Posted by: Fonte Dei Marmi | August 25, 2011

Ever wondered where the marble comes from?

Labradorite River Blue

Labradorite River Blue

We named our company Fonte Dei Marmi (The Marble Fountain in Italian). It seemed appropriate as we specify, design, supply and install bathrooms as well as kitchens; two areas of the house that specifically mix water and marble. Marble is an excellent material for use in these areas, so it comes as little surprise that plenty of shower enclosures, kitchen floors and bathroom walls are finished in the stone. The question is, how does it make the journey from being dug up are millenia to something you see through the soap in your eyes every morning?

Lapis Lazul iOriginal

Lapis Lazuli Original

So, where does the marble come from? Well, that depends on the request that we receive from the client. Clients will often be looking for a certain colour and/or style of stone; perhaps to be a close approximation to elsewhere in the house, or to just fit the memory of some stone they saw last time they were on holiday in Italy or wherever. Whatever the reason, step one for us it to track down the quarry (or quarries) that are able to supply stone to the specifications of colour, grade, finish etc. Stone is found all over the World of course, which can lead to some interesting conversations with people in far-flung corners of the globe, and some interesting trips! The majority of stone that we use is sourced in Europe, specifically Italy, but it also comes from further afield with Africa and South America being regular sources too.

Empire Gold

Empire Gold

Once the quarry has been located, the material MUST be inspected. This is where so many companies fall down. You have to have someone with knowledge on site to look at the blocks pulled from the ground (natural stone is quarried in huge blocks which is later cut into slabs). A trained eye can tell from that block the degree of veining and colour “travel” within the stone to a rather precise degree. They can also spot defects and sub-standard or lower grade product. Without a knowledgable person on site, the quarry will try their best to ship the lower standard product at the higher standard price. And once you have put your name on a block, that’s it, it’s yours, bought and paid for with thousands of pounds, so mistakes are expensive and best avoided.

Quarry blocks

Quarry blocks

Once the blocks are cut into more manageable slabs and the transportation is taken care of, and the seasons have changed (shipping stone around takes an age. Minimum eight weeks, but normally double that), the rough stone now needs to cut and finished. This is a highly specialised task and not something that your local builder can do with a chisel and an orbital sander. The machinery involved is just massive, cutting is slow, polishing is slow but the results are outstanding. There is no better material in the world. If you get the right type … get it wrong, or try to do it on the cheap and the results will haunt you for the rest of your life, or at least, the rest of the time you live in that house.

Arabescato Orobico Grigio

Arabescato Orobico Grigio

As mentioned above, most of our marble comes from Europe, and in particular Italy. Verona is a great source of material, and Sicily, where one of my favorite stones (Breccia Pontificia) originates. Often found adorning the walls of Italian cathedrals and the Vatican, this stone can be “book-matched” (imagine the block being cut into slabs to match the way pages are in a book, thereby replicating (in reverse) the veining all over the surface). Sicilian Diaspro Breccia is another favourite, coming in a multitude of shades of burnt umber, there is nothing quite like this either and is used for both floors and walls.

Breccia Pontificia

Breccia Pontificia

Brazil has stunning granite in a range of light greens, when cross-cut a stunning mix of colours are revealed. Scandinavia has volcanic Obsidian, known as Black Beauty formed over a million years, it has the same chemical composition as glass and polishes to a very high gloss finish.  Angola is the source of another granite, Brown Antique, the name is an understatement, its colours run from velvet golds to waves of varying blues.

Brown Antique

Brown Antique

Bronze Armani will bring in a wow factor to your living space, the area you choose to relax, creating an oasis of warmth and calm with a  fiery bronze wall to gaze upon while you think about the millions of years it has taken to be created.

Black Beauty

Black Beauty

As you can see, it’s not just the Bianca Carrara and black and white onyxes that we are used to seeing that are out there. Next time you plan a bathroom project or flooring area that incorporates some marble, dare to step out of the normal, perhaps design a  feature wall or a floor incorporating a book matched pair of marble slabs in the centre or a stunning semi-precious slab that glitters in all lights. You’ll be glad you did it.

Onice Rosso Orientale

Onice Rosso Orientale

Desert Lagoon

Desert Lagoon

Posted by: Fonte Dei Marmi | May 3, 2011

Bring the shower to the barbecue!

Today is the first day back at work after the Easter break in England.  April 2011 seems to have been one of the warmest on record. As we have been outside in our gardens all weekend with the barbecue roasting in the sun, it occurred to me to look seriously at building an outside wet area. Only a week ago I was reading two blogs – one by Andrew Dunning, a good friend and talented interior designer, the other by Karen Brimacombe from Reed Harris Tiles – both of them talking about taking the inside of the house outside with a seamless transition  from the kitchen or lounge to a patio or tiled area.  It’s going to be a hot summer, Fonte Dei Marmi do not just supply bathrooms, we work with clients from  a concept, a request to design a functional yet beautiful Bathroom, Kitchen or both. Applying the design method to a garden what could we bring from inside the house to complement a summer barbecue?

Over the years I have been fortunate enough to travel on many trips abroad, I have seen many weird, wacky and stunning homes with magical gardens, and often in countries with very different climates from our own.  While visiting friends in Florida, Carribean, Maryland and the Mediterranean often visiting friends the oportunity to explore other peoples homes and gardens was really exciting and interesting.; in each of those destinations the weather can be extremely hot, humid, and even uncomfortable. It is for those types of climate that we begin to get creative – the hotter it gets, the more we need to bathe, relax and freshen up, showering a priority.

