marble love

I’ve loved marble – white marble to be precise – since I was a child and surrounded by it.  I remember how cool it was to the touch on hot Calcutta days and how pretty I thought the swirly marks were; like snowflakes, no two pieces exactly alike.

painting with my brother on the marble floors of our verandah

painting with my brother on the marble floors of our verandah

baby mynah birds provide wondrous entertainment on the marble steps to our garden

baby mynah birds provide wondrous entertainment on the marble steps to our garden

I’d like to say that sound reasoning and financial acumen was behind our purchase of our badly-in-need-of-renovating brownstone; but that would be a fib.  The house had me at hello with its details – not least among them four white marble fireplaces (a fifth is grey) and one white marble ‘coffin turn’ ledge.

marble 'coffin turn' ledge and two fireplace mantles

marble ‘coffin turn’ ledge and two fireplace mantles

For quite a while though, I was stymied at every turn in satisfying my burning desire for white marble countertops and island in our kitchen-to-be.  Our architect, our contractor, our fabricator (mason), every design colleague who’d used it on a project, each friend who’d installed it in their own kitchens, even the guy from whom we were looking to buy a slab (and in whose interest it certainly was that we do so – marble is expensive) – they were all insistent and united in their advice: if you cook, if you intend to use your kitchen, do not install white marble.

Here’s why: marble is a (relatively) soft stone and porous (unlike granite).  It etches and stains easily.  Chips and scratches too.

I was at a loss. Which is unusual because I’m stubborn and loyal (to people of course, but in this case ideas) and though different situations elicit either visceral or analytical responses, I’m usually extremely decisive.  (Annoyingly so to those closest to me: see stubborn).  But here was a situation where the visceral (I love) and analytical (is it smart? practical?) were at odds and it drove me nuts.

I researched endlessly – both in online forums such as apartment therapy, gardenweb and the granite gurus and by visiting the homes of friends who had installed white marble in their own kitchens.  The latter showed me the water rings and etch marks, red wine stains and oil splatters that drove them mad, caused marital discord and made them regret their choices.

stains & rings & etchmarks (oh my)

stains & rings & etchmarks (oh my)

We teetered on the brink of installing soapstone, the better to hide the marks I knew would be inevitable and to preserve peace in our home.  I did not want to be chasing others around with a sponge or stressing over coasters each time we had a party.

obsessive cleaning: Martha Stewart Living, October 2000

obsessive cleaning: Martha Stewart Living

And then we went on a trip that included stays in a couple of Raffles’ Hotels in Cambodia – each more beautiful in their-once-were-grand-now-are-lovely-ness and slightly-worn-around-the-edges-faded-glory-ness.

Grand Hotel D'Angkorphoto credit: George Mann

Grand Hotel D’Angkor
photo credit: George Mann

And there was white marble everywhere.  It was dinged, scratched, ringmarked and all the more glorious for it.

Raffles Grand Hotel D'Angkor

Raffles Grand Hotel D’Angkor

Raffles Grand Hotel D'Angkor lobby

Raffles Grand Hotel D’Angkor lobby

I realised (actually remembered) that I love imperfection and patina and echoes of history.  It is precisely those characteristics that has shaped my love of living finishes such as unlacquered brass (that only get better with age) and vintage and antique furniture and rugs – pieces that had lives before they made their way into our home.

We never looked back and our kitchen was eventually clad in honed Calacatta Gold marble.

Calacatta Gold island installed

honed Calacatta Gold marble island installed

I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t wince the first time a klutzy brother-in-law spilled coffee all over a counter a few days after it was installed; but by the time I threw my sister’s wedding shower a few months later and the ladies were getting sloppy with the cocktails & bubbly, I honestly thought to myself that the etches that would surely be left (and were) would be a sweet memory of such a happy occasion.

Calacatta Gold island, counters & shelves

Calacatta Gold island, counters & shelves

And when my it-runs-in-the-family-butterfingers cousin made the first red wine stain another couple of months later, I was almost ready to take her up on her offer to scratch “Kismet was here” next to it for posterity.  Almost.


  1. Dammit. I thought I was going to get away without a mention. But I got the last line!!! :O

  2. Of course you got the last line…you are the star klutz in a long (and accomplished) line of klutzes and I smile whenever I see the Kismet wine splotch (so appropriate!)

  3. deepak crawford · · Reply

    I love the anecdotes, pictures and memories of the trip to select the marble.

  4. The marble as well as the entire kitchen is beautiful. I look forward
    to scratching my initials next visit. SJC

  5. Yelda Kazimi · · Reply

    Hi, where did you find that marble “ledge” with brass hardware attached to the backsplash (in the bottom left corner)?

    1. Hi Yelda. The marble shelves were my own design & I had them fabricated from remnants of our slab (used for our island & countertops) of Calacatta gold marble. Feel free to contact me via email (shanti at indigochre dot com) should you require assistance in having similar marble shelves custom-made. Shanti

  6. i found your beautiful blog via erin gates a few months ago… and only wish i’d know of you earlier, especially when your shop was open! ii gasped aloud when i saw your kitchen – it’s the kitchen of my dreams incarnate. the marble, custom open shelving, layered neutral color palate, brass, swoon!

    i was wondering if you could share where you found that gorgeous lantern tile? i’m in the middle of renovating my kitchen and haven’t been able to find one i love as much as yours.

    1. Thank you Jess, for the warm and wonderful response to our kitchen. Have to get back to my files (on my desktop) and will email you the links once I am, but couldn’t let today go by without letting you know that your comment made my day…

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