I am a die-hard true marble fan. Ever since I was old enough to properly appreciate Italy, I would marvel at the abundant use of this lustrous stone in apartments, shops and any important building of note. When I bought my first flat, my desire was for marble hallway just like those I’d seen. I duly installed Carrara marble tiles (with underfloor heating) that went along the hall and on through the kitchen and into the bathroom. It was a veritable ‘moment’ for me. No other material would have done. And when I bought my current home, I upgraded a notch, using Salvatori’s Lithovede stone to clad my bathroom (shower, bath, walls and floors), do the splashbacks in the kitchen, and as my surfacing of choice for wall-hung storage upstairs and down. Plus, my piece de resistance, a brand new Arabescato marble top for my beloved Knoll Saarinen Tulip dining table.
So why on earth would I be intrigued by a surfacing material that was purporting to be fake marble? Well, I’m always interested to explore affordable new material options for the looks I love as long as they have integrity. And, although marble is without doubt glorious, magnificent, and possessing of an intrinsic natural beauty, it’s also a comparatively soft stone so it scratches easily, it must be sealed correctly to offset staining, be carefully maintained (lemon juice for example is a big no no) and as a finite natural resource, there are many arguments about its sustainability, not to mention the associated spiralling costs.
So what’s the alternative? Well, what if there was a material that looked convincingly like pure marble, but had all the benefits of the new era of quartz-based solid surfacing materials (‘stone’ slabs made of 93-96% ground quartz, mixed with pigments and resin)? In other words, you could use it inside and out with impunity, it’s harder than natural stone, non-porous, scratch resistant and available in a huge array of colours! I was initially sceptical, needed to see samples, and even called around a few kitchen companies renown for their marbles to get their take… the vote was pretty unanimous. While natural marble is unquestionably a thing of unparalleled and varied wonder, the new collections of engineered quartz-based stone are much easier to both work with and maintain, consistency can be guaranteed, and if you’re considering it for something like a kitchen worktop in a busy family home, they are a no-brainer.
OK, but there are so many of these engineered stone companies now, where to go? While several companies now offer marble-like finishes (and many a ceramic tile manufacturer has ‘printed’ marble patterning onto porcelain), the Spanish company, Compac Surfaces has launched a trademarked ‘Unique’ collection of faux marble engineered stone, and it is widely regarded as a market leader in this sector.
So would I give up my real marble for this? I honestly think it’s about being a smart shopper. A quality marble could cost anything from £1,000 to £2,000 per square metre, if not more, depending on the precise stone you buy and the way it’s worked. Compac’s ‘Unique’ starts at £500 per square metre. So, for a statement centrepiece like my Tulip table, I’d always stick with the real deal, as it is something I will keep forever. But, when I inevitably move again, I’d seriously consider the ‘Unique Marquina’ for my kitchen worktops and/or flooring. To me, making a look work is just as it is in fashion, in other words, it’s about mixing it up… throw in a little Corian (similar but resin-based), some real stone in a surprising colour way perhaps for a stand-out splash back, and then something like the Compac ‘Unique’ for everything else.
Intrigued, check out my more detailed breakdown of the stones on offer from Compac here: five finishes emulating five classic marbles — three white, one black, one grey. Plus, in order to help you tell your Calacatta from your Carrara or Arabescato, I’ve deciphered the difference between these well-known marbles too. Link
And finally, here’s a quite fabulously dramatic little video!
PS The advertising tagline for the collection is ‘Sign of Perfection’… aiming high then!
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