“We want the memories—a stain tells a story. An imperfect surface is evidence of a life lived with abundance and joy.” The couple only wanted Carrara marble for their kitchen countertops, and as they were choosing a slab, we shared the truth about the classic, luxury surface: It’s not all that easy to maintain, and you can certainly expect some wear. This is a reminder that durable, beautiful marble also has some weaknesses.
Marble can react to acids because of its calcium carbonate composition. So, a squirt of lemon left on the countertop can etch the surface—acid eats away at the material and leaves a dull mark. Spill a bit of wine and forget to wipe immediately and you might end up with a mark of the evening’s activities.
Still, marble is high-quality and rich with character because every stone slab is different. In Eastern Europe, the home country of this couple, marble is the kitchen counter surface. And, its faults are viewed as assets. Marble that looks “lived in” with some etch marks and stains is like the antique secretary’s desk that bares a scratch or two, yet has history that a brand-new piece of furniture could never bring to a space.
“Are you sure you want the marble?” we asked the couple again, making sure they understood. It’s not perfect. The thing about marble is, its blemishes capture memories. Its imperfections are human. Its beauty is told in the marks and wear—and the couple appreciated all of this.
“At home, we could look at the kitchen counter and remember a wonderful party” the woman shared. She noticed that many Americans do not share an appreciation for the messy life. Since moving here, she saw how people preferred the clean, sterile look rather than lived-in and loved. “We are going to stain this stone, and we look forward to creating those memories in our house,” she said.
And, so, marble it was.
The Benefits of Marble
There are pros and cons to any stone surface, and marble is no exception. The benefits of marble are, it’s a natural stone that comes in a variety of colors and patterns, thanks to its characteristic veining. There are a range of marble species and cuts. No two slabs are alike, so you can achieve a truly unique stone surface.
• Density and durability
• Beauty with a range of colors and patterns
• Characteristic veining provides interesting design opportunities
• Available in various finishes: polished, honed and textured
• Acid can etch the surface
• Stains can set in the stone
• Not a uniform look like manufactured stone (quartz)
• Can be more expensive than comparable natural stones (like granite)
Selecting the Ideal Marble Surface
Marble is your choice, so how do you determine the best type, cut and finish? Ask yourself a few questions:
• Where will the marble surface be installed? (A kitchen? A bathroom?)
• Are you concerned about etching or do you appreciate marks of time?
• How long is the surface?
Location, location… Marble might be a best fit for surfaces that are not as likely to be exposed to acids or stained. The bathroom tends to be a “safer” spot for marble than the kitchen, if you’re hoping to keep the surface looking pristine. Marble is fantastic in kitchens, too, but there is some care involved.
Avoiding etching. A penetrating sealer can maintain the longevity of marble. And, by selecting a honed finish that is matte, etch marks can be more easily removed—or blend in. Etching is more obvious on a polished, shiny surface. On a honed surface, etch marks often can be removed with a scrub. (Professionals can remove etching on polished surfaces.)
Choosing a slab. How long is the countertop area? If a seam is necessary, there are ways the marble can be cut so marble can be book-matched. For example, a cross cut reveals a more free-flowing pattern that is easier to seam together. Designers can capitalize on marble’s veining to create striking effects—marble can be a beautiful focal point of a space.
Maintaining Marble Surfaces
Like any natural stone surface, marble does require some preparation and care so it will look its best over the long-term. Plan on using a penetrating sealer. Use an alkaline poultice for removing stains. (Note: this will strip the sealer, so it must be reapplied in the affected area.) Keep the marble surface clean—wipe up spills immediately. Marble is not the best surface for your child to do an art project with markers, unless you’re like the couple we met. They might actually enjoy seeing a little love left behind.