The Most Desirable Marbles and Natural Stone

When it comes to home design, we always wondering what materials to choose for kitchen and bathroom so it will be more durable. Here HGTV has the answers.


The Most Desirable Marbles and Natural Stone

Every design professional will tell you that natural materials can't be beat. If you choose to splurge on anything in your home, let it be natural stone for your kitchen, bathroom, foyer, fireplace and wherever else you can afford it. The timeless beauty and versatility of natural stone make it appropriate for any design scheme, from sleek modern to ultra traditional. But which stone is best for you? Read on for answers to all those questions about stone you've been waiting to ask. By Alison Mercer

Carrera/Carrara Marble

Marble is essentially crystallized limestone, and the veining is due to impurities left over from its metamorphosis. Marble is a soft, porous rock, hence it's historical use as a material for sculpture (think Michelangelo's David).

The use of marble as a work top goes back to Ancient Egypt, but modern decorators often reference it's use in the bistros and bakeries of France, where it provided a perfect surface on which to roll dough and prep food

Of late, homeowners are choosing marble again -- despite the fact that it can stain and etch -- in growing numbers, for everything from countertops to backsplashes, bathroom flooring, vanties and tub surrounds.

Marble is generally an expensive material, but there is a range of choices. This, Carrera or Carrara marble, is the most abundant and consequently the lowest priced, starting at $70/square foot for a fabricated counter top and $10/square foot for tiles.

Carrera/Carrara is characterized by a pale steely grey base with feathery marbelling. It's very cool in colour and tone and is therefore a great foil for warm woods.

Calacatta Marble

Calacatta marble is more rare, and is in huge demand worldwide. It is favoured for its lighter base colour and often wildly dramatic veining. Though very similar to Carrera at first glance, Calacatta has a much more refined, milky quality to its overall composition

Calacatta also comes in brown and golden tones as well as the more traditional grey, but it is for the warmer golden-toned veining that it is most popular.

For the privilege of owning a piece of Calacatta you will pay $25 and up for a 12” x 12” tile and $100/square foot for a counter top. Some slabs of Calacatta have sold for $15,000!

Pietra Grey Marble

Pietra grey marble has a deep grey background with bright white veining and sells for slightly less than Calacatta, but more than Carrera.

It is dramatic and sleek and is most often used as flooring and in master baths.


A popular choice for floors and vertical surfaces, limestone is a sedimentary rock whose colours generally run from cream to mid brown.

Its appearance is usually uniform and subtle, with some colour shading, but generally very little to no veining.

Limestone can be honed, polished, aged or used with a split face – when the rock is left rough, as is often seen in fireplace surrounds. This is a French tumbled and brushed limstone, which looks superb in this rustic kitchen. 

Image courtesy of

You'll pay top dollar for Italian and French limestone, but the range can be anywhere between $10 - $30 per square foot. Honed limestone tiles used as flooring, as seen here, will give you a visually warm, refined appearance that will work with virtually any design concept.

Traditional honed and splitfaced limestone tiles in a bathroom.

Polished limestone tiles surround the fireplace in this striking master bath.

Honed limestone

Image courtesy of


Travertine is a form of limestone that is created by the deposits of minerals, usually from hot springs. Travertine has a pitted surface that is often heavily veined, giving it a more rugged appearance. Like limestone, its colouring runs from pale cream and beige to mid brown.

Finishes of travertine can be tumbled, honed, brushed, filled (the divets are actually filled), filled & honed, and polished. 

Travertine comes in two very distinct cuts: cross cut and vein cut. Cross cut refers to the default way of cutting travertine blocks, which is like slicing a stick of butter in to cubes. This produces tiles that have the classic marbled appearance as exemplified by the floor seen in this photo.

In order to produce vein cut travertine, the travertine blocks are rotated and the cuts take place across the vein -- like cutting a stick of butter lengthwise, into strips. You can also think of it as cutting a tree vertically or horizontally.


Image courtesy of Natural Stone News

Silver Vein Cut Travertine

Veined travertine will provide instant drama to your floor or wall surface. Travertine was a favourite material of  famed architect Mies van der Rohe, and he used it in Montreal's Westmount Square, the Toronto Dominion Centre and his iconic Farnsworth House among other projects.


Veined Travertine Slab

Here, a slab of veined travertine clads a modern fireplace creating a striking feature wall. Expect to pay anywhere between $8 – $25 per square foot.

Vein Cut Silver Travertine Slab


Soapstone is a smooth mineral-rich stone that is created in areas where tectonic plates are shifting. Soapstone's high talc content is what gives it a slightly waxy feel.

It is a soft rock, and has been used as a carving material for centuries. Soapstone occurs in anything from light grey to dark green and black, and its natural properties make it almost invulnerable to physical damage.

Pair this with its non porous and heat resistant qualities and soapstone is clearly an ideal material for a counter top.

The cost of a soapstone counter will start at about $80/square foot.

Grey soapstone countertops


As its name would imply, sandstone is a sedimentary rock made of compressed mineral granules. Sandstone has been used as a building material for thousands of years because it's durable and easy to work with.

It is available in a variety of colours, and slabs often have a stunning combination of orange/pinks/greys/beiges – think sunset colours. It features layered, swirling patterns and in tile form costs in the range of $8 - $20/square foot.

Image courtesy of

Though durable, sandstone is a very porous material that has a high water absorption rate. For this reason it is not the ideal choice for bathrooms, unless you don't mind it taking on a marbling from water stains as the years wear on. It is also susceptible to dirt build-up, which is why there are in-demand cleaning businesses for traditional sandstone floors, especially those found in centuries-old European dwellings.

Image courtesy of Mandarin Stone

Sandstone is popular in dry, warm climates as an outdoor material. The elegance of its grain and patterning is highly sought after for verandas and walkways in dessert climates, becuase it echoes the environment.

Teakwood Sandstone

This gorgeous variety of sandstone has a unique grain that mimics that of teak wood. It can be polished, honed or brushed, and has a unique beauty all its own. This variety ranges from $10-$30/square foot.


The beauty of slate comes from its highly textured surface and earth tone colouring -- these qualities lend themselves to a more relaxed design scheme. Slate is however porous, and should be sealed accordingly if used in a kitchen or bathroom

Smooth Slate

Created from clay or volcanic ash through sedimentary layering, slate tiles tend to have irregular, roughly undulating surfaces, which is something to consider if you are thinking of installing it where people will be walking in their bare feet.

However, when expertly "cut" with a specialized tool in the quarry, many slates will form smooth flat sheets of stone which have long been used for roofing and floor tiles. These are the varieties you see in the smooth, larger format tiles, popular in foyers and hallways.

Green Slate

Slate is frequently grey in color, especially when seen, en masse, covering roofs. However, slate occurs in a variety of colors even from a single locality; for example, slate from North Wales can be found in many shades of grey, from pale to dark, and may also be purple, green or cyan.

Slate is often successfully used in foyers where it can offer a warm and welcoming introduction to your home. Slate tiles are very affordable priced at between $3 - $10/square foot.

Slate tiles are very affordable, priced at between $3 - $10/square foot.


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                                                                                                               By An H

1 Comment

  1. clark 06/13/2014 at 4:50 AM

    At Gaiastone we take great pride on the values we bring into work; we are passionate about natural stone, and we are also passionate about our environment. In fact, our name, Gaiastone, means Stone from the Earth.

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Eric Tiftikci

Eric Tiftikci

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CENTURY 21 Leading Edge Realty Inc., Brokerage*
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