Welcome to Monday Musings where I’ll talk briefly about something I’ve been thinking about or dealing with that is design related. Today’s Musing is about Marble. Many of us covet the look of marble- especially now when everywhere we look, light kitchens and bathrooms prevail with surfaces that have become much less busy than the granite of the last 20 years. Quartzite is now having a heyday, rightfully so, both because of it’s denseness, availability, and (generally) less busy markings than granite. But it is limited as far as the lightness of the stone is concerned hence we see everyone choosing Taj Mahal quartzite as a reaction to densely patterned granite that we are all tired of. The other natural stone for keeping counters light is marble. As designers, we are generally encouraged to steer clients away from marble because of its porosity and softness compared to granite. Because of this, marble is more prone to staining and scratching. And I agree- marble isn’t for everyone. Much of it depends on your tolerance for things not looking like what we are conditioned to view as pristine- especially with polished marble. But the advantage, as I see it, is the landscape has changed in the past 10 years as honed surfaces have happily gained steam in popularity. Honed stone tends to show scratches less than polished- and that is a huge plus. I realized this about 13 years ago when we were building our house. We hit the jackpot and ‘inherited’ some beautiful marble (unusual because it contained both warm and cool tones) from a giant house project that went belly up before they installed it. Literally thousands of pounds of marble sat exposed to the elements for nearly 5 years so any polish was effectively worn off except at the edges. This didn’t bother me because I had seen a few projects done in honed marble and loved the look of it. Besides- I knew I was not the type of person that was going to have polished marble because of the upkeep it requires. (Not saying there's anything wrong with it- I think it’s still beautiful, but we all need to know our limitations!) So we went to the property and weeded through all the marble, finding what we thought we could use. Side note- we felt like the Beverly Hillbillies hauling the marble on a 45 mile trek back and forth never exceeding 35 mph; avoiding the freeway- taking side roads to our build site in our overly packed and weighed down old suburban. If there was a dip or bump in the road, we were in imminent danger of bottoming out- I'm sure it was a pretty comical (and annoying if you were driving behind us) sight!
The reason I remember we were just on the cusp of beginning the honed look was because the stone fabricators weren’t really sure what I was talking about when I said I just wanted the marble honed and not repolished. And to be honest- I don't even know that they had the correct tools but more importantly how to do it correctly. They did it somehow, albeit turning out rougher than it probably should have. All that to say, even though it was at the beginning of the trend so the tiles didn't turn out exactly how I pictured, I don't regret it for one minute and love my bathroom. I also confess I don't for one minute wish I had installed it in my kitchen, (I think I'm too fearful I will burn it by putting a pot directly on it or something) so I guess for me that is the line. But for my bathroom, it adds character and charm that I couldn't have achieved otherwise. In that way we were fortunate, because there is no way we could have afforded to do our entire master in marble if we had to purchase it ourselves. We may have been able to pull off the countertops, but certainly not the floors and shower as well.
So yes, marble is more porous than other stone and should be sealed every few years (as most stone) and yes, I have imperfections and stains in my marble, but to me that adds to the character of it. Think about it- ancient cities such as the Parthenon or the Roman Forum have endless marble steps, columns and statues everywhere. We are talking as early as 700 BC for these places- like 2,700 years ago! Sure, the steps dip in the middle because of years of people walking up and down them, but they have clearly stood the test of time (and elements I might add). Much more than any man made product, that’s for sure.
My point is not to dis man made products, or people who prefer the polished look. But I am proposing a shift in perspective and a reexamination of what we deem looks good. Thinking of it in terms of telling a story and a history of a life well lived is something I personally resonate with. I know there are people out there who will always prefer the pristine over patina, and that is more than ok, because there are some people who just won’t be happy with their counters or floors getting scratched or looking imperfect. It’s all about knowing who you are, what you consider looks good and what you are comfortable with. So should you use marble in your home? Really only you can answer the question for yourself. Think about whether you will be ok if and when your kid spills grape juice it leaves a slightly discolored spot, or you have a hair product that leaves a mark that can't be completely removed, because you know if that exact thing doesn't happen, at some point something like that will. But hopefully I've given you some points to consider and instead of nixing it all together right away- because if you do decide to use it, someday when that kid who was drinking that grape juice is grown, you'll have the opportunity to point to that spot and say.... remember when?
Wonder about the relative hardness of various stone? These are the most common surfaces in order of hardness least to greatest:
Limestone, Travertine, Marble, Onyx, Granite, Soapstone, Quartzite, Slate
Remember each has their benefits and drawbacks- do your research before choosing to make sure you specify the one most conducive to your lifestyle.
What about you- would you install a marble surface in your home? If so, is there any place that would be off limits? Comment and let us know!