kitchen reno – marble counters

We are about 85% there. The remainder happens when everything else comes in: lights, sink, etc. #kitchenreno #newhome

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the only things that has gone smoothly with this kitchen renovation project has been the marble. Despite a hiccup the day of the installation – they accidentally brought me polished marble pieces instead of honed – dealing with marble folks was a pretty great experience and I can’t recommend them enough (sources: below). As for the polished marble, it was taken away, honed, and returned to me the following day for installation. Once installed, we kept the marble covered with flattened cardboard boxes until Frank from Granite Shield came over to do a special impenetrable seal on the stone.

Before I get into the nitty gritty of it, I want to explain why I went with marble counters as opposed to granite, Caesarstone, wood, and so on. I’ve given this a lot of thought, and by “a lot” I mean “for years”. Close to a decade but who’s keeping track?

To be honest, I also very much like the look of the butcher block but given that even with expansion our kitchen is still pretty small, I had to go for what I thought would be most useful to me.

I have nothing against stainless steel or Caesarstone or granite; I prefer the look (and feel) of marble, but that wasn’t the only reason that I went with it.

Creating order. #kitchenreno #newhome

Our narrow galley kitchen, despite what the pictures might suggest, is pretty low on natural light. It also boasts low ceilings (so we had to rule out pendant lights, but more on that another time). There’s has one small window by the sink that overlooks the “courtyard”, which is a fancy name I gave that thing that is basically the roof of our building’s garage. A yard it is not. Because the kitchen is dim au naturel, what I wanted to do is to create the illusion of light and space, and let the kitchen feel more expansive than it actually is. Taking all the above factors into account, I decided to go with white cabinets and light countertops; so no black honed granite – a material and look I also love.

I didn’t like Caesarstone for two reasons: it looked/felt far too modern for my slightly vintage tastes and it was way too glossy – much like polished marble or granite is. I’m not big on that shiny look, so it was a deal breaker, but I have friends who’ve remodeled their kitchens using Caesarstone and they couldn’t be happier.

In an ideal world, I’d have a part of the kitchen where with a butcher block, but in the real world, the one where I have a narrow galley kitchen, there wasn’t room for variety, so I just focused on one singular material – marble.

Marble, if you go and visit any showroom or slab yard, comes in many colors and shades, ranging from white/creamy to dark green, terra-cotta colored, and so on, but since I was looking for a light colored material that would look right in our kitchen, I pretty much stuck to white or off-white colors. This helped to narrow my choices down to White Carrara marble (what we went with) and Callacatta marble, which is often whiter with more dramatic veining (and much more expensive because it’s more rare). White Carrara is relatively cheap because it’s relatively common, and lucky for us (and our wallet), I preferred the soft grey veining to the dramatic one goldish/brownish one. I figured that it would give just enough contrast for the kitchen not to look washed out, and not enough for it to feel too geometric.

Our first meal using the new kitchen is, unsurprisingly, a roasted chicken. Odd mixture of delight and slight disorientation. Everything is so new; the location of everything. #kitchenreno #newhome

We figured that when we do our backsplash of white subway tile and light grey grout, the grout will work beautifully with the grey veining in the marble. I always envisioned myself as a black grout girl, but in this particular kitchen, grey just works better. I still like the black more, but not in this instance.

When I’d tell people I’m choosing marble countertops, I would get a lot of pushback from people. Many tried to dissuade me from going with marble because it’s considered to be a soft, porous surface that is prone to staining and etching. I’ve been aware of these issues for a long time, and I’ve also cooked in many marble kitchens and it’s more durable than people think. Also, I love the look of aging marble and don’t mind the wear and tear that happens over time. To me, a kitchen is a place of work and creation – I don’t want it to look the same in ten years; I want to see its journey. Since I spend a lot of time in that part of our home, I want it to make me happy every time I set my foot in there.