This Easter in England the temperatures have been exceptionally high, talk of global warming gathers momentum and I wished I had a swimming pool! Remember we    are talking about Easter in the UK here and so far we have been to three barbecue events.

Bringing the inside out

Bringing the inside out. Courtesy Reed Harris Tiles

In Karen from Reed Harris Tiles’s blog she mentioned the sunshine: how it makes us all feel happier and more alive, and how having a seamless transition from a tiled floor inside the house flowing out on to a patio can encourage us to spend more time outside in the summertime in an area of the house which is actually designed to be used, rather than not designed at all and left as an afterthought. Brilliant concept I say.

Now the weather is hot, let’s explore the use of tiled areas just as we do in the bathroom to build a showering area for a hot afternoon or evening. Interestingly, outside we are not tethered to such dull constraints as four walls and a door, and that means we can create! A stone step to rest our feet while washing them or indeed a low wall with a recessed seat, an adjustable swivel shower head so one can lie in the sun while showering under cool rain!

One material I love to work with is wood and bathrooms indoors present a huge challenge with all that water and damp air. We have talented carpenters and joiners capable of building marvellous wooden spiral staircases, bathroom cabinets and worktops yet so often we will opt for stone to match the floors. So if we are designing a shower for out in the garden we can perhaps look at raised decking as a platform for a standing shower area that can be lifted for cleaning access. I have often seen walls and standing areas made from Brighton beach pebbles set in cement. If a screen is required frosted safety glass can look attractive and lend some privacy.

Choosing your shower and tiles is most important of course, the stone you use will determine how it will look when finished.

Tiles must be anti-slip in my opinion with youngsters running about on lawns with wet feet – an outdoor shower is a great attraction for the children and the idea of walking into the shower at will is fabulous while working a hot barbecue. Marble is attractive but unless expensive grooves are to be cut by a fabricator a honed natural finish is a better bet. Crema Marfil or slate can look the part as in a garden often less is more – save the brighter colours for inside, maybe a splash of colour on a feature piece to draw attention but keeping it stylish. Blending the showering area with the natural colours of the garden can look very pleasing on the eye and classy at the same time. Natural stone, even granite can give you a superb outside finish with little or no real maintenance needed. Granite has a natural anti slip surface texture and has always been a favourite; I have used it on driveways, fireplace and outside steps as well as a kitchen floor in a barn conversion.

Drainage is really very simple, again like inside the house a shower or drain gully with removable cleaning filter. A Harmer stainless steel strip will look good set in to Cornish granite or Welsh slate. McAlpine make some very attractive square and round drain gully designs, available from most plumbing trade merchants.

Beach Showers

Beach Showers Courtesy Sterling Pool Co., Inc.

What shower do we use in a garden? In hot countries often one will see a shower pole standing every fifty metres along the seafront. Miami has many: Ocean Drive, where we lived for some years had very efficient, manually-controlled examples. It is so hot that you would only want cold water, so an on/off button suffices – great for rinsing sand off before going in the house – no need for thermostatic valves or really any temperature controls here. Remember, that the garden shower is really for use only on hot days. Thermostatic valves, handsets and hot water system are in your main, indoor bathroom for the year-round showering routine!

Installation of a garden shower is very simple. Think about how you water the flowers with a garden hose running from a bib tap with a wall mounted union. Using 15mm or 22mm Polypipe buried under the lawn is your alternative. Water pressure must be around a minimum1 BAR to supply a good spray. Depending on the budget copper pipes and compression fittings can be used but these days push fit systems are very common.

Depending on the shower tower or pole you choose to buy you may need a pump installed in the house, near the garden to boost the pressure. Make sure you find out before buying anything, a little research will save you time and money. Remember as soon as you introduce a pump to the system electricity is required so safety and an electrician are to be considered.

Outdoor shower

Outdoor shower Courtesy Anthony Ong/Camera Press

Building a garden shower is pretty simple compared to installing inside your home. Most importantly the water has to be taken away without seeping into the footings, causing any structural damage to property. Consulting a plumber and/or builder is a must though. Look around the garden and see where the house drains are located – water from the guttering will be a clue. A 40mm waste pipe with a minimum 4ofall on it will run waste shower water to this drain or away to another.

Locations for any water feature or garden shower need to be thought out and planned very carefully: away from quiet areas for seating or the outside dining table. If you have children they will be in the shower non-stop, I know, so build it away from chill out zones and decking!

Of course just like any bathroom at home you don’t need a massive area to have a shower. If you are pushed for space a 700mm x 700mm tray can be used and installed much like indoors except you won’t need any glass! Most of us are not lucky enough to have a swimming pool in the garden, yet a showering facility takes very little space and can be just the thing after gardening or a hot day in town. A fixed shower head can be fitted on to a wall for example or an exposed shower with a rigid riser used up from the ground so you need not hide any pipework. Again remember that water has to be drained, just because it’s outside does not mean it’ll magically disappear! Because of the possibility of soap and shampoo being used causing contamination it may not be re-cycled as grey water for the garden.

Lighting can be great fun in gardens too, positioning spots and coloured LED’s under and at interesting plants and trees can be very relaxing as the Sun goes down during transition to nightfall. Soft lighting on running water is a favorite with me, the sounds of splashing water on stones cutting through that humidity!

With any outside lighting systems, keep it simple with easy to understand switches installed by a lighting electrician.

