the material which we process, and it was exactly what we felt ready to investigate and look into further.
Lithos Design introduces floors for the first time too…
AB: The natural consequence of developing a cladding with a smooth surface is the possibility of expanding its usage to floors, something which had been impossible with the 3D surfaces we had come up with until then. Although the product remains technically the same in its two different applications, the strong characterisation ensuing from the use of colours and from the particular patterns contributes to achieving an aesthetic effect with different accents depending on whether the usage is on a horizontal surface or on the wall, features which give the two applications two distinctive personalities.
Five models and twelve colour palettes, each with its own characteristics… Which pattern do you prefer?
RG: Mikado because it has a three-dimensional concept that enhances the final aesthetic rendering. Indeed, the coloured strips overlap one another on a single-colour background. The overlapping is achieved by a production process designed specifically for the first strips to be fitted and subsequently milled to create the intersection where subsequent strips will be positioned.
AB: Personally, I was blown away by the Tangram Ginger and the Mikado Cacao!
Tangram Ginger is a solution with a strong personality, for those who are fearless in their daring. Mikado Cacao is a mixture of energy and elegance, with an exceptional technical-aesthetic rendering and an ultra-sophisticated result.
What are the differences you find in the various geographical areas in terms of taste and market?
AB: The Lithos Design sales network is spread across the globe: when a new collection is launched, the biggest challenge is managing to offer something that appeals at all latitudes. Breaking away from set labels and the need to have the world as our reference market allows us and at the same time forces us to create products that are unconnected to local traditions or passing trends. The interior designer’s sensitivity
then allows us to localise the product in highly different contexts, recognising implicitly its multifaceted nature and going far beyond the banal globalisation of aesthetic taste. Up until now, we have worked in a distinguished fashion: the best sellers of each collection prove to be the same in almost all markets, with differences in preferences mostly related to the background colour of the material or to the materials used. We trust that Opus will follow the same pattern.
Why did you offer the Opus project to Lithos Design above all others?
RG: Because it is a very responsive company that knows how to experiment, even in a very conceptual rather than a commercial way, which is why certain collections manage to surprise and anticipate trends.
What makes you always go “beyond” in the pursuit of what stone can achieve, can express, that is new?
RG: It is a need, an intense emotion. Stone has many hidden aspects, which are new and fascinating and can in fact be revealed thanks to the use of modern industrial means.
You at Lithos Design were probably among the first to offer designer marble cladding with oft revolutionary ideas. Do you think that the market is now ready to begin looking at floors and claddings as fundamental items of interior design and not just as a “silent shell”?
AB: I think some major leaps forward have been taken in this respect. Designers and interior designers, with whom our engineering department liaise every day, include Lithos Design feature walls and partitions in their projects, seeing them as decorative elements which can stand alone, characterising within them the mood for any setting.
As regards marble in general, the material features known properties which, thanks to design, the world of architecture and interior design is rediscovering day after day, so it is making a come-back in terms of trendiness. Properties such as durability, salubriousness, the ability to age and gain in value rather than lose it, or the harmonic beauty of that perfectly studied aesthetic irregularity, which only one designer knows how to achieve so well: namely, Nature.