You’ve seen them everywhere lately, it seems. No, I’m not talking about holiday decorations (although that is true, too). I’m talking about white countertops, mainly marble. They are in design magazines, on TV shows, in hotels & restaurants and even your neighbor’s newly renovated kitchen. They are beautiful and alluring yet you are wondering if they are right for your home with 3 kids, 2 pets and a less than tidy husband. But mainly you are asking yourself, “what’s the bottom line?”.
Here is some insight into the more popular choices and how they work with your lifestyle and your budget.
White Marble: Marble is a very porous natural stone and is less durable than granite, which is why it is isn’t commonly used in American kitchens. It is prone to scratching, staining and chipping. While it is very beautiful, there is a good amount of maintenance that keeps it looking that way.
All natural stone needs to be sealed (and re-sealed periodically) to keep out moisture and resist staining but it is not an impenetrable shield. You have to be more careful with marble and acidic liquids (lemon juice, red wine) which will stain or etch the marble. Also, some bath products, like sugar scrubs will etch marble. It is a good idea to always use a cutting board, both to protect the sealer and your knives as well as guard against bacteria. Lastly, use hot pads or trivets to protect the stone from heated cookware. Of note: most marble is available polished or honed (matte) and has a variety of edge options.
Before you get discouraged, keep in mind that Europeans have been using marble for sculptures, building facades and of course countertops for centuries. It has proven that it will stand the test of time, it just won’t look the same as the day it was installed. Here are two of my favorites:
Carrera Marble: This is a more readily available white marble with a slight grey cast. Slabs will very greatly from light grey to a mid tone grey. There is a lot of soft movement in the dark grey veining; some slabs maybe more “busy” than others. It is very important to hand-select your slabs to your personal taste. Carrera marble looks beautiful with polished nickel fixtures and is available in a range of coordinating tiles to complete the space.
Price Range: approx. $70 – $80/sq. ft.*
Calacata Marble: If you are looking for a creamier white marble with warmer, taupe or camel colored veins, this is it. These marble slabs are more exotic and therefore come with a much higher price tag and possibly longer lead times. You also want to hand-select this stone as it has a lot of variation. Nonetheless, from a designer’s perspective, Calacata marble has such an exquisite aesthetic that it almost doesn’t compare.
Price Range: approx. $120 – $150/sq. ft*
Quartzstone: Manufactured quartz has become an increasingly popular choice in recent years, for both commercial and residential projects. It is more durable than granite, does not have to be sealed, requires little or no maintenance, is anti-bacterial, has multiple edge options and some colors even include recycled content.
Manufacturing stone to give it the best possible features & benefits is a little like gene mutation to me. However, once I saw slabs of this installed, I was very impressed. I do think the granite-looking color choices need a bit more work but they have really excelled at the marble and limestone alternatives. In fact, they keep getting better at it. I often refer clients to explore these options as alternatives to white marble if maintenance is a major concern.
Price Range: approx. $65 – $95/sq. ft.*
Caesarstone Misty Carrera: One of the first of its kind and still a favorite. It’s soft grey background with darker grey veins has a subtle movement that fools the eye into thinking it may be marble. It is available in both honed and polished finishes.
Zodiaq Bianco Carrera: I love this because they have succeeded in adding large scale movement to a manufactured product. It is also of the creamy white family which is rare to find and is equally stunning in traditional or contemporary applications.
Concrete: Want something more modern & less busy? I have to mention this because I am also a fan of this material for several reasons. I own a white concrete countertop (2 years & counting) and it is beautiful and durable. It was manufactured by a St. Louis company and it is made of concrete in the form of a powder. They are able to make any color out of a paint fan deck, can make integral sinks, and have several unique edge options. They mix it together, mold it, put a sealer on it and deliver it just like a regular countertop, no on-site pouring. It is not porous so it doesn’t need to be resealed as often as natural stone, it is stronger than granite, has recycled content and is made here locally so it is very good for the environment. I had them do a custom “pure white” for me and I love how the color turned out. Of note: different finishes are available but there is no movement or veining in this product.
Price Range: approx. $70 – $80/sq. ft.*
Bottom Line: Americans tend to base their selections on how well things “age” and we are inclined to replace things without letting them age “gracefully”. Keeping longevity and your budget in mind will help you make the best selection for your lifestyle.
*Note: pricing by square feet is for general use and is best for budgeting purposes. Actual pricing for your project depends on a lot of variables including size, cutouts, edge options, color, etc. Pricing estimates provided by CK Concrete, Hallmark Stone & ISC Surfaces