September 19, 2017
If you’re an interior design aficionado, you’ve probably spent your share of time admiring the rich veining and majestic depth of marble. There’s a reason many famous sculptures and works of art are made of, or incorporate, marble: its beauty makes it a work of art all by itself.
Many designers encourage homeowners to limit the use of marble to low-traffic zones, like chair rails, side tables, maybe a bathroom vanity at the most, because the scratch- and stain-prone nature of this popular stone make it seem impractical for such a busy application. This is unfortunate, because the dramatic veins and swirls of marble are best displayed in large applications like kitchen countertops and backsplashes.
Here’s the real answer when it comes to marble:
You can use marble in the kitchen, as long as you are prepared to commit a little more diligence when it comes to upkeep, or a perspective shift when it comes to the imperfections caused by daily life. If this is acceptable, then yes, you can have those white marble kitchen countertops that you’ve always dreamed of.
History of Marble
For centuries, marble has been a hallmark of luxury and tradition. From architecture to artwork, marble is an ideal building material since it is capable of bearing immense weight. Just think of all those stunning marble columns in ancient architecture! Marble is a metamorphic stone, created when limestone is subject to enormous amounts of heat and pressure over long periods of time. The Parthenon in Athens, Greece, the Taj Mahal in India, and the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C. were all constructed with marble, and are regarded as some of the most stunning buildings and structures in the world. Today, marble is still used in architecture – in commercial buildings, places of worship, and more.
Characteristics of Marble
The same characteristics that make marble perfect for sculpture, as well as other practical applications, can also make it more susceptible to scratching, etching, or staining. Marble rates a 3 on the Mohs hardness scale, and is considered a “soft” stone – hence its common use in sculpture. In the kitchen, that means marble countertops can scratch and scuff more easily than other surfaces, such as granite or quartz. Marble is also a porous stone, so it’s more prone to staining due to harsh cleaning products or acidic liquids. We’ll address these issues further below, when we talk about marble maintenance.
Because marble occurs in very large deposits that can be hundreds of feet thick, it’s usually harvested in enormous slabs directly from the sides of mountains, making it ideal for large applications, such as kitchen countertops. Each slab is unique and there’s a great deal of variation from one segment to the next, so every marble countertop, backsplash, and tabletop is truly one-of-a-kind. And in the case of the classic white marble, the bright shade gives the kitchen a fresh, clean sparkle and can brighten up a space with less natural light.
Styles of Marble
Among the classic Italian whites, there are two dominant styles: Carrara and Calacatta.
Carrara marble, generally the more budget-friendly option, has fine veining typically, lending more grey and silver undertones to the entire stone. With less dramatic variation in the different segments, Carrara generally has a more uniform appearance, although you can often find slabs with more dramatic veins.
Calacatta marble, meanwhile, is characterized by large, broad veins and big movement. This style is more dramatic and luxurious, perfect for a fireplace surround or statement kitchen island. Because of the variation, Calacatta marble is best showcased in large applications.
Although four countries – Italy, China, India, and Spain – produce nearly half the world’s marble, marble is quarried all over the world. Some of MARVA’s marbles, such as New Imperial Danby, come from right here in the United States.
Marble can be finished in three different ways: polished, honed, or leathered.
Polishing marble will give it that iconic gloss that highlights the bright whites and sparkle of the stone. This is the most popular option, because it gives the stone a luxurious appearance, and is easier to clean. However, polished marble can show streaks, scuffs, scratches, and etches more easily, so your marble may show the wear of your kitchen more quickly.
Honed marble has a matte finish that varies from completely flat to semi-matte, which is a bit more forgiving when it comes to scuffs and scratches, and “dresses down” the feel of the marble so it’s softer and warmer, rather than pristine and sterile. While honed countertops may hide scratching, it also makes the stone more porous and susceptible to stains and requires more frequent re-sealing
The final option, leathering, gives marble a more natural feel, with varying texture that mimics the movement of natural stone - perfect to emphasize the straight-from-the-earth aesthetic. Like honed stone, leathered stone won’t show watermarks, fingerprints, or scratches as easily; however, the tiny valleys allow liquids to collect, increasing the chances of staining and etching.
Designers have been known to refer to marble as the “blue jeans of countertops” – they show the wear and tear of life, but that’s also what gives them their character. It’s true that keeping marble pristine requires some extra TLC; but some homeowners have found that perfection isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. The etches, the scratches, the stains and splatters all tell the story of your family and how they use and love the kitchen. And other homeowners find that with the natural swirls and beautiful unpredictability of the marble’s veining patterns, the stains and scratches nearly disappear into its surface.
However, there are measures you can take to keep your marble looking its best:
Have your countertops sealed reqularly.
Sealing your countertops will help them repel water, but isn’t a guarantee against staining. It’s generally advised to have your marble professionally sealed to start with, but you can get a sealer to apply yourself when it comes time to reseal, which is usually every 3-6 months. Darker marble can go longer between sealing, whereas white marble needs more frequent upkeep.
Wipe up spills quickly.
Don’t let water pool on the stone, or you run the risk of stains, etches, or water damage.
Avoid harsh or abrasive cleaning products.
Stick to PH-balanced cleaning solutions, since acid will cause etching on your marble, and use a soft cloth when cleaning, to avoid fine scratches. Hot water and a soft towel are the best tools, but you can also disinfect your countertops once a day by sprinkling baking soda on the surface and gently rubbing with a damp cloth.
Always use coasters, cutting boards, and hot pads.
Avoid setting food, plates, utensils, or hot pots and pans directly on your marble – doing so can stain, etch, or scorch the stone. Never cut directly on your marble countertops, as you run the risk of scratching it with your knife – and, in the case of raw meat, leaving behind a place for bacteria to collect and multiply.
Where to Use Marble in the Kitchen
Ready for your new marble kitchen?
Here are some ideas for where you can use it.
The obvious option. Don’t be scared – now you know how to protect your marble and minimize damage. Remember, your marble should tell a story. Consider going with white-hot Carrara or Calacatta marble for that ever-popular all-white kitchen, or check out some of MARVA’s more colorful selections, to make your kitchen really stand out.
If you have a separate wet bar area in your kitchen, this is another excellent place for marble, since it likely won’t be exposed to quite as much traffic. Remember, however, that the bar is where you’ll most often have to deal with citrus juices and red wine, so be careful! Consider working on an elegant tray or protective mat.
Oversized kitchen islands are on-trend right now, and there’s no better way to make a statement than with some stunning marble on the countertops. Go with an unexpectedly bright pattern set against a monochrome cabinet and countertop design in the rest of the kitchen, or splurge on the covet-worthy Calacatta, to make a luxe impression on guests.
Vertical applications like kitchen backsplashes are another perfect way to show off marble’s distinctive veining. You can bookmatch different slabs, match your backsplash with your countertops, or choose complimentary designs. And as much upkeep as marble may require, it’s far easier to clean than those big-box mosaic backsplashes with all the grout and nooks and crannies!
View our full inventory of Natural Stone Products. Call your local MARVA Showroom to get in touch with your local MARVA representative, if you have any questions.
Other Sources for Inspiration
- Check out our Pinterest for style ideas.
- Follow us on Facebook to keep up with everything MARVA has to offer.
- Find design inspiration in our Houzz Ideabooks.
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