This Colorful, Designer-Approved Trend Looks Like Marble on an IKEA Budget

published Aug 12, 2023
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Kitchen with marble backsplash, lamp, and red vintage rug
Credit: Jean Ross

There’s a reason marble is such a longstanding interior design MVP — it just screams timeless luxury in any form, whether it’s a kitchen countertop material or fireplace surround. Sadly, the sophisticated natural finish usually doesn’t have the most, ahem, attainable price tag, even for teeny marble slabs or trays. If you love the marble look but hate the high cost, though, I’ve recently noticed a popular faux iteration that’s budget-friendly, DIY-able, and all around way more bright and fun: marbleized paper decor

Rather than the pricey, predominantly cloudy-white hue associated with real marble, marbled decor features colorful, swirly, nontraditional designs printed on everything from lamp shades to picture frames to tableware. “Marbleized patterns come in all different variations of contrast and scale, from dramatically veined to speckly faux porphyry,” explains New York-based interior designer Tara McCauley. “Not only is it more accessible than real marble, but it also isn’t constrained to naturally occurring color combinations. Sometimes the most unexpected or unnatural color combination is the most interesting — no need to hide the fact that it isn’t real marble.”

According to interior designer Amanda Lindroth, whose online retail shop specializes in marbled paper home goods (pictured above), this splattered-looking concept draws inspiration from styles reminiscent of ancient Italy and the Middle East. Her website adds that European bookbinders even previously used these as intricate endpapers within fine books. For a contemporary twist on this antique allure, Lindroth’s pieces play with larger swirled proportions and bolder, coastal-influenced palettes. 

McCauley also speaks to marbleized paper’s styling versatility — especially in tandem with existing furniture, decor, or paint colors. “I try not to repeat pattern styles in the same room — for instance, I wouldn’t use multiple florals or multiple plaids,” she says. “A marbled pattern allows you to add another pattern to your space without repeating, but in a color combination that coordinates with the rest of your design scheme.” As part of a client’s recent dining room project, for example, she used a marbleized chandelier shade that matched their striped carpet. 

Given the handmade nature and recent resurgence in popularity, marble paper-adorned decor has yet to fully hit the retail scene. That said, you can browse unique pieces — most commonly lamp shades — from sites like Chairish, Etsy, and House & Parties (which McCauley specifically recommends). Lindroth’s signature blue-hued marble paper collection includes a swirled tray, tissue box cover, and more, as well. 

It’s also easy to source sheets of marbled paper (or even swirled wallpaper) individually online to decoupage your own home accents, says McCauley. “You don’t need to match the pattern up at the seams, as it’s so irregular,” she adds. But best of all, if you have acrylic paint on hand, you can fully DIY your own one-of-a-kind paper design. Just dilute each individual color with a bit of water in separate cups, fill a shallow tray or container with liquid starch, then splatter small drops of paint (using as many colors as you want) into the solution via a straw or paintbrush — you can finesse the design by mixing it around with a Popsicle stick, too. Gently float a piece of paper or cardstock on the top of the swirled creation, and voilà! 

Arguably the new “it” pattern, marbleized paper decor puts a modern, approachable spin on standard marble and marble-effect accents, with endless amounts of color pairings and configurations to complement your space. It takes minimal crafting skill and supplies to personalize low-cost marble paper at home, too — even if it’s simply to frame as wall art or upcycle a plain old sconce shade.