Ask most people where the finest marble and polished stone comes from and the answer is invariably Italy, which, indeed, has some very fine and beautiful stone. But ask the same question to leading interior designers, architects, luxury boat builders and discerning clientele and the response would now include British stones and marble. And this is due, in no small part, to Orlando Boyne who is spearheading a renaissance in the use of stones and marble from these islands.
Orlando is director of Britannicus Stone, the largest provider in the country of British stones, that take a polish, and marble. His sheer doggedness at promoting these inherent geological gems of Britain is reaping significant rewards. Clients with a luxury backdrop are increasingly specifying these products. For instance, Richard III’s tomb stone is a magnificent Swaledale stone supplied by Orlando, as too is the new beautiful walkway at Burlington Arcade in London – perhaps the most refined retail emporium in the capital. A recent collaboration with top furniture designer, Rupert McBain, resulted in a glorious bespoke table for a private client, and another with Stone Interiors produced a superb dining table resplendent with a Union Jack flag top all made from stone found in the British Isles. A total refurbishment of an 8-storey central London town house is nearing completion with Britannicus Stone having been specified throughout – for flooring, work surfaces, bath surrounds and even architraves and skirting.
Whilst British stone is certainly enjoying a purple patch, courtesy of Orlando Boyne, it is not the first time that these beautiful and often very rare British stones have been so highly prized. Last time they were, however, was around 200 years ago as a direct result of Napoleon’s malicious blockading of the Mediterranean ports to British ships. Starved of their cherished Italian marble, which allowed the aristocracy to parade their wealth so conspicuously, they had to find an alternative closer to hand. A courtier was dispatched to the north of England to find a suitable replacement; the net result was the establishment of the British stone and marble industry. The stones and marble rapidly became a key component of fashionable and luxurious interiors and respected furniture designers, such as George Bullock, regularly chose it: several of his pieces using Green Serpentine stone are now housed in the V&A museum in London.
Clients across the world are now specifying their preference for British stone. Its beauty is undeniable and being British certainly is a contributory factor for many, but its rarity is probably one of its strongest draws. In an age of mass production, easy facsimile of design and creation, products that are natural and scarce are highly desirable. Those fortunate to have the finances to use rare resources or those who seek the most beautiful elements to create exquisite furnishings and interiors recognise the true value of British stones.
Orlando Boyne says: “There is a real appreciation amongst leading interior designers and their clients for products that are different, that are unique and where cost is not such a significant factor. In short, there are a growing number of international clients that are willing to pay for preeminent quality. For instance, Ball Eye Blue from Derbyshire is so rare that there is currently only one block of it available but this seems only to increase its desire.”
British stones from Britannicus Stone are all carboniferous limestones which were originally laid down around 350 million years ago, when Britain sat over the equator. Their hard and compact composition, which can include crustaceans, sharks teeth and crinoids, allows them to take a polish using diamond brushes. The polish creates different types of surface finish from a more muted honed appearance to a highly polished and more glossy one. Different cultures tend to prefer different finishes but, in the end, it is all personal preference.
But the preference for Britannicus Stone’s array of beautiful stones seems far from abating and whilst Orlando still has the bit firmly in his mouth only the foolhardy would bet against British stone and marble increasing in popularity.