Aug 04, 2023

Where to buy marble furniture

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The brutalist hallmark is enjoying a cosier comeback. Here, the experts reveal how to make a marble table work in a modern home.

If you’ve so much as scrolled through an interior-design Instagram account in the past year or so, you’ll already be familiar with the marble resurgence. From retail spaces to restaurants, via the most well-curated homes, marble tables in particular are popping up everywhere. Clearly, they’re the interior must-have to covet now.

But where white, softly veined marble was once installed with abandon in the most exclusive hotels and new-build homes, the chicest way to incorporate the material into your home today is markedly more restrained.

In fact, today’s look is worlds apart from the maximalist marble of the early aughts. While the glossy, chrome-accented aesthetic of the 2000s sang of contemporary extravagance, now it’s the brutalist designs of the 1970s and 1980s that are in high demand.

“In the 18th and 19th centuries, marble tops were used as an add-on to high quality chests of drawers and occasional tables,” says Anthony Barzilay Freund, Editorial Director of 1stDibs. “It wasn’t until the 20th century that tables were made entirely out of marble, with its apotheosis being Angelo Mangiarotti’s marble tables, the popularity of which coincides with the current interest for furniture from the 1970s and ’80s and, in particular, 20th-century Italian design.”

Rather than adding garish gloss to a living space, these retro treasures bring simplicity and structure – especially when styled with a warm, neutral colour scheme. Sculptural details, low-rise shapes and minimalist silhouettes are what to look for now.

“Brutalism speaks to me of minimalist design, a lack of ornamentation, monolithic materials and a commitment to honesty in construction, says Sophie Pearce, founder of design gallery Béton Brut, currently in residence at Paul Smith’s Bond St store. “Whether that’s exposing its form – for example the bare formwork in the concrete finish ‘Béton Brut’ after which we named our gallery after – or keeping no secrets as to its materials or construction.” Indeed, the simple, solid construction of brutalist furniture chimes with the restrained (ok, quiet) luxury many of us are leaning towards today. As Barzilay Freund echoes, “timeless materials have become more appealing as our world has grown more chaotic and unpredictable.”

And it’s not only the vintage pieces that are hot property right now. Laura Torregrossa, designer and founder of Marbera, spotlights the modernity of brightly coloured marble in her pieces. “What we love most about working with marble is its timeless elegance and natural beauty,” she says. “Each slab is entirely unique, with its own distinct veining and colouring, giving every piece of furniture an unmatched sense of individuality. Moreover, marble is incredibly versatile, lending itself to both contemporary and traditional designs.”

So, how do you make a marble piece work in your home now? The key is all in the contrast. Offset the hard-edged feel of a vintage piece with rustic tones and tactile fabrics – a marble coffee table really comes into its own when placed over a jute rug, or nestled next to a cosy textile sofa. Similarly, the slick polish of a marble sideboard is softened by a personal stack of books and a fresh bunch of flowers.

For Torregrossa, the secret to styling success is balance. “Marble is a statement material, so it's important to temper it with softer, subtler elements to avoid overpowering the space,” she says. “Don't shy away from mixing marble with other materials like wood, brass, or even concrete – this creates a more layered, textured look.”

It’s also helpful to consider the colour and veining of your marble piece. “Lighter marbles can create a feeling of openness and space, while darker marbles add a touch of drama and sophistication.”

Of course, marble is naturally a cold material, but as Torregrossa explains, it can still fit beautifully into a warm, inviting space. “Choosing marble with warm undertones can help to warm up your space, and layering in textiles such as rugs, throw pillows, and blankets can balance out the coolness. Warm lighting also makes a big difference, and incorporating wood furniture or features will balance the coolness, making the room feel warmer and more inviting.”

Now for the practical considerations. Marble is prone to cracking and pitting, so consider rounded corners over sharp edges if you’re concerned about chips. The porosity of marble means it can also stain easily – consider this a good excuse to invest in some coordinating coasters.

As Torregrossa explains, good maintenance is essential to keep your marble furniture looking its best. Use a soft, damp cloth to clean the surface, and avoid using harsh or abrasive cleaners,” she advises. “Marble is sensitive to acidic substances like lemon or vinegar, so it's best to avoid these on your furniture.”

Vintage stone can fall victim to discolouration, as Pearce explains: “sometimes with old marble furniture you find the old resin coatings have discoloured a tobacco yellow – you might consider getting the piece honed for a more natural (albeit less stain-resistant) finish.”

Genuine marble is also tricky to distinguish from imitation on sight alone – especially through a computer screen – so this is something to consider when buying second-hand. Here, nicks and scratches are actually a plus point, indicating that a stone is genuine – and after all, they all add to the character.

When shopping for vintage marble, knowing a little design history will pay dividends. “Post War Italian architects are an excellent place to start when sourcing vintage marble, for example Angelo Mangiarotti’s Eros tables or Mario Bellini’s Il Collonato series,” advises Pearce. ‘These architects paid close attention to physics as well as form, with the aforementioned series held together by gravity and friction alone. Gae Aulenti from Italy and Peter Draenert from Germany are more overlooked designers that worked in marble and travertine.”

Of course, there are benefits to investing in marble beyond the admittedly Instagrammable aesthetic: a precious table or sideboard, whether vintage or custom-crafted, is a piece to be treasured for a lifetime. “Marble is a forever material, the antithesis of single-use plastic or plywood and the disposable culture we are hopefully moving beyond,” says Barzilay Freund. “It simultaneously invokes the past and embraces the future, offering sustainability and a sense of luxury glamour.”

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