Let’s really talk about marble

There are many factors to consider when talking about marble for counters. The main one seems to be DOES IT STAIN? This is the big question many people renovating or building want to know?  The whole marble versus granite or quartz debate plus many more considerations that can be overwhelming. This is not to be an exhaustive study of each but I will give you some information on what I have learned recently working with clients and in my own home. I will also link to some great posts and some great information and perspectives I have learned from other designers and bloggers.

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But first, let’s start at the beginning. My beginning.

Isn’t marble super FANCY? First off, that was my misconception I had to get over, marble is not really that fancy or formal.  Yes it’s beautiful but it’s not pretentious or overly dressy in my opinion.  It’s actually a very natural and honest material. It was silly to think that it was too fancy for a cottage or casual living. It’s not at all, it works so well in an older home. Think France! Think ice cream shops and charming bakeries. Like the bakery in Nancy Meyer’s film It’s Complicated.  I don’t even know if thats marble Meryl Streep is leaning over but it sure looks like it.

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 Larger shot of the same bakery from the movie, so charming.

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Or like you might find at Blue Eyed Daisy Bakeshop in Serenbe near Atlanta. It could be quartz but it appears to be marble.

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If you have travelled in Europe then you have seen marble in both art museums and in cafes.  It’s used everywhere, from the elegant to the everyday, because it’s such a wonderful and beautiful material.

Aren’t their DIFFERENT TYPES of marble?  Yes, I have simple carrara marble. This is the least expensive (as far as I know;) and what I consider basic marble and more like what is used in cafes and casual settings (at least that is what I tell myself;).  I believe Statuary marble is a brighter white and calacatta has heavier veining.  Some of my clients WANT a heavy dramatic vein. I did not. All that being said, I have seen calacatta and other more heavily veined marbles than carrara used in cottage kitchens or on a large island and it looks so pretty in various settings.  I just knew I wanted the grayish and less veined carrara that you can find for a such a reasonable price! You really just have to look at the slabs yourself and decide what you look you want in your home. Here is an article that sheds some light on the differences from Houzz. And honestly I think there are some conflicting descriptions and photos floating around the web about different types of marble.  It really varies.  Granted it is natural stone so its never going to be uniform so always try to see the slabs before you purchase and educate yourself before you invest.

We used Carrara in the Louisana kitchen below. My clients love to cook and drink wine but are still glad they made this decision. You can see more of this home in my portfolio and in the before and after post of the kitchen here.

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DOESN’T IT STAIN Yes marble is a natural material and soft and porous and it can stain as well as chip and scratch.  And yes it certainly etches. In fact, IT WILL ETCH. Based on what I have learned reading and talking to other decorators and homeowners, and experts, the polished marble (which is more dressy obviously) is beautiful but does etch and stain more so than a honed and sealed marble. Honed marble and wonderful new sealers prevent staining in most situations. A Houston company even offers a 15 year guarantee on stains (but NOT etches;)  Everyone (except one blog comment on my last post) I talked to that has recently installed honed marble says “yes it etches some” and “yes I was nervous at first” but “I love it and would do it again.”  I think it’s a personal decision.  If you are a perfectionist and very type A, which I am not, then it’s probably not the material for you. But I am not type A, I have white slipcovers and boys so obviously a few water marks on my marble is not going to bother me.  Lest you think I am too easygoing though.  I did nearly stop breathing when my mom said “Henry used the self inking stamper on your counters but it MOSTLY came off” well it all came off but I was a bit concerned. I have honestly used  the little magic eraser pads quite a bit to get some things out. Henry Mathis needs to be thankful for the invention of magic erasers!

More battle scenes below from my own kitchen! So far it has all easily wiped up (knock on wood) Again mine is honed and sealed.

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Joan from the lovely blog, For the Love of a House, has an excellent post on marble for counters and she address the issue of staining and etching as well.  She actually has some great photos that really capture “etching” and what it really looks like. And she reinterates the point IT WILL ETCH so know that going in.  She also brings up how salesmen and contractors will try to talk you out of it so do your research and be ready to stick to your guns.

