This weekend I toured the Getty Villa overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Malibu, CA. Spectacular collection of Greek and Roman antiquities in a spectacular setting. But the extravagant use of marble got me thinking.
Humans have loved colorful polished stone, like granite and marble, since the dawn of recorded history. It’s beautiful, unique and luxurious. It’s also costly: to mine it, transport it, and to cut, polish and install it. Marble and granite send a message: a person of wealth and importance lives here.
For example, the inlaid wall and terrazzo floor in one of the rooms is a re-creation, with the same incredible marble materials, of the walls and flooring of a very wealthy family’s villa in Herculaneum, buried by Mt Vesuvius back in 79 AD.
And how about this for ostentation: the staircase in the Villa has marble walls. Although it is hard to discern in my photo, the bannister is actually part of the wall, carved out of and still organically attached to the wall block like sculpture! (The yellow staining is caused by all our greasy tourist hands – marble and granite are not impervious.)
Fast forward to an extravagant use of granite in a grand historic “home” (39 rooms…) in Somerset, England, recently featured in the NY Times. Believe it or not, this is the kitchen at Dinder House (only the truly wealthy can be this minimalist!):
Here in American suburbia, we have our version of polished stone: granite kitchen countertops. I believe that in ten years they will be passé, but right now realtors are still touting them as a luxury upgrade that will increase the home’s selling price, because it feeds our sense of importance.
Too often, however, they mask slapdash design as in this kitchen, which has little style and not much function:
I love the look of granite, but not living with it. There are some handsome and highly functional laminate countertops out there these days – I’ve lived with it and loved it in three kitchens so far – saving my money for other priorities. What’s your granite experience?