The art of mixing materials has been one of the best kept secrets of interior designers for decades. But now there is an emerging trend to combine different surface textures by both designers and amateurs, and when it comes to the perfect combination of materials, there really is no better combination than marble and wood.
Two of the most common materials used in interior design each have their own admirable qualities. The more traditional of the pair, wood, is favored for its versatility. From paneling to countertops to cabinet doors (and the foundations that make up our homes), wood is one of the most useful materials known to man. As an organically derived material, it adds warmth and softness to an interior that no manufactured material ever could.
As a natural stone, marble is popular in kitchens and bathrooms thanks to its durability as a cold, hard material. It’s different colors, finishes and grain patterns – from the classic calacatta to black, gray and even gold varieties – make it a great addition to the home, regardless of the existing style. What’s more, statement effects like book-matched marble give this material the sense of luxury we tend to associate it with.
There is no denying the plethora of qualities that each of these materials have individually, but since they share such different qualities, how do we successfully pair them together? It’s hard to know how to pull off this kind of textured design, but luckily we’ve compiled some tips from top designers who are well-versed in using the two materials side by side.
Lilith is an expert in following news and trends around the world of interior design. She is committed to sharing articles that help readers embrace emerging trends, along with tips on how to style them. For this piece, she spoke with leading designers to learn how to use two of the most popular materials in interior design together: marble and wood.
Why do wood and marble work so well together despite their contrasts?
Before we think about how to use them in a design, it is useful to understand how these two materials complement each other despite their stark differences.
In fact, their stark contrast is exactly why the two marry so beautifully. ‘Despite one being warmer and the other cooler as a surface, their contrasting visual appeal creates the perfect balance and complements each other perfectly,’ explains Oliver Webb, design and director of stone specialists, Cullifords (opens in new tab). ‘Both natural products, the veining and details within the marble complement the natural wood grains and knots beautifully.’
Then there is the individuality achieved by using two natural materials side by side. Whether it’s the grain in the marble or the knots in the wood, the best advantage is that no two are alike. As Dawn Filkins, head of creative at Smile Kitchens (opens in new tab) explains: ‘Each slab of marble or stick of wood is totally unique, resulting in an authentic, complementary aesthetic that also serves as a wonderful design principle.’
3-step guide to styling wood and marble together
As it is valued for its practicality, we are more inclined to use marble in kitchen or bathroom designs. For an eye-catching statement, don’t limit yourself to these rooms with your marble decorating ideas.
“This pairing works equally well in living spaces such as living rooms or even entryways where the cold surface of marble can be on the stairs or walls while the wood can come through in the furniture or accent details,” says Oliver. The most important takeaway to keep in mind is that marble is not just a countertop material. From walls and floor tiles to more detailed decor such as lamp bases, marble really has no limits.
When it comes to using the two materials together in less functional spaces, the trick is to let the room guide you. ‘Your space will dictate how much you use each material,’ says Dawn. ‘For example, a kitchen space allows homeowners to incorporate more of these materials as part of the main design, while in a bedroom you may choose to choose marble accessories and bring in wood through your furniture or flooring.’
1. Experiment with contrasting colors
Just as you want to experiment with textured design, an effective combination of marble and wood will also highlight the different colors found in each material. The warm beiges and brown woods look good against a hard white or black marble finish. Not only does it emphasize the qualities of each material, but it creates a visual intrigue that is guaranteed to catch the eye.
‘Liter marble works great against lighter woods such as Ash or Beech, creating a fresh, clean and modern look,’ says Dawn. ‘In contrast, darker marble creates depth and drama with deep, warmer woods such as walnut or mahogany to create a sumptuous look.’
Overall, these two materials allow full creative freedom to mix and match to your heart’s desire. In our eyes – whether light with light, light and dark, or dark on dark – each pairing has its own unique aesthetic beauty. As Oliver explains: ‘It really comes down to personal preference, but generally a lighter, more classic Italian white marble will look great against both light and dark woods.’
As a general rule, light marble is more versatile than dark varieties. As Oliver and Dawn explain, it goes beautifully with any type of wood, while dark marble, although it works well in a dramatically moody scheme when paired with dark mahogany tones, needs extra care to avoid overwhelming the space.
2. Also consider the material patterns
Oliver also recommends having one surface more detailed than the other so they can balance each other out.
“If you have a particularly dark, colorful or busy marble, consider pairing it with a smooth darker wood, so as not to distract from the colored detail,” he says. ‘If you choose a more neutral, very light gray veined marble on a white background, pairing it with a lighter wood with more texture and detail will work beautifully.’
3. Consider your relationship
Finally, note the relationship between the two materials. As is always the case in interior design, balance is key. Too much wood or marble can detract from the beautiful simplicity of this pairing.
‘Each material should complement and support each other rather than being too overwhelming,’ says Dawn. In general, you should use less marble than wood, as marble’s hard, bold effects can drown out the softness of the wood. Tools like the 60-30-10 rule can also be used to help create a balanced scheme.
‘You also need to consider how you’re going to use each material,’ adds Dawn. ‘Since marble is quite an erosive product, regular use will lead to imperfections and stains on the surface. If you want to achieve this look without this risk, consider an alternative such as a marble effect worktop.’