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Parchin kari

A charming Southeast Asian couple recently tasked me with designing a parchin kari kitchen backsplash for their Mediterranean-style home in Palo Alto.  Also known as pietra dura (in Italian), parchin kari is a stone inlay technique of using cut and fit, high-polished colorful stones. Parchin kari is not associated with restraint, so how does one integrate this technique into a clean, contemporary interior?

Palo Alto Kitchen with Parchin Kari and John Pomp pendants #bjorndesign_ca, Bjorn Design

Odd couplings add interest: parchin kari, Waterworks tile, La Cornue range and John Pomp pendants.

Simplify the materials. Our goal was to create a modern kitchen, open and bright, with an accent of design and color at the stove. By minimizing contrast in the surround materials, we allowed the parchin kari pop! without being overwhelming. The result of less is more.

We used a durable, cleanable solid-color quartz (bottom right) for the parchin kari background, instead of the typical white, black or green marble. The countertop is quartzite which the clients loved for the color and movement. We matched the Waterworks tile to the quartz, to create a blank canvas.

Embrace color naturally. Typical stones used include marble, precious and semi-precious stone. We used a combination of turquoise, agate and lapis lazuli for the flowers; mother of pearl for stamen; malachite for the leaves; and branches in Jaisalmer stone.

The stone pieces are fit together so precisely that the seam is nearly invisible, and grout is unnecessary. Great for a kitchen!

Roll with it.The downside of long-distance design – 8,000+ miles! – is that sometimes things get lost in translation. While our design was meant to be the full width of the range, we were able to accommodate the somewhat narrower final design with seamless results.


Our original, somewhat fuller design.

History and future.Developed in 16thcentury Rome and Florence, and being widely used in Mughal India, there are numerous examples of parchin kari to be found, including at the Taj Mahal.  I am particularly drawn to the geometric patterns as used in architecture, and would welcome the opportunity to truly integrate parchin kari into a modern interior. Here are few existing examples.

Pietra dura was often used on tables.

Here’s a contemporary take on the idea.

A lovely geometric design to close.

David Bjørngaard, August 2018

See more of my projects at Bjørn Design.

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