With the shower installad you’re all set for the hottest summer on record,  I’m told Michael Fish the BBC weatherman will be cooling off in his garden shower  and he’s always right!

If your fortunate to have a reasonable size garden an outside shower can be a great way to keep the young family and their friends occupied while the food is being cooked on the barbecue and the papers read in peace.

There are many shower towers on the market that are easily adaptable for installation outside, Grohe, Hansgrohe, Novellini and Vola are just four examples.

As I finish writing this, the heat is rising in the London evening and I wish I could walk out under a cool shower, in my shorts! …Yes, don’t forget you have neighbours!

Outdoor shower

Outdoor shower Warren Heath/Frank Features

Remember, the design for your outside shower space is limited only by your imagination and practical issues combined.

Be Inspired!

Posted by: Fonte Dei Marmi | March 23, 2011

The budget impact on FDM

The Chancellor has now gone for a well-earned break from the despatch box, his colleagues and members of the coalition are busily bouncing around the various TV and radio stations extolling the virtues of his words, and members of the Opposition are not far behind them, advising the country just how dire everything is and how they would do it all better.

Leaving party allegiances aside for the moment, let’s focus on the words that were used and how that would affect Fonte dei Marmi, the bathroom industry and potentially industry in general throughout the UK.

The Chancellor used on numerous occasions throughout the speech – three times if my memory serves – a phrase implying that the UK should be the best country within Europe to “set up, finance, and grow” a business. So, did the budget actually make that any more likely? Let’s take a look …

We’ll not dive into every single part of every single policy that was mentioned; I’ll leave that to the BBC and Sky today and the newspapers tomorrow. What we can dive into though are the fundamentals:

The basics of any business are pretty simple: get money in by selling products and/or services, spend money on the cost of providing that/those products and/or services to the client, and if all goes well, keep the difference between the two numbers as profit. The one thread that runs through each of those aspects (as well as many others) is tax. That’s what the budget is about … how much the Exchequer needs, and who pays it. So, here we go:

Getting money in

A business must get money in through the front door otherwise it not a business, it is a building open to the public. So, we have to turn our attention to the disposable income for people. In summary, the answer is not brilliant actually. Growth forecasts have been revised down for 2011, and surprisingly, were revised down for 2012 as well. It bodes well for 2013 and beyond, but for now, not great. It means that people will have less money in their pocket because there will be less money around in general.

If we also consider where much of the money comes for our business – employees in the city and other big business it is better balanced than it would be for those of us in non-finance industries, but it is still slightly negative. Tax has been increased on the banks – by way of the continuing levy – and potentially on oil companies by way of the fuel stabiliser. To counteract that, big business costs are reduced by simpler tax rules and lower corporation tax.

To summarise: if your customers work for big businesses you should be OK; spending will be down a bit, but not much. If your clients are from other business sectors, expect a slowdown in spending.

For FDM: could have been worse, but it could have been a lot better.

Costs of doing business

The biggest cost for FDM, which is normal for a small business, is the cost of supply of the product we sell. On that front, things today have been a bit volatile as most of the products we sell are from Europe originally, and frankly, every word uttered by the Chancellor was making the Pound tank further, raising the cost of purchasing products from the Eurozone. At the time of writing this, the Pound has recovered slightly to regain about half of what it lost during the speech.

As the day pans out, the Pound will probably recover as it dived based on the reduced growth forecast. The net result of this is that the price of purchasing products will be marginally higher, but not much. It would almost certainly have been factored in by suppliers in their original pricing. So, not too bad.

When it comes to the other costs of doing business, we seem to be much better off:

Changes to tax rules will certainly make things easier come the end of the next financial year. That will make a minor difference when it comes paying the accountant next spring. The big piece of good news for us is the cut in Corporation tax: there was an expected cut of 1% which has been upped to 2% for the next financial year, with additional 1% cuts per year for the following three years. Happy days. If we are able to turn a profit, and let’s face it, if we don’t then there is no point being in business, we will be able to keep more of that profit in the company.

The reduction in fuel duty is of course welcome, but it doesn’t amount to very much for a business like ours. Of course it is also helpful that the fuel price wasn’t hiked up by 5p today. The fuel stabiliser, although announced today, really has very little meat on the bone at the moment and that could still come back at a later time to bite us all in the bum.

For FDM: Very happy here


Aside from the potential merger of tax and NI, and pension changes etc., a very encouraging move announced today, and one that FDM specifically will be looking at in some depth, is the huge increase of apprenticeships. Apprenticeships in my view have always been the best way of getting school-leavers into work, and to expand the scheme to the degree announced is probably the most useful announcement of the afternoon. Of course there are details to be looked into, and the devil in there found, on the face of it: good move, George.

For FDM: Pretty happy, and something we will be looking at in detail

Raising capital

Every company needs capital from time to time; whether that is just a stop-gap measure or something that is longer term for growth, the banks need to step in and be able to help. Since the economy imploded in 2008, bank funding has been right up there with hen’s teeth in terms of availability but once again the Chancellor promised that more banks would make more funds available. A 15% increase specifically. Obviously a welcome move … in principle. Sadly, it is dependant on the banks to enact this promise and despite the fact that some of them are owned in large part by the tax-payer, they are generally not too happy about lending their money out. Finger’s crossed that they change their mind, but holding ones breath for it to happen may prove detrimental to ones health and wellbeing.

For FDM: No changes.

