Let’s talk about countertops! Or as Jonathan would say, let’s talk about my baby.
At the verrrrry beginning of this process, we were thinking we would use two different types of granite in the kitchen: White Mist on the counter surrounds and Steel Grey on the work island.
Well, the longer I thought about it, and the more inspiration images I looked at, I decided I wanted something lighter and brighter in the kitchen. I did lots of research to try and find granites with a white base, but… there really aren’t any. That’s when I started considering marble.
Marble is absolutely gorgeous and has a timeless look to it, but there are a number of downsides to marble as well. For those of you who aren’t familiar, here are a few of the negatives:
- It can be quite pricy, depending on the type of marble you choose. The more white it is, the more expensive it will be. Types like Calcatta are on the high end, and Cararra is on the lower end.
- Marble is a soft stone, making it vulnerable to etching and staining. Basically you have to watch your countertops like a hawk and wipe up spills the moment they happen. Anything colored or acidic (grape jelly, pasta sauce, red wine, lemon juice, even water!) could stain or etch your countertops permanently. Once it happens, it can’t be undone.
- Because it’s soft, marble can also be easily scratched or cracked. It’s so fragile that some fabricators won’t even install it for you.
I asked the opinions of everyone I knew who had marble in their kitchen. “Do you love it? Would you do it again?” I read lots of forums on Houzz and even posed the question to a large Facebook group I’m in. The general response seemed to be that there’s no way to keep your marble countertops looking pristine and perfect, but if you can embrace the “lived in” look, marble is a beautiful stone that gives your kitchen (or bathroom!) character. Count me in.
To rectify the issue of price, we decided to go with a White Cararra. People always think of marble as being outrageously expensive, but Cararra is comparable in price to your average granite.
As a solution to the vulnerable nature of marble, we decided to only put it on the countertop surrounds, and use something different on the work island, planning to do all of our food prep on the island.
Now, there are also a number of different finishes you can have for marble countertops. The main two finishes we were considering were polished and honed. Both finishes have their own benefits and drawbacks, of course.
- Polished: Shiny, etching is more obvious, but it is less porous so it’s less likely to stain
- Honed: Matte finish, etching is less visible, but it is more porous so it’s more susceptible to stains
Okay, SO, I’m going to keep breaking this process down because I had no idea how it worked before we started doing it ourselves. Hopefully some of you may find it helpful. :)
First things first, you have to find a fabricator. A fabricator is a person or a company who is basically the middle man between the customer (Jonathan and me in this case), and the slab vendor or granite yard. Your fabricator is also the person who cuts your stone to fit your countertops and installs it for you. We met with a few different companies to price out options and eventually settled on 704 Granite.
Once you have your fabricator, the fun part starts! There are these big warehouses full of all different stone slabs. Marble, granite, quartz, you name it. You get a clipboard when you go in with a sheet to fill out.
There are rows and rows of slabs and you can walk around to your heart’s content, looking at all the different options, and running your hands over them. They are in large vertical stacks, but because of the way they cut the stone (basically like slicing a loaf of bread), all of the “slices” from one lot will look pretty much the same.
When you find the slab or lot that you like, you write the name, size, and lot number down on your sheet of paper and take it back to the front desk. They take care of sending the info to your fabricator, who will be the one to give you a final price. If there are multiple slabs or lots that you like, it’s a good idea to write them all down to have them all priced out. This will also “hold” the lot for you for a certain amount of time. Depending on the granite yard, it could be anywhere from 10 days to one month.
On our first adventure to a granite yard, we went to American Granite. For all you Charlotte peeps, there are countless stone warehouses, most of them out on Westinghouse Blvd. Right away we found a White Carrara that we loved! We put our name on it and thought it was a done deal, but after talking to our fabricator, we found out it was too small. Sad day for us.
Side note: We had settled on having our marble honed for durability’s sake. Since it would be a matte finish, we didn’t want a shiny, polished granite on the island. That’s when we started considering Slate. It’s not very common for countertop use, and because of that, there was only one granite yard in Charlotte that had any slate slabs. They only had two, both of which were pretty small. Unfortunately the more attractive slab was sold before we had a chance to put our name on it, and the remaining piece had some pretty gnarly imperfections. We weren’t sold on it.
