Practice makes perfect

CCO Hans Bullens shares: “Selecting natural stone is a skill that you won’t learn at school. You can only master it with years of experience and self-study.”

Thousands of types of natural stone

When it comes to selecting the right slab of natural stone for a project, Hans Bullens – CCO (Chief Commercial Officer) at Stone Natural Class, is the business’ number one specialist. Hans emphasizes: “Hands on experience is your best teacher.”

When selecting a slab, I consider the quality of the stone and the opportunities it offers for processing.

Hans Bullens | CCO
slabs natural stone
Stone slabs stored in the workshop of Stone Natural Class

Hans explains: “Worldwide, thousands of different types of natural stone exist. We only know a fraction of them. You can distinguish between marble, granite and quartzite, for instance. But each of these more general types can be divided further. Subtypes, if you will, such as Onyx Bianco, Sodalite or Statuario. I oftentimes compare this to car brands. You might know all car brands, but knowing every type and model ever released is virtually impossible.”

stone quarry italy
Stone quarry in Italy.
inside a quarry
Inside a stone quarry.
Quarry blocks
Quarry blocks.
Ruud van Oosterhout and Hans Bullens
Ruud van Oosterhout and Hans Bullens.

Central procurement in Italy

To select the best slab of stone for the project, Hans oftentimes travels to Italy. The Verona and Carrara areas host no less than 126 quarries and have historically been a center for the natural stone trade. 

Hans shares: “Thinking that I travel the world to select the perfect stone locally would be a bit too romantical. There are so many quarries on our planet, with such plenty of types available that visiting all of these personally simply is not an option. Thankfully, that’s what we have specialized procurers for. They travel the world, procure natural stone and ship it to wholesalers in Italy.”

A variety of types

Hans continues: “Using a variety of exclusive stone types is a given in the superyacht industry. Designers work with remarkable, luxurious types of stone that you won’t encounter on a daily basis. Currently, shades of red, green and beige are all the rage. Oftentimes, these stones are fragile. Each has its own processing and application needs. Our craftsmen enjoy that challenge. Every single day.”

As we only take on bespoke projects, no day is the same

Hans Bullens | CCO


Hans elaborates: “Natural stone is not extracted in ready-to-go pieces. They come out of the quarry in huge blocks. Nothing glamorous there. Which makes assessing a block like that a whole different ball game. Thankfully, I can rely on my Italian suppliers for that. Our working relation has been outstanding for years. These specialists make sure that the blocks they extract are being cut into usable sheets and dimension, so that we can do our jobs next.”

Block of Onyx
Block of Onyx
onyx bubble slab
A slab of Onyx before processing.
Hammam backlit onyx
Backlit Onyx at superyacht Galactica Super Nova| Photography © David Churchill

Directing the game

Hans expands: “I do not select the stone to be used all by myself. Clients always accompany me. That can be the interior designer, the client representative on behalf of the superyacht, or occasionally the owner of the ship. Sometimes they all join. These projects are prestigious, after all. Every single detail needs to be perfect. And everyone involved has their own ideas about that. To me, the interaction when selecting stone is delightful. My expertise and people skills are truly beneficial.”

Hans Bullens, a supllier and Ruud van Oosterhout
Hans Bullens (left) and interior architect Ruud van Oosterhout (right) visiting a supplier in Italy.