Step up: by Ian Knapper

Over more than 25 years the name of Ian Knapper, the eponymous head of his company in Staffordshire, has become synonymous with stunning stone design, including the finest fireplaces, staircases and other sculptural and architectural stonework. 01538 722733. [email protected]

Stone has to be one of the earliest known building materials – so in some ways, you could say that we have had longer to refine the way we work with it than any other building material.

From dry stone walls to the finest marble staircases, stone is seen in man-made structures and buildings the world over.

So, what makes it so sought after in luxury projects? Why, when it comes to palaces, monuments, and some of the finest pieces of architecture, both historically and in the modern-day, is stone seen as such a status symbol for the finest luxury building projects here and throughout the world?

For me there’s a number of answers to those questions. One of the reasons stone remains popular today is that it comes down to us as a simple echo from the past.

For most of history, going back hundreds... even thousands of years, many of the stones, especially stones such as marbles that we can readily access now, were only available to the super rich.

Extraction, transportation and trading in stone was not easy, and therefore prestige stone was reserved for the truly magnificent and luxurious buildings where owners were insistent on making a clear statement about their place in society.

Next, stone is not a straightforward material to shape and polish. A natural defect in the material or a slip up during working and you have to start all over again. There is little room for error. 

By its nature, stone is solid and hard wearing, taking a skilled pair of hands not only to understand it but to create the intricate and precise shapes required.

Add to this the weight of it and engineering knowledge required to transport and install it, and you start to appreciate the decades of experience that is required for every project even today.

Stonemasonry is a highly skilled craft.

I believe there is an element of history in the material that also adds to the reverence in which it is held.

There simply isn’t another material that has been millions of years in the making and has contributed so much to the built history of the world. It’s a material that ensnares the senses, each piece telling its own story from geological time that pre-dates man – some of it even dinosaurs.

The beauty of nature is often talked about, and it includes stone. That’s sometimes what excites me about it, even today after decades in the industry – the intricacies created by nature that simply can’t be recreated by man. Stone is nature. It gives any project a natural gravitas that cannot be recreated by man-made materials.

Finally, and in some ways most importantly, stone gives a project a status that allows it to become a legacy that will stand long after you and I are gone.

If you look around, historic buildings, secular and religious, some more than a thousand years old, still stand as monuments to our predecessors – history written in enduring stone.

It is not just about looking good when it is first fashioned. Stone is a material that time enhances, developing its’ appearance from weather, wear and use as it obtains the much-loved quality of patina.

Fast forward hundreds of years in a stone building’s life and the chances are it will look and feel as good as ever.