That first morning of making coffee in your kitchen and not in your bathroom - priceless. #kitchenreno #newhome

What I did do, however, is place an additional protective seal on the counters in order to preserve their beauty as much as I could. More to care for the stone than worry about aesthetics. It’s not a notable additional expense (in my case it as a couple hundred bucks and change) and is a one-time thing. After that, your marble becomes pretty much stain resistant; the seal is invisible to the eye. But you still need to be mindful of the etching, so when you clean your marble, avoid things like vinegar/water solution or other things containing corrosive ingredients like acid. Warm water and a sponge are probably your best allies. If you notice some etching developing, there are honing powders you can use to take care of the issue.

I don’t think there are right or wrong choices when it comes to your counters. I have strong aesthetic (and practical) preferences but the important thing is your kitchen should work for you. Yes, there are things to consider like “resale value” and what people might like if you ever sell your place, but you should, first and foremost, love the kitchen you are in. And if polished granite (aka my arch nemesis) is your favorite counter surface, you go ahead and do what makes you happy.

Marble Counters: Foro Marble
Sealing: Granite Shield – a lovely man named Frank


  • Victoria (aka Zemfirka)

    I think it came out beautifully Olga and I’m glad you are making your kitchen your own. That was the first thing I’ve done in my house, when we purchased it – I demolished the kitchen and started from scratch. I love to cook and I wanted it to be a space I loved to be in. Of course some concessions had to be made money wise but at the end it was the look and feel that suited me. I personally haven’t and (probably) wouldn’t go with marble because I don’t think it’s durable enough, but it doesn’t make it any less beautiful. And what you said about “seeing a journey of a kitchen” that is also true! :)

  • lisa

    It’s beautiful! Also with the light counters and backsplash — your pictures really pop! I can’t take pictures on my granite counter because all the light is sucked up — and there’s really no space to put a light kit in my kitchen… Thus, I’m always kneeling next to a window, waiting for a cloud to pass. Ugh! Nice job!

  • Kate

    This looks beautiful! And what a great idea — I feel like I’m constantly in a struggle for light in my tiny, oddly-positioned kitchen. The only light we get is from a north-facing window. White would brighten everything up!

  • Ashley

    I love your renovated kitchen! It’s beautiful and the white marble, cabinets, and tile could have fooled me into thinking you had tons of natural light. It’s gorgeous!

  • olga

    Thanks, everyone! Hopefully, these posts will help whoever might need advice on kitchen renovations!

  • Elissa

    Looks fantastic! Love your thoughts about marble–clearly you’ve really thought it through and I hope you will get years and years of enjoyment from your gorgeous counters. We had a bad experience with polished marble counters in a previous kitchen–every drop of water left a mark on the polished finish and, since it was a place we were not planning to stay in long-term, I was always kind of stressed out about maintaining them. We opted for Caesarstone in our current kitchen and have no regrets, although I do love the look of honed marble. Hope that your sink is on its way and that you’re starting to feel a bit more settled.

  • olga

    Elissa – sorry if I wasn’t clear, but the marble is honed, not polished. We had the marble folks hone and return – I do not like polished marble. As for the sink – it will be MONTHS until this is resolved. Super annoying.

  • Elissa

    You did make it clear that your counters are honed, which I think is an excellent choice both aesthetically and practically :) Just thought I’d share my polished marble paranoia! Ugh about the sink. hang in there!

  • RJ

    I renovated a kitchen for a friend with birch tone light-colored wood Ikea cabinets, a much more modern look than I would choose for my own kitchen. (They do not seem to have this style anymore.)

    Since this was for a man who was not much of a housekeeper, I went with polished granite, even though I love the look of honed. But I agree black granite can make a small or dark kitchen look like a funeral parlor, so I chose a beautiful light gray granite called ‘Kashmir’ (often spelled different ways).

    It is beyond beautiful and was one of the most expensive granites in the shop, but it was worth it. With the undercounter lighting, it glows as if lit from within.

    I also learned that all granite, even polished, will stain, it is just that you cannot see it on the ubiquitous black granite. And all granite has to be sealed annually.

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