Black marble in a vintage kitchen

mama goose_gw zn6OHApril 18, 2010

Hi, I just joined gardenweb, and I've been enjoying reading all the q&a, and viewing all the beautiful finished and 'in progress' kitchens. I'm also fairly new to internet use, and my head is spinning with all the info available.

We own a home built in the 1920's, and I'd like to give my 13x13 kitchen a vintage look. I currently have off-white painted cabinets which I will keep, and laminate countertops which I need to replace. I love the look of soapstone, but unfortunately it's way outside my budget. I'm considering black marble tile for the counters, with a carrera slab for a free-standing baking center. I am repurposing a small (30x30) vintage carrera slab that I already own, for the baking center, and I have 12x12 'New St.Laurent' tiles for the counter. I've searched on 'marble' and found some beautiful kitchens with carrera/soapstone, and carrera/black granite, but no black marble.

Is there a reason that black marble isn't used often in kitchens? Does anyone have pictures of kitchens with black marble counters and/or backsplashes?

I've read all about sealing and etching on the marble forums, and I've even been using a couple of sealed sample tiles beside the stove and sink to make sure that I can live with the 'patina.' So far, no problems.

I'd also like to re-use another carrera slab (former coffee table top) to make open shelves. It is 54x18, ap. an inch thick, and will be cut in half length-wise to make two shelves. Does anyone have advice for mounting marble shelves? My DH can't wait to get started--NOT!

Thank you all for any information you can provide.

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Black Marble in kitchens? All I can think of is dings, scratches, etching, etc., that I would think would be so much more obvious on black marble than white. I can visualize black marble perhaps on a wall of a bathroom in some elegant mansion somewhere however. The thought of black marble is probably better than the practicality of the stone.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2010 at 9:20PM
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Hmmm, seems to me that awhile back there was a thread regarding black marble, and its propensity to scratch. However I did a google search and didn't find the thread. Sorry -- but I'm sure that I read that here at some point.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2010 at 9:55PM
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Hi Mama Goose,

My cabinets are being installed today and the stone people are coming tomorrow to measure for my honed black marble (an Australian marble called Black Ice) countertops. I have lived with a sample for months, using it as a testing site. Like you, I have had no problems that I didn't expect...some etching...but not too bad. I too read everything I could find on marble countertops and decided to go for it. It was the only stone I saw that made my heart sing (soapstone is not available in Australia). Maybe it will be singing a different song in a years time but right now I am very excited and head over heels in love with it. We can always have it re-honed if we want to sell further down the track.
Best of luck with your kitchen,
two devs

    Bookmark   April 19, 2010 at 1:16AM
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mama goose_gw zn6OH

jb1176 and rjr220, thanks for the input. I posted the same questions on the 'smaller homes' forum and found some links that I plan to check out. I appreciate your taking the time to help me.

two devs, are your cabinets installed, and everything you thought they would be?!! Your future countertops sound wonderful, is that the key of 'C' I hear? LOL Can't wait to see pictures, and hear all about them.

I etched my polished marble sample tiles myself, just to experiment, and then 'honed' them with 180-grit sandpaper. I then etched them again with vinegar, ketchup, etc., and lightly re-sanded them wet, to see if that worked. On some spots I had to use 150-grit, and then a 180-grit sanding sponge, and it worked pretty well. It worked better on the tiles before they were sealed. I also dropped a piece of broken tile into a container of vinegar and grew some beautiful calcium carbonate(?) crystals. Remember the ones we used to grow using a lump of coal and ammonia?

I found the marble tiles that I want at a well known home improvement store for $1.48 each. I'm sure they are seconds, but beautiful all the same. With the underlayment, backer-board, etc., they'll still cost less that mid-range laminate, and I just love the idea of real stone. Besides, at that price, if they last only a few years, I can scrap the counters and go back to laminate. Is this a crazy idea?

    Bookmark   April 19, 2010 at 1:12PM
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Fori is not pleased

You've tested it and still love it? Go for it!! I think it'll be gorgeous. (Have you dropped stuff on it to see if it leaves an obvious ding? I bet you have!)

I think it's good idea. Yup. I do. Especially paired with the vintage slab and vintage cabinetry. Especially being affordable enough to change if it doesn't work out.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2010 at 1:18PM
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i'm surprised that black marble is cheaper than soapstone. Our soapstone was substantially cheaper than any of the other natural stone options we considered.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2010 at 3:32PM
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mama goose_gw zn6OH

fori, you found my 'Achilles Heel!' I hated to do it because I've spent so much time sanding, and oiling, and touching those tiles, but I just did a few 'drop' tests. First, a plastic bottle of dish detergent dropped from 12 inches--no discernible effect, no surprise. Second, a 16oz jar filled with water (inside a plastic bag) again, no discernible effect, big surprise. Third, a solid wood finial, about the size of a croquet ball. Oh, no! Although the tile is still intact, there is a crack running across it. As I mentioned, the tiles are seconds, and I had picked out the worst one to experiment with--one that already had two corners broken off, but I may have to reconsider this. I don't remember the last time I dropped something heavy on my laminate counters, but you never know when that will happen. Then, again, I may just get extra tile to replace possible broken ones.

