As designers, we help our clients make certain important decisions in the design of their home. And whether that be a kitchen or a bath, one of those decisions addresses countertops since they play a significant role in the design of those spaces.
Many choices and options are available for counters and making such a decision is an important and key element and something not to be taken lightly. Certainly natural materials such as granite, stone, marble and slate are timeless choices. And man-made materials such as solid surface products that include quartz as a part of their content are wise and smart since they can provide a cleanable, virtually seamless installation.
But there are several other materials worth consideration if only for accent materials.
The first is glass. A thick, translucent slab of glass is tough, sanitary and has a pleasant tactility, while still remaining easy to clean. Available in a huge variety of colors, finish and patterns, it certainly isn't the least expensive choice but can provide a certain "glitz" to a kitchen or a bath.
It is important to use cutting boards so as not to scratch the glass but as important, keep knives razor sharp.
The most unusual alternative countertop recently introduced at EuroCucina, the trade event for kitchen and bath cabinetry, came from Italian designer Arrital, courtesy of Arpa Industriale. Referred to as a “nanotech matte material,” the Fenix NTM countertop is anti-reflective, anti-fingerprint, self-healing, and soft to the touch without being... well, soft. It felt great under our hands, and looked great.
Solid wood and wood-finished countertops have become most popular in recent years, often contrasting with or overlaid on a stone or synthetic material. Choices include everything from mahogany and ebony to light pine and even bamboo. Often paired with matching cabinetry to create a minimalist yet warm look, there is some minimal maintenance and care required to keep the counter looking fresh.
For some of us designers, stainless is nearly as played out as granite. But when combined with other materials, it can be a real standout. Stainless counters gleam under light, are pretty indestructible and make a dramatic statement. One might consider using this material on an island or perhaps at a wine bar or accent counter.
When it comes to countertop finishes, tile is pretty old school. It’s a style that’s generally beholden to a certain era or area—especially homes of the 40x and 50s.
They stand up to a lot of wear - except for minor chipping that can occur with a lot of use. In bathrooms, tile can provide a texture and a pattern that can provide an added dimension. Plan on sealing the grout on a regular basis to keep a clean look and avoid a dingy appearance.
More and more people are realizing concrete’s value for making countertops. Shapes of concrete countertops are only limited by imagination and the ability to build the forms.
With the use of color pigments and in combination with various aggregates including glass and metals, the spectrum of colors and patterns available in concrete countertops is virtually limitless. One thing to keep in mind is that concrete counters must be occasionally sealed to prevent stains. Creating a concrete counter can be labor intensive so prices are often as much as natural stones like granite and marble.
Paper.. really? Bet you never ever thought paper would make a countertop but it can be quite effective. Products made from compressed, recycled paper provides a non-porous surface and a lifetime of stain resistance since it absorbs virtually no water. The paper "matt stone-like surface" is extremely rigid and dense, lending to additional applications beyond countertops and mars may be sanded or rubbed out with an abrasive pad. We used to see these as lab counters in college and they would stand up to all sorts of abuse.
Still confused? Too many choices? Keep in mind that your choice should be just as much about the function as the visual effect. Price may influence your decision, but keep in mind that you are going to live with your choice over the years... perhaps even decades. And the price per square foot stretched out over a decade equalizes the choices we shared in this post.
And STILL CONFUSED?
We can help. Call us for a complimentary consultation and we'll help provide some direction and advice. After nearly three decades of practice, we can give you the kind of well informed guidance to make your decision the most proper and appropriate one.
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Michael is an award winning interior designer based in Palm Desert, CA. He is a Professional Member of the American Society of Interior Designers and a member of the ASID College of Fellows.
As a Certified Aging In Place Specialist, he creates smart looking spaces that are safe and secure and create homes for a lifetime.
And with thirty plus years in the profession, he has honed his humor, elevated his passion for design and sharpened his wit to not take anything too seriously except his design work.