Saturday, February 22, 2014

Designing a Home, and White Marble Countertop Woes

When you live in a city that's in a seemingly perma-deep freeze, with no family members or big groups of lifelong friends to entertain you - crazy things happen. Crazy, like designing a house. Meh, why not? I guess you could say I've been dreaming up "the house" in my head for years now, but I officially started a secret Pinterest board end of last summer and have been pinning away ever since.

This inspiration board, however, is slowly creeping into a reality for me, and as much fun as it is, it's overwhelmingly scary. There are so very many decisions to be made, all for a house that I won't get to see nor experience until it's almost finished. What if I don't like the flow of the kitchen and the placement of vital drawers and cabinets? What if I splurge too much in one area, and scrimp too much in another?


My biggest challenge to date has been countertops. I've been dreaming of a creamy white and grey marble countertop since I was just an infant. Okay, probably not, but let's just say for a very long time. Long before they graced almost every single shelter mag. Long before they were absolutely everywhere. In my head, my dreams of a white kitchen just aren't complete without the natural beauty of marble.

The first obstacle I figured I'd face was cost.... yes, we are talking about a house in Manitoba, and for the rest of the world it may seem like a relative bargain, but, it's not. It IS a bargain if you want to compare to housing prices in Vancouver proper. It is still a bargain if you compare to the burbs. But it's not as inexpensive as you may think it should be (we were definitely shocked at the very stable and competitive new home market in Winnipeg when we moved here). For an example, check out this listing, and this one, and this one. Beautiful homes, under a mil, definitely a great opportunity, but this isn't House Hunters where you can buy a 4000 sq ft colonial mansion for $300,000 in Texas.

Okay, back to counters. I figured that marble was going to be obscenely expensive which would automatically make it easier to consider my runner up, quartz. Off I went to the kitchen store to look at samples with a quartz product in mind (Hanstone Tranquility) that tries to replicate the look of marble (but not really) to find out that said quartz product was MORE money than the marble! How on earth? And not just a little bit more, but significantly more! My heart jumped with glee! My dreams of marble were going to come true!


I headed home with visions of sugar plums dancing on my marble countertops in my head. And then it happened. The dreaded Google. I spent the better part of an entire weekend with my eyes glued to my computer screen, reading every last review I could find. The general consensus is that people love their marble and are happy they chose it (although there were quite a few who very much regretted their decision). Despite all those glowing reviews of happy marble owners, they almost all came with a warning. If you expect your countertops to look nice and new for as long as you have them, don't get marble. If you are a messy cook, don't get marble. If your kitchen sees quite a bit of wine, blueberries, coffee, citrus, tomatoes, etc on a day to day basis, don't get marble. My heart sunk to the bottom of my being. All the joy I felt from discovering that it was actually a less expensive option than some quartz, was completely squashed.

Source unknown because of bad Pinterest link.. do you know where it's from?

I don't want to have to baby my countertops. I don't want to have to wipe up every last drop of water the splashes up from the sink when rinsing dishes. I don't want ot have to put everything on my counter on to a hot plate or a towel or something to protect them. I mostly fear our espresso machine that we use every day and is prone to splashing espresso drops around.... or the red wine glass I leave on the counter every night when I'm too tired to wash it. And then there are the blueberry and greens smoothies I make everyday. But, mainly, I don't want to have to follow hubby (and future kidlets) around with a cloth wiping up their messes. I don't want to freak out at a dinner party if someone spills something and doesn't clean it up. Our kitchen is the most used place in our home. We never eat out. We cook two separate dinners every night together. I bake. My in-laws make massive batches of spaghetti sauce and can it for us when they are in town.

Another factor to consider is that this home will not be a forever home, which means we need to consider resale value. I'm guessing a four bedroom home will most likely end up in the hands of a family (or growing family) one day, which makes marble a risky option. I might be able to baby them to death for my love of marble - but will the next buyer? Will they pass on our house because it's too high maintenance? If we were putting them in a sexy penthouse in a downtown loft that would likely attract singles and professionals without kids, it wouldn't concern me much - but a family home? I just don't know.

So here I am, a big stress case trying to make smart, practical decisions while feeding my desire for interior aestecthics. So what do you think? What would you do?

And P.S - I've moved on from Tranquility as an option as it looks to grainy in person for my liking. Runner up to marble is Frosty Carrina.


14 comments:

  1. Jenn, I was in the same situation and finally decided on Quartz! No regrets. It looks great and so easy and amazing to look after! Will try to send pics

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    1. Thanks Elaine! So happy to hear you have no regrets - and would love to see pictures! :)

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  2. I have actually thought about this a lot (weird?) because I LOVE marble too... but not enough to commit to it on countertops. I can't imagine how pissed I'd be after something happened to my precious stone. So, my plan is to go with a super plain countertop (we have some kind of man made Italian stone now which I actually really like but I'd go for a purer white or gray) and save the marble for my backsplash. That way I still get my marble but at least it's safer? I just know that I couldn't baby countertops that way, and if something happened, I would be cruuuuuuushed. Just my two cents ;) If you get marble countertops, I will be eternally jealous. Even more jealous than I am of building your own home.

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    1. I am so glad I'm not the only one who has had to deal with the intense marble dilemma (#firstworldproblems). Definitely have considered the backsplash with white counters route, but I feel like I change my mind every darn day! I just know I don't think I can take the maintenance involved with marble despite my love for it :(

      And we are incredibly excited for this opportunity - has to be an upside to living in the coldest major city on earth!