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 Joan’s kitchen

Edie from Life in Grace also has written a great post on her experience with marble. She gives a really realistic and funny view of living with marble by discussing the Myers-Briggs personality test in relation–very funny but some truth to it no doubt! Her post also gives a great link on cleaning tips. Edie has polished marble but she says it quickly looked like her friends’ marble that was honed.  She also has some great photos of etching and the effects of living and “patina” of her marble. I also love how she talks about how marble wears its “heart on its sleeve”…just like us, vulnerable but beautiful!  Leave it to Edie to touch all aspects of this topic from the emotional and spiritual to the funny personality quirks of dealing with imperfections!

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Life in Grace kitchen

So what is ETCHING?  It’s just a colorless looking watermark.  Usually wiping down with a warm cloth they go away. I think it’s important to dry them as well if possible. Joan mentioned above from For the Love of  a House uses barkeepers friend. You can’t see them or photograph them easily (though Joan and Edie did;) but can see sideways in the light.  Water spots usually wipe away but acidic things like lemons or pickles or tomatoes can etch more permanently.  I haven’t had any major problems at all. I do keep several cutting boards out and we don’t drink red wine. My client that does drink a lot of wine has coasters for her bottles.  This may  sound really troublesome to you but its worth it. Especially when it feels 120 degrees outside in Texas and you touch that cool marble. Bottom line, etching will happen, its inherent to marble so be sure this isn’t something that is going to bother you down the road.

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Tessa’s kitchen

What about QUARTZ? As gorgeous as it is, after research you may decide that marble it is in fact not for you and your lifestyle or personality. I had a comment on my last post from a reader named Molly that says she really regrets her marble because of the etching. I really appreciate her honesty. My friend Tessa is an amazing cook and enjoys being in the kitchen and making a mess. She knew marble was not the right decision for her kitchen and chose quartz in Lagoon, it looks amazing.  You can see and read all about it here.  It is more pricey than marble but she has NO WORRIES. And it looks great. So you just have to know what works for you. After a lot of research, Tessa made the best decision. She also says she was never totally set on marble like some of us crazies get, she actually wanted soapstone but decided it was too dark.  Soapstone is another post.  It’s amazing too but dark and has some maintenance involved.  Point is if you REALLY want marble you can probably handle some of the issues but if you aren’t dying to have it something like quartz may fit the bill.

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My kitchen

How do you CLEAN it? Well not with bleach or 409.  Anything with vinegar is damaging. This may freak some people out who want to disinfect their counters.  Soap and water work best with marble.  409 does make a stone cleaner that I read is okay for carrara but I haven’t tried it yet.  I have wondered if the Mrs Meyers cleaner would be okay, I love that but I haven’t tried. If you have marble what do you use to clean?  With marble, most people use one or more chopping boards so that really helps with cleanup and the need to disinfect. Just make sure your cleaners are natural with no vinegar.  I think the J.R. Watkins will be fine but I haven’t really tried yet; Again, Edie’s fab post has a great link to cleaning tips.

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Rachael’s kitchen

Isn’t it PRICEY? When it comes to price you just have to shop around. It’s marble. It’s not cheap but you might be surprised when comparing it to other commonly used materials. Be sure and ask if the quoted price includes demo and removal of what you already have in place.  Also if you want the best price get plain ol carrara. That is what I have.  Not calcutta or the other heavily veined more precious marbles. Many designers talk a lot about Calcutta and Oro and other fancy marbles and that’s great, they are gorgeous, especially in a large kitchen or bath where you want to do something dramatic.  But for my little cottage I knew plain ol carrara was the way to go.  Honed and sealed.  And I did a plain edge.  I will say I have been surprised more and more when working with clients to find out that simple carrara is (not the calcutta mind you but basic carrera) is cheaper than granite. And certainly less expensive than quartz and silestone and other man made products.

