I WANT THE WHITE MARBLE! YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE WHITE MARBLE!!
…okay, I may be dating myself by referencing a favorite movie line from A Few Good Men (circa 1992), but did I catch your attention?
Maybe a better way to start that conversation is…
So you like the look of a white marble kitchen? Let’s talk about what to expect and then ask yourself, “Can I live with white marble?”
So what is marble?
Marble is a metamorphic rock, which means it changed from its original sedimentary form, like limestone or dolomite rock, to marble while under severe pressure and heat. The veining, which is the distinguishing feature of marble, is the result of impurities in the original stone that re-crystallized during the time it was under extreme pressure and heat.
Is marble for you?
If you are considering using white marble in your home, you should ask yourself a few questions…
Do I need perfection?
Do I see scars and blemishes that come with use as imperfections or as a patina that tells the story of the marble and reflects the history of the life it has lived?
Am I one who cleans up as I cook or do I let spills sit on the counter until I clean up at the end of a meal?
Are my friends and family respectful and clean up after themselves when they visit or do I love a bunch of slobs?
Marble is a beautiful material that gives a home a classic, timeless look. It will fit into a variety of lifestyles because it can be elegantly formal when in a polished finish as well as casually elegant in a honed finish. Whether polished or honed, it’s a sophisticated material. My personal favorite, and what is a more current yet timeless look, is honed marble. Although it’s more porous than polished marble, I think it’s actually more forgiving because when a polished marble gets etched with water rings or spots from acidic spills, it’s much easier to see and harder to fix.
One thing to consider is that we in America tend to be accustomed to newer, brighter things because, let’s face it, our country has only been in existence for 250 years and we just don’t have anything that’s all that "old". If you’ve ever walked down a European street or wandered through a building in an ancient city, you have walked amongst buildings and materials that are 500+ years old. There is marble everywhere—and it’s not pristine and perfectly white—it has a patina that has developed over the course of all those many years and tells a story of the life it’s lived. That’s how I tend to think of living with white marble. If you want something that will be almost impervious to stains, you may want to consider doing a quartz that mimics white marble. The trade-off is that it won’t look quite as rich, organic and natural as the real thing.
This is where we come in as designers working with our clients and getting to know their lifestyle as well as their tolerances. I’ve had clients come to me sure that they wanted quartz counters, but they kept being drawn to natural marble when we walked amongst the slabs at the stone yard because it is hard to beat the depth of color and beauty of natural white marble. In that case, we talk about the characteristics and required care of white marble to determine if it’s something they can live with. We’ve also had clients who we’ve steered away from white marble because they realize the patina it will develop over time is something that would add stress to their lives instead of being something they would embrace and appreciate.
That being said, there are things you can do to keep your marble looking great. First, the sealers that are made to seal white marble do a really great job so it’s not an automatic disaster if you spill red wine or tomato sauce on it as long as you get it wiped up before too long. But, know that if you miss something and it sits overnight, it may leave a mark. Peggy had white marble in a previous home and woke up to find a spot on her counter after a gathering when a drop of red wine sat undetected overnight. She worked on it a little and it lightened up but was still visible that first day. Within a week or so it had worked its way into the marble and lightened up to the point that it looked like a natural part of the veining. Anybody who walked in the kitchen would never notice that faded memory, but for Peggy it was part of the story of their time in that house. I’ve also heard stories of rolling out cookie dough on white marble and letting it sit long enough that it left an oil mark. Within a few weeks though the oil worked its way deeper into the porous stone and was barely perceptible.
Long story short, white marble is one of the most beautiful, classic and timeless materials you can use in your home and you will get a lifetime of enjoyment out of it. You just need to understand what it is and what it isn’t to make an informed choice that you will be happy with for many years to come.
Pros and Cons of Marble
Marble comes in many colors and levels of veining. For the purpose of this blog, I’m referring to white marble as it’s a very popular look that we love and have used several times. It has a 3-dimensional depth and richness that comes with the veining of a natural stone. It can have a polished finish which is shiny, or a honed finish which is matte.
Marble is more porous than granite so the possibility of it absorbing liquids and possibly staining is something to consider, although the sealers they use today can lessen this concern.
Strength and Durability:
Marble is definitely softer than granite and quartz so know that you will probably get some marks and scratches over the life of your countertops. The first scratch may be traumatic, but just like the first scratch on a gold ring, the more it happens, the more it becomes part of the overall surface patina.
Tips to Protect and Care for Marble in the Kitchen
Seal it with a 25 year sealer then seal it again annually just to be on the safe side (there is an argument that it doesn’t need to be done that often, but it doesn’t hurt).
Wipe up spills as soon as you notice them and always do a once over before going to bed to avoid things sitting all night before they are detected.
Clean with a heavy duty non-scratch sponge, mild dish soap and water.
If you end up with a spot, don’t freak out.
Use cornstarch to remove greasy stains.
Try baking soda or marble polish to reduce scratches on a honed surface.
Never ever scrub really hard with an abrasive pad as that can scratch the surface in just that spot.
Protect from etching with a protective drying mat.
Always use a cutting board to protect your counters as well as your knives.
Marble itself is heat resistant, but if there is a seam in the counter, the material used for the seam may expand/contract at a different rate that the marble. NEVER set a hot pan on a seam and it is best to use a trivet when putting a hot pan on the counter.