Saturday, February 7, 2015

Stone Yard Adventures

For someone who has chosen counter-tops for five kitchens, I know very little about stone. I wouldn't dare offer tips or a "how-to" guide. But I can share my adventures. In the past, my choices were governed by price, durability, and emotion--in that order. Last week, the time arrived for me to select stone for the ranchburger's kitchen. I knew what I wanted, and I just hoped the right quartzite would be waiting for me at the stone yard.

Because I had loved the kitchen in a former home, a 1990s Georgian, I decided to choose the same colors and stone for the new project. For the Georgian's countertops, I had selected Sequoia, a quartzite. The cabinets and walls were painted a wonderfully neutral, creamy white, BM Simply White. 

 First, a little backstory about the Georgian's kitchen. Two years ago, during the renovation, I had researched various stones, of course, but the "white-ish granites" were hard to find, as they were scooped up the minute the slabs hit the yards. I expected the process to take weeks and gave myself plenty of time to find the recommended stones, such as White Macabus and Super White Extra (a dolomite). I remember the day that I had walked into a Nashville stone yard, hoping I would find a stone with muted colors and plenty of white. A Sequoia quartzite slab had been positioned in the front of the showroom (below, the slab is on the left).

I barely glanced at the slab as I strode by, eager to reach the marble (it was neither practical nor affordable, but I just wanted to gape at the majesty of those "won't-work-for-me" stones). 

When I circled back to the Sequoia, I paused. A tingle ran up my backbone, and my pulse sped up. The Sequoia was perfect. It was love at second sight. Unfortunately, the slabs had been reserved by another customer. When she (or he) removed the hold, I immediately put down a deposit.

That story had a happy ending.

 Now, I've embarked on a new story.
From the beginning, I decided that the ranch's kitchen would be white, too. I'd loved how BM Simply White had looked on the Georgian's walls and cabinets. I also loved Sequoia on the counter-tops. Why not go with the same combination? 

 I returned to the same stone yard because they had a few Sequoia slabs in stock. Piece of cake, I thought. However, there was one caveat: if I didn't want my 123" island to have a seam, I'd need a longer slab. When I found the Sequoia, it was the right size, but the colors were deep, the movement turbulent. It was a darker version of the stone in my old Georgian.

I tried to take as many pictures as I could for y'all. Due to the lighting and my iPhone (shaky cam effect), the colors and tones just aren't true. This particular Sequoia slab reminded me of a stormy sea. 

According to the label, the slabs were Brown Sequoia. No one had a name for the ones I'd chosen a year ago, so we just called them "Lighter Sequoia." 

My easy, in-and-out adventure had just gotten longer and more complicated. If I couldn't find a whiter Sequoia, I'd have to start over. My mood brightened when I found a few slabs of "lighter" Sequoia. Then I felt sad again when I learned that they'd been tagged by another customer.

  I was joined at the indoor yard with my GC's assistant, Medana, and our long-time fabricator, Lisa. Despite the encroaching deadline to choose a stone, my GC told me to take my time. Just for fun (I love stone yards), the girls and I decided to look around. Finding the right stone is a little like falling in love. A handsome stone can make a girl's head spin. But the infatuation wanes when you imagine living with high maintenance cuteness. Reality sets in, and you make the best choice for your real life, one that includes tomato sauce, lemon loaf cakes, red wine, and Messy Men.

We started at one end of the yard. A slab caught our attention. It was muted--and the right length. However, a pattern on the lower right reminded us of a shark. That could be sorted during the fabrication. But the overall color was a cool blue, and my old age kitchen needed something neutral.

Another light slab was the right length, too. 

 This slab was on hold, too. 
(In person, this slab was peppered with purple dots and smears, and since they were so prominent, I knew this slab wasn't for me. So I didn't put my name on a waiting list.)

A slab of Danby marble caught my attention. It was honed, very lovely. I've heard that Danby can be less porous than other kinds of marble, but that's open to debate. 

It was pretty, but I'd seen prettier. The heavy veining in the lower left corner might not be the best choice for an island. Nevertheless, Medana and Lisa measured. The slab was the right size. We tagged it but kept looking.

A few aisles over, we stopped in front of a lovely Macabus slab. The veins are always a bit crooked in Macabus, and despite expert fabrication, a slab can have a skewed, dizzy appearance on a countertop. Also, since quartzite is the middle ground between marble and granite, it isn't bulletproof. If a Messy Man gets near Macabus, it can, and will, etch. 

As I studied the slab, the lines seemed to veer crookedly. I tried to imagine this stone on my island. For the Georgian, I'd found a gorgeous slab of Macabus--Lisa said it was the prettiest she'd ever seen--and we put it atop Restoration Hardware vanities (which I'd ordered without RH's stone). The pattern was mostly straight. But when it comes to stone, individuality is a virtue, and so are quirks. Like the stone yard folks say, "If you can't abide crooked lines, it's wise to keep looking or invest in a man-made material."

 Last year, when I visited the yard, I'd secretly hoped to find Calacatta marble. They'd only had a few slabs, and, of course, they'd been tagged. Fate had stepped in, preventing me from falling in love with an inappropriate (for me) stone.

