Financial Times - Cost ‘Rarely a Factor’ for Surface Beauty

22 December 2007

By Bob Sherwood

In the pursuit of ultimate luxury, floors made of hand-beaten repoussé metal, hand-distressed leather or even natural shell are in high demand.

And when the most obscure materials are required for lavish interior decoration, Alvaro Ziani de Ferranti is often asked to find them.

One client, for example, demanded a bath carved from a petrified wood log. Another demanded his tub should be carved from a solid block of rock crystal.

In an attempt to achieve that, Mr de Ferranti sent two men to live in Rajasthan for three weeks in search of a suitable block. Earth-moving equipment was brought in to excavate the stone, but it was damaged and eventually provided four basins. Nevertheless, the client was delighted by his “blocks of ice” wash basins.

After starting his business selling Portuguese tiles, Mr de Ferranti now specialises in bespoke surfaces for interior design and architectural applications. From his showroom in Fulham, west London, he supplies Roman floors, rare marbles, intricate stone work, mosaics as well as surfaces in leather, metal, bone and horn.

He goes to extreme lengths to find sources for the materials his clients demand. For example, one of his latest flagstone materials is only sporadically available and requires sending a representative, carrying cash and accompanied by two armed guards, into the mountains of north Africa.

Mr de Ferranti has also sent teams to Syria for black antique flagstones and been chased by gypsies in the French Pyrenees while trying to negotiate a deal for antique French flagstones.

He says cost is “rarely a factor” for his clients. “We have served dotcom millionaires, industrialists and retail billionaires, as well as Russian oligarchs.”

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