Joni at Cote de Texas  has calcutta and used it on her backsplash too..so pretty.  Notice it has more veining than mine. Her blog is a wealth of knowledge on this topic! Read her post on the topic here.

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Joni’s kitchen

EDGE SEAMS AND PROFILE Now here is an issue you need to be aware of – EDGE SEAMS.  My marble is 2cm thick, which is the least expensive.  You can get 3cm  even 4cm or larger thick slabs and if it’s in your budget I suggest it because it gives you a nice thick natural edge.  My seam is very faint and my installers did a great job “faking” the double edge. My friend, designer Jenny Johnston taught me that a 2cm slab of marble can be mitered to give the look of a 3″ edge.  TALK TO YOUR INSTALLERS ABOUT THIS…..how this turns out really depends on the installation, if you are really concerned, consider getting a 3 cm slab.  Of course that is more expensive.  Another alternative to the edge seam is to get a decorative profile, that profile allows a place to hide the seam.  I wanted a simple super eased edge so they seamed mine. One of my current clients decided to just go ahead with 3cm because of this concern.  SO just be aware and discuss with installer.

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Is INSTALLATION MESSY/TIME CONSUMING? Speaking of installation, mine was so fast.  One day (just an hour or two) to make the templates.  Then on install day the tear out of my old counters (which were very sturdy wood frame counters with laminate and then grainte tiles over the old laminate) was SO FAST, they did the tear out and install all in one day. Again I am sure this depends on the installers and I highly recommend American Countertop Fabricators but all in all I was pleasantly surprised a how easy the install was in my kitchen..  It took much longer to get my tile work done on the backsplash.  Be sure and ask if they will seal it the same day?  Mine did.

What about DANBY MARBLE?  Danby marble is pricier but more stain resistant (which I don’t really think staining is an issue if you hone and seal but that is just my experience) and apparently danby does not etch as much as other marbles, at least according to one client.  Andrea my Canadian client used Danby in her beautiful kitchen remodel pictured below and you can read more about her experience here.

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Andrea’s kitchen

It will be interesting for us all to revisit this in 5 years or more. One has already had a lot of etching and the other had a chip and scratch. But they still like it. I sometimes wonder if the lighting in peoples kitchens makes a difference in how much etching they perceive.  But I will say  Martha has Danby, enough said for most people;  You can read more about one blogger’s experience with Danby here.

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CONFESSION  I have to admit, I was a little nervous with my marble counters at first. It’s kind of like bringing a new baby home from the hospital.  You are in awe, you want to touch it, a lot, but you want to be very careful. I was honestly like a teenage boy with a new Trans Am.  Wiping and shining and staring. But slowly the new has worn off and I don’t yell at my family when I see a v-8 berry fusion can on the counter (hello there is a huge wood cutting board right there!)

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 (photo opportunity provided by Henry Mathis, age 4, prepping his breakfast taco!)

I must say Henry’s little mishap with the jar of salsa helped me get a grip. (Lucky for him he is very cute and it wiped up no damage done) God has a way of humbling us and reminding us to get over ourselves and our precious stuff huh?!  It’s just that at the end of the day, stuff…kitchen counters so let’s don’t get wound to tight about it;;  But I will say marble is a beautiful and honest material and I glad I finally took the plunge and brought it into our home. I like old and natural things with patina and wear and imperfections so it’s a good fit!

What about you? Have you used marble while redoing a kitchen or bath?  Is it honed or polished? How do you clean it? Do you feel like you have to baby it?  Would you install it again?

{Disclaimer: I am not a scientist or expert on marble and stains and cleaners and specifics, just giving a bit of a glimpse from my recent experiences in my home and with clients. Please do your own research}

Kitchen remodel DONE

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Well our kitchen updates are finally complete.  It was officially the longest remodel ever but that is okay.

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It was worth the wait. You can see many of the befores and years and years of during in this post.

