Kitchen worktops, as we know them today, started to appear around 1920 yet marble was in use throughout the home long before that. At Surrey Marble and Granite we often work on period properties and are fascinated by the details of home decoration and embellishment we see in these beautiful houses. Marble and granite have been known for their strength and beauty for thousands of years, yet some of the forms you see today are really quite new. Here’s our short jog through the history of marble.
For most of the last 3 thousand years, marble has been the preserve of the very rich. Today, families like yours live like kings of old with beautiful, custom-made stone work throughout the home. Throughout history, most furniture has been free-standing, making modern built-in kitchens something of an anomaly. Marble-topped tables were popular throughout the home. You can see marble chess tables, dining tables, side tables and writing tables in stately homes and palaces across Europe. In each piece, the beautiful natural veining of the stone is highlighted with a gloss finish.
Marble in the kitchen
The first marble worktops were free-standing tables built for pastry and chocolate makers serving the extremely wealthy. Marble is cool to the touch even in warm weather which makes it an ideal surface for creating delicacies which need to be kept cool. Today, manufacturers can chill an entire room or assembly line, but even a hundred years ago refrigeration involved actual blocks of ice, often brought thousands of miles – throughout the 19th century, a lot of the ice used in the UK came from the USA or Norway. The natural cooling properties of marble (it acts as a thermal sink, if you want the technical term) made handling butter and chocolate much easier.
The advent of the new kitchens
In 1900, 1.5 million people in Britain worked in domestic service. Today, there are a few thousand people working for the super-rich but most families do their own cooking and cleaning, with perhaps a bit of help from the ready-meal aisle or a professional cleaner. As a result, kitchens have changed dramatically from the work-space of a professional to the heart of the home. With a natural beauty and crisp, clean finish, marble worktops have been popular in domestic kitchens ever since. For much of the early 20th century, women focussed on affording labour-saving domestic appliances. As late as 1959, only 13% of British families had a refrigerator, so marble worktops were well out of reach.
Film star glamour comes home
Marble may not have made it into the war-era British kitchen, but it was finding a home on the silver screen. Marble bathrooms abound in golden age cinema. Thanks to developments in manufacturing and transportation technologies, from the 1980s ordinary families were finally able to recreate these glamorous moments in their own homes. Marble bathrooms and marble worktops have been increasingly popular as more and more people discovered their unique blend of tough-as-rock practicality and ethereal beauty.