At Close Range: SapienStone

ASPIRE DESIGN AND HOME recently reached out to several leading kitchen and design firms to discover their point of view on top trends and new developments in their industry. Their thoughtful responses delve into what motivates, inspires and excites these design pros, and how that passion ultimately breeds success.

From SapienStone, we spoke with VP of Sales & Marketing Joy Klein.

ASPIRE DESIGN AND HOME: Where are your porcelain slabs produced?
Joy Klein: All of our 129”x61” SapienStone 12mm porcelain slabs are made from all-natural minerals and are produced in our state-of-the-art manufacturing plant in Italy.

ADH: What are some of your top-selling colors for countertops?
JK: Our top 5 selling colors are White Calacatta, Premium White, Bianco Lasa, Pietra Grey and Dark Marquina.

ADH: What are some popular choices for floors?
JK: SapienStone is part of the Iris Ceramica Group, a global leader in the manufacturing of ceramic wall and porcelain tiles with 8 brands of products. We provide our customers with a broad selection to cover both interior and exterior floor or wall spaces. In regards to our top flooring choices, many clients love our wood and marble looking porcelain surfaces, as these slabs provide a realistic and authentic design that is bot elegant in appearance, and easy to maintain. These porcelain floors are also sustainable, eco-friendly and curated to last for years to come.

ADH: Do your customers tend to choose neutral colors or are they looking at more vibrant color schemes?
JK: SapienStone slabs receive a lot of attraction from all types of clients. With our unique collection of varying colors and designs, we offer porcelain slab designs that are suitable for all styles. SapienStone provides numerous neutral colors that are perfect for a timeless look that will outlast the trends. We also have designs that feature unique patterns and veining that many clients love to install onto their kitchen islands, dramatic waterfall edges or backsplash to create a statement within the space.

ADH: Do you have any design consultants on staff to assist your customers? Or do your customers generally know exactly what they want?
JK: All of our distributors offer design consultants in their showroom to assist customers every step of the way. The decision-making process can be overwhelming, so experienced staff members are able to answer any questions you may have in order to help you find the perfect slab for your design project. On the other hand, some customers come in knowing exactly what they want. We find that many visitors look for marble- looking porcelain surfaces, because they like the idea of an elegant design with porcelain’s added benefits and extreme durability. Modern designs, such as concrete, are also increasing in demand. The great thing about the color selection process is that all of our SapienStone designs are available for sample delivery – just order a sample of your favorite design to view the details in person before making a final decision.

ADH: If I want to buy new kitchen counters or a new floor, how does your company guide me through the process?
JK: SapienStone has several Regional Account Managers to help guide you through the selection process within your area. Our Regional Managers will be able to help you locate a SapienStone distributor nearest you while answering any questions you may have regarding material, design, application possibilities and more. Once in contact with one of our distributors you will be able to further discuss project specifics with the distributors’ educated Sales Reps who can give you further direction on your project and the slab availability in your area. All of our fabricators are trained and certified to install SapienStone, providing you with extensive application possibilities and an easy installation process.

ADH: Does your company also offer stone products for outdoors? 
JK: Yes. SapienStone porcelain slabs can be utilized for any type of outdoor application including patios, terraces, walkways, wall cladding, outdoor kitchen countertops, fireplace surrounds and more. Because SapienStone is UV and frost resistant, our porcelain is the perfect contender for your outdoor entertainment area. Porcelain is able to easily withstand the extreme temperatures of the outdoors and will never damage, wilt or bubble in the event of direct sunlight.

ADH: What is the best or most enjoyable part of your position?
JK: I have been fortunate enough to work for the Iris Ceramica Group for 20 years, and just took on the SapienStone brand end of March. My favorite part of this position is the relationships we make with clients and seeing the final result of our products successfully installed. Even my kids love what I do and know the benefits of porcelain slabs, tile vs. quartz, marble, etc. I love to develop new business and our company is always coming out with the next best product which is now our 12mm porcelain slabs. With SapienStone we have a whole other surfacing option we can offer to our customer base.

ADH: What is the most challenging part of your position?
JK: The year 2020 has been the most challenging part of this position I have ever faced. The uncertainty of what lies ahead and not being able to be as engaged with my team and clients has been the most difficult part. We are all virtual, our showrooms are open by appointment as well, but adjusting to the new norm has been my biggest challenge yet. Pre COVID-19 the most challenging part was always being at the right place at the right time. Fortunately, we have a talented sales and marketing team who are always thinking outside of the box. I could not overcome all the challenges that come in this position without their insight.

ADH: Why is SapienStone the best option for countertops?
JK: SapienStone porcelain countertops are one of, if not the, most durable countertop material in the market. Our porcelain slabs are harder than most granites available and are heat resistant which allows for unique applications, such as an induction cooktop, where you can cook meals right on top of your porcelain countertop. Interior designers specifically love this feature as it helps create a cohesive, seamless and modern look to a kitchen’s overall appearance.

