We asked the experts about the variety of stones on offer and how to use them in your home
Five experts share their tips on using white marble in your home, plus a history of paint colours from the Stone Age to today
How many different types of white marble are there?
‘In the UK you’ll be able to find up to 50 different varieties,’ says Jason Cherrington, director of stone specialist Lapicida. These range from pure white Thassos, used by the ancient Greeks to build temples, to grey-veined Italian Carrara and Calacatta marbles. The stronger the pattern, the more consideration needs to be given to how they are laid out and whether slabs need to be ‘book matched’, so the veins align.
Where do the best marbles come from?
Mostly from Carrara in Tuscany, the favoured source of Renaissance sculptors such as Michelangelo. Its many quarries produce more marble than anywhere else in the world, and classic Bianco Carrara is a favourite with experts such as Gabriele Salvatori, CEO of Salvatori. ‘It has an enduring beauty and performs reliably,’ he says. However, its popularity is inevitably running down supplies, so it’s time to also look to Turkey and Greece for white marbles.
How much do they vary in price?
Considerably. ‘ White marbles of Turkish origin can cost as little as £40 per square metre,’ says Graham Rose, sales manager of Mandarin Stone. ‘Carrara generally starts at around £60 per square metre, and very pure white marbles from £100 per square metre.’ Rarer stones, or complex mosaics, can cost as much as £1,500 per square metre.
Can white marble be used anywhere in the home?
Yes, with some restrictions. Polished marble isn’t practical for floors, where it will be slippery, or worktops, where it will show scratches. There are fewer issues with wall finishes. ‘Even if you only have the budget for a marble splashback, it will add a special touch to even the smallest room,’ says Fired Earth’s creative director Colin Roby-welford. How about outdoors? Marble’s porosity tends to rule out its use in gardens, but there are exceptions. ‘Bianco Carrara is able to withstand very cold temperatures, which makes it suitable for external use in all climates,’ says Salvatori. How is marble installed? ‘Always lay all your tiles out prior to fixing them in place so that you can swap them around,’ says Roby-welford. ‘This way you can ensure colours and patterns are evenly distributed.’ Floors require special preparation. ‘Any marble that is going to carry weight needs to have high density and flexibility, and it should be laid on a perfectly level sub-floor to prevent cracking,’ says Cherrington. How do I look after it? Marble should be sealed upon installation, with additional water-repellent treatments applied in wet areas. Thereafter, wipe up spills quickly – after a couple of hours, stains will penetrate even sealed stone – and use ph-neutral cleaners, never ordinary detergents. Roby-welford recommends ‘Easy-care’ by Lithofin (£12.06 per litre; pureadhesion.co.uk). Some watermarks from acid-based liquids are inevitable, says Deedee Gundberg, director of product development and design at Ann Sacks. ‘Fans like me consider this patina part of the material’s charm.’
Turn over for nine of the best white marbles to buy now
‘Choices range from pure white Thassos, used by the ancient Greeks to build temples, to grey-veined Italian Carrara and Calacatta marbles’
Above The two main staircases at Valentino’s Rome concept store, designed by David Chipperfield Architects (davidchipperfield.com), are entirely lined in Carrara marble and give the impression of being carved from a single block