decor tricks: marble slabs

bedside "table" with thrifted decor

My love of marble long precedes trends, although marble itself is a classic building and sculptural material high above fickle design trends. In India twenty-plus years ago, staying with a friend, I marveled at his upper-middle-class, factory-owning family's head-to-toe marble walls and floors, the latter scrubbed on knees every day by a sari-draped maid. I was a working-class white girl who grew up in a mobile home with bathroom-scrubbing, vacuuming, and dusting chores every Saturday after cartoon time, like it or not. He was a light-brown boy with a cook and multiple lower-caste servants and walls of marble. Everything is relative.

But even if a person cannot afford even a bathroom of marble tiles, let alone a whole house, one can own small polished slabs of marble to dress up a shelf or tabletop. My two slabs were found cheaply over the last year at Goodwill. I have a white marble piece with veins of gray and a smaller black rectangle with veins and spots of white, one on each metro shelving unit in my bedroom. The white piece needed a long scrub with baking soda and lemon to remove a pink stain on one corner, which can no longer be seen. Both slabs work wonderfully as candle protectors or as fancy boards, prop pieces, or food serving platters for things like bread, cheese, or tarts. Stylistically, I prefer squared-off edges of stone, either polished or unpolished, versus rounded edges, but that can depend on application.

white marble slab with thrifted decor

secondhand decor: small black marble slab with brass candlesticks

In general, try to opt for multi-functional home decor pieces for greatest design flexibility. And if you don't like the cool formality of marble, there is always granite, quartz, or onyx. If budget is an issue, free stone remnants from construction projects can often be found secondhand on Craigslist or for a little more money at places like Portland's ReBuilding Center or Habitat for Humanity's ReStore.

I often say that if I had been a scientist, I would have been a geologist. One can read time and history in stone, layers of compression and forceful interaction with heat and water and organic life. Though I've forgotten most of what I ever learned in high-school earth science, rocks, whether chunked or sliced, can simply be beautiful as well as useful—which is not to say that mountains should be cut up to make trendy countertops! Reuse and repurpose what already has been taken from the earth.

How do you use rock or stone in your home?

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