ADH: Can you use your product in other places, too?
JK: Yes, you can match your walls, coffee tables, shelf boards and fireplace cladding with the same porcelain slabs to create sense of continuity throughout your home.

ADH: What are some of the most exciting innovations you’ve seen in today’s stone styles?
JK: The most exciting innovation is how high definition the material has become. I come from the natural stone business and have a love for quarried stone, but porcelain has come a long way with its unique availability in through body veining, a wide range of colors and its ability to replicate realistic textures and patterns. I have always felt our product R&D team does an amazing job. Porcelain gives customers an aesthetic option unlike any other material on the market today. Because it is heat resistant it is eligible to be integrated with induction cooktop technology, transforming our elegant designs into an area where chef’s, both at-home and professional, can prepare and create their highly desired dishes in style.

ADH: What are some popular design trends your clients are requesting this year?
JK: We are seeing a high demand in porcelain countertops that resemble marble-looking features and/or realistic concrete stones. We have several designs that portray the elegant look of marble that everyone loves, with timeless white hues and faint veining. These types of designs are often used in the heart of the home on kitchen islands or waterfall edges where they stand out and make a statement in a space. We also have concrete and wood stones that look extremely realistic. These colors are great for outdoor applications and give a minimalistic or industrial design style when applied indoors.

ADH: What trends do you think will be long-lasting?
JK: We predict that marble and solid colored porcelain slabs will stand the test of time. People enjoy these colors because they are simple, classy and can mold into any design style you want to reflect in your space.

Concrete and wood-looking porcelain is also finding its way into the “timeless” category, as they reflect nature’s beautiful, authentic self which homeowners and designers appreciate incorporating into their residential or commercial spaces.

ADH: Which stone styles aren’t as popular as they used to be?
JK: Cream, tan and beige colored countertops appear outdated. We find that many customers tend to opt away from these styles and lean more toward whites and greys.

ADH: What are some features your company offers that set you apart?
JK: SapienStone is owned by the Iris Ceramica Group, which is about to celebrate its 60th anniversary in 2021. We have many years of experience behind us that other companies do not have along with many long-lasting client relationships. Our products are meticulously designed in Italy and readily available in America due to local stock and local sales structure. Our company strives to create a high-end product that will enhance the comfort of any space and enrich the quality of living with its rare benefits and unparalleled features. Commercial projects utilizing SapienStone porcelain countertops in the bar area thrive with an easy-to clean material that does not harbor any bacteria or unwanted odors. It can also endure the harsh chemicals that are needed to sanitize the area in order to provide restaurant-goers with a clean and safe place to dine. Given our current circumstances with COVID-19, this is extremely crucial. For homeowners, SapienStone porcelain lends itself to a stress-free lifestyle with low maintenance capabilities and an easy, to little, clean-up process. In fact, majority of the time all you need is warm water and soap to wipe our surfaces clean.

ADH: How would you describe your work style?
JK: Work hard, play hard. I try to give my sales team everything they need to be successful. I lead by example and always try to find new ways to connect with customers.

ADH: What is the best piece of professional advice you ever received?
JK: I do not want to give any secrets away, but my mom told me when I first started in sales with the Iris Ceramica Group that you need to learn who your customers are and be pleasantly persistent. At some point they will need your product and if they remember you, they will use you. This is definitely a motto I live by!

ADH: If you weren’t in this business, what career would you choose?
JK: I went to Florida State University and studied Finance and International Business with a minor in Italian. When I graduated, I was looking for a bank job but realized, although I love numbers, I love people more. If I was not in this business, I would definitely be a teacher because I find happiness in teaching others what I have learned in life.

ADH: Tell us a little about your company history.
JK: The Iris Ceramica Group was founded in Castellarano Italy in 1961 by Romano Minozzi and is a global leader in the manufacturing of innovative ceramic and porcelain tile slabs. We have always been considered an industry trailblazer because we consistently focus our resources and energy on inventing new ways to improve our products by using the latest production technology on the market. We are always working to find new ways on how to integrate porcelain into our daily lives and merging it with technology, hence the creation of SapienStone slabs, all while creating a production process that has minimal impact on the environment. Our company owned showrooms are strategically located in Chicago, New York, Anaheim, West Hollywood and San Francisco. You can also find SapienStone in many Kitchen & Bath dealers near you.

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ASPIRE DESIGN AND HOME is seeker and storyteller of the sublime in living. It is a global guide to in-depth and varied views of beauty and shelter that stirs imagination; that delights and inspires homeowners as well as art and design doyens. Collaborating with emergent and eminent architects, artisans, designers, developers and tastemakers, ASPIRE creates captivating content that savors the subjects and transports with stunning imagery and clever, thought-provoking writing. Through lush and unique visuals and a fresh editorial lens, ASPIRE explores what is new and undiscovered in art, interiors, design, culture, real estate, travel and more. ASPIRE DESIGN AND HOME is an international narrative and resource for all seeking the sublime.