But here was an available slab. It was the right length. However, the slab behind it was on hold. 

Nevertheless, we tagged it, as it could work in the Master Bath. At this stone yard,
if you even think you might want a slab, it's imperative to reserve it. If not, it will be gone, baby, gone. 

On our way out of the building, we passed by the same exact spot where, two years earlier, I'd found the light Sequoia slabs for the Georgian's kitchen. But instead of Sequoia, here was a slab of Statuario marble. When I'd entered the building, I'd gone down another path, and I'd totally missed it.

 We tagged the slabs, then headed to a yard in the country.

Almost all of the slabs were too dark, busy, or short (I'm squeamish about seams).
However, I did find a small slab (it's right in the front) of marble that was a good price, and it would be perfect for a powder room vanity.

I saw numerous slabs of Super White (quartzite), but the pattern seems a little blurry in person.

Everyone agreed that the slab of Brown Sequoia was too short and taupey.

An interesting (but too-short) unnamed slab. It reminded me of smoke and fog.

I looked at a few man-made slabs that are reminiscent of Carrara marble. It's expensive but durable.

Now that I'd seen quite a few slabs, I realized that I was smitten by the Statuario. 
It would work with BM Simply White.

The island will go in front of the French doors (right side of the photo, below). Placing the sink had been a difficult decision, and it had taken a village: me, Medana, Bandwidth, my GC, the cabinet maker, and Murdock the architect. We decided that the farm sink should go on the window side, and counter stools would be tucked on the other side of the island. So if you are sitting on a stool, you will enjoy the view. (And when I'm washing dishes, I can watch TV on the opposite wall.)

So the sink wouldn't be placed at a critical point in the stone.

 I still love the single slab of Calacatta.

And a nearby slab was available. In person, the they were complimentary--the same tones--and if placed on perimeter counters, the slabs would blend.
Or I could wait for new arrivals.

With great reluctance, I decided not to get the Danby marble. The tag was removed,
so that the slab would be immediately available to the next shopper who saw it and fell in love.

For a large island, the Statuario seems like it would add quiet drama.

As for etching, a Gardenweb thread discussed Plexiglas sheets. Lisa said she thought Plexiglas may etch. Possibly felt "tabs" on the undersides of the panels would prevent that. I've also read about using large sheets of butchers block. 

So, this time, I've really gone off the rails. Marble in my kitchen? Will that cause arguments with Bandy? Will I morph into the Counter Police? I like patina, but how much is too much?
Then again, Bandy will leave for graduate school. 
I know what my Mimi would say, "What are you waiting for?"
She has a point.  I'm 61, and if I truly want marble, now is the time. 
"Just don't let stains 'set up' too long," she would advise. "Be quick on the draw with a dish towel. And if a Messy Man appears, flap him with the towel."

Lisa is still looking for slabs, and she promised to email photos if she finds something interesting.

I have two weeks to decide . . . I'd love to hear your thoughts. 

Thanks for visiting today.

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  1. I personally don't have marble, but I have several friends who do. It's interesting, because not one of them would have it in a kitchen, again. It looks great, at first, but just doesn't wear well.

    1. So true, Susan. I have marble-topped nightstands, and my DH's is a hot mess. Something to think about.

  2. I have to admit that I prefer granite in the kitchen...I have a black pearl in my kitchen for tops and backsplashes. I wanted a white...but that was not in the cards for me. The ones I liked each had an issue, not enough, one weird color, reserved for someone else, etc. Hubby finds some grains to be to busy! Black pearl is dressy and not much of a grain. You see small grey iridescent pearls in the pattern.

    As for marble...and travertine. Well, I have had in bathrooms on vanities and floors. Issues with spotting.
    In our current house I chose a honed white marble for the floor....thinking I would not see spots. Darn, I see water spots! Wish I had gone with a Porceline tile! I like the slaps you showed us! Good luck. I am sure what you choose will be wonderful! Sheila

    1. Love travertine, but it is so finicky, like a maiden aunt who wears gloves all the time. Granite is Mr. Practical. Marble is a princess who is allergic to all acidic foods and can't abide Man Pigs who leave empty glasses on the counters. My Absolute Black stayed in pristine condition for a decade--I'm sure it's still that way. In bathrooms, I've had tile, cultured marble, Formica, and something like Corian. I wasn't in love with the man-made stuff, but I was facing a huge deadline. It cost $$$$ the moon. The Corian is impervious to everything. They say it is a petroleum product and will be around at the End of Time. I believe it! Very expensive, though.

  3. I just purchased what you call lighter Sequoia. Our stone yard and Houzz both call it Fantasy Brown quartzite. Maybe if you looked for it under that name you'd find what you're looking for! It's beautiful, but I'm sure anything you pick will be.

    1. Janet, thank you! It is beautiful--you will ADORE it.

  4. In our last house I had quartz and loved it. I also have friends with marble and they hate it, they say it is not a serious cook's friend at all. I have granite now and so wish I had more quartz. It is non porous, does not need to be sealed and is very easy to maintain.
    Can't wait to see the kitchen when you finish it, I am sure it will be awesome.

