The Pros and Cons of Marble Kitchen Worktops

carrara marble for country house


In recent years, marble has become a popular kitchen work surface, but its efficacy continues to cause debate and confusion.

A recent blog post about our general views on which kitchen worktop stones perform best touched on the pros and cons of each material, but we feel that special attention should now be given to marble due it its increasing popularity but remaining mystique.


What is Marble?

Without going too far down the geology path, it  is essentially a crystaline form of limestone. The whiter it is, the purer the limestone from which it was formed. It’s whiteness, combined with its relative softness, makes it the perfect material to carve with. It’s worth noting that not all marbles are white.

In our experience designing bespoke kitchens, clients choose marble for three key positive reasons; great cooking performance, great looks and great feel. Despite the positives, it’s not all plain sailing, and like every kitchen worktop material, there are pros and cons to using it.


marble sink
A solid marble sink designed by Artichoke in a country house project in Gloucestershire.

Marble is widely accessible and comes at many different price points to suit most budgets. Marble and stone price is sensitive to global markets and can fluctuate heavily depending on demand. Statuary marble, Thassos and Calacatta Oro are particularly beautiful examples that are currently highly prized and thus command high prices.  Carrara marble is much more common and commands lower prices.  Pizza Express use Carrara marble for their tables which as you can imagine undergo significant strain and wear.

Because it is formed from limestone, itself a porous rock, marble too is porous; more so in fact than granite.  This porosity makes it a poor conductor of heat, giving it one of its major and unique strengths; its ability to keep cool.  This makes marble superb for working pastry, and for Artichoke clients who commission us to make kitchens that perform as well as they look, marble is a serious consideration.  Typically, a marble work surface will be 4 degrees cooler than the ambient temperature of the room.

Marble is generally considered the most beautiful of the accessible stones used for kitchen work-surfaces.  There is an elegance and understated beauty in marble that the brashness of granite cannot compete with.  It can be striking without appearing vulgar, which as anyone interested in fashion will know, is a trick that’s hard to pull off.  Over time, it will also create its own unique patina which many (including us) see as a pro.

Due to it’s poor heat conduction, marble is cool to the touch.  There will be a subconscious reaction to this in the main, but it is an important attribute, particularly during Summer months. It also has a softness to the touch which is hard to explain.


kitchen island worktop
Antiqued Carrara marble was used as the main work surface for this kitchen project in Italy

Some of the most striking marbles can also be extremely expensive. Thassos, which comes from the island of Thassos in Greece, is pure brilliant white with no blemishes and with a stunning translucency that makes it look like cast sugar. Calacatta Oro is another highly prized example with a milky white background and gold veining.

Open pores in marble make it prone to staining.  There is no product available that will stop this, but there are products such as Lithofin, that will render the surface oil and water resistant while slowing down the rate at which liquids like red wine can seep into the surfaces. Acidic liquids will attack the surface of marble and they must be wiped off the surface immediately.

The images below show what can happen to Calacatta Oro if red wine and chilli sauce are left on untreated marble for 15 minutes.


red wine stain on calacatta oro
Red wine stain on Calacatta Oro


Chilli sauce stain on Calacatta Oro
Chilli sauce stain on Calacatta Oro

It is worth noting that marble is also known for working out some stains, which pass through the pores in capillary action.

Marble is softer than granite and it will scratch and wear.  This is also part of its charm.  The surface will wear particularly in areas that are stood at for longer, such as at the sink.  The edge may become duller and you may find that belt buckles or jean rivets will rub against the surface causing further scratches.

If you want your kitchen stone to look pin new in 5 years, maybe you should consider an alternative.  Many clients are willing to oversee this fault because of it’s beauty.


Bookmatched mable
A book matched statuary marble island in an Artichoke kitchen in Somerset.


Protecting Marble

All marble kitchens surfaces which Artichoke install are pre-sealed when fitted, usually with Lithofin. There is no product, to our knowledge, that seals marble completely and as discussed earlier, spillages should be wiped up immediately.

Cleaning Marble

Cleaning for most marble surfaces is best done using warm soapy water and a soft cloth. A particularly grimy surface may need no more than rigorous cleaning to remove residue. Avoid using abrasive sponges. In order to bring the polish back to its original quality, washing should be followed by buffing dry in order to avoid water marks. Cleaning kits for marble are ordinarily not necessary for granite surfaces but are available if required for marble, slate or limestone. Lithofin also provide products which help clean and polish marble and they can be purchased from If you choose to clean your marble surface with products like Fairy Liquid, try and choose one that is alkaline as possible. Lemon scented detergent soaps tend to be more acidic and are likely to attack the surface or marble. Ecover offer some good alkaline detergents.


