Countertops 101 – Marble

… the highs and the lows. Homeowners who at one point or another have gone through a kitchen renovation know that choosing the right countertop material is a major decision. A decision that will affect the entire look, feel and functionality of your kitchen, not to mention your budget!

The good news is that the choices available out there are endless.  From 100% naturally occurring stones like granite and marble, to engineered stones like quartz produced in a variety of colors and finishes, to wood, concrete, steel, even laminates – there is something for any need and budget. So I thought that it would be helpful for you (and fun for me) to start a blog series on countertops and their distinctive pros and cons.

So here goes, marble first. My absolute favorite. One of the most beautiful materials known to mankind, marble is a symbol of classic elegance and luxury. It may come with a higher price tag but it will add a lot of equity to your home. Marble has been used for millennia in all decorative arts. Michelangelo’s David is carved in Carrara marble. Marble is soft enough to be carved yet resilient to cracking and shattering, which makes it the perfect material for statuary. Marble was also loved by the Ancient Romans and Greeks, who used it in masonry and in the construction of temples and official buildings.

Fast forward a few thousand years and marble still fascinates many. In contemporary interior design, it is most used in kitchens and bathrooms, as well as a flooring material in formal interiors.

Cafe Design | Marble 21

When it comes to kitchens, the downside of marble countertops is that they can be high-maintenance. It is not impossible to live with marble, in fact it is easier than it’s made out  but it does take more care than usual. Here’s why. First, marble is a metamorphic rock, a type of limestone that contains crystals of calcite and dolomite that are highly sensitive to acids. This means that spilled wine, lemon juice, vinegar, certain cleaning substances can easily damage its surface. Stains should be taken care of immediately. However, it’s not all bad. With a little extra care, marble can preserve its beauty and you’ll have a timeless looking kitchen. Like any natural stone, marble needs sealing before use. Over time, it needs regular protection – sealing it twice yearly is usually enough.

House Beautiful HD #421108_AN_HouseBeautiful

On the positive side, being a porous stone that contains crystals, it reflects light in wonderful ways, which is what makes it so unique, and so appreciated in the decorative arts. This luminous quality gives marble a soft glow and despite being a hard surface, it has a creamy, almost buttery appearance.

Cafe Design | Marble 22

On the flip side, being a more porous stone also means it can etch and scratch easier. Chopping directly on a marble countertop should be avoided. As with many porous stones, there’s also the ‘’small’’ issue of bacteria growth that needs to be taken care of. Being a 100%  natural stone, marble will age over time and change its appearance. Personally, I love how it evolves and if you’re not a perfectionist and can live with minor stains and scratches, you will love it too.

Cafe Design | Marble 17

Marble slabs mantain a cool temperature of around 55F and are a great surface for kneading dow and working with chocolate, so they are a favorite work surface for bakers.

Cafe Design | Marble 16

Depending on their formation, amount of impurities and quarry location, marble slabs vary greatly. There are no two slabs the same, which is one of the reasons marble countertops are so thought after.

Cafe Design | Marble 24

In residential design, the most commonly used marble stones are – Carrara, Calacatta and Statuario.  Quarried in Northern Tuscany, Italy they all share a white-gray background and blueish-gray veining with slight variations as follows.

Carrara marble has a soft veining and it takes on a blue-gray appearance. The gray background of this marble shows off subtle gray flecks and feathery, linear veining.  In comparison to other marbles, Carrara has a more subtle appearance.True to its name, Carrara marble is quarried in northern Tuscany, Italy, in the city of Carrara. The Apuan Alps have more than 600 quarry sites for Carrara marble. That is more than any other marble quarry in the world! Various well-known monuments and statues were created with Carrara marble, such as Michelangelo’s David, the Pantheon and London’s Marble Arch. Aside from its structural uses, modern applications for the stone include wall panels, flooring, stairways and countertops.