Interesting possibilities

There were a couple of very interesting carrots dangled in the one hour monologue from Mr Osborne today, and there are a couple that stand out from the general din:

1. The possibility that tax and NI contributions will be merged into a single tax. This will make the payroll administration much easier for a small but growing business. Anything that reduces the administrative headache is always going to be welcomed. There is no information at the moment as to how these changes – if indeed they materialise – will impact the employer’s NI contributions, but for the time being, it deserves the benefit of the doubt until there is more information available.

2. Enterprise zones: for those companies  (like FDM) who are looking to expand the company over the coming years, the proposed Enterprise Zones with their effectively zero-rated business rates and other benefits have certainly piqued our interest. The locations of the proposed sites are pretty well geographically diverse which is helpful for companies looking to get UK-wide coverage, and there is even one proposed for London. Over to Mr Johnson there to give us the details.

In summary

As is the case with every budget, it was a juggling act by the Chancellor, and this year more than most when there was absolutely no money to play with. That said, for a budget hailed as being business-friendly and standing behind business, one must conclude that a cautiously optimistic stance is the most sensible outcome.

Provided people out there have the disposable income to spend, then the changes proposed for running a business on a day-to-day basis could work very well, if not for everyone, but certainly for us at FDM.

Perhaps this time next year, we’ll take a look back and which, if any, of the proposals have been implements and which, if any, have made life better.

Posted by: Fonte Dei Marmi | March 11, 2011

Theres three of us in this marriage: You, Me and Twitter.

From little acorns …

It seems my old history teacher was right when he tried to warn me that time would run when I was like him, in his early fifties. Now after twenty months on Twitter I have to concede to him that “time” would now be best described as flying!

In one of those staring blankly out of the window at the sun rising moments it occurred to me  that during that twenty months we had done quite a bit, met quite a few people and made quite a bit of money!

So to make list’s of the numbers I had to go back to the beginning.

Once set up on Tweetdeck we set to work following our choice of interesting people and the companies we wanted to learn more about and hoped to meet. Strangely, we did not think followers were important so were not counting seriously, but before long we were at six hundred  but only really paying attention to interesting people who talked to us or answered our questions. After a hard day, instead of going to the pub and spending too much money, it was a pleasure to come home and have a glass of wine while chatting to others, exchanging friendly banter. Discussing work often came up and lead to more private DMs or phone conversation.

Then the facts were pointed out to me by Mike that we had turned over twice as much as the previous twenty months before Twitter. An additional, very large amount by working with individuals and companies that we had found through “social media” – a description that seems a bit vacuous and lame for such a powerful tool, and one upon which I am far from keen.

The people …

Are there amazing people on Twitter? Yes, there are plenty of them. Some highly talented writers, interior designers, architects, photographers, landlords and even lovely estate agents!.  From many of these businesses we have followed up leads and made several solid new friends. I’m not sure now if we started Twitter with the idea of getting more business or meeting such interesting people,  it all sort of blurs together in to what I think is best described as a rainbow with a pot of gold somewhere along the way!

On a crisp, sunny morning walking through Southwark in south London, we were en route to meet another architect, managing a project for someone else we met on Twitter; we chatted about the fact that not once had we spent any money on publicity yet were constantly being called and emailed with enquiries to help specify, design or supply kitchens and bathrooms. This work has enabled Fonte to keep going through some of the darkest days of the economic downturn; yes, we have had to move to smaller premises due to monumental rate increases but many of our suppliers and competitors are sadly calling it a day, giving up the hype that business is booming for the truth that no one is spending any money at the moment and life was tough! Fortunately, Mike and I resisted temptation to expand with outside investment because it meant relinquishing control. Now, on reflection, it may have ended in tears as tough times cause many people to lose their nerve and want out, which would have forced us into selling or being landed with a new, unknown partner.

The projects …
Being a small company with many contacts and capabilities, we can adapt and service customers of all shapes and sizes. We currently have a hotel project in Central London, several bathrooms in private residential houses going on, wetrooms we have helped to design, supply and install, from the drawings through to  tiles to brassware and sanitary ware.  Where required we will call in our own people to fit glass or tiles and install  plumbing to a high standard. Interestingly, Twitter seems to bring a large amount of middle -to-high end projects; clients undertaking this work are very often from professional, experienced backgrounds and expect a high quality product so understand that they are going to cost more. From time to time we meet clients who want it all for very little money, not understanding exactly what quality and design entails. Interestingly not many, if any, from Twitter!

Affordable but surprisingly expensive looking! that seems to be what everyone wants during economic hard times and that’s what we aim at. Get the budget right and deliver above expectations and you will keep your client.

The days out …

Laufen bathrooms have been a big part of Fonte dei Marmi for a few years as we sell and specify their bathrooms. Laufen have been one of the best companies manufacturing high quality affordable bathrooms that we have worked with.  So when it came to an idea to bring Twitter in closer to our suppliers the choice was swiftly made. Working with the UK directors & sales directors – and great respect to them for listening to us banging on about Twitter – we were able to organise a really succesful tweetup in Evesham at Laufen’s UK headquarters. Privileged to enjoy an evening with twelve guests from a list of many we wanted to invite.

We planned to bring our guests from Twitter  to a hotel and have dinner together with Laufen, then spend a good part of the following day at their showroom to explain their products and get across the story of our suppliers development, as Laufen is a Swiss company the event was called Swissness! The evening was spent in the hotel bar and restaurant over drinks and dinner.

