Marretti Stairs’ distinctive staircases are growing more popular in America.
By Kat Zeman
It can cost as little as a few thousand dollars. Or it can cost a few hundred thousand dollars. Its price is influenced by design, material and special requests. Welcome to the world of Marretti Stairs, one of the world’s oldest manufacturers of custom-made staircases.
For more than 100 years, Florence, Italy-based Marretti Stairs has been handling jobs of all shapes and sizes. “We have staircases for every budget,” says Marzia Marzi, head of U.S. operations. “We can do a small staircase for $3,000 or we can do a very sophisticated design for $1 million.”
Marretti Stairs has been stepping up its game in the United States since it opened a New York office in 2005. It offers anything from cost-efficient simple designs to elaborate concepts that take months to engineer.
The company offers more than 50 different models of staircases. Some appear to float. Others spiral upward. They can be made of glass, steel, wood, stone or bronze. While most designs have a pre-engineered concept, they are all modified to the individual customer’s home or business space.
“These are not mass-produced products,” Marzi says. “Every staircase is custom-made and tailored exactly for the project. We are a big company but we are known for our artisan spirit.”
Marretti Stairs is not bashful about tooting its own horn when it comes to dedication to quality and craftsmanship. “We are a niche product,” Marzi says. “I think our company is unique because of the quality of our products. Our quality is better. We are known for it. Our clients expect it.”
Combining technology with imagination, Marretti Stairs has engineered some truly unique designs. Once, it received a request for a staircase in the shape of a helix – and it had to be made out of glass. The twisted, spiral-like shape needed to curve in a three-dimensional space.
The staircase was completely tailor-made, including everything from the diameter to the depth of the steps to the size of the riser. “Do you have any idea how difficult it is to bend glass like that?” Marzi says. “Not everyone can do it. But curved staircases equal money. Lots of money.”
Though not all of Marretti Stairs’ designs are as elaborate as the glass helix staircase, the company continually strives to come up with new and unique concepts. It launches a new staircase line annually. Its three most recent lines are the Origami, Concorde and Compon.
The Origami model, named after the Japanese art of folding paper into decorative shapes and figures, is a cantilever staircase made from Cor-Ten steel. It is a pure example of minimalist design with an ultrathin thickness of only eight millimeters. Its banisters can be selected from any of the company’s models.
“The Origami staircases are very popular inside homes, but they can be for both interior and exterior use,” Marzi says. “It’s for people who are looking for a more industrial look.”
The Origami line has won a number of international awards for best design. In 2015, it won the Architizer A+ Award, the largest awards program that celebrates the world’s best architecture and products.
Work of Art
Another one of Marretti’s award-winning staircases is the Concorde. A truly distinctive design, it resembles the spine of a dinosaur. It cantilevers its treads out from both sides of its self-supporting spine, branching out into an image of a gigantic spinal cord. Each section of the staircase’s riser and tread are bolted together with the heads of the bolts exposed as part of the overall aesthetic.
Though it’s made of wood, it can be stained or coated with a travertine marble type of resin that is available in a multitude of colors. “That’s one of our most popular staircases for homes,” Marzi says. “We can make it in any color and match any wood stain. Let’s say you have an oak floor – give us a sample of your oak floor and we will adapt the staircase to it.”
Though the staircase is popular in homes, it has its fans in the commercial and retail arena as well, she adds. In 2016, the Concorde received a special mention in the building products and access category at the Architizer A+ Awards.
When it comes to lighting up the room, Marretti’s Compon is the staircases of choice. The staircase can be supplied with a closing between the steps that encloses lights. This creates an illuminating glow. “Our customers can’t get enough of this staircase,” Marzi says. “They just love it.”
For those that don’t want the glow, the enclosing can be made of stainless steel inserts. A modular staircase, the Compon is made of teak-colored solid oak and comes with an optional banister made of stainless steel with no welds but with mechanical fastenings or curved posts.
Its steps are veneered in wood that can be supplied in various types including beech, oak, doussie, wenge, teak and iroko. A choice of several finishes is available. They include oil, bleached and polyurethane varnishes.
But the stairs can also be made from glass, resin, steel, stone or marble. The staircase has a patented wall fastening system that features steel pins and is certified for a total capacity of 150 kilograms (330 pounds) for each step.
Although not one of Marretti’s newest products, glass staircases cantilever staircases are a big seller. “Hands down, these staircases are really popular, especially in the United States,” Marzi says. “Everybody seems to want a glass staircase and one of the most popular is the cantilever glass, a type of floating glass staircase with a banister.”
Though floating staircases can be constructed from any element, glass is the most popular because its transparent and reflective nature easily creates a float-like feeling within the design. Stairs with floating treads also have hidden attachments that make them look like they are floating.
Like the Compon, Marretti’s cantilever staircases also have a patented wall fastening system with steel pins and are certified for a total capacity of 150 kilograms (330 pounds) for each step.
The glass that forms each step is toughened and laminated with a thickness of 32 millimeters and its finish can be extra-light, float, frosted, scored or colored. The stainless steel used in the staircases is a polished or brushed finish.
When customers decide on a product, they generally want it right away. “One of our biggest concerns is time,” Marzi says. “Everyone wants everything yesterday. But these are custom-designed staircases and they could take between three to six months to create. There’s a lot of engineering involved and all of our staircases are manufactured in Italy so it takes time to ship them as well.”
But the fact that all of Marretti’s products are made in Italy is also a big selling point, she adds. “It really sets us apart,” Marzi says. “I think Americans really appreciate the beauty and quality of our products.”
In the United States, Marretti’s largest clients tend to come from the East Coast and West Coast. But the company is beginning to see a move inland towards the Midwest. “It’s a growing market,” Marzi says.
Marretti attributes a part of its success to an ability to design and manufacture staircases that break design limits and dictate new rules. “To succeed, every kind of material is admissible and every kind of invention allowed: glass turns into rock; steel becomes invisible; wood proves to be a link to the stories of distant countries,” the company’s website states.
The company sees its staircases as not only linking the levels of a building, but as a link between ideas and dreams. Founded in 1914 by Maurizio Marretti, the company started as a family business that made wooden wheels for horse carriages before the automobile entered the transportation market.
When cars became more than just a toy for the rich, Marretti had to reinvent his business. “They had to transfer their knowledge into something else,” Marzi says. “Since they knew how to work with wood, they started doing railings for staircases – and that’s how we started in the industry of staircases.”
That was in 1921. Since then, the company has grown from a small business in Florence to a globally recognized artisan of staircases. Still family owned, the company has a factory and technical office in Florence. This is where every step takes shape, first in the design form and then in the selection of raw materials and the painstaking process of engineering tailor-made creations.
Though they may share an engineering concept, each Marretti staircase is unique. The company is now in its third-generation of family ownership.
Mauro Marretti, the son of Maurizio, designs most of the company’s staircases and banisters. Roberto Marretti, Maurizio’s grandson, is the head of the engineering department. Mauro’s two sons, Andrea and Francesco Marretti, also work for the company. Andrea works in sales and Francesco is the head of the production department.