Thank you for pointing out something that I missed!

    Bookmark   April 19, 2010 at 4:05PM
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Fori is not pleased

Well, I didn't expect a crack! And it probably wouldn't crack if properly set in tile-setting goo. I was thinking more of how if you throw down some keys or a can opener (or another stone sample) you can get a little "star".

It's funny how I've been looking off and on (mostly off) for the right white marble to finish my kitchen and toyed with the green marble (actually serpentine) and never considered the black but ya know it would look really nice...

    Bookmark   April 19, 2010 at 4:14PM
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Mama goose my cabs are in but not quite what I expected. They made a couple of mistakes that they are willing to remedy without fuss (thank goodness, my stomach was in my throat when I had THAT conversation with the cabinet guy). The stone will hopefully go in next week and once I learn how to I'll get some pics up.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2010 at 3:22AM
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mama goose_gw zn6OH

portland renovation, I plan to use is 12x12 marble tiles, much cheaper than slab. I love the look of soapstone, and if I could find some for around $10.00/sf I'd jump right on it!! Maybe when the kids are through college, we can reconsider the soapstone option.

fori, my husband said the same thing about the tile not being supported by thinset, because I had laid it on a couple of folded dishtowels (in case the jar broke and the plastic bag burst). After it cracked, I figured 'what the heck' and I tried to ding the edge with the water-filled jar and a can of veggies. No dings, chips or cracks there. It does scratch if I slide an unglazed coffee cup across it, but with my sanding-sponge handy, I can live with shallow scratches. I want the look of an old chem lab counter or bakery table. I actually found a website that had pics of the same variety of marble being used on the floor and walls of a lobby in a NYC building. If it stands up to foot traffic, surely it will last a few years in my kitchen.

two devs, I'm happy to hear that your cabinet install went fairly smoothly. Also good to hear that I'm not the only one who can't post pics--but I'm working on it! Our kitchen remodel won't be started for awhile, so I plan to enjoy yours until then!

    Bookmark   April 20, 2010 at 3:42PM
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mama goose_gw zn6OH

fori, I forgot to mention: I found a comment on a marble forum that someone thinks black marble should be used only in rooms where alien autopsies are performed. I have to say that my 'New St.Laurent' will look especially charming at Halloween!

    Bookmark   April 20, 2010 at 3:47PM
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Fori is not pleased

Autopsies? Nawwww. Libraries maybe, but I am starting to picture it in a kitchen and it's nice. Actually I'm starting to picture it in MY kitchen. Clearly I need to find me some samples! It won't get hard wear in my application because it'll go in my baking area and if current trends hold, it'll be so covered up with JUNK that it'll be protected from use.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2010 at 4:27PM
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I think a better drop test is something like a good-sized soup can -- heavy, with an edge. And it's realistic. They DO fall out of cabinets, or slip out of your hands.

But ultimately, a lot has to do with your outlook and comfort with wear, as many of us with soapstone counters have discovered. (I also have an antique marble table with what would probably be considered a honed finish that I use as a "landing area".)

It sounds like you're very comfortable with wear, scratches, a few chips, etching etc. I find wear normal and attractive; an appealing part of my soapstone and marble. If a tile cracked, would you consider the whole experience a disaster? I think that's about the worst that could happen. Frankly, things break in every kitchen. If you can handle that idea, go for it.

I saw some beautiful dark gray marbles in a magazine recently. I think we're going to see more of them in the US. Right now we see mostly light ones.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2010 at 5:16PM
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mama goose_gw zn6OH

Thanks, growlery, I tried a 26oz tomato sauce can (hey--those used to be 28oz--must be the economy). I must admit that I dropped it from only 6 inches, on edge, a couple of times. No cracks, chips, dings or stars. The only thing I could see was a small 'metal-mark', about 1/4 wide, each time. Since the marble is mostly black/dark gray mottled, it wouldn't have been a big deal, but I found that it disappeared when I used my sanding-sponge.

Something else I noticed about my kitchen. I don't keep any canned goods in my upper cabinets, and other than dishware, nothing breakable--just some herbs in glass jars on an open shelf, adjacent to the stove. I don't remember if this was because I knew the kids would be taking things out of the upper cabinets, or because we usually have mice in the fall, and keeping canned goods under the counter was better than keeping paper or plastic containers there.

And you are right--I find normal wear and 'patina' to be very attractive. Almost all of our furniture is used--vintage, heirloom, hand-me-down, thrift store. I'd much rather have good, used furniture than brand new. Mattresses and appliances are the exception. In our area, when we move, we take our appliances--I don't want someone else's refrigerator!

