On view at this week’s much-anticipated INDEX Interior design show in Dubai, Nigel Fenwick’s gemstone embalmed bath is anticipated to sell for nearly $2 million. The price will top a similar bathtub, which sold for $1.7 million in the Emirate back in 2011.
“The story behind this beautiful and extremely rare bathtub reveals a dramatic and risky journey in pursuit of the most perfect piece of art,” says designer and explorer Nigel Fenwick.
“Petrified wood is one of the rarest and most beautiful raw materials in the world and believed by many to have incredible therapeutic and healing properties, even have the power to extend your life.”
Fenwick’s wellness claims regarding the benefits of wooden furniture aren’t far off the mark. According to a Wood: Housing, Health, and Humanity report, there are multiple physiological, psychological, and environmental benefits associated with wooden interiors and furniture. The report states it can help improve a person’s emotional state, reduce blood pressure and stress levels, decrease heart rate, and even improve air quality. The report also cites a Canadian study that demonstrated the texture and coloring of natural wood elicits feelings of relaxation and warmth.
But the petrified wooden bathub isn’t just any piece of furniture. For Fenwick, transforming this petrified log find into a work of art meant employing some unusual techniques. “I sculpted [the log] by using my own customized diamond blades. It took me eight months working roughly eight hours,” he tells me.
“I first realized how unique it was when I took a section of the outer bark, which is fossilized, and polished it until it looked like a jewel. That’s when I discovered this must have been the only one of its kind found anywhere in the world.”
Because Fenwick has spent many years searching for precious stone for his clients, he’s developed an energetic “connection” with the buried, natural objects. “I could feel that energy in the areas of the jungle we were searching in, so I knew I’d come across a piece somewhere,” he explains.
It was only after he came across the petrified object, and began unearthing it, that he discovered how large it actually was. It was a risk, he knew, both from a design and travel perspective, to undertake such a project given the weight of the wood (16 tons). But Fenwick and team managed to haul it out of the jungle with no machinery.
The $2 million bathtub won’t be the only fossilized piece of furniture to make headlines at this year’s INDEX . Marine conservationist Volker Bassen found and repurposed a 260,000-year old clam shell into a sink. It’s said to be the largest of its species ever found, weighing in at nearly a half-ton, and took his team five months to excavate the fossil.
INDEX Interior design exhibition, which kicked off yesterday at the Dubai World Trade Centre, is the leading independent celebration of design in the Middle East. The show will run from March 26-29.
To see a list of last year’s shortlist award winners and their breathtaking creations, click here.