I have to say the undermount sink was a game changer for me..silly but true.  It’s not a farm sink but its HUGE and one opening and undermount, I already said that right?!..the little things y’all. And you can read about the fun of painting the cabinets here.  And you can see some of the original color scheme (or the 1970s layer)

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Some things haven’t changed over the last 12 years.  We have the same black and white color scheme and same cabinets, nothing has ever been gutted but we’ve been through yellow walls and leopard print chicken prints and a stove that was older than us! Not to mention that flurouscent light I put up with for years. You can see mid way here.

The counters weren’t awful, they were 12 x 12″ granite tiles. I was just really over the cookies and cream granite pattern and the GROUT LINES, the blasted grout lines and sink. And that small backsplash..yuk. I underestimated the power of a nicer bridge faucet..high necks are wonderful regardless of price point but if you can’t splurge on sink and faucet, just the faucet helps so much in my humble opinion. A farm sink would required major tear out and we just weren’t up to the mess or expense..you gotta know when to stop (cue my husband laughing).

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So basically we started in 2010 with the opening of the wall between our kitchen and dining, that changed my life, literally. Then we painted over the yellow and slowly replaced appliances and the lights, removed cabinet doors and finally did counters and sink and backsplash. When we orignally moved in (ca. 2000) the room was avocado green with dark stained knotty pine and pink lamintate countertops.  I started slapping white paint on things so fast we didn’t even get a very original before picture, just started painting and we’ve never looked back.  I actually painted the counters until we could afford the granite tiles  (photo above) we used for the first round of counters.  It’s been quite the odyssey as my friend Camille likes to say.

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Originally we used peel and stick tiles from Lowe’s to get our black and white look on the floors.  We loved it so much I knew I wanted to go back with another black and white tile but I didn’t want to do marble since I was doing marble counters and our house is on pier and beam so I didn’t really want to use ceramic tile.  I ended up using VCT.  I really like the finish and I used a mop on wax I will do twice yearly, you don’t have to give it the industrial high sheen wax like in schools.  My wax is satin but makes it easier to keep.  So glad we made this change.  The peel and stick tiles had become AWFUL!

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The stairs and numbers were done a long time ago but I still like the look . . . and I am not over the chalk wall either, it’s messy sometimes but good for memory work and I love the seasoned look of the chalk and texture.

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Thank you Lord for cabinets that go to ceiling (at least on one side)

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And the IKEA stainless shelf that was hanging on the wood backsplash functioned so well re-installed it on the subway tiles.  The 2 x 4 subway tiles are just from Lowes…so cheap and one of my favorite things we did!

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I can’t wait to share what I have learned about marble and staining.  Basically, it’s not an issue, there is some etching  but no stains. And no grout lines and the light they give off in my older home is amazing. My previous counters weren’t awful or super dark but the change and freshness and brightness has surprised even me… It’s hard not to get giddy over the marble and the honed really lends it a casual feel.

Bottom line, things can take time but it’s worth it even it if you have a vision and can peck away at it slowly.  I didn’t do everything, that would have been silly considering there are still other things we need to do that are more important.  We didn’t gut anything, I didn’t get a farm sink or new fancy cabinet drawers but I did choose things I love …it’s a trade off and as many of you with older homes know, it’s never over.  Thanks for letting me share;

Photos by Becki Griffin’s Curious Details

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Becki and I had so much playing/styling and taking these photos, we call it “playing barbies! If you are a designer in Texas you really should consider her for portfolio photos, she is amazing to work with!

(Sources: Kohler faucet, Martha Stewart Sharkey Gray on walls, BM Black Jack on backdoor, Stair numbers by Leen the Graphics Queen, metal stool by Tolix, VCT tiles by Armstrong, Gilmore cup pull hardware by Restoration hardware and their Hanson knob in polished nickel, lighting by Rejuvenation, vintage sign from the Brown Shed, bucolic painting from Leftovers Antiques, vintage paintings from the Brown Shed, glass jars from Amazon, marble from American Countertop Fabricators in Houston, Texas, bamboo blinds from Selectblinds.com)

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