carrara

Carrara

Calacatta marble has a pure white background with gorgeous, dramatic gold and gray veining. Calacatta does not follow a linear pattern and is often considered one of the most luxurious and pure marbles in appearance. If you’re looking for a heavy veining, this choice is much bolder than Carrara marble, with thicker and larger patterns. This marble is also quarried in Carrara, Italy. This location causes confusion between Calacatta and Carrara marble, since they are quarried in the same region. Calacatta creates a classic look for residential and commercial applications, like its use as elegant floor tiles, countertops and backsplashes.

calacatta

Calacatta 

Statuario is a more exclusive stone with distinct gray and gold veining throughout and a striking, bold pattern. This marble is considered to be one of the major white marbles. Statuario marble contains heavy, bold gray veining mixed with thinner patterns. Statuario marble is also quarried in Italy. The mountain quarries of Statuario marble are located above Carrara. Statuario has limited availability and high demand. The low availability of this marble makes it more of a rare find. Statuario marble is an ideal stone for indoor applications such as kitchen countertops and backsplashes, bathroom vanities, and floor tiles. Statuario marble should not be used for exterior applications.

statuario

Statuario

I hope I’ve convinced you to add a touch of marble in your life! Here are more of my favorite kitchens that have marble countertops and/or  backsplashes (my favorite combination).

Cafe Design | Marble 1

Cafe Design | Marble 3

Tria Giovan Photography

Cafe Design | Marble 6

xo,

Eva



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6 Comments

  1. October 19, 2017 / 1:51 pm

    I absolutely adore the look and feel of marble however I wouldn’t be able to handle it if it got stained–which it inevitably will with kids. So, I know that when the time finally comes to redo my kitchen, I am going with a more durable and easier to care for white quartz that looks like marble. I love the inspiration photos that you pulled together Eva–all so pretty!

    • Eva Contreras
      October 19, 2017 / 3:16 pm

      Thanks for stopping by, Elizabeth! Always a pleasure to read your comments! I can totally understand your choice, in a high-traffic kitchen with kids in the mix, it can get pretty ugly for marble 🙂 Thank God that they now make quartz look so beautifully like marble. xo, Eva

  2. October 26, 2017 / 5:58 pm

    Such lovely photos and a great description of marble! Our home kitchen is marble and 4 years later, we still love it! It does have scratches and scrapes (my main unsolicited piece of advice it not to slide plates across the countertops) but it is as lovely as ever (although, admittedly, we aren’t perfectionists in the countertop realm). We didn’t want to be so protective of them that our guests felt nervous being around them, so we do tend to be super laid back and just embrace the wear and tear as it comes 🙂

    • Eva Contreras
      October 26, 2017 / 6:36 pm

      Thank you for commenting, Marta! I love to hear how you live with your marble countertops.It’s true that it’s not for everyone but I too love it as it ages and shows the signs of life. Those little imperfections make a house a home…xo, Eva

  3. Diana Bier
    November 12, 2017 / 4:16 am

    Hi Eva!

    Just found your blog/website and I love your photos and topics!

    On the subject of marble, I’ve had Danby marble from Vermont in my kitchen for about 3 1/2 years now and I have to say it is incredibly beautiful. Danby is from the only wholly underground quarry in the world, and it has been protected from the elements, which makes it one of the densest marbles. It does NOT stain at all, there are no discolorations from berries, tomatoes, mustard, wine, coffee, etc. However, as you pointed out, it does etch from anything remotely acidic, even hard water. I was fully aware of its properties before I bought it and the etching really doesn’t bother me. I don’t try to remove the etches, since I’d then be spending my entire life “maintaining” the countertop. The only thing I do is clean it after cooking and eating to remove food and dirt.

    The last thing I’d want to do is use man-made quartz with the idea that it is indestructible. I’ve read many comments from homeowners who have white quartz and are dismayed that they have stains on it! I think the best thing to do when choosing a countertop material is to do all your research and choose the one that best fits your lifestyle, keeping in mind that nothing is perfect.

    • Eva Contreras
      November 12, 2017 / 7:01 pm

      Hi Diana! Welcome, I’m so happy you like the blog and that you took the time to leave such a lovely comment! I am with you when it comes to marble vs quartz, although I prefer the first, there are many reasons for homeowners to choose the later. I didn’t know about Danby marble, I’m glad to learn something new. Thanks! xo, Eva

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