Thank you all for helping me with marble testing suggestions. Any other ideas? We don't have indoor animals, so no need to suggest cat barf. Can you tell that I've been reading the 'cat barf in washer' thread? LOL

    Bookmark   April 21, 2010 at 12:28PM
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Fori is not pleased

Well, you could do 4 tiles on a board, installed just as you would on your counter, grouted and all, and plop it next to the stove and use it for a while.

But I think you should just install the darn things!

    Bookmark   April 21, 2010 at 3:33PM
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mama goose

Something tells me that your one of those kids who went to State Science Fair competition. "And then I dropped a 28 ounce can of tomatoes from a six inch height four times, and found a consistent result. My hypothesis was supported." ; )

A recovering mother of former middle school children. We are so glad those science fair years are over!

    Bookmark   April 21, 2010 at 6:24PM
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mama goose_gw zn6OH

fori, you've convinced me! The next thing I have to do is drag out the tile saw, to make sure that I can cut the tiles. Then I have to etch, hone and seal each tile. This is a DIY project that should keep me busy for a long time.

Thanks, everyone! Here's a link to pics of my tile sample.

Here is a link that might be useful: Kitchen tiles sample

    Bookmark   April 21, 2010 at 6:46PM
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mama goose_gw zn6OH

I've resurrected this thread to show my newest experiment.

rjr220, you are right! Read on:

fori, your suggestion gave me an idea. I decided to use the 'reject' marble tiles for my prep-sink in our new addition. The ten tiles that I used cost $14.80, the substrate materials cost ap. $30.00. Tile adhesive and grout for both the counter and backsplash will be ap.$32.00. I used mostly scrap tiles for the backsplash, but the tiles that I bought cost $15.00. If you're keeping score, that's almost $92.00 for the counter and backsplash.

I'm listing the cost of materials, because this may be a wasted effort--if it doesn't work out, I'll tear it out and start over. If it works, then I'll use the 'good' marble tiles for my kitchen counters, whenever we start the kitchen facelift. In the meantime, I'll have ample time to test my new counter. (But I won't be dropping tomato sauce cans on it.)

So far, I LOVE the counter, and my husband, who didn't share my vision of taking highly-polished, second quality tiles, and turning them into something that (I hope) will look like a slab of soapstone or slate on an old chem-lab table, LOVES it, too.

I haven't grouted yet, or sanded the epoxy in the edge seams, and the sink and faucet aren't installed. I plan to paint the cabinet GREEN WILLOW (leftover paint), and maybe repaint the beadboard to the right of the counter. It's SUGAR COOKIE to match the window-seat wall, but I'm thinking the HEAVY CREAM on the other wall would look better with the tile.

There are a few wonky spots in the backsplash, but I cut most of the mosaic pieces myself--cut some of them in the rain, today :(, so maybe the grout will even things out. I plan to use dark charcoal grout for the counter and backsplash. The backsplash in the kitchen will probably be the light tan tiles, cut in subway, with a black marble 'pencil' accent, and possibly a similar mosaic over the stove.

Thanks again for your help and ideas. Sorry for the long post. If anyone is still reading, here's my 'new baby':

Here is a link that might be useful: Marble counter, mosaic backsplash

    Bookmark   June 12, 2010 at 10:58PM
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Mama, I was reading this thread today, could it be because of your prep sink work? I usually catch you on the Smaller Homes forum, but we are all multi tasking it seems.

Definitely related to the marble counter issue. Keep it bumped up there.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2010 at 2:38PM
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Fori is not pleased

Ooooooooh lala!

OK, the marble looks great but dang that's one very cool retro-in-a-good-way backsplash! I love art deco stuff and you really got the feel of it. Eek I hope that's what you were going for! =)

    Bookmark   June 13, 2010 at 6:27PM
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mama goose_gw zn6OH

Well, a lot has happened in the last year and a half, since I first found GW, and asked this question. I've learned to post pictures, so here are a few of the black marble tiles in the kitchen proper, as countertop on a vintage school cabinet, and also as a backsplash for the sink area, in case anyone else is searching for info on black marble or marble tile countertops:

Ignore the camera distortion:

Marble tile backsplash, epoxy resin lab-top counter:


You can see in the last two pics, that I used some old lab-tops from a high school in the cooking and clean-up areas. I wasn't sure about using the marble tile in a wet area, especially if soaps and detergents were being used. My small grandson plays in the auxilliary sink (in the link), which now sports a swivel aerator, and the sealed marble tile has held up very well. We also keep the coffee maker on that counter. At this point I've resealed it once (when I sealed the kitchen counter.) I use a fine sanding-sponge to polish any light etches or water spots, and use marble polish when I want it to look silky-smooth for company. For the amount of money spent in the kitchen and 'kitchenette' area, I'm very happy with the results!

We also converted a used Carrara marble dining table to an island. If you'd like to see more pictures of the kitchen 'facelift', you can click on my username for albums and threads.

Thanks again to all the kind GW members who offered advice and encouragement!

    Bookmark   February 18, 2012 at 5:00PM
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