These aren’t your grandma’s counters

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Luxurious countertops aren’t just granite anymore

If you want your kitchen to appear more “current” to your guests, choose an updated countertop to make a statement.

Besides the floor, which really shouldn’t be the style centerpiece of a room, the countertops cover more surface area than any other part of a kitchen. Carefully chosen, that centerpiece becomes the personality, the focal point and the showpiece of the room where family and guests spend more time than anywhere else in the house.

Granite has become so popular in well-appointed kitchens that you might think it’s the obvious choice for yours. It might be: Granite, a natural stone available in an enormous selection of rich colors and unique patterns, is durable, long-lasting, low-maintenance and stunning to look at. And because it has become so popular, its price has dropped considerably over the past 10 years.

Now that granite is such a kitchen staple, however, some homeowners are looking for equally luxurious surfaces in alternative materials in an effort to create a unique look.

Some alternative surface materials that are gaining on granite:

Quartz. With familiar names like Silestone, Cambria and Zodiaq, tough engineered stone is a mix of 90 percent quartz with some resin and pigments that leave the surface smooth and uniform, without the veins and imperfections of granite. Because each slab is consistent with the next, you can choose your style from a sample in a home store or showroom.

Natural stone. If you want to stick with natural stone but don’t want granite, consider soapstone, slate, limestone or marble. Porous like granite, these natural stones also require sealing before installation. Soapstone and slate are softer than granite, so they chip and scratch a bit more easily. Plus they come in fewer colors; soapstone hues are usually greenish black, while slate is very dark. Marble is sleek and polished, and a favorite of the serious baker, while limestone comes in warmer colors but is softer than some other stones and stains more easily.

Wood. Few materials “warm up” up a room like natural wood, which was once the surface of choice for the kitchen island. You can choose from a high-sheen polish that will resist scratches, or embrace the worn, butcher-block look that wears its little burns, water stains and knife mishaps like a cook’s badge of honor. A trend: Mix one wood surface—on the island, for instance—with granite or other natural stone countertops.

Concrete. It sounds plain and gray, but concrete on a countertop is more unique than you think. You can make it any color you want, inlay it with glass or shells to add texture and trowel it so the surface is smooth or ridged. This ultra-porous material is also super-strong, but needs to be properly sealed and periodically waxed.

Metal. For the look of a commercial kitchen—favored by home chefs who cook like the pros—choose stainless steel countertops. They’re probably the easiest of all surfaces to keep clean, and, in fact, lend a sort of sterile look to your kitchen. Go with copper instead and watch it patina into a rich, golden brown as it ages. Downside: Metal surfaces are easy to scratch.

 

Jeb Breithaupt, B. Arch., MBA, has been president of JEB Design/Build, an Angie’s List Super Service Award Winner, in Shreveport since 1983. You can contact him at 318-865-4914 or by visiting www.jebdesignbuild.com.