Deciding on a countertop material for your new construction or remodel is often perplexing to say the least! In my 30 plus years of design experience, I still advise clients that no one material is right for every design project. Each have their own pros and cons and not all are suited visually for every design style. Through the years, as a result of my design style and my market, I have developed a few favorites.
- Wood and Reclaimed Wood
I do love the warmth of a wood countertop and in my kitchen at Chestnut Cottage, I have a wonderful, large island with a wood top.
Wood is strong and durable and easy to recycle. Commonly wood countertops are made from hardwoods like walnut, oak, maple and cherry. I have even used chestnut and old pine, which have a spectacular warmth. Now we have access to all kinds of exotic woods such as zebrawood and bamboo. I definitely prefer to oil a wooden countertop rather than varnish it.
In my “refined rustic” design work, I love using reclaimed wood. Often the expense of reclaimed wood only allows for an island or a portion of the counter, and it mixes to well with other materials such as honed granite, slate, or soapstone.
Wood just blends so well with any color or any style!
Yes, I said marble! Clients and most contractors hold their heads in disbelief when i indicate that i think marble is a good choice. I suppose if one is going to constantly worry about every stain, then marble is not for you. Marble just evokes and old world elegance in my mind…classic for a beach cottage or a sleek city apartment I believe that the wear (and stains) are simply part of its charm. I will confess that it is softer and much more porous that granite and will stain. Acidic items such as citrus, wine, and vinegar will etch the finish and often leave a stain. When I installed white marble at Chestnut Cottage, my longtime marble supplier simple said ‘wipe is down with vinegar which will remove the shine and then you wont have to worry about the etching!’ I have never done that, because I simply don’t worry about it! It is ideal for baking– just knead and roll dough directly on the surface. I find that wiping with a microfiber cloth works just fine.
If you aren’t brave enough for an entire kitchen with marble, at least try some on an island. An antique piece with a marble top adds so much style to your kitchen!
- Soapstone and Slate
Stones such as soapstone and slate, particularly when honed, make a lovely countertop. They are hear resistant and antibacterial, as well as very durable. However, they do scratch easily but this can be corrected by light sanding and oiling. Nothing is more beautiful in an old home than a lovely soapstone, but it can also add a charming touch to a new construction. The color will darken a bit with age, but there again, that adds patina in my thinking. You can clean daily with a mild soap and water, however, I do suggest rubbing with mineral oil about twice a week for the first month or so.
Zinc is a perfect choice for a rustic farmhouse, a vintage kitchen, or even an industrial-style kitchen. Stainless steel is very popular for more contemporary installations and loved by professional chefs. Copper has a lovely patina, but both copper and zinc can show watermarks and spot easily. Zinc and copper countertop scan be sealed regularly with beeswax or even auto wax if you feel that too much patina is not your style. These metals are non-porous and very durable.
As a designer, I find that the most popular and requested countertop material is granite. It is very easy to care for and affordable. The vast range of colors and patterns affords “something for everyone”. My advice would be to find a granite that doesnt have too much ‘movement’ for your taste and the rest is a breeze! A few of my all time favorite granites are white or Bianca Labrador, Bordeaux Typhone and Niagara Green.
These are just a few of “my favorite things” in the vast range of countertop choices. What’s your style?!