Glenn Sestig has a passion for natural stone. 'It's a rich material with a lot of possibilities,' says the Gent-based architect. 'I try to integrate it into all my designs. If you use the correct type with the correct finish, it becomes unique and timeless,' he adds, from the sleek offices of natural stone specialist Van Den Weghe in the Belgian town of Zulte. Sestig specialises in high-end buildings and interiors, his contemporary designs typified by attention to detail. Selecting the right material is paramount, especially when working on smaller-scale designs such as this tabletop 'Pleasure Dome' for Handmade.
Van Den Weghe is also pretty special. Headed by Tanguy Van Quickenborne, the company has been involved in bespoke creations for clients such as Joseph Dirand, Michaël Verheyden and Muller Van Severen, and loves to go beyond its call of duty as a stone supplier. Working with a wide range of stones – it stocks over 280 different kinds, some extremely rare – the company helps bring to life all kinds of tailor-made creations.
One of Van Den Weghe's regular clients is Sestig and several stones in the yard quite literally have his name on them – not just because he handpicked them for his projects but because some of the shipments arrive exclusively for his use. 'I want to keep exclusivity on some types of stone,' he explains. 'It is important to my practice that we offer something unique.' Sestig and his team research the right stone for each job, often working with rare, premium stones, such as Brazilian Syra and Belgian Noir de Mazy marble. They find inspiration in texture and unusual colours, and like to surprise clients with their finds.
Sestig and Van Quickenborne have worked together since 2008, but never before on a product independent of an architecture commission. 'I have been looking for a beautiful glass bell for more than five years and couldn’t find one,' says Sestig. 'So I thought I'd design one myself.' Van Den Weghe was an obvious choice of partner for the crucial stone base.
A beautifully crafted and multi-functional object, the 'Pleasure Dome' is made of German glass and titanium travertine that originates from Iraq. 'It is one of my favourite stones,' says Sestig. 'Until recently, we used it exclusively in architecture. Now we are experimenting with it in product design.'
The concept is simple and effective, and has changed little since Sestig's first sketch. 'Its essence has remained the same,' he explains. The stone base, finished with a metamorphic quartzite stone inlay in Dusk colouring, cleverly features a different depth on each side. By flipping it over, you can adapt it to different uses – a fruit bowl, a cheese platter, a cake stand or even a terrarium, using either the shallower or deeper side. Lift off the glass dome and the base turns into a striking stone tray.
The base is just 36cm across, but it takes almost two days to make from scratch. Sestig picks the specific 2m x 3m block of stone he wants, and the tray is CNC-cut from this, before being meticulously hand finished. The quartzite inlay goes in last, a vital final step. 'There is a great contrast between the rougher side of the travertine, the smooth inlay and the shiny glass,' says Sestig. It's a design where diverse elements come together in a beautifully coherent showcase for fine craftsmanship.
As originally featured in the August 2015 edition of Wallpaper* (W*197)