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When Laying Marble Tiles Do You Go With the Veining?

Janet Lee-Amies

Dramatic slabs of marble seen in hotel lobbies often feature distinctive veining or patterns matched perfectly. The result is not only a luxurious look, but one that showcases the skill of the architect, interior designer and craftsman that each had a part in bringing the structure, materials and design together. Following the natural patterns or veins when laying marble tiles is called book-matching. It's both an art and a skill.


Dramatic veining occurs naturally in marble. Tiles should be laid to ensure the veins match up.

Carrara marble is celebrated for its white background and distinctive gray veining. Sometime the veining includes dramatic ripples. Sometimes it has more of an overall mottled effect. After marble is excavated in massive blocks, it's later cut down into slabs and then tiles. Each tile is carefully marked and numbered in sequence and packaged accordingly, so when the tile is purchased, it can be laid in such a way that the veins match.

Tile Sizes

Tile size and shape is an important consideration when laying marble tiles so the veins match up continuously. Twelve-inch square tiles are a standard size well-suited to bathroom walls and bathtub surrounds. These tiles can be matched creatively by composing a larger square of four tiles with the veining coming together to form a diamond or V-shaped pattern. This is sometimes referred to as reverse or double book-matching. Large-format 18-by-24-inch tiles (or even larger slabs) are excellent choices for creating dramatic flooring patterns and wall treatments. If the veining consists of a large ripple, tiles can matched up to create a natural "line" that demarcates the living room from the dining area, for example.

Laying The Tiles

If tiles are already book-matched, decide which way you want the veins to run. If they are laid so the veins run horizontally, they can make a room look wider when using them on the walls of a bathroom, for instance. If you are laying book-matched tiles on a floor, decide if you want the lines to "guide" a person inside a room. For example, if using tiles in an entryway, you might consider laying the tiles so that the veins "point" into the home. Another option is to lay the tile so that the veins run across the width of a hallway, visually expanding it. Some book-matched tiles are essentially mirror images of one another. This pattern looks particularly pleasing above a linear fireplace since it creates a focal point.


Laying marble tiles with the veining brings artistry to kitchens and bathrooms, but there are a few caveats for its use in these rooms. Marble is often used for kitchen counters, but acids such as vinegar and lemon juice can damage the surface. In the bathroom, marble flooring around the base of the toilet may be vulnerable to discoloration if it's not protected or cleaned regularly.