While we enjoyed meeting everyone it was also really nice to see all the networking energy going around, it was obvious these people would all become friends or most likely do business in the future. I saw this as an investment in our future and that any business that was linked to the bigger picture would pay dividends sooner or later for Fonte dei Marmi. This all came from an idea to invite some of Twitters finest along to see Laufen’s UK showroom in the Cotswolds  near Evesham. The list of our guests was impressive: many successful interior designers & property developers joined us for the two days.

The second day we spent at the Laufen showroom with Andy Jameson and Russell Barnes; old friends of Fonte dei Marmi who between them explained the Swissness of Laufen to our Twitter guests. The feedback and blogs written was  an unexpected bonus, many professional writers posting their account in many different ways of the time spent with us in Evesham.

The conclusion …

Twitter is a useful tool but there are ways to use it carefully. We would advise using it to get to know professionals in whatever service or business you are involved.

The next bit …

In the next part we will go in to more detail about who’s who amongst our Twitter friends and what they do that makes them successful, but that will just be the tip of the iceberg!, Mike and I have many stories to tell, and as long as our friends are OK with it, we will write it. For now, think about this wonderful way of cutting through layers of research and advertising to find your clients for free!

Posted by: Fonte Dei Marmi | January 1, 2011

A year with twitter 2010-2011

Welcome to 2011 my friends, or I should say followers!   New Years Day January 1st 2011. 

Well, we have been on twitter a year now so what have we found out about this medium of communication?  Firstly, don’t expect to be followed by Wossy the moment you click on his avatar, it ain’t gonna happen! On the other hand you will find when you plunge in to the pool of conversations, a surprising number of interesting and helpful folk of whom many will be involved in similar business as yourselves. This was our starting point, engaging with like minded souls interested in travelling, property, music and in our line of work designing,supplying and installation of  kitchens and bathrooms.  After following around three hundred goodn’s we, became a bit cheeky and more confident, discovered wine o’clock!..the road to success was now paved, even if at some places with crazy paving!  The penny dropped and as always rolled away out of sight for a while but it had become glaringly obvious that here was a free opportunity to tell the world (or anyone in twitter world, usually well connected)who we are and what we do for a living, and if that was boring we could always throw in some discreet bits of what we get up to when not at work! This seemed to bring us more lovely people who we have got to know socially, as well as in business.

Being set up to promote our company and develop our brand (Stuart Baggs listen up…Brand!) Fonte Dei Marmi we began to realise we were meeting some very interesting people on twitter, as well as very famous ones who infuriatingly would DM (Direct mail) us which meant they were following us, and then when we replied found we had been un-followed!  They only followed to say something in private which was always nice or an interesting question but were being very careful not have conversations on the twitter network. No names obviously, I expect many people on twitter have had this happen, god I’d love to tell you some gossip! No way Jose!

So, after a while I mentioned our much-loved Yorkshire Terrier, Clint Eastwood , and suddenly everyone on twitter hada dog! Our followers grew once again, more lovely people all over the U.K and the world shared their dog stories with us and of course happened to want to ask about bathrooms..we all have at least one after all (bathroom, not dog!)  The Twitpic!  This was a major part of making life interesting, Clint Eastwood was happy to take any space available when we were not posting bathrooms or designs we had seen. On Twitter all the while we were reading some fantastic blogs we would otherwise not have read, many of our new friends are talented authors of blogs that are very good, certainly of a professional level worth publishing.

The Tweet up!

Welcome to the brilliant concept of the” Tweet up”, meetings of like minded (twitterati) people who are all on twitter. Our first experience was in Kings Cross at a pleasant Gastro-Pub in a  cobbled back street, we decided to go and meet some real people from the virtual world of twitter, after all Twitter is all about real people and business in the real world. So off we went to meet the characters behind the words!

 My business partner Mike ,myself and my wife Patti walked in and my first impression was quite surreal! There in front of us were approximately twenty smiling friendly faces I immediatley recognised, & strangely also felt I instinctively knew already. The first thing I thought was -he looks like his avatar, she  looks younger… 

Tweet up rule to remember, do not drink too much! just like a business meeting during the day impressions count as does coherent conversation. So when a professional lady,very successful whispered in my ear “you’re pissed but I want to discuss some ideas about my project next time we meet” I made a mental note.  The worrying thing was I had only had two pints and coming from a music business background was being very conservative. The photos were great and we are all now talking to one another when we need to, mostly work related but alway’s happy to meet for a social drink or meal. I came away with the impression that this was one of the best networking events I had been to. I  discussed this with Mike and we decided to invite twelve of our local, very talented in their field, followers to a dinner at our local Pub-Restaraunt, The Somertowns Coffee House in NW1,  North London. Happily, everyone turned up and we had a great evening, wine, a dinner and interesting, sometimes fascinating conversations. It was nice to see we had brought together fabulous people, funny and talented, now I believe all good friends for life. The whole evening was brilliant, we loved every minute!

Tweet up two- great fun too, once again everyone bar one of around forty people from twitter who said they would come, mostly with their own business’s arrived at our local French gastro pub, the energy was dynamic with so many people to talk to,one felt there was not enough time to engage in so many interesting conversations and intruiging stories.  So more tweet ups are planned and that is just one side of a many fasceted twitter world of opportunities that cost nothing to create!

