Where should I start? I’m in the process of updating the dreadfully boring kitchen in my 1970’s house. For the last four years I’ve been walking into my dark, dull kitchen with its espresso-hued high-gloss cabinets (not in a good way), generic granite and a backsplash that matches my floor tile perfectly. Ugh!
I already knew I wanted to lighten my cabinets to a beautiful linen white because the space is not very large and the dark cabinets suck all the light out of the room, making it feel smaller than it is. We never really thought about changing the countertops because we thought it would be too costly. But with a bit of research and a lot of nagging my poor husband, we decided to go for it. So where do you begin?
Here’s what I’ve learned…
There are a ton of options for countertops and many are pretty economical. We need something beautiful and practical. With a toddler in the house, most restaurants frown when they see us coming, so home cooking it is for a while, which if just fine as I love to cook. Anyway, I digress…
Let’s Talk Choices: Granite
So who doesn’t love granite? It’s a natural stone with amazing variations. Most of the granite imported to the United States is from India, Brazil, Italy and China. Granite rocks are igneous rocks, also known as “fire rocks,” and were formed by cooling pockets of magma were trapped beneath the earth’s surface. The process of getting the granite from the mountain to the stone yard is fascinating. They drill holes strategically in the mountain, and then use explosives to break apart huge chunks of of the rock. It’s then cut into less gigantic blocks to be transported for fabricating. At the fabricator, those giant blocks of stone are sawed into slabs. It’s still pretty rough, and by no means ready for your home at this point, but is now in a much more manageable size. The next step is to run the slabs through the polishing process where the stone’s true beauty appears. It’s amazing to see the journey from dirty raw stone to gorgeous granite that would transform any kitchen beautifully.
Because this is a natural product, you can never predict what the finished stone will look like. It may have a lot or a little veining and movement. Some granites have beautiful flecks of sparkle and some do not. The color variations truly can be all over the map. Also because stone is porous, granite countertops should be sealed regularly. Some fabricators add a lifetime sealant during the fabrication process that require no further sealing thoughout the life of the stone. Make sure you ask your designer if you will need to seal your stone countertops at your design appointment.
I’ve always loved the exotics with tons of movement. Particularly a Bianco Antico, Brown Persa or Juparano Bordeaux. You never know what beauty the mountain will produce.
There are other granites that are less bold or exotic, like a St. Cecilia, Giallo Latino or Luna Pearl. These are more consistent, less expensive and readily available if you prefer this look.
So depending on your personal style and preference, there’s most likely a granite for you.
Next Stop: Quartz
How about Quartz? Quartz countertops are arguably the most durable option available. Unlike granite which is mined, quartz is actually engineered in a factory. The main ingredient is quartz-about 94%-mixed with polyester resins to bind and pigments to give color. The resins also give the countertops their stain and scratch resistance and make them non porous, so quartz needs no sealing. Many people used to be opposed to quartz because they felt it lacked the movement and variety of granite, but now there are so many options available—from an almost solid finish to more opulent patterns that can rival some of the most exotic granites.
Ebony Pearl Silestone
There are even quartz countertops that look very similar to marble without it’s fuss and maintenance.
I am a huge fan of quartz because the less maintenance I have to keep up with, the better. And now there are so many options for quartz that there really is something for everyone.
Another option is marble, but if you know anything about marble, you know that it’s very soft and porous meaning it will chip and stain for just looking at it too hard. Red wine spills at a party will forever mark your countertop. It also etches if water is not wiped clean and dried immediately. If you are OK living with the “patina” marble gets from everyday living, and you seal it often, then this is yet another option for you. If you love the look but not the hassle, I’d suggest you revisit the quartz above.
Butcher Block Counters
You could also do butcher block counters. These are widely available and very inexpensive. I love the look of butcher block but let’s be honest, what happens when you get those yucky drippings of raw chicken juice on your counter. Yuck! I’m a self-declared clean freak and having a toddler only intensifies this, so me and butcher block counters will never work. I’d probably bleach my counters to death trying to ensure no salmonella has contaminated the entire kitchen. I know, I know-it’s a bit obsessive but…
So this leaves me with a pretty tough decision. I’ve narrowed it down to two options—well, really three.
1. Absolute Black granite-I love the honed finish but I’m not sure I can live with the fingerprints. Honed finishes tend to show smudges and fingerprints more than a polished finish.