Thursday, April 22, 2010

Marble Countertops - Heavenly Delight or Holy Terror?

As I was perusing one of my favourite blogs, Emily A. Clark I came across this most stunning kitchen designed by Jeneration Design and it got me thinking.  While I love the kitchen in its entirety, I cringe when I look at the island with the white marble counter.  

When I studied design I took a course in Kitchen Design.  Once we had completed the layout and design curriculum we moved on to materials.  When we got to marble our instructor said, "marble cannot be used in a kitchen".  Not "if" or "when" but "cannot".  This theory was challenged by many students throughout the duration of the course and time and again, the answer was the same.  NO marble in a kitchen.  For stone, granite was viewed as the optimum in terms of maintenance, durability and reliability.  

Once I started my career and began to work with clients on bigger jobs such as kitchen renos the question of marble in a kitchen arose again.  My instinct was to say "no marble" but I felt like I should do some further research.  I visited many of the stone suppliers that we see when we watch HGTV (Canadian version, I was living in Toronto at the time).  When asked the question they emphatically replied, "no marble in the kitchen".  In fact, more than a couple of them will outright refuse to put marble in the kitchen.  Money in pocket should be enough movitivation, right?  So let's get to the bottom of this question and try to see why, if marble is so bad, so many designers and homeowners want to use it.

First we look at the origin of marble.  Marble is a metamorphic rock which was originally limestone and is composed primarily of the mineral calcite.  This sedimentary form of calcium, which is found naturally in the earth, undergoes intense heat and pressure within the earth to be formed into what we know as marble.  This rock can also be exposed to heat and grinding to become a filler ingredient for medications, writing paper, plaster of
Paris, lime (white wash), and cement hardener. This means that marble, although beautiful and durable, is porous and very easily destroyed by any type of acid, heat, or water.  Even with a sealer applied, marble will not be forgiving of spills from anything containing acid (limes, lemons), oils or red wine.  This is a deal breaker for me as I have spilled more than one glass of red wine in my time.

One of the main reasons that clients want marble is because it is light and although granite is available in white, there are very few that do not have darker markings or speckles.

Kashmir White Granite is one of the more popular choices for those looking for a compromise between marble's light appearance and granite's durability.  But it's a far cry from the pure white of a Blanco Carrara.  Although it may seem that I am a marble basher, nothing could be further from the truth.  I love marble!  I have a beautiful white Carrara table that is scratched but I still love it.  I have had marble countertops in my bathroom (yes, they did get stained from a shampoo bottle) and someday when I have my dream kitchen it will include a small marble slab for baking.  But you will never catch me hanging out with friends on a Saturday night with a glass of red wine sitting around the marble counter in the kithen.

Are there any alternatives that would satisfy the marble lover?  Maybe not but it's worth exploring.  As mentioned, if you're dead set on stone then you should consider finding a granite that you love as much as marble.  Granted you won't find the white but there are a plethora of colours and patterns available.

Quartz is a fabulous alternative to marble.  It's a natural mineral found in abundance in the earth.  Quartz is scratch resistant and and according to Moh's Scale (rating of a mineral's hardness) it ranks 7th for mineral hardness.  It comes in solid colours such as this....

or with larger crystal speckles such as this...

Both photos by Ceasarstone

Now to uncover the mystery of why so many consumers are requesting marble in the kitchen.  The answer to that is and magazines.  A few designers have made their trademark style based on their simple and elegant interiors and that includes marble.  Design tv is abundant and has turned the average homeowner into a much more knowledgeable consumer than they would have been 10 years ago.  With that knowledge sometimes comes misunderstanding or the perception of reliability so be careful.  If you must have marble, do your homework.  Know that there will be scratches and stains.  My good friend Chantal leaves a note for her babysitters in the kitchen to remind them not to use the marble counter.  And when you're drinking red wine with friends, hang on to your glass for dear life!!

1 comment:

  1. Hey Carol, Thanks for the mention :) Wish I had a part in actually designing that great kitchen!

    The marble isn't the only thing that wouldn't work in my real life. I can just imagine dirty little Cheeto fingers going for that chair and ottoman. Yikes! :)


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