Marble has been enjoying its moment in the spotlight for some time now, and with good reason. Its distinctive veining has been replicated time and time again throughout architecture, interiors, furniture, and clothing due to its unique ability to speak luxury and sophistication into a design.
But as a result of its upmarket look and feel, the genuine artifact inevitably comes with an upmarket price tag. Fortunately, as manufacturing capabilities have diversified and improved the furniture industry now boasts an abundance of ways to implement hardy marble alternatives for a significantly lower price point.
Paper Laminated Stone
Any mention of using paper in furnishing might initially reduce a designer to tears. But through the process of lamination, notoriously flimsy materials like paper can be tightly sealed for a seamlessly smooth and hard-wearing finish. This process works to protect the vibrancy of the paper’s colour or pattern as well as reinforcing the structural stability of the layer.
Paper lamination is an excellent substitute for marble as it can be applied to dense wedges of MDF board or layered over cheaper stone alternatives. This allows the furniture to retain the weight and stability that is achieved through real marble but with a significantly reduced price point.
Cultured marbles are man-made stone alternatives, created under intense heat and pressure using a combination of polyester resins and crushed marble dust which is then sealed with a gel layer. Cultured marbles are a real game changer for home furnishings. They are startlingly close to real marble, so much so you can still feel that all-important cool-to-touch marker of natural stone finishes. The intricate vein detail is as present as it would be in any authentic piece of marble, but perhaps more impressively you can achieve better consistency across the product which allows for significantly less wastage.
From a design perspective, cultured marbles are also limitlessly creative. Specialist manufacturers can manipulate bespoke cultures to create custom details such as rose gold veining, and due to them being engineered these properties can be produced and then reproduced with distinct uniformity.
In many ways, cultured marbles are a more sensible investment. Particularly for landlords and property developers, purchasing cultured marbles means less upkeep. Real marble can be particularly porous, meaning that sufficient sealing is required to avoid water absorption when cleaning or accidents relating to common daily usage. In contrast, cultured marbles like engineered Quartz are nonporous and so do not require any sealant.
Much like cultured marbles, porcelain is not only often a cheaper alternative to authentic marble, but it is also much easier to maintain. Porcelain is an engineered material made using clay, which is notoriously densely packed and non-porous thanks to the wedging process it undergoes before molding. Glazed porcelain leaves a smooth, tightly protected finish that is reliably stain resistant and significantly less likely to fade than marble.
When it comes to aesthetics, the advances manufacturers have made with porcelain are astounding. If marble is not to your client's taste, porcelain can be treated to look like a variety of wood, granite and patterned finishes. However, these textured porcelains become slightly more difficult to maintain and keep clean – hence why porcelain lends itself so well to marble finishes, which are finished with a smoothing glaze.
Ultimately, there’s not a huge amount that differentiates porcelain from cultured marbles; you benefit from the same bespoke customs, the same uniformity and the same satisfying stone feel. But beyond all else, both are significantly better for your bank account than authentic marble.