Natural stone vs porcelain

I have suddenly, albeit slightly unexpectedly, reached the stage where I need to choose my floor tiles for the kitchen/open plan living space. I must stress that this is an unexpected milestone right now, as in my mind this is something I should be finalising at the very end of the build as a finishing touch, not at the beginning.

However, to allow us to proceed with the sliding glass door order (baring in mind the doors have a 12 week production lead time), I need to sign off the glass door drawings ASAP. We can only do this once we have finalised the depth of the ground floor which is subject to a new screed, a new underfloor heating solution and new floor tiles. We know the measurements for the screed and water pipes but not for the tiles, and these can vary quite significantly depending on the material that we choose i.e. 10mm – 20mm.

So, what tiles do I go for…? Marble, travertine, limestone, granite, porcelain, ceramic, slate… which one is best for my kitchen tile design?!?

Some field research was in order so off we set for a day of tile hunting…!


Not only do these materials differ in terms of colour, texture and size, they all have varying cleaning requirements and characteristics. It is quite simply a minefield of options to choose from!


If I was to think about what tiles exude elegance, luxury and style, it would have to be marble, limestone and travertine. These are all natural stones and are calcite-based, thus have similar properties regarding care and cleaning. Typically, not as care-free as man-made tiles. But, they look so good!

Porcelain tiles appear to be a popular alternative to stone and ceramic. It is harder and more durable than ceramic… almost like stone. Porcelain also provides a better imitation of marble, travertine or other stone patterns, colours and textures with plenty of choices to match any design. Like ceramic, porcelain tile is nearly impossible to stain, scratch resistant and easy to maintain. My practical head is saying ‘go for porcelain’….

My heart however, is still with natural…


I am looking for a fairly light coloured floor (yes I may be mad considering I have animals and children!) and have fallen in love with the flooring featured in the Tom Howley showroom. This is a natural stone called Mazzano Tumbled marble. The question is, do I just opt for this one or should I be more practical and go for a porcelain look-a-like?


Today I saw a number of similar products to the Mazzano marble, both natural and porcelain and I’ve got to admit, some of the porcelain tiles were very good imitations.

Porcelain tile on top of the Limestone flooring and the visual difference is minimal

The issue I have with porcelain is that is it very ‘flat’ in colour and there is no variation between each tile. The feel is also slightly raw and I really want a smooth, soft surface that allows you to glide across it. The practicalities however are fantastic and the price is much much less than natural stone.

Natural stone on the other hand is smooth to touch and has great depth of colour and tile variation – not one tile will look the same.

I am now sat with an array of samples in front of me with further thought and contemplation ahead!


Any recommendations would be gratefully received!

Thanks for reading x


  1. Les
    April 21, 2016 / 9:50 pm

    Natural stone has always got to be best. Tiles are really important and something you won’t ever look to replace so spend that extra time getting it right – as I know you will!

  2. Homeiswheretheheartis
    April 28, 2016 / 9:16 pm

    Hi! we have just started a similar project to yours. I too have been asked to confirm the flooring even though they have only just completed the footings. I need to decide on wood and tile for entire ground floor and it’s got me in a spin. Porcelain makes the most sense , with children , dogs, cars chicken , did you find a good Mazzano look a like ?

    • April 29, 2016 / 2:51 pm

      Exactly the same as us then; we are having tiles in the open plan living space and wood for the hallway, lounge and playroom. There are great look a likes out there, Classic Pierre Blanc from Mandarin Stone is definitely one of these, although they just don’t replicate the smooth touch that the mazzano gives. The feel of the tiles under foot is so important to me which is why I am still on the side of natural stone…!

  3. Anna
    April 22, 2017 / 7:34 am

    Hi – did you decide on the Mazzano tumbled marble in the end and, if so, are you pleased with it? Your kitchen looks great! Thanks.

    • May 8, 2017 / 9:29 am

      Hi, Yes we went with the Mazzano but in a honed finish. Love it but need to be very careful as it’s a natural stone. Orange juice is a nightmare as it is an acid so reacts badly! My little boy knocked some juice over and it now needs the dull mark polished out. Slight draw back to this one… but looks and feels lovely!

  4. March 7, 2018 / 8:26 pm

    I found it educational that this article mentioned the benefits of choosing porcelain as an alternative to stone and ceramic. The first apartment I live in had plain ceramic tiles, which though practical, was not as pleasing to my artistic eye. If I ever remodel my floors, I will consider porcelain for it’s variety of patterns and colors.

  5. Manj
    November 11, 2018 / 9:15 pm

    hi could you recommend which porcelean tile was the most similar to the one you chose?

    • justalittlebuild
      November 13, 2018 / 7:12 pm

      Gosh, I can’t remember! Check out mandarin stone as they were the strong contenders!

  6. Lauren
    May 21, 2019 / 10:48 pm

    Hi. We are currently doing a renovation and I am completely torn between natural stone and porcelain for our open plan kitchen/living area. Ive found stone affect porcelain which are nice & a little cheaper than natural stone but I am so indecisive. Also we have a similar colour scheme to yours. I was initially looking at ivory/grey coloured tiles and I am now warming to beige. Any pointers? X

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