Investors!   Another angle with terrific advantages is the free window of opportunity to showcase your ideas, your companies capabilities, personality, what you have achieved and much more. Twitter leads to your website, a you tube channel also will bring many hits to your website, we had 31,000 hits in our best month, coinciding with our launch of Novellini products which were mentioned often but carefully not “in your face” on our twitter channel. So, yes investors, we have been approached by many interested parties. Obviously most are VC types and can be dismissed as soon as they demand forty nine per cent and mention” their yield??”  We are working too damn hard, too many long hours to see a suit walk in and hand over x amount of his or her spare cash on the table and expect to do nothing else. and walk away with the company two year’s later! But there is another side to it, we have been approached by large companies liking our brand,  ideas, company structure, plans for the future which I am not going to reveal here. We are a small business with sound ideas driven by a vision we are confident will work, bankrolling it is another challenge altogether and talking to these larger companies one becomes concerned at losing the very thing we are-becoming just a part of something else. With Fonte Dei Marmi it’s about our identity, brand and foremost our customer service. All credit to twitter for the interest and publicity that has been attracted to us, of course.

I started writing this as a short account of our first year on twitter and you are probably saying oh no! there’s more coming… Well plenty more actually, the next part will follow shortly as I want to write about some of the things that happened to us directly connected to Twitter which are very important and special to us at Fonte Dei Marmi..deep breath! Next..Our Friends, our exciting encounters,where allowed to say;) what is on the agenda in 2011, and some very interesting people to follow….

Posted by: Fonte Dei Marmi | November 18, 2010

Bathrooms Through the Ages – Art Deco

Strictly speaking “Art Deco” does not refer to an age but a style, which led design throughout all areas of architecture, industrial design and visual arts in the 1920s and 1930s. With no political or philosophical roots or intentions Art Deco was purely decorative; seen as elegant, functional and modern.

"Mallard" A4 locomotive

"Mallard" A4 locomotive. Image courtesy

The “Mallard”, a London and North Eastern Railway Class A4 steam locomotive displays many of the Art Deco features mentioned above. Its streamline, aerodynamic shape and functionality was a testament to its time holding the world speed record for steam locomotives at 125.88 mph.

Art Deco shapes were based on mathematical geometric patterns. They combined curved and angular designs to give a dramatic look.

An art deco style bathroom

An art deco style bathroom. Image credit

As far as bathrooms go, especially for women, it was thought to be one of the most important rooms in the house. Opulence and elegance were the order of the day. The Art Deco bathroom was often large which doubled up as a dressing room with a glamorous make-up table, large mirrors or even a mirrored wall. A comfortable chaise-lounge and zebra print rug would not look out of place here.

Baths, which were mainly freestanding throughout the Edwardian period, were again boxed in, often encased in sparkly, iridescent glass tiles or mirror. It is not unusual to see freestanding or claw foot baths in an Art Deco bathroom but this is more likely to have been a financial constraint, keeping the bath from the preceding period and decorating the rest of the bathroom around it.

The Art Deco sink was pedestal mounted as it could be shaped and moulded into works of art. Mainly angular and designed in a ‘v-shape’ or with a staggered, tiered look.

An art deco bathtub

An art deco bathtub from Lefroy Brooks

Art Deco taps and accessories were also angular, sometimes of a whimsical shape in highly polished nickel or chrome.

Coloured enamels and porcelains began to appear in the 1920s. The most popular colours for of the time were mint green, rose pink and black. For bathrooms the colour schemes were mainly two colour combinations of green and black, pink and black or black and white.

Flooring was either top quality marble or, more commonly, tiled. Tiles were patterned geometric shapes such as zig-zags, chevrons and sunbursts. Octagonal or hexagonal shape tiles were also popular.

Art deco flooring

Art deco flooring

Walls were tiled with rectangular tiles in green, pink or white with a black border.

In true Art Deco style, lighting was a work of art. In the main light was directed upwards. Sconces framed mirrors. Globes were frosted with geometrical patterns embossed on the shade.

Whimsical art deco taps

Whimsical art deco taps from Lefroy Brooks

Art Deco is still considered to be a modern style. Although it’s highly decorative nature does not suit the minimalist or those wanting a low maintenance bathroom. However we would recommend you choose white sanitaryware over mint green or rose pink.

Art deco light

Art deco light

Posted by: Fonte Dei Marmi | October 27, 2010

The hidden secret of a great shower: Shower valves.

Okay, we admit it, talking about shower valves is not exactly sexy, but they’re pretty important components so we thought we had better not exclude them.

There are two main types of shower valves:-

Grohe Grohtherm 3000 exposed shower valve

Grohe Grohtherm 3000 exposed shower valve

Exposed valves are wall mounted, usually sticking out by about twelve centimetres. The usual set-up is to have the hot and cold controls at either end of the exposed bar, or to have the temperature controls at one end and flow control or diverter knob at the other. Exposed shower valves are the least popular of the two types, but do tend to be cheaper than their counterparts.  Apart from being quite unsightly they are often used as grab rails which is not a great idea as you can burn yourself if you touch the part where the hot water comes. You can purchase more sophisticated ‘cool touch’ exposed valves where the cold water is sent around the hot water pipe to prevent such an occurrence.

Installation is relatively easy: the valves can be mounted on any wall without the need for a huge hole in the wall.

If something goes wrong it is likely to be one of the knobs, the calibration cartridge or the whole unit.