If you have concerns and would like to discuss your stone choice with us, contact or call Andrew or Ben on +44 (0)1934 745270.




What Granite and Marble Render the Best Kitchen Worktops?

During the design process of any bespoke kitchen, discussions will inevitably reach the marble or granite worktops question. Choosing the best kitchen worktop for your home is not straightforward. Each has their pros and cons, and there is no right or wrong answer.

Hopefully this journal piece will act as a useful guide for each material, but feel free to contact us if you’d like to discuss designing a kitchen best suited to your country home.


marble backsplash behind an Aga



In our view, marble is the most beautiful kitchen worktop material. Generally the patterns, hues and colours available in marbles are softer and more elegant than granite, so we consider them to be the best kitchen worktops aesthetically, and we feel its beauty outweighs its flaws.

Marble types vary in density, porosity and mineral content, and they will all stain if acids (such as red wine and lemon juice) are left on them for hours unchecked. However, if your marble surface is sealed and the offending material is removed quickly, you should be fine. Marble is also softer than granite so it will etch and antique with wear. It is similar to timber in this respect and it will create its own beautiful patina over time. We see this wear as an attractive quality but may not be to everybody’s taste. Explore marble as a kitchen surface in greater depth here.


close up of drawers
Combining timber with Carrara marble often works well

Granite worktops are the most robust of all natural kitchen work surface stones. It is dense, scratch resistant and does not stain. It is considered one of the best kitchen worktops for any functional cooking surface.

With reasonable care, granite worktops will stay looking new for many years. In our experience, because granites are the post popular kitchen stone work surface, they also tend to be more susceptible to trend, meaning that they can also quickly go out of fashion. Certainly a few years ago, polished black granite was a popular kitchen worktop choice. Now it tends to be less so. Whenever we install granite, we tend to hone it to remove the polished surface, or flame it, a process which textures and antiques the surface.

Because of the way granite is formed geologically (it is volcanic as opposed to marble which is formed from sea bed activity), its patterns are, in our view, less exciting. They are typically bolder and less refined, and we tend to opt for using them in a scullery or pantry environment where the kitchen worktops are likely to get more wear and looks are less important.


Flamed Granite
A flamed surface will give worktop surfaces a texture which softens or antiques the stone, making it more interesting. It also diffuses reflections from light sources within the room.

Wooden kitchen worktops wear quickly in comparison to stone. It is less suitable for use as a kitchen worktop, particularly around wet areas, but it can look spectacular in a period country house environment. Our blog on kitchens in period country houses has some great images of period kitchens with wooden worktops.

Oak is the most commonly used solid timber kitchen work surface in Britain. It is warm to the touch and looks great, but it needs to be heavily protected with modern lacquers before it is fitted. Over time (in under ten years), these lacquers will wear, particularly in heavy use areas around the sink. Once the lacquer is worn and water can access the oak, it will start to go black (particularly around the sink taps), and ultimately the surface may need to be replaced.

If you are going to use oak, we would suggest not using it near sinks or wet areas. The island in the bespoke Edwardian cook’s kitchen we designed for a client uses both Italian black basalt and oak, with the basalt being used for the wet areas and the oak for the preparation areas. This was a good compromise when designing the best kitchen worktop to suit our client’s vision.



Basalt is a good alternative to Granite worktops (they are both silicates). It is hard, wears well and looks great, but mainly comes in dark colours (greys, blacks and blues) owing to the iron and magnesium that contaminates it during its formation.


Italian basalt worksurface
Artichoke used Italian basalt for this kitchen near Haslemere in Surrey.

Artichoke are fans of basalt, which is warm to the touch and softer to the feel than granite. Some people think it looks a little like concrete.



Slate is formed from heavily compressed clay at low heat and is very finely grained. Most slate (Welsh slate in particular) is not suitable for kitchen work surfaces. It stains easily with acid (wine, lemon juice etc) and it can chip.

