A Marble Kitchen Makeover
An earlier version of this article appeared in Building Stone Magazine.
From the start of their kitchen remodel, the owners of a palatial home in Weston, Massachusetts knew they wanted a countertop material that would become the showpiece of the living space.
Prior to the remodel, the kitchen was outdated and dark. It didn’t fully optimize the available space. Designer Erica Brady of Downsview Kitchens noted that although the previous layout was disjointed, “there were elements that we all loved and knew we wanted to keep, such as the built-in pizza oven.” With that in mind, changes were made to open up the space and make the area more functional for the family. “Our goal was to make all of that happen, while being respectful to the architecture and design aesthetic in other parts of the home.”
The countertops would need to fit with the larger design of the room. Brady explained: “The palate for the cabinetry is neutral, with a quiet elegance. To complement that, we needed a rich stone to bring together the various materials, including wood, high-gloss lacquer, shiny metals, cool grays and white leather, and make sure that the space didn’t feel sterile. As soon as we saw the slabs of Calacatta Saturnia, we knew it was the perfect fit.”
Educating the Customer
Brady worked closely with the homeowners to select the countertop and backsplash material, quickly narrowing in on a Brazilian marble called Calacatta Saturnia, supplied by Marble and Granite, Inc. in Westwood, MA. “Honestly, it was such a quick decision because it was so right.”
While the homeowners initially expressed some concern about using a white marble in the kitchen, the team at Marble and Granite worked to answer their questions and make them feel comfortable with their decision. Brady notes that the company is great about educating clients, noting: “Marble is an investment, and it’s human nature to care for your investments. When a client chooses to use marble in their home, they must understand that—as well as believing that marble is like your favorite pair of jeans—it just gets better with age. Marble isn’t for everyone, and part of my job as a designer is to know my client well enough to steer them toward it, or away.”
The countertops were fabricated by United Marble Fabricators, a Natural Stone Institute Accredited company in Watertown, MA. President John Kilfoyle described the selected palette of materials as “a very raw combination of modern and industrial woods and metals,” and noted that all of the initial stone options were white marble. “Of all the options, Calacatta Saturnia was chosen to help convey a feeling of warmth in the crisp and striking kitchen. High-gloss, gray, lacquered cabinetry, rich ebony wood, brushed stainless metals, and Calacatta Saturnia marble coalesced into a clean, modern, dramatic kitchen that is perfectly suited for entertaining.”
Seven slabs were needed to complete the design of the gourmet kitchen. Brady and her client made a trip to the United Marble Fabricators shop to view the material before the cutting commenced.
Viewing the Slabs
Brady worked closely with Kilfoyle’s team to ensure that the slabs would be utilized in a way that put their beauty on full display. She explained that since the large backsplash was meant to be a focal point, the team began by selecting “the most beautiful section of the best slab” for that installation. “It’s important to prioritize,” she notes. “From there, we talked about parts of the slabs we wanted to avoid—imperfections, fissures, spots—and made sure they landed in places that would be inconspicuous, preferably a sink cutout.” Brady explained that this was very much a team effort between the design team and the fabricators. “United Marble Fabricators is experienced. They know their product very well, and I know what I want it to look like when it’s done. They help me understand my limitations, while keeping the client’s best interest in mind.”
The stove countertop was mitered to 6 inches thick and the center island and perimeter countertops were 2 inches thick. “This is an estate,” Kilfoyle noted. “The ceiling is over 10 feet high. It’s a powerful kitchen. The team was originally looking at 2-inch material, but they were trying to push the limit of how commanding they could make the kitchen look. The cooktop area is where the full-height backsplash was placed. There is a massive brushed stainless hood that is 6 ½ feet wide and double ovens. It’s the whole show. They wanted that one to be extra thick and the only way to do that was by mitering.”
The process of mitering involved beveling the edges of each marble slab at 45 degrees so they join to form a corner at a 90-degree angle. The aesthetic has steadily grown in popularity over the years in countertop production, specifically because of the clean, contemporary look it achieves.
Once the cabinetry was installed, United Marble Fabricators manually templated all areas. “A physical layout was conducted with the design team in our shop to discern the overall aesthetic of the kitchen and to highlight the best parts of the slab,” Kilfoyle explained. “Once these areas were determined, the kitchen was digitized and drawn in AutoCAD. Scaled high-resolution photographs were taken of each of the seven slabs. The photos were imported into the CAD drawings to create a photo-realistic layout of the entire kitchen, which helped to ensure that all mitered edges flowed correctly. The slabs were cut and mitered on a 5-axis bridge saw, the cutouts were completed on a CNC router, and the mitered kitchen was assembled using mitreForma clamps from Integra Adhesives.”
“The full-height backsplash is captured on all sides by cabinetry panels and the exhaust hood,” Kilfoyle went on to say. “The backsplash was fabricated at the same time as the countertops and was specially back cut and honed to minimize the chances of any damage to the surrounding elements during installation. The undersides of both islands are exposed at the seating areas. These areas are also mitered and fully polished underneath so that no visible area is dissimilar.”
Both Kilfoyle and Brady credit teamwork for the success of the kitchen remodel, which received the Kitchen of the Year award at the 2016 Natural Stone Institute Pinnacle Awards. “The installation of the kitchen was a collaborative effort by all trades working to beat a holiday deadline,” said Kilfoyle. “Our installers worked inside of a fully occupied home alongside many other trades, including millworkers, painters, home automation, and flooring contractors to complete the project.”
Fabrication and installation of the marble countertops and backsplash were completed in a span of two weeks. “In a contemporary space like this one, flaws tend to stand out even more,” said Brady. “United Marble Fabricators has great attention to detail, and they reworked a few areas because they felt it wasn’t up to their standards. I have to say, the space speaks for itself. If it looks easy, it’s because it wasn’t.”