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February 12, 2018

Faux marble: Could I be persuaded?

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.

From the Compac 'Unique' collection of faux marble solid surfacing materials. Right: 'Unique Marquina' sample; Left 'Unique Venatino' sample, both shown against Salvatori Lithoverde marble.

From the Compac ‘Unique’ collection of faux marble solid surfacing materials. Right: ‘Unique Marquina’ sample; Left ‘Unique Venatino’ sample, both shown against my Salvatori Lithoverde marble splash back, and Corian worktop.

'Unique Marquina' from the Compac Surfaces 'Uniques' collection

Kitchen island made using the ‘Unique Marquina’ from the Compac Surfaces ‘Uniques’ collection

From the Compac 'Unique' collection of faux marble solid surfacing materials. Top: 'Unique Argento' sample, underneath 'Unique Arabescato' sample, both shown on top of a Knoll Saarinen table Arabescato marble top.

From the Compac ‘Unique’ collection of faux marble solid surfacing materials. Top: ‘Unique Argento’ sample, underneath ‘Unique Arabescato’ sample, both shown on top of my Knoll Saarinen table real Arabescato marble top.

Intrigued, check out my more detailed breakdown of the stones on offer from Compac herefive 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!

Compac, The Surfaces Company

Instagram #compacsurfaces #unique



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Writer, Author, Brand Consultant & TV Presenter

Michelle Ogundehin is internationally renowned as an authority on interiors, trends and style. She is an influencer with expertise and the multi award-winning former Editor-in-Chief of ELLE Decoration UK.