Ruchika Grover is on a mission to streamline sustainable stone design with a new line of precise, hand-finished cuts.
What first captivated Ruchika Grover as a teen remains her chief muse today: natural stone. The Los Angeles–based founder of Borrowed Earth grew up in India, surrounded by quarries filled with centuries-old rocks and minerals.
At 14, she began accompanying her father, a marble and granite trader, on work trips. “My first job was as a block marker, where I would travel with my father’s clients to quarries all over the world and help select materials for them,” she says. The formative experience gave her an inherent understanding of stone and a deep respect for the material. “Building with stone today connects us to history,” she says. “Going back to antiquity, bringing certain aesthetics and values into the modern context—there are few materials that have comparable human dimension and connection.”
In 2007, after earning a master’s degree in entrepreneurship at the Nottingham University Business School in England, she launched her first company, Odyssey, a New Delhi–based stone design studio focused on large-scale projects in India and throughout the Middle East. In addition to collaborating with architects and designers on custom residential and hospitality projects, Grover released a half dozen natural stone collections, including Ishi Kiri, a selection of origami-inspired marble surface designs that won a 2014 Elle Decor International Design Award. “The first decade of my work in India allowed me to build a strong foundation of techniques and practices and a diverse portfolio,” she says. “Every day was an experiment.”
Though she still serves as a creative director for the company, Grover decided to turn her attention to the American market in 2018. Five years later, she unveiled the Borrowed Earth brand at the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show in Las Vegas, presenting an assortment of sumptuous stone collections, including the heavily veined Impression series and the fluted Architectonic line. The collection features a variety of applications, such as tile, panels and brick, as well as naturally dreamy colorways, from lavender-hued marble to rich beige travertine. “A diverse palette is integral for a surface-centric collaborative,” she says. “I lean toward achieving the diversity through tonal difference and textures, which are accentuated through the carving and hand-finishing process.”
Grover’s designs begin with sketches and a material palette, which are transformed into hand-molded, three-dimensional prototypes. “Once the model is complete, it is rendered using computer graphic techniques to create a realistic image of the texture or pattern, which helps our team in visualizing how the pattern will appear in different lighting conditions and materials,” she says. “The models are programmed to carve intricate patterns and textures into marble surfaces and create highly precise cuts that would be difficult to achieve by hand.”
The final stage of the design process involves hand-finishing each individual tile or slab, which takes place at the brand’s workshops in New Delhi and Udaipur, India, and calls on skills ranging from silver leafing to engraving and applying gemstone inlays. The Aurum series, for instance, features a sophisticated hand-applied and hand-distressed gold leaf finish to forge a centuries-old-antique effect. “It requires a combination of technical skill, artistic ability and attention to detail,” explains Grover. “Each piece is painstakingly hand-finished by our team of craftsmen, using hand tools to create the desired effect of each texture and pattern.”
Collaboration also plays a key role for Borrowed Earth, which has partnered with architects and designers like Sergio Mercado and Rebecca Minkoff on bespoke client installations and exclusive offerings. “I was fascinated by the brand’s technical capabilities,” says Mercado, who helped develop the grooved Astradia carved stone that was featured in the 2023 Kips Bay Decorator Show House in New York. “The design was scaled over a 4-by-8-foot slab, allowing for the pattern to be matched on all four sides of to create a seamless look.”
Odyssey and Borrowed Earth have grown to become an international team with more than 250 employees, ranging from 3D texture modelers to block markers, stone carvers and inlay craftsmen. That team has been essential to Grover’s success: “Stone is a cumbersome material to work with, requiring heavy investment in machinery and people,” she says. “Initially, I was mostly subcontracting artisans and outsourcing manufacturing, but I realized quickly that the only way to grow was to set up my own manufacturing studio.”
In February, Grover will return to KBIS to unveil the brand’s latest tile and panel designs; she also hopes to release two new designer collaborations every year. “Borrowed Earth is a movement,” she says. “We are making the process effortless and providing a blank canvas to the creative community to realize their visions under our technical guidance and expertise.”