Artichoke does occasionally use slate kitchen worktops from Cumbrian quarries for bespoke kitchens. These Cumbrian slates are extremely hard, extremely beautiful and do perform like granite (although can scratch a little more easily). They have beautiful graining and are soft to the touch. A disadvantage is that most slates do not come in slabs longer than 1,800mm long, which is around 1,000mm shorter than the lengths available in granite.

Artichoke typically use slates in pantries.


Image shows different types of slate
(Top Left) Bursting Stone, (Top Right) Bayclift Lord, Bottom Left (Kirkstone Silver Green), (Bottom Right) Kirkstone Brathay Blue

Corian is an entirely man-made material formed primarily from an acrylic polymer. It is non-porous, stain resistant, heat resistant and repairable. It can be jointed seamlessly and is also flexible when heated, which allows it to be moulded into limitless forms and is the best kitchen worktop for versatility.

It burns at 212 Fahrenheit / 100 centigrade, so it will not take very hot pans in the same way as granite will, but it can be seamlessly repaired should burn damage occur.

It also comes in a wide variety of colours, and because it can be bonded seamlessly to other Corian products, a worktop can mould seamlessly into a sink without any visible join, making it excellent for hygienic use. Artichoke often designs Corian into pantry environments.

In a recently completed project,the family’s preference for fresh food, prepared in advance, plated up and ready to serve, led to the design of a bespoke cold storage cupboard easily accessed from the corridor using moulded Corian to ensure it could be kept spotlessly clean.

Being man-made, there are no natural fissures or graining, making it a great choice for contemporary kitchens in particular.

In this Artichoke project, the work-surface and the backsplash were seamlessly jointed and curved at the join, meaning there are no angled corners for dirt to collect. The sinks are also seamlessly jointed to the work surfaces.


Corian worksurfaces
In this kitchen, the Corian work-surface runs seamlessly into the backsplash with no visible joins.

250315 - Utility Sink
For this scullery in a circular house, Artichoke used Corian for the walls aswell as the sink.  To see more details of this project, visit this page.



Quartz work surfaces such as Okite are made from three ingredients; quartz, polyester resin and colouring. Around 90% of the material is made from quartz, and it is highly resistant to staining, heat and scratches, five times stronger than granite and non-porous, making it one of the best kitchen worktops for durability.

It can also be “grained” and made to look like marbles and natural stone. This process is well refined now and manufacturers have it down to a fine art. It is a realistic alternative to marble but the graining can be a little formulaic.



Concrete is a great kitchen worktop, particularly if you are after a modernist / industrial look. Concrete typically comes with a smooth surface or with an aggregate surface and it can be pigmented to colour it. Depending on the shape and size of the piece, it can be cast on site or bought in pre-cast.

Concrete is porous and it will mark. If you place a coffee mug onto the surface, it will leave a stain. The same applies to oil and other liquids such as wine, and if you are fastidious about perfect unblemished surfaces, then this is not the surface for you. If you are prepared to relax and let daily life create its own patina however, it will look amazing in five years.


Stone Sealants

A recent online discussion with Russell Taylor Architects reminded me that I had missed out an important element; caring for stone.  Their comments, which I quote here word for word, are worth reading.

“To be on the safe side, our suggestion would be to use a stone sealant. Some of the stone sealants now available on the market are very good and absolutely invisible: they are not shiny and don’t change the colour or texture of the stone in any way, but make it completely resilient to water and oil penetration. We have used successfully on stone work tops VULCASEAL V201 and Lithofin STAINSTOP, Lithofin MN Stain-Stop ECO, Lithofin Nano-TOPAlways, always, A-L-W-A-Y-S produce a sample of whatever treatment you decide to use and let it dry properly before applying it to the whole surface.” Always, always, A-L-W-A-Y-S produce a sample of whatever treatment you decide to use and let it dry properly before applying it to the whole surface.”

Thank you Russel Taylor Architects!

And in addition to that, Artichoke often provides sealed stone samples to clients to then pour wine on, leave lemon juice on and generally treat badly; this is a good way to gain confidence in what you are buying.


Finding Balance

We wish you luck in finding the kitchen surface that has the right balance between beauty, durability and price that is right for your needs. Take a look at projects on our website for more inspiration. If you’d like to discuss your kitchen project in more detail, please get in touch via email or give Andy a call on +44 (0)1934 745270.

With each project, whether a kitchen or a whole house, we aim to create Britain’s future heritage, adding architectural value to our clients’ houses for their family and for future generations. We aren’t simply making joinery. We are making history.




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