Hello, readers! Welcome back to the Stonehouse Countertops blog! We’re pleased you’ve chosen Stonehouse Countertops for everything you need to know about custom countertop materials. We provide comprehensive deep dives into various aspects of the design and installation process, as well as helpful tips for choosing the best material for your home. Our goal is to equip you with the information you need to commission the perfect countertops!
Our previous article illuminated the difference between prefabricated and custom countertops, emphasizing the versatility of the latter. Just as we choose our clothes and shoes every day, choosing countertops should be an expression of our personal style and sensibilities. While prefabricated countertops limit buyers’ ability to specify length, thickness, color, and edge profile, custom countertops provide buyers with plenty of options to choose from. Check out our last article if you’re currently debating whether to choose prefab or custom countertops, as some of the information there may surprise you!
Today, we’re honing in on everyone’s favorite stone: marble! (Well, maybe not everyone’s favorite, but the designers quoted here are all in agreement. Marble’s the best!) While you might already know marble’s qualifications as a stone material, you’re less likely to have learned about marble’s rich history and versatility. We’ve already covered the design implications of marble in a previous article. Therefore, if you’re looking for design tips and ideas, we recommend checking that post out. But today, we’re more interested in what sets marble apart from other stone materials. What’s so special about marble? Read on to find out!
Marble, like a butterfly, undergoes a metamorphic process to become the stone we know and love. Many are unaware that marble begins as limestone. Subjected to intense pressure and heat, over time, marble takes on its characteristic appearance. “It takes a billion years to create a block of marble,” says Stefan Scholten, the designer of The Stone House. Derived from the ancient Greek word mármaron, meaning “crystalline rock, shining stone,” marble has been used in antiquity to fashion sculptures and erect monuments. Perhaps most famously, Carrara Bianco marble was used by Michelangelo to sculpt the figure of David. The marble pillars of the Supreme Court building, the spire of the Washington Monument, and the lustrous Lincoln Memorial are all examples of marble constructions in the United States alone. Across the world however, marble has been acknowledged as a premier stone and used to pay homage to great leaders and tragic events, alike.
Perhaps because of its long history, prestigious usage, and shining qualities, marble has traditionally been considered the most luxurious stone. In his design project, Stephen Scholten used waste marble (the remnants of marble which are disposed of after fabrication) to construct much of the project. “We wanted to get [to] a higher level, almost to create a new luxury,” he said. “Because marble is, of course, always referring to luxury in a way.” Although marble can come in affordable and expensive options, the appearance of marble is synonymous with wealth and opulence. That said, marble countertops can be found for as low as $75 per square foot and as high as $250 per square foot. The massive difference in price is based on quarry location, the availability of the marble, and the thickness of the slab. Calacatta marble, harvested from quarries in Carrara, Italy, is considered to be the most expensive type of marble in the world.
Karen Pearse, a “maestro of marble,” CEO of Karen Pearse Global Direct and author of ‘Splendor of Marble: Marvelous Spaces by the World’s Top Architects and Designers,’ describes marble as “so timeless yet so versatile. It’s astonishing that every piece is unique and was formed by the earth over millions of years. To me, the veining in the stone is like nature’s brushstrokes.” In her book, she seeks to impress upon people the beauty and versatility of marble. “I think there is a major misconception that marble can only be used for traditional floors or countertops.” But, in Pearse’s opinion, marble can easily transcend the normality of commonplace countertops to become art in and of itself. Imagine that—marble countertops as a statement piece.
In addition to its relative softness, the reason marble was chosen as a sculptural material was its low index of refraction. Composed primarily of calcite, marble allows light particles to breach its surface and travel several millimeters inward before scattering. This yields a degree of luster to marble, as though the stone is glowing from within, and gives dimension to the facial features found on marble statues. This low index of refraction is what gives marble the ability to be translucent when cut thin enough. Marble’s translucence and luster can be taken advantage of with the use of creative lighting.
The characteristic veining of marble is due to the presence of “impurities” during the crystallization process. These impurities can include clay, silt, sand, iron oxides, chert, and serpentine. Though the uniformity of white marble drew the eye of sculptors in the past, in modern times, colorful, highly-veined marble is particularly sought after. From Sunny out of Egypt to Red Verona out of Italy, marble comes in a wide variety of colors and patterns. The five main types of marble are: Carrara, Statuary, Calacatta, Emperador, and Crema Marfil. Carrara hails from the eponymous city in Italy and is recognizable by its soft veining. Statuary marble is a glossy marble with large, dramatic veins. Calacatta marble also hails from Carrara, Italy, but differs from Carrara marble in its dark veining. It’s also more rare and, thus, more expensive. Emperador marble is quarried from Spain and is available in a diverse range of colors. Its rich, darker hues bring warmth to most spaces. Lastly, Crema Marfil marble is a rustic marble which can be found in beiges and yellows. This type is also from Spain.
Just like every season the fashion world comes together to celebrate new designs and trends, so too does the interior design world. In September 2021, Milan’s interior design fashion week saw the arrival of what was dubbed the “new stone age.” Various designers used marble as the inspiration for their new pieces, with entire collections hewn from the versatile stone. ELLE Decor editors wrote, “Marble has indeed been an art, an obsession, and a way of life in Italy. But at this year’s fair, we noticed designers played with the age-old material in a new way: They sliced it very thin to create translucency; where there was once solidity, they created new, graphic shapes.” While thin countertops may not be the way to go, experimenting with marble’s versatility is certainly encouraged.
When asked what natural stone should be used by designers, Susanna Citrano, an Italian architect currently working with a London firm, said: “Marble has a great durability over time and, unlike ceramics, can be treated. It is a product that from an aesthetic point of view enhances the project in a unique way, showing the effect of nature: each slab is unrepeatable, as are the veins and textures… You get closer to nature and consequently develop a kind of regard, of respect for the material.” While everyday buyers are often warded off of marble for its porousness and maintenance, marble’s long track record as a stone used by builders, sculptors, and designers alike shows the stone is perfectly equipped to belong in any environment. Citrano went on to say, “For an ordinary designer it is normal to opt for Carrara marble, without knowing that there are at least 50 or even 100 types of this variety.” Marble’s intrinsic versatility makes the stone a well-rounded option for any homeowner and a divine addition to any space.
This article has been all about marble! Do not allow perceptions or assumptions about marble to deter you from incorporating this lustrous stone into your home. Instead, research the various colors and patterns available to you and play around with how you’ll design these additions. Allow your imagination to run wild and trust marble will be there to help make your vision come true!
As always, we’re happy to help! Equipped with information, you’re now able to make the choice best suited to you and your needs. At Stonehouse Countertops, we are willing and able to work with you to your specifications. We offer a wide range of different materials and always have someone on hand to answer your questions! Don’t hesitate to reach out for a consultation or for help forming a plan. We want to ensure your vision becomes a reality! Check back into our blog for future articles about custom stone countertops! Until next time—thanks for reading!