My Mom’s 5 Top Tips for Designing Kitchens with Marble, Stone, and Granite

published Oct 16, 2023
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Despite being a self-proclaimed mommy’s boy, my mom and I have our fair share of differences. Mom despises peanut butter, while it makes up 5 percent of my body composition. I worship Beyoncé like a deity, while Mom thinks she’s just okay. And the list continues. 

But if there’s one thing we always see eye to eye on, it’s interior design. She has not only meticulously picked out the finishes and decor in nearly all of my childhood homes, but also has worked directly with architects to customize blueprints and build these cozy-yet-contemporary homes from the ground up. Naturally, any time I am moving or in need of a little apartment inspo, she’s the first person I call to solicit advice from and/or send photos to. 

While I’m not in a financial position to construct or renovate my own property (sugar daddies, please apply … or maybe it should be the other way around), I do dream of the day when I can work with her to bring the elements of my dream home to life. And one area where she particularly excels in is picking out stone — especially in the kitchen, which houses the largest slabs of it. 

In the spirit of generosity, I asked her to share her motherly design wisdom with the world and streamline the best ways to go about selecting the marble, granite, quartz, or even soapstone that will turn any living space from drab to fab. Here are her top five tips. 

Pick a focal point and aim for balance.

Because kitchens are typically littered with appliances, utensils, accessories, and — you guessed it — food, it’s important to keep the area slick, clean, and very straightforward.

“Many kitchens have the potential to look overcrowded, messy, and even gaudy,” reiterates Mom, calling additional attention to the excess of metal and stainless steel. “It’s important to only have one major design element be the focal point — especially because appliances like refrigerators and dishwashers are so large that they can distract the eye from appreciating the room’s more beautiful details.”

“I love statement-making quartz or granite with fun and unusual veining, colors, and metallic flecks,” she says. “But I also love an intricate oven in an eye-catching color combo like matte black and gold. Make either one of these — or your inevitably bulky cabinets —  the main event to prevent things from looking too busy.”

Consider a waterfall island.

While this decision would be completely dependent upon personal taste, style, and budget, one of my mom’s favorite pro tips is to upgrade kitchen islands to have a waterfall effect (where stone carries from the countertop to the floor on both ends). 

“It’s really not that much more expensive than the wood that’s usually there,” she reveals. “And I always think stone is going to look more interesting and unique, so why not add more of it if you can?”

Don’t forget about your island’s edges. Round, square, eased, beveled, bullnose — the list goes on and on. “It may seem insignificant, but these angles can completely change the look and feel of this central eating and cooking section — especially if you’re going for a more modern vibe,” she says.

Don’t worry about the backsplash.

Gone are the days of spending hours meticulously comparing backsplash tile options with your chosen countertop to ensure it’s a perfect match. 

“If you have the funds, carry that countertop up the wall,” recommends mom. “Or just opt for something basic. You don’t really need to overthink the backsplash anymore. In fact, doing something more complex can make a new kitchen appear dated,” she adds. 

Be present during an install.

The naturally ornate patterns of any stone slab are what make it a worthwhile investment. But sometimes there is a very specific and subtle flow that only an artistic eye is going to notice and appreciate (at least before it’s cemented down). If installed in the wrong direction, it could be an eyesore — especially if it conflicts with slabs on the counters behind it. 

“Make sure you’re around during the install so that your slabs are set exactly the way you want them,” advises mom. “Many contractors don’t care about this type of stuff. They’re just there to do a job and follow a checklist.”

Pro tip: Take pictures of all the slabs beforehand and figure out what should go where so that you’re not trying to figure it out last-minute. 

Maintain consistency in open floor plans. 

“As a real estate agent, I’ve pretty much seen it all,” my mom divulges. “But the one thing that I can’t stand is an open floor plan where the kitchen is completely disjointed from the rest of the house.”

“You’ll have something like sleek white and gray quartz counters and white cabinetry with a cave of a living room and a dining area with an out-of-place antique table. Or it’s the reverse where the home is light and airy, but the kitchen is dark and looks straight out of the ‘70s.”

By maintaining consistency or bringing in a professional to carry through an intentional theme with decorative items and/or a simple paint job, it will make the space more inviting and, if selling is on the horizon, more valuable in the market. “Sometimes it’s good to step out of your comfort zone and integrate new design elements that may even enhance your quality of life,” she says.