My Secret Source for Luxe-Looking Marble Shelves Cut the Cost in Half

published Nov 22, 2023
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Wall-mount bar shelves made using vintage metal brackets with white quartz shelves resting on top
Credit: Tessa Cooper

When you move into a new place, you likely have top priorities for spaces that need to be furnished (or renovated) first — rooms that are essential, like bathrooms and kitchens. But you probably also have areas of your home that you move a little higher up the list just because they bring you joy.

For me and my amateur mixologist husband, Chandler, that space was a bar area, as we love to mix up cocktails for friends. So one of the first decisions we made when we bought our Victorian fixer-upper was where to put our bar. We knew the little parcel of space between our kitchen and dining room was just the spot, so we started brainstorming ideas for how to make it work without breaking the bank.

Credit: Tessa Cooper

After stumbling on some beautiful Victorian cast iron shelving brackets (stamped with the patent year of 1886, the same year our house was built!) with designer Sharon Taylor Gullett of Pickwick House, the plan fell into place. We just needed our elegant brackets to hold up some equally luxurious shelves. Marble felt like the perfect fit, but when I called local countertop suppliers for quotes I was blown away by the cost — around $400 for three shelves, which was a lot more than I wanted to spend for this little spot in my home! Thankfully, though, I found a secret source for ritzy-looking marble shelves that’s a lot cheaper: the shower section.

Credit: Tessa Cooper

Yes, my fancy stone shelves are actually from the shower niche section on Whole Tile’s website. I stumbled on the idea when I searched the web for “7.5-inch by 36-inch slab of marble.” The stone I actually ended up purchasing was quartz, as that’s what I could find at the right depth, but the white stone has the same vibe as classic marble. And even better? It came in at $75 per shelf, meaning the total cost was about half of what I was quoted for custom-cut pieces of marble.

My shelves aren’t the only options available on Whole Tile’s site. You can choose a custom size for this particular quartz shelf (from 2 to 12 inches wide and 12 to 84 inches long), but there’s also a lovely white marble, polished black granite, and honed gray marble that all go up to 6 inches wide, plus 28 other finishes.

Of course, you aren’t limited to Whole Tile. For your own shelving project, try your favorite home center or hardware store and look for stone slabs that fit your specs in the shower section. Another place to look? The flooring section, where you can also spot reasonably priced lengths of stone (like this 6-foot-long Calacutta marble tile from Home Depot for $70 or this 12-inch-by-24-inch marble tile from Floor & Decor).

Because my shelves were a perfect fit with no overhang, I opted not to secure them onto my brackets — gravity does all the work here. But if you have any amount of overhang, or you’re worried about bumps from foot traffic, you could use a heavy-duty construction adhesive to attach the shelf to the bracket. Beyond that, the most important part of hanging these shelves was making sure that they were secured into the studs.

Credit: Tessa Cooper

For our project, Chandler and I purchased these black hex-head lag screws that were four inches long, just so we could be sure that they’d go deep enough into the studs to support the weight of the cast iron brackets, stone shelves, and all the bottles we’d store on top.

Overall, it only took us about 30 minutes to hang the shelf with a hex drill bit. The hardest part was locating the studs, as back in the 1880s they weren’t exactly spaced at a standard length. But once we did, the rest went smoothly. The final touch to my bar shelves: adding a French bistro table beneath. I found this one that matched perfectly.

Want to copy this look in your own home? You don’t need to scour antique malls. Signature Hardware sells some beautiful reproduction shelf brackets that have tons of vintage charm. Once you find your brackets, make sure to measure their length before selecting your marble slab; you definitely don’t want to get something smaller than your brackets. While you can get something that’s slightly wider, I think the neatest — and most professional — look is a shelf that’s exactly as deep as your bracket. Then, hang securely and fill with your favorite decor for a luxe-looking display that no one will ever know came from the bathroom section.