Words by Emily Brooks
The art deco Villa Serralves, which sits on the edge of parkland in the suburbs of Porto, Portugal, is Instagram-famous for its gorgeous curves and colonnaded rooms, but mostly for one room in particular: its master bathroom. Part of the villa’s interiors designed by Alfred Porteneuve for textile magnate Carlos Alberto Cabral, it features a sea of pink marble, cladding the walls and floor, and forming the generous tub-surround and pedestal basin (the loo and bidet were discreetly tucked behind separate doors). Paired with mirrored sections edged with brass, it looks impossibly opulent to modern-day eyes – so goodness knows how glamorous it must have seemed when it was first completed, when plumbed-in bathrooms were still a rarity.
Whether Villa Seralves is responsible for the growing popularity of pink marble in interiors can’t be measured, but there’s no doubt that it is on the rise. Lending warmth and opulence to an interior, pink stone can be used in many different ways to create impact – and although it sounds like an out-there trend, it can be subtle too.
It’s especially popular in the bathroom: US designer and lifestyle guru Anthea Calderone’s own Brooklyn home features Rosa Aurora Macchia Vecchia marble, sourced from local supplier ABC Worldwide Stone (Calderone says that she asked her husband: “Are you man enough to shower in a pink bathroom?” to which the answer was “Hell yeah”). With its Murano glass chandelier, the room is undoubtedly romantic, but the stone she has specified is not your typical girly pink, however: the veining may be on a bold scale, but the colours are pale blush and tawny, streaked with grey. Calderone uses it to clad the shower (including the floor), incorporating a low shelf for storing towels and toiletries; it also features as a vanity top and splashback around the basin.
You could go all the way and have a pink marble bath too – in fact, the original bath at Villa Seralves was marble, but a later owner found it too cool for bathing in. For something that doesn’t compromise on the performance of the bath, opt for cladding the outside in an eye-catching stone. Interior designers Decus (based in Woolahra, near Sydney) used a pink- and rust-toned onyx for a project in Sydney, for example.
Many designers are using pink marble tonally, tying it in to other warm-coloured materials to create a harmonious whole and dampening down any sense of ostentation. In the Decus bathroom project mentioned above, a concrete floor the practice describes as a ‘dusty rose’ colour picks up on the swirling onyx, for example, and the brassware in finished in rose gold, while Flack Studio has designed a Melbourne bathroom featuring a pink marble vanity and floor that blends into walls and joinery the colour of setting plaster. These colours are all subtle, grown-up and complex, not in-your-face pink.
In the Melbourne suburb of Fitzroy North, architects Wowowa have designed a red-brick house with copper architectural detailing: inside, the same brick is exposed, but it is paired with natural timber and glossy pink marble used to clad a smart bar area. There is a wonderful sense of flow and continuity between inside and out, and the mix of rust- and pink-toned materials means it’s calm but never boring.
When pink marble is used with contrasting tones or materials, inevitably the style is extremely minimal, again to avoid that feeling of excess: think deep basins that are completely monolithic, with unfussy wall-mounted taps. This certainly allows the marble itself to do all the creative expression, and push the focus on to the beauty and variety of the stone itself – thousands of years of history, compressed into one gorgeous pink slab.
Five pink marble to stones to source:
· Rose Bahia: quarried in Brazil, this stone features a girlish peachy-pink alongside bold celestial swirls of grey and black
· Rosa Aurora Macchia Vecchia: A Portuguese stone with blush and tawny tones, streaked with grey the colour of a cloudy sky
· Estremoz Crème: if you like subtler shades and less bold veining, this Portuguese marble in palest pink, grey and cream could be the one
· Rosalia: fine dark-red veining contrasts with a beige-pink background in this Turkish marble
· Norwegian Rose: quarried in Norway as the name suggests, this marble has an evenly distributed pattern of pink, white and grey merging softly together
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