Alfred van Zanten is responsible for crafting marble onboard yachts. As he reveals his genuine fascination with geology, his hands-on experience of 271 raw materials – all of which he has catalogued in his mind – and his unrelenting perfectionism, it becomes clear why Feadship has employed him for the last 47 years.

To date, Alfred has worked on 80 Feadship projects and is eminently qualified from a marble perspective to detail what it is that sets Feadship apart from the rest. “We always choose the best quality marble, we always build a full-scale template in plywood first – no shortcuts on a computer screen – and everything is water polished for a superior shine,” says Alfred, “It takes the eye of an expert to notice the difference in standards between companies’ work, and that expert is me.”

The journey begins in the sample room at Feadship. The architect or interior designer will peruse marble pieces from all over the world – from semi- precious stones such as onyx and dragon to precious gemstones like lapis lazuli and tiger’s eye. Marble is the catchall term for the selection, but it includes limestone and granite too; these materials might feature onboard in bathrooms, powder rooms and pantries, the surfaces of indoor and outdoor bars, and even as decorative table tops. Together with a colour screen of potential fabrics and leathers, a proposal is made to the client that suggests the concept’s look and atmosphere. When agreed upon, it’s time to go to the source.

Once Alfred’s agent has traced the required materials that might originate from the mountains of Brazil, Mexico, Turkey, Spain, Italy or Greece, Alfred and the architect will travel to inspect them. “Marble is a metamorphic rock made from microscopically small calcium carbonate crystals,” Alfred explains, “and each country’s geological sites will offer a distinguishing colour and characteristic. The most famous – the material used by the classical sculptural masters – comes from an area that stretches between Carrara and Viareggio in western Tuscany.” Once the quality is approved, the owner is invited to view the large marble slabs before they are transported to Holland to be re-polished and cut exactly to the template. “The marble arrives at the shipyard and we install it by butting everything together with a special glue so that there are no ugly seams to fill with a compound or filler,” Alfred says, “it's another key Feadship difference.” Once the marble is fitted, the other design elements in a room can follow.

In his long tenure at Feadship, Alfred has noticed the raw materials he works with erupting with variety, jumping from 2 or 3 types of marble to 43 different kinds in the last 10 years.
He now also works with 140 types of leather, including salmon, eel and deer skin for exotic wall panelling. Alfred has an assistant, but he can mentally reference all 271 raw materials himself: “I know if they break easily, are hard to polish, are heavy or difficult to come by. It’s a live experience,” he says, adding: “We do it all to enormous perfection at Feadship. Nobody can beat us, let’s put it that way.”

Marble Sink

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