beautiful Marble countertops (would love input!)

Marble countertops (would love input!)

I am now at the point where I have to select the actual slabs that will be used for the kitchen countertops.   We are going to use honed marble, as we want a light, soft, peaceful look for the countertops.  This is the recommendation from my kitchen designer, designer, and architect, as it is the material that suits the look and style of the house.  Granite was never an option; although it is the most practical choice when looking at natural stone, the busyness of the patterns is not my style. I like honed dark granite, but a dark counter is not really the right look for this kitchen.   Truthfully, I would be perfectly happy with a white corian; I have it in my current kitchen, and I love it.  But, I am looking forward to having a natural stone counter. 

Marble is a countertop material that has been used in countless kitchens renovations and builds over the past 5-10 years in Atlanta.  My kitchen designer tells me that sealers for marble have come a long, long way, and kitchens she designed 5 years ago with marble countertops are doing wonderfully.  However, anyone who is considering marble needs to be aware that the surface will be a ‘living surface’; it will not stay pristine, and will get a patina fairly quickly.  Marble is more porous than granite, it can chip, and it etches.  Marble countertops require a bit more care and diligence – spills must be wiped up immediately.  I have talked to many people who have marble countertops, and most love them, and appreciate the patina that the countertops attain over time.  Given that I am not the type of person who needs the kitchen countertop pristine and shiny, the nature of marble will suit me just fine.

Now that the holidays are over, I need to press onward and pick something – I have one month until the decision must be made. As I have been searching for a great marble for the kitchen, I have thought frequently about Joni of Cote de Texas’ search for marble when redoing her own kitchen two years ago.  She was initially set on finding a great Carrara marble, and looked for over 6 months with no luck.  She noted that Carrara, formerly crisply veined with a lot of white, has become very gray.  So, she decided to get Calacatta Oro, which still has a lot of white with both grays and light gold veining.

There are quite a few types of marble on the market, some better than others.  I tend to gravitate to the Italian marbles.  Here are some descriptions of the marbles that seem to be used frequently in kitchens in my area:

Bianco Carrara  – white and gray marble – very gray now
Statuary – a ‘sister’ marble to carrara – tends to have a brighter white background, with veining in gray
Calacatta – gray and subtle gold veining, with white background
Calacatta Oro (or Calacatta Gold) – large flakes, subtle goldish brown veins
Calacatta Gold Extra – whites, grays, light gold ribbon veining

Maybe it is because of my untrained eye, but I am not really wild about the heavy movement and veining that the people at the stone places tell me are so popular with designers and homeowners these days.   I am also having a very hard time visualizing what a slab will look like in a kitchen – since I want honed, the slabs that are polished probably will look more subtle when they are honed.  One additional design element is that we are going to use a slab as the backsplash, so some visual interest is probably important.

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Here is one of the first slabs I saw – sold to a client of a well known designer.  The guy at the stone place said that this is the look that designers are ‘wild for’ these days.  I am not a fan – this has too much hectic pattern and movement for me.

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More marble seen at another stone place in Atlanta.  I believe this is Calacatta Oro, although the gray seems to be dominant, rather than the gold.

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A more recent batch of marble came in last month.  This piece has already sold, but is representative of the lot.

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Another slab that I looked at recently.

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This is Calacatta Gold Extra.  It has quite a different look than the Calacatta Gold that I saw, and I think it is quite beautiful.  Although it has a pronounced pattern, it comes across as soft.  This particular piece has too much pronounced color for me, though.

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More Calacatta Gold Extra (already sold) – these pieces are even softer in appearance, but is it the look for me?
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This is the ‘softest’ pattern I saw in my early search.  The picture is a bit dark, but the overall impression is light gray and white.  I wonder if honing this piece (which is polished now) would make it almost too nondescript?

I think my main issue is that I can’t translate the amount of pattern I am seeing in a raw slab to what it will look like when honed and on a countertop or backsplash.  I decided to look through some of my many, many pictures of kitchens to see if they would help educate me.

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The counters and backsplash from this kitchen, with design by Jim Howard, come across as very soft and peaceful. I really like this look.

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Again, peaceful, clean, and simple – this is the look I want.  I have put this picture on my blog so many times it is almost embarrassing!  Kitchen design by Mick deGiulio.  In the article, the countertops are noted as Calacatta Gold, and are an incredible thickness.

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A kitchen by Elizabeth Dinkel uses a pretty marble and a beautifully veined slab backsplash.

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I can handle this amount of pattern – it is subtle, light veining with plenty of white. Source unknown.

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And yet, I also admire a bolder pattern, particularly when used as a backsplash. This is architect Keith Summerour’s kitchen.

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This marble has a lot of pattern and movement.  Maybe a bit too much for me, but I appreciate the element it lends to the kitchen. Source unknown.

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The kitchen made famous by Cote de Texas – belonging to Sally Wheat, with Statuary marble on the counters.

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Not the best picture (I wasn’t focusing on counters when I took it), but Lori Tippins’ kitchen has a beautifully subtle marble called Crema Delicato.  When I asked Lori how she selected her marble, she said that she was looking for a very soft and peaceful look, and this marble suited her perfectly. 

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A kitchen featured in House Beautiful has Calacatta gold marble.  The designer, Eileen Segalman, noted “if there were a white granite with veining as interesting as Calacatta marble, that would have made my life easier. [Marble] does etch the instant anything acidic hits it, like vinegar or citrus. So I have it repaired, repolished, and resealed regularly. But you know, I don’t mind the etchings. They tell a story. And they remind me that nothing in life is perfect.” 
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This kitchen (source unknown), also used Calacatta gold, although the backsplash looks more like the examples of the Calacatta extra gold that I saw.  This counter has quite a bit of veining, and I think it is striking.  It also has quite a bit of white, and the samples I have seen have much heavier veining.

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Another magazine kitchen (featured in Traditional Home) with Calacatta gold marble.  This counter actually has a fair amount of pattern in it, and I think it is quite pretty.

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Another kitchen featured in House Beautiful, the kitchen of architect William Hefner, has a pretty slab of Calacatta gold.   Hefner noted that he chose this marble because it is a “warm white with gray and gold veining that coordinated well with the wood. Being a designer, I looked at every stone in the world. This felt fresh and light — good for a room that’s about being open to the outside”.

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A close up of the backsplash from Hefner’s kitchen.

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Another pretty kitchen I found on the internet, with Calacatta Oro marble.  It seems as if the counters I like have quite a bit of white in them, which I have not really seen on the market right now.
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A kitchen from an old real estate listing.  This is probably a good representation of what an island with a moderately veined slab would look like.

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When thinking about a marble backsplash as a design element, this kitchen by Susan Marinello (featured in Traditional Home) came to mind.  The backsplash has a lot of movement, and the countertop clearly has a lot of veining, but it is soft and broad in pattern.

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This kitchen also came to mind.  It looks like the countertops are much more subtle in pattern – the focal point of this kitchen is certainly the backsplash, with its magnificently bold pattern.  I don’t think this is the look that we are going for in the kitchen, though – we are going for more of a subtle look.  Source unknown.

In preparation for my search, I would appreciate any words of wisdom from my readers on how to go about finding the right slab of marble.  If you have any pictures, or tips, or marble recommendations (should I be looking at other types of marble?), please send them my way!  If you know of any great stone places in the Atlanta Metro area, please let me know about them.  I feel as if I need to get educated before taking on this task!

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