Hansgrohe iBox universal concealed valve

Hansgrohe iBox universal concealed valve

Concealed valves come in two pieces: the valve, which fits into the wall, and a faceplate (or trimset) that fixes onto it. The faceplate can have more options than are available on exposed valves to allow for multiple outlets, body jets and additional showerheads.  Generally they have one or two knobs or levers; in the case of one, this would normally be a lever and would operate much like a monobloc basin mixer – pull out to increase the flow rate, push in to decrease. Left and right for temperature control. Where there are two controls (usually knobs), one would control the temperature and the other would be flow control and optionally a diverter

Some manufacturers, for example Grohe and Hansgrohe, have “universal” concealed valves. This method allows for any number of trimset styles to be chosen that fit a common valve. Most other manufacturers sell the valve and the trimset as a single product, and they may not be interchangeable. Always check with your supplier as to the best option for your bathroom, and make sure that your installers have experience in fitting the kind that you select.

When it comes to installation, concealed valves cannot be installed in an exterior wall and are most commonly found in airing cupboards or stud partition walls.  The valve should be installed into the shower wall first, the wall tiled and then the faceplate screwed into place.

Concealed valves tend to involve more installation and are more expensive but the overall effect is much neater than an exposed valve.

Hansgrohe "Axor Stark" trimset with diverter

Hansgrohe "Axor Stark" trimset with diverter

With both exposed and concealed shower valves you have the option of manual or thermostatic valves.

Manual valves work in the same way as a standard mixer tap. There is a hot component and a cold component, which you adjust to get the right temperature. Great … until another appliance on the water system is used and deprives the shower of either hot or cold water, leaving you under a stream of either burning or very cold water.

Thermostatic valves have a wax cartridge, which changes shape to let through the right mix of hot and cold water at any time, all of the time. Any changes to the flow of either hot or cold water will not affect the temperature. Whether a digital or knob temperature control you can set it and leave it without having to adjust it if someone flushes a toilet elsewhere in the house. If for any reason the cartridge cannot adjust itself to achieve the desired temperature it will shut off the water.

Here’s a boring statistic for you: If cold water is deprived, it will take one second of pure hot water to burn (third degree) an average person, for children and the elderly it is a closer to 0.5 seconds. A thermostatic valve will adjust or cut off the water supply in 0.3 seconds. That’s a pretty compelling safety feature.

It probably seems quite conclusive that our recommendation would be to opt for a concealed, thermostatic shower valve.

As with most shower components, you will have to buy the valve and faceplate separately.  By way of example, a universal Hansgrohe valve costs £90 and a faceplate, depending on what features you want on it, costs around £450. The more you put on it, the more it costs.

A word of warning: although you can mix and match components in your shower – for example, a Hansgrohe valve with a Vado showerhead – this is not the case with the valve/trimset combination. They MUST ALWAYS come from the same manufacturer.

Posted by: Fonte Dei Marmi | October 21, 2010

Top Ten Tips for Shower Trays

The most popular shapes for shower trays are square, rectangle and quadrant. Standard sizes range from 500mm to 1700mm long but, as with everything, you can get custom trays designed to any size, any shape and any colour.

Shower trays come in a variety of materials: acrylic, coated stone, steel or bespoke travertine, marble and limestone.

First things first – If you’re buying shower fittings in piecemeal fashion the shower tray is the first thing to get. It is the first thing to be installed and you will need to know where to run the waste pipe. The waste position on a shower tray is variable, there is no standard; it can be in the corner, dead centre, centre left, centre right etc.

Anti-slip – You can get an anti-slip coating for your shower tray. The cost of the tray will increase by up to £50. The shower tray is coated with a grit-like substance and is not very effective, except for catching dirt. It can ruin the look of your tray and unless absolutely necessary, avoid it. • Waste – shower trays do not come with the waste as standard, you will need to order this separately. Get a good quality waste, preferably one which has a pop out filter. This will collect hair, the biggest culprit of pipe blockages and make it easy to empty.

Height – With a concrete subfloor you will need a high shower tray (at least 14 cms) or channel out the floor to accommodate the waste. Joisted floors can accommodate a low profile tray (3.5 – 4 cms) running the waste through the joists.

Positioning – a high tray will need feet and a plinth, similar to kitchen cupboards. Position the feet correctly, not just in the corners, to prevent sagging. Put feet in the middle and on the sides too. Do not position all the feet at the same height; the floor may not be straight. Use a spirit level to get it right.

Upstand – shower trays generally come with an upstand at the back and sides. Tile over the upstand not down to it. This will keep it in place and prevent water going behind it.

Under tray – If you have a large shower area and are planning on a flat, level with floor, tray, make sure you get an under tray. This will include a virtually invisible gulley, which runs around the outside of the tray preventing the water flooding the floor.

Shower enclosure – where possible get the shower enclosure the same size as the tray (or vice versa) and sit the enclosure on the tray. This will provide a longer lasting, more water tight solution than enlarging the size of the shower area by building a plinth around and covering it with tiles.

Cleaning – clean your shower tray regularly. Do not use any abrasive or harsh cleaners. Bleach, caustic soda or de-scaler will ruin your shower tray. For stains and limescale use lemon or vinegar. Get a hand shower for ease of cleaning, they are inexpensive and will make life easier. Avoid harsh drain cleaners unless in absolute emergency – they will ruin your tray and the waste pipes.

Marble or natural stone – will need slightly more maintenance. Depending on how often it is used, it will need sealing every eighteen months as an absolute minimum.

Posted by: Fonte Dei Marmi | October 6, 2010

Get your head right – A quick guide to shower head choices

Before we delve much further into the elements to make your perfect shower it is worth noting, at this early stage, what those elements are: 

  • Shower tray
  • Waste
  • Shower enclosure
  • Tiles
  • Shower head
  • Arm or ceiling connector (for overhead showers)
  • Hand shower, bracket and wall outlet elbow (with back flow preventer)
  • Shower hose
  • Valve
  • Faceplate (if concealed valve)

Be aware you will need to order each item separately. 

