While granite has been the en vogue material for counter-tops for quite some time, there is also a “new” trend in place toward marble countertops - resulting in a timeless, classic look for a broad range of residential designs.

“Granite has always been the number one conservative choice for luxurious homes,” said Gervais Fortin, APDIQ, an interior designer in Montreal, Canada. “What I am experiencing now is an increasing demand for marble - white marbles precisely. I personally attribute it to the stressful, fast-pace modern life we all have to deal with, which leads us to crave for an unconstrained, contem-porary, Zen, pure, graceful look when we finally get home after a busy day. Without any doubts, I can say that now the majority [of my clients] prefer marble.”

Fortin, who has been a designer for more than 25 years, works mainly on renovation projects in mansions from the 19th century. “The well-placed new owners who take possession of these types of homes undertake major renovations - from the basement to the attic - with an outstanding quality concern,” he said. “[They want a] roomy kitchen with marble, stainless steel, wood and lacquer, three and more complete bathrooms, a home spa, home gym, wine cellar, garden, pool, home sauna, and [they want] everything redefined, redesigned and completed with the utmost care and quality requirements.”

With the increasing popularity of natural stone countertops, using marble offers homeowners the opportunity to take a different approach to their kitchen designs - one that might not be in place at their neighbors' home. “We looked at both granite and marble for our countertops and ultimately went with the marble,” said Joanna Silberman, a homeowner in Commack, NY. “We know that more care is needed for marble, but it is a beautiful material, and the color choices seemed endless. We also didn't want to do the same thing all of our friends have done - which is install granite.”

Care and maintenance

However, when a customer asks for marble countertops, it is critical that the stone supplier makes sure the homeowner understands the care and maintenance requirements. This is the policy at Raccoon Stone and Tile Works, Inc., a fabricator based in Byron, GA. “Marble is generally a softer material and will need more care than granite,” explained Rick Coon of Raccoon Stone and Tile Works, who works alongside his wife, Mary. “It is more absorbent and scratches easily. With this in mind, once we orient them on its care and what to expect, it is a beautiful material in color and we will make an informed decision.”

In addition to explaining the basics on marble in general, it is also the responsibility of the stone supplier to inform the customer that each marble has its own set of technical characteristics, and only certain marbles are suited for everyday use as countertops. “Some are not as compatible as others in maintenance,” Coon said. “It is important that you research the stone matrix. Is it softer, overly filled or too dark? Does it scratch easily?”

Once a stone is selected, another critical step is explaining the proper care of a marble countertop. This will ensure that the customer is not only satisfied with the initial installation, but that they will remain satisfied over the long-term - a vital aspect for any stone project. Among the cleaning products on the market, Coon recommended cleaners that are formulated specifically for marble (as opposed to “general” cleaning products), sani-wipes or wax cleaners, such as stone polish.

Color Choices

Looking at marble countertops from an aesthetic point of view, the material offers a different look - and color options - for homeowners. “My clients tend to lean more towards the lighter colors for kitchens and the darker colors for baths,” Coon explained. “They are mostly using warm tones in beige, gold and brown. In the kitchen, they may be the more pastel colors and in bathrooms more rich colors.”

Of course, white marble has been one of the most timeless countertop choices - recalling the classic “chef's stone” look for a kitchen space. This look can be enhanced by specifying a honed finish for the material. “I have been using white marble for 25 years and now honed white marble for the last 15 years, which is the biggest design trend,” said Fortin. “I can say that my realizations remain aesthetically fresh-looking, very contemporary and timeless.”