Back to the marble hunt. One morning Jonathan and I must have visited five or six different stone warehouses. We discovered that it’s rather rare to find pre-honed Carrara in a warehouse. Most of the time, what they have in stock is polished, and you have to send it out to be honed. Of course, that’s an additional charge of about $9 per square foot. Ouch.
We did find one beautiful piece of marble at AGM, called Statuary, but after having it priced out, we realized it was out of our price range. Plus, it’s veining was a bit more bold than we were looking for.
We were back to the drawing board at this point and because of the extra honing cost and the difficult to find Slate, I was leaning towards polished marble. We found this piece of White Carrara at a place called OHM that we liked a lot, aside from the big white streak on the far end:
Eventually we went back to American Granite, the first place we visited, and stumbled upon this gorgeous piece of Frozen Quartzite. I mean, it was jaw-dropping. It had the look of marble, plus a little sparkle, and the tiniest hint of blue/green veining. I LOVED it.
Quartzite is typically less expensive and more durable than marble, so I was sold. Unfortunately, when we went to take our sheet to the front desk, the representative told us that the entire lot of Frozen Quartzite was sold. Argh! They told us that they would be getting another shipment in, but not for 6-8 weeks, and sadly we just couldn’t wait that long. We had our fabricator call around to see if any other warehouses had Frozen Quartzite in stock.
Our fabricator confirmed that none of the Frozen Quartzite was available. They wouldn’t get any more for two months, and it would have a large amount of brown undertones. Sigh.
We set out for a third morning of marble hunting one week later. Back at American Granite, we found another quartzite called Damasco White that we were interested in. It had white tones like marble, but also had some interesting blue/green sections that made it very unique. But was it too unique? I wasn’t sure if it was the timeless look we were going for.
We returned to OHM and found a large lot of Carrara that was nearly perfect. When we were looking on the tags to get the lot number, we saw that two of the slabs already had our name of them. Haha, I guess we had already decided we liked it and forgotten.
At this point, our top two contenders were the Damasco White quartzite from American Granite and the Bianco Carrara from OHM. The problem? If we were to choose the marble, we previously decided that wanted it honed to prevent etching. However, the extra $1000 to have it honed was out of the question. Could we be super careful with it while cooking? Would I be obnoxiously sticking coasters under people’s drinks when guests came to visits? What about if we have kids while we still live in this house?
While we were still tossing this around in our heads, a new lot of slate arrived at Granite Depot. After the last bad slab, we started considering other options for the island, mainly Steel Grey granite. The trouble we were running into with this was that the Steel Grey only came in HUGE slabs, much more than we needed. We couldn’t find a remnant and it’s difficult to re-sell, so this was not ideal.
We were so excited to arrive at Granite Depot and find a slab of slate that was in amazing condition! Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely unique. It looks and feels much more like a natural stone than granite or polished marble. It’s rough, it’s bumpy, it’s not “perfect” by any means. But, it’s also non-porous (no staining), crazy durable, and simple to clean. Slate is also extremely affordable as compared to marble or granite.
I personally think that slate looks an awfully lot like Soapstone, an expensive and very fragile (even softer than marble) stone that’s very popular in design trends right now. I love the organic feel of the slate and love that we will have a durable, unique work surface in our kitchen. Sold!
So, we got the island figured out, but what did we decide for the surround? The winner is…
… polished Bianco Carrera! It’s exactly what we had in mind and I think it will be so beautiful and classic. I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t worried about etching and staining… I am. The good news is that it can always be re-polished. We may even have it honed a year or two down the road if we have the budget for that. For now, please forgive me if you come to visit and I am manically wiping up spills and sticking a coaster under your glass. I can’t wait to see it installed!
There’s no turning back now, but if any of you have marble in your kitchen, I’d love to hear about your experience! Any tips for cleaning/keeping clean are more than welcome as well. :)