  5. Michael read these two blog post and you will find out exactly how I feel about marble counter tops..... ..... this post has multiple sources that I used for reference when trying to make the same decision you are trying to make.

    1. Wonderful links and posts, Kathysue. I read every single one. Thanks so much.

  6. I don't have any sort of worthwhile opinion. I have absolute black for my counter tops and I like it, other than it looking cloudy sometimes. I know next to nothing about marble.

    1. My cats used to sit on the island, next to the prep sink, and wait for me to turn on the faucet. They had one of those plug-in bowls with a waterfall, but they adored the faucet.

  7. Don't have much to say - I have granite and love it, though MY Messy Man - or heavy handed man and our heavy Calphalon have had rows.....I have some tiny chips near the sink that make me crazy, it isn't very old! But it is beautiful and durable and shines up so nicely with the right cleaning products. I *adore* Cararra (sp) marble and want it in the master bath but have been soooooo afraid of it.

    I would say I don't envy your difficult decision, and keep your Mimi's advice: life is very short. You are a busy chef - you will get the spills, so get what you want. : - ) I am learning lately that NOW matters more than worrying about later much at a certain age. Don't worry, be happy.

    I am keeping you in my thoughts and prayers, and hope you are completely satisfied with your choices - you deserve it. the home improvement arena has been tough on you lately and you deserve smooth waters for sailing now. Hugs.

    1. Aw, thank you, Michele. ((Hugs right back at ya.))

  8. It is a hard decision when it is so expensive. You want to be sure you love it. I went with Zodiac in my kitchen for a contrast. The Zodiac is dark, with black and brown and sits atop the light maple color cabinets that were already installed when we bought the house. The drama is further enhanced with my new black appliances.

  9. I'm not much help. We have granite and have been very happy with it. It's a deep Imperial Red. We searched stone yards from Austin to San Antonio to Dallas to Houston. It's a daunting process, but we did in 1995, so no recent experience. I have friends who love their marble kitchens. Ours is a dark stone, and white is certainly better in terms of light. My "chef" would like to have white counter tops for just that reason. I agree with you about eliminating a seam if you can. The Calacatta is beautiful! Knowing your excellent taste, whatever you decide to go with will be gorgeous.
    Good luck with the decision and fingers crossed that your choice is available. '-)

    1. My Absolute Black showed everything. I was always cleaning it...but it was worth it when the sun came through the windows and hit the granite, so glossy and pretty.

  10. We're having a new home built and we had to decide on countertops too. I never had granite before in any of my homes (although our RVs had Corian which I liked). I love the look of white marble but in the end we chose granite (hubby didn't want me fussing over counters) everywhere except for Quartz in the power room. And now we are upgrading our current home with granite to help with the sale. I should have done this years ago. By the way I was so happy to see your Georgian home's finished kitchen. It is beautiful and must have been difficult to leave after all the work and time you spent designing it. I can see why you are going for a similar look in your ranch.

  11. Thanks, Sandy! I'm so glad you stopped by.

  12. Oh I say go with the marble. You only live once, so do it. You will smile every time you walk into the room.

  13. I've never been to a slab yard before, but it looks overwhelming. I would probably have a hard time concentrating on the job at hand instead of ooh and ahhing. Didn't realize you were planning a white kitchen, so I'll be following along very closely as our next kitchen will be white and I'll need all of the help and inspiration I can get.

    1. I thought the same thing, Sam. But if you go in with a goal, knowing your overall design, it's less chaotic. You can appreciate a pretty stone but not be swayed so much. Take a cabinet door with you (and hardware), and you'll zero in on what works/doesn't work. The problem is, a great stone is *always* on hold...but stone yards can find slabs all around the country. I'm excited about your reno!

  14. I'm 63 now, and there's NO WAY I'd want to spend the amount of time necessary to be sure the marble stayed looking beautiful! Plus...hassling my husband, friends, kids, g-kids, etc. about being careful and following them around with a dishtowel would not be something I'd enjoy ;) I mention the 63 yoa because I'm trying to imagine what your mom would say to me about maybe being lazy! Whatever you decide, I'm sure it'll be stunning. Good luck!

    1. So true. And some Messy Men are kinda like old dogs--they don't learn new tricks. :-)

  15. Go with what you love, Michael Lee, and listen to Mimi whispering her advice to you. You'll choose whatever you love an you'll deal with it, with your southern fortitude.

    1. I do love marble. And I am a patina kind of gal. However, I live with people who take patina to an extreme (and don't realize they're doing it, lol). Kathysue pointed me to some excellent sources, and it seems as if honed will be much better in a kitchen than the polished. As Kathysue said, "Cutting boards will be your new best friend."

  16. I do not envy you having to chose just the right one....I must say that I agree with some of the above with go with what you love....and the cutting boards will become your best friend...Do they make slipcovers for countertops??!!...:)

  17. I think the Statuario is gorgeous. I love how it looks like it has tree branches in it.

    I say go for it :)