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From Start To Furnish

Please enjoy my musings on all things interior design!

How To Choose A Countertop Material

Stone, quartz, laminate, oh my!  There are so many choices of countertop materials, how do you ever decide.  Before you embark on that journey of the thousands of choices of countertop materials, here are five key considerations.  

Function

The great architect Louis Sullivan once famously said: "form follows function." To him, the service of a finish or furnishing selection for a building was more important than how it looked. 

With this thought in mind, consider the function of your countertop material first. Consider how you will use it and in what room (kitchen, master bath, children's bath, powder room). If it is going in your kitchen and you love to cook, please do not use white marble. Natural stone is porous. Red wine, coffee, and tomato sauce are not friends of white marble. You can use this material in a master bathroom or powder room, but you'll regret this choice in the kitchen. If your contemporary kitchen calls for clean white countertops and you do intend to use the room, consider an engineered stone; a material made of crushed stone, color and resin. You've heard of the brands such as Silestone or CaesarStone. These materials are non-porous so that you can get have that bright white and your wine too.
If you're the next Jamie Oliver and all you want is a kitchen that works, consider stainless steel. Professional kitchens and at-home chefs alike use stainless steel because of it's cleanability. If you care more about the culinary genius that comes out of your kitchen than the inevitable scratches, stainless steel is your material.

Style

Next, consider the style of the room and the home. Stones with little movement or a more smooth texture lend themselves to more formal interiors.
If your style is more rustic or artistic, you might consider a material that has a lot of drama and movement in the pattern. If you decide on natural stone, visit the stone yard with an open mind and a good pair of walking shoes. They are all beautiful, and even if they're not all your cup of tea, it's a treat to look at them.
If the project is more historic or a farmhouse style, consider the humble simplicity of soapstone.

 

Budget

That dirty word always comes up, doesn't it? Unless you're a descendant of a Rockefeller, it usually has to be considered. If you're on a tight budget, you may want to consider a laminate. The laminate manufacturers are always coming out with new styles, colors, and patterns. Just please don't choose one that is trying to look like something natural (stone, leather, or wood). They don't do a good impression of the real deal, and you'll be better off just selecting a subtle pattern or fun color.
Don't assume all natural stones are created equal in pricing. There are different pricing categories. The prices depend on many factors included where the harvested the stone and how hard it was to get it out of the ground. Also, don't assume that the Silestone or quartzite materials are less expensive. Some natural stones are about equal in price.

Area

When making your selection, be certain to consider the countertop space you will be covering. If it's minimal, go with a neater pattern. On the other hand, if you have a large surface, such as a large island, and the style allows, consider a selection that has dramatic movement.
I saw at the Kitchen and Bath Show month, a company making the man-made stones in some dramatic patterns and colors. This is a departure from the simple textures they've had. They were amazingly beautiful I was drawn to this big slab of a purple one with a big curve in it. (Patent pending, so no photos allowed, sadly.) Cheap, it is not, but beautiful, it is!

 

Maintenance

Another dirty word, but also a thoughtful consideration. If you don't want to be a slave to your countertops, don't even look at high shine solid black granite. Stunning doesn't come easy. All granite and quartzite materials require an annual sealer put on it. It's simple to do, but if you don't want to think about it, especially don't pick those high gloss. The ones with more texture hide rings and discolorations much better.

If you don't appreciate the natural patina that comes with usage of soapstone (I think it adds to its beauty), know that you will have to oil it occasionally to reduce the variations that come along.

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