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  3. I've dreamed of marble counters for as long as my little brain can remember. Nearly every kitchen on my Pinterest board has them. We've been in our house for 12 years, and thanks to a MAJOR pipe leak, we ended up gutting the entire thing, down to the studs and floor joists, this past summer. Insurance gave us the middle finger, so we were on our own. With a single income, we had to DIY the entire thing and marble just was not gonna happen. Solid surface was not gonna happen. Ya know what was gonna happen? Laminate. I had a sample from 11 years ago. One of those little two-inch things from Home Depot. I ordered tons of bigger samples online and ended up going with that tiny sample I had brought home years before. I'm in love with the counters. Like, head over heels, marble for life, in love with them. We're still working on the kitchen, so there hasn't been a big "reveal", but I've posted weekly updates along the way. I plan on posting the newest update next week (after months of being stagnant), but here's a link to all the renovation posts, starting with the most recent that will show the counters (the post with the counters going in is on the second page): http://rindymae.blogspot.com/search/label/The%20Kitchen

    I also did a post on all the samples I ordered. That one is here: http://rindymae.blogspot.com/2013/05/counter-samples.html

    Seriously, if you wanna go for super cheap until you can save for what you really want, I hands down recommend the laminate. I know people scrunch up their faces at the word, but it's awesome. Especially for an avid cook with three kids.

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    1. I actually came across your post on the samples while looking for marble alternatives! It's so very helpful and I'm so happy that you found the perfect countertops for you!

      I'll certainly be keeping an eye out for the big reveal! :)

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  4. This is exactly why I decided not to get marble for our kitchen update. There's a quartzite called Damsco White that I chose instead - I found a slab that is mostly white with some light grey veining. Some have LOTS of grey. But the one I found is a pretty dead ringer for Carrerra. And it's a hard-workin' lady, which is what I need in the kitchen!

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    1. I will definitely look into it! Is it in your new kitchen or old kitchen? I want pictures! :) I'll have to go scour your blog now!

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  5. (Raises hand) I have marble. I really do! I have had it for 6 years now and I have A LOT of it. Six full slabs worth. It covers my island, counters, black splash and butler's pantry. I worried endlessly about getting marble too. But I thought, I absolutely love the look. There was no engineered stone that perfectly replicated the depth of real marble for me. European kitchens have been using it for hundreds of years. And all the kitchens we toured in those massive Vanderbilt mansions in Newport, Rhode Island had marble as well. So I bit the bullet and covered my kitchen in calacutta borghini. I have not regretted it one moment. I confess that I am a sloppy, messy, clumsy cook. I also I absolutely hate to clean. Plus I have two kids, all their friends and a dog as well. I wondered how it would stand up to all the use. But I have to say...It's still looks absolutely amazing. I have zero stains. None, I swear. There is some etching from acid, like lemons. But to be honest, it's difficult to see. You really have to put your face a few inches from the mark and at an angle to identify it. There are no marks from water at all. I don't run around stressing about wiping up water around the sink. I have no chips and boy have I banged the edge of my sink with some seriously heavy cast iron and All Clad pans.

    I think there are two tricks to keeping marble in good condition. 1) It needs to be honed (not shiny). Shiny marble will show every mar. 2) Seal that baby. No kidding. It's not hard. Wipe on/wipe off. I can do my whole kitchen in 35 min. I used to do it twice a year. But honestly enough sealant has soaked into the stone where I don't have to do it anymore. I use Akemi Nano Sealer.

    I'm sure any way you go will be wonderful. If you have any questions, please feel welcome to ask. :)

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    1. Thank you so much for this! Reviews like yours are truly the only reason I am still on the fence after reading so many warnings online (and after my husband shot the idea down as well). Funny enough, after reading your comment I was at a hockey game with a co-worker who had built and used marble before, and said she would never do it again (not sure if it was sealed because she said every glass left water rings, etc).

      I wonder if the type of marble matters? Perhaps your calacatta borghini is a more premium marble than the common carrera I am considering? I'm not sure - but let's just say I am still confused (perhaps more confused) and I feel like either way I go I will have some regret (that I wasn't more practical if we get marble, or that I didn't follow my heart if we get quartz) - which is horrible to think of when making such a large investment!

      I will forever be envious of your six slabs of marble that have stood the test of time!

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  6. To say I OBSESSED about marble during our kitchen reno would be a vast understatement. It literally kept me up at night. As you know, in the end we went with granite. It's been great, but I remain wistful. I absolutely understand what you are going through. I will say I ended up babying my granite anyway. Also I think of all those well used, well loved European kitchens with marble and I think it IS stone after all! Argh! Like I said, I sympathize 100%.

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    1. I'm so glad I'm not alone. I still waffle back and forth on a daily basis.Argh!!

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  7. I have also dreamt of marble since childhood. We gut renovated our home before moving in (two weeks before baby was born)! The kitchen was the only part of the home we didn't have to update, so no marble there. Instead all the bathrooms have marble slab countertops and shower tiles. I love it. Yes, it has etched and there are some water marks, however I like the look. As I know it will only become better with age, like leather, the wear and tear gives patina that our otherwise modern home needs.

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    1. So I'm guessing if you were to do your kitchen counters, you would definitely go for marble? Oh I'm still so torn! Let's hope I make up my mind in the next few months! Thanks for your input - every little bit is appreciated!

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Thanks so much for your comment! You made my day :)