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If you’ve been flipping through Instagram and shelter magazines in search of kitchen and bathroom inspiration, you may have noticed a mesmerizing style of marble hogging the spotlight.

These upstarts are super streaky and wildly colourful. Tangles of stripes in pink, green, orange, burgundy, blue and brown snake through slabs, while equally showoffy white versions sport chunky veining as pronounced as blue cheese.
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As a backsplash — in a kitchen with no upper cabinets but instead a ledge for art and pottery like everyone’s doing on Instagram — the look is high drama. It’s a refreshing update to subdued, pristine white marble, the longtime kitchen favourite.

And given that no two slabs of marble are alike, they’re like permanent art. Or if that’s too much of a commitment, the look can be brought home in small doses — in a vivid marble table, a bowl, or in an entryway tiled in sassy stone.

Dutch designer Sabine Marcelis recently reached for colourful stone from SolidNature for Swivel; her outdoor art installation is part of London Design Week, in St Giles Square. The square, rotating seats in mustards, deep greens and more are vividly elegant on the streetscape and have become a permanent fixture.

Slavica Kovacevic, the founder of SS Tile and Stone, who has been running a 5,000-square-foot showroom in Etobicoke for seven years, says shoppers’ tastes are more adventurous now.

“We are seeing more people asking about dynamic marble, 100 per cent,” says Kovacevic. “That’s especially true for high-end homes, or if a designer is involved.”

“(They want) more colours and patterns and veining,” she says. “A lot of greens and golds and navy — even reds — and lots of pink, where it used to be white and grey.”

“Years ago, when I first proposed doing bold marble in a client’s home, it was a tough sell,” says designer Brynn Harlock of Brynn Harlock Interiors. “Now with so many examples (on social media) to point to, it’s a lot easier to get folks onboard.”

For Harlock’s own recently renovated kitchen in Kitchener, Ont., she paired Calacatta crystal marble, a warm white stone with punchy grey veining, against quiet Silestone quartz countertops.

“Marble is so much more prone to staining and etching and I didn’t want to baby it,” says Harlock, who complemented the stone with mushroom-toned cabinets.

Meanwhile, a lively Calacatta Viola backsplash from Ciot as riveting as purple lightning steals the show in a kitchen created by Toronto designer Sarah Birnie. Set against streamlined millwork by Greg Moogk of Toronto Woodworks, it’s an exciting yin-yang pairing; the marble uplifts the tranquil wood.

Birnie is a big proponent of bold marble. “It provides so much depth. It’s got personality. And it hides a multitude of sins, like red wine,” she says.

She’s seen more clients requesting it. “And often when clients decide to play it safer, they later wish they had gone bolder,” says Birnie.

Meredith Heron, principal of Toronto’s Meredith Heron Design, chose flamboyant Arabescato Corchia marble in the principal ensuite of her clients’ home in Redington Beach, Fla.

Slabs of the luxuriously loud stone engulf the space, in which Heron opted for herringbone-pattern floors in the shower (less grout means less chance of slippage).

“The goal was to give the bathroom the feel of the Amalfi coast,” says Heron, who exclusively uses marble in her projects.

As “a modern maximalist,” she’s thrilled that bold stone has become “a media darling.”

“I think that it’s fantastic when people bring in colour and texture to their interiors,” says Heron. “We live through six months of winter a year.”

And while marble-like porcelain is part of that trend, for Heron, the printed product is no stand-in for the real thing.

“Stone is the foundation blocks for civilization and modern architecture and it’s still enduring,” says Heron. “How can you go wrong with that?”

Heron adds, “I would also argue it’s the environmental choice. These new composite countertops that look like marble are fabricated with a lot of glue,” she says. They can’t break down.” Real stone, conversely, “has an afterlife. You can grind it down.” Plus, it feels better to the touch, she says.

As for marble’s finicky reputation — that it’s impossible to clean and stains —  Heron finds charm in its vulnerability. “I have had soft, white Carrara kitchen countertops for 11 years. They are beautifully honed from butter and oil and tomato sauce.”

Alisha Sturino, the designer behind Otty Design & Build, in Toronto, is a marble buff but is nonetheless stoked over her just-renovated bathroom. It’s blanketed in brown porcelain to replicate marble, while soft cove lighting washes down the walls around a standalone tub in the sultry, spa-like space.

“I wanted it simple, sexy and moody,” says Sturino. “I fell in love with the earthy burgundy and brown tones (in the porcelain). I went large format because I wanted less grout to clean.”

The trick when choosing porcelain, says Sturino, is to get a good tiler (“he did a fantastic job connecting the veins”) and a good product (hers is from Ciot). “People think it’s marble.”

Emilia Farrace Amaro, owner of The Launch It Co., a brand and website design agency, wasn’t as happy with the porcelain countertops and backsplash she had installed at her cottage in Tiny, Ont.

While the caramel tones are a beguiling counterpoint to the grey-green cabinetry and checked floors, the countertop hasn’t performed well. It’s thinner than marble, so it’s prone to nicks.

“We were not aware how easily porcelain cracks and chips,” says Farrace Amaro. “If we had been, we would have allowed more budget for additional choices between materials.”

Her installer fixed the chip with resin, akin to Krazy Glue. And she’s coming around to it: “We are obsessed with how it looks,” she says.

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