Business is good at Stone Forest
“For a small company, we get quite a few design awards.” Michael Zimber, owner of Stone Forest, was responding to the mention of two recent notices. The company’s Calma bathtub, carved out of a block of Marquina taupe marble, won Interior Design magazine’s “Best of the Year” award in the Bath Fixtures category for 2017. And the Papillon tub in Carrara marble was featured in a Wall Street Journal article, “The Wish List: Home Pros Pick Their Splurge Items,” last December. This bathtub is also available in black granite, limestone, sandstone, silver travertine, and Cumulo granite.
The Stone Forest product line includes copper, stainless steel, and stone kitchen sinks; sinks, pedestal sinks, tubs, and vanites for the bathroom; and stone fountains and lanterns (including Japanese Yukimi, Yasuga, Shinto, Wabi, and Oribe styles), birdbaths, fire vessels, benches, plinths, and other items for the garden and patio.
“We’re 70 percent kitchen and bath, but we’re wholesalers for kitchen and bath,” Zimber said, “so we supply a few hundred showrooms around the country, and around the world, actually, with these sort of high-end works all made out of natural materials.”
The kitchen and bath pieces range from classical European like the Bordeaux vanity to transitional and contemporary designs. The pieces are carved from single blocks of stone. There’s also a bronze and copper line, and pieces in iron, stainless, and wood. One of the firm’s unique new collections is the Industrial Series. The concept came from a pattern-making table from an early-20th-century factory. That has been reproduced and deconstructed for the cast-iron line that includes consoles, basin pedestals, shelves, towel bars, robe hooks, and toilet-paper holders.
One of the highlights in the Stone Forest showroom at 213 S. St. Francis Drive is a water wall — installed rather like a large, feature fireplace — made of a curved slab of black granite. The business shows scores of fabulous pieces in the showroom and in the rambling outdoor spaces. “What I still love the most is the garden works,” Zimber said during a recent visit. “Most of our income today is derived from the kitchen and bath, but when I started the business, a lot of what we were doing was traditional Japanese stone lanterns and basins.
The roots of the idea for Stone Forest came during the owner’s twenties, when he worked as a climbing and river guide. After being impressed by the close-up beauty of the rock in the cliffs he scaled, he began sculpting blocks of stone. He founded Stone Forest in 1989.
The company has a workshop on Agua Fria Street. “Our m.o. is that we’ll rough out at our workshop in Asia, ship here, and we do the finish work in the workshop. Every year we come up with five or six new designs, and we do a lot of custom pieces.”
He has personally sourced stone all over the world. “I spend a lot of time visiting quarries and choosing blocks. We’re always looking for new stone,” he said. “In kitchen and bath, our most popular stone is probably Italian carrara marble.” Other exotic beauties are onyx, Mongolian basalts, and Turkish travertines.
The company does a lot of work with architects, interior designers, and landscape architects, and there have been collaborations with artists like Tom Joyce and stonemason Tomas Lipps.
“We aspire to make architectural statements that will hold up over time. Elegant simplicity is the aim,” Zimber said. “We love contrast in texture, so many pieces alternate rough and polished surfaces. The whole idea of the business was to keep it simple and let the natural materials speak louder than any design you can think of.”
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