So, what are the things to consider when choosing a shower head? Firstly, think about the people who will be using the shower; does the height of the shower head need to change between users? Secondly, do all of the users of the shower wash their hair every day? If not, you will need a shower head that be positioned such that the hair does not get wet. Are the users people who like to spend a lot of time under the water, or is it mainly in and out before rushing out the door to work? 

To help you choose, here are the different types of shower head that are available: 

Fixed shower head

Fixed shower head

Fixed shower heads are ideal for a neat, modern look. Although there is movement in terms of the direction of the head, as the name implies, they are fixed on the wall and cannot be adjusted to different heights. Make sure it is mounted high enough on the wall to accommodate its tallest user. 

Overhead shower

Overhead shower

Overhead showers usually have large diameter heads. They can be suspended from the wall or ceiling with a connector or recessed into the ceiling. Also known as drenchers, overhead showers may be thought to be more for getting wet than washing. The spray is wide and gentle; unless you have a large enclosure you may find it hard to move out-of-the-way to lather up before the soap is washed off. Despite the wetness of an overhead shower, the gentleness makes it hard to rinse away shampoo and other hair products effectively.

Slide rail shower

Slide rail shower

Slide rail shower heads are height adjustable; however, do make sure the slide rail is installed high enough for the shower to raise for its tallest users. With a minimum of three components; rail, shower head and hose there are more things to keep clean and shiny and are not the most attractive option.

Hand shower

Hand shower

Hand showers are a great addition to any shower, especially fixed and overhead. It can be focussed for rinsing and cleaning the shower area too. Hand showers come in a wide range of sizes from 80mm to 160mm diameter. Don’t believe bigger is better, choose a mid-range head. Too small will be too powerful while too large will not be powerful enough and will feel like you’re wielding a large frying pan. 

Air shower

Air shower


Air showers are the latest technology in shower heads. Air showers mix air with the water being delivered through the nozzles and are designed to save water – often around 40%- without losing the feel of high water pressure. Providing a “champagne feel” the water droplets do feel different on your body; the air/water mix clings to the skin rather than runs off. It can take a bit of getting used to so try one first. 

Whichever head you choose, make sure that you know your water pressure and flow rate. The larger the shower head, the slower the water. A smaller shower head will produce a faster water flow. 

Don’t be tempted by numerous spray settings – most people keep to one shower spray. At most, opt for three settings.

Posted by: Fonte Dei Marmi | September 29, 2010

Design options for shower enclosures…and a few things to avoid.

When it comes to designing your own shower enclosure, unlike shower cabins discussed last week, there are a lot more options open to you. Whether you want your shower enclosure to be recessed into an alcove, to go into a corner or extend the length of a room, you can have it.

Shower enclosures can come, or be made to measure, in an infinite number of sizes. The only limit is getting it into the room into which it’s going to be installed. (See Logistics:

Glass panels can vary in thickness. The ideal is between 5 – 8mm. Too thick and the glass looses its elasticity – if you fall or walk into it, it will hurt more and be more likely to crack than a thinner glazed panel. Thicker glass will be more expensive, heavier and less clear. All shower enclosures are made with safety glass. Even a 4mm thickness, 800mm x 2000mm panel will withstand 45 kg of weight thrown at it.

Doors for shower enclosures can be pivot, sliding, bi-fold or stable. Pivot doors take more space, so not ideal for small areas, where a bi-fold door may be the best solution. Sliding doors are often used for long areas. Stable doors are more commonly used for the carer market. Door panels should allow at least 500mm for the opening – you want to walk into your shower not sidle in.

Shower enclosures can be equally at home on a shower tray or directly onto a wet floor. They can be any height, with a rim or rimless.

There are a number of high quality shower enclosures where the hinges, handles and profiles on the inner part of the enclosures are completely flat making it so much easier to clean and wipe down after use. With minimal maintenance these can look good forever.

Avoid common mistakes:

• If you want etched glass – vanity panels – make sure order them. Shower enclosure panels are clear as standard.

• Make sure you know which way you want the door to open. Specify whether you want it left or right hung.

• Beware of cheaply made products. Cheap glass may be green tinged and/or wavy. Profiles are commonly plastic or a poor quality chrome effect, which will quickly flake.

• Make sure the guarantee covers everything, not just the glass.

• Stay away from white profiling or rims. Sunlight will discolour it. Choose chrome, everything else looks shocking.

• When you buy a shower enclosure remember you just get the panels. Shower trays, fittings and brassware will not be included.

• If you want a made-to-measure enclosure to fit a specific space make sure your supplier organises a template to be made before ordering bespoke glass panels. This may cost an additional £250 – £500 depending on the size but will avoid poorly fitting panel which may lead to leakage.

• When taking the measurements for your glass, remember to account for the tiles on the wall as these can change the measurements by up to 40mm.

• Choose a product where the glass is treated with a coating to avoid a build up of soap scum. Most good manufacturers provide this as standard.

• Do not use harsh abrasive cleaners, strong bleach or descalers to clean your shower enclosure. A build-up of limescale can be removed with acetic cleaners – vinegar, lemon juice etc. We’ll be focusing on cleaning in a later blog.

Next week we will give you the low down on shower fittings. Everything you need to help you choose the right shower.

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