Countertops Speak to Kitchens

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The countertop is an essential component of the kitchen and bathroom. All the action takes place on countertops requiring countertops to walk the fine line between beauty and functionality. Countertops are the foundation of décor choices in these spaces, setting the tone and feel of the space while reflecting the style of the homeowner.

The range of countertop materials is quite large, ranging from concrete and butcher block to natural stone and quartz.

Regardless of material choice, there is a combination of things to look for when choosing a countertop. Carla Taylor of Hermitage Lighting Gallery says, “There are many different types of countertop materials available. Customers should be aware of price, maintenance, durability, and a warranty.”

Offering a large selection of countertop materials is Markraft Cabinets. According to Beth Muer of Markraft, options range from laminate and wood to natural stone, quartz, concrete, and stainless steel. “Most popular among our customers is granite,” she says. Regarding the variety of materials and colors available, she says, “Homeowners need to be sure the design and style they select are something they can live with for years. Make sure your countertop meets your design vision as well as your lifestyle.”

While granite is still a leading choice for homeowners and designers, quartz is increasingly popular for its versatility and durability. Created as a more affordable alternative to granite, quartz has the benefit of being non-porous, thus it does not require sealing, and comes in a variety of colors, styles, and patterns.

Kimberly Schmunk of Focus Builders points out that, as a material, quartz is hard to beat, “Quartz is in strong demand because it isn’t porous, won’t stain, doesn’t scratch easily, is uniform in color and pattern, won’t discolor over time, is resistant to heat, and has a smooth surface for easy cleaning,” she says. Despite this, she says granite/natural stone is most popular with clients. “They like leathered and honed marble and granite, which provide a nice matte texture,” she says.

Experts agree that textured and tactile finishes are becoming more popular as design options. Although a polished finish remains what most homeowners want, honed and leather finishes are both gaining popularity. A honed finish is a matte finish with little to no shine that conceals flaws or scratch marks, while a leather finish provides a soft sheen that retains the stone’s natural look while hiding fingerprints and water spots.

Offering wood countertops is Karmal Skillington, which specializes in reclaimed wood for a variety of home products. “Black walnut is becoming a highly desired counter material in today’s modern kitchen,” according to Leigh Skillington. “This is especially true at the home’s heart and centerpiece, the island. Beauty transcends trends and black walnut has been highly sought-after for generations for furniture.”

Skillington reports black walnut has now found its way into today’s modern kitchen as a high-impact countertop material due to its durability, natural beauty, and adaptability to transitional as well as modern designs. “We have seen many sinks and cooktops installed into island countertops made from 2-in. black walnut. Like any counter material—wood or stone— you may decide to refinish it every few years to ensure it stays at its most beautiful.

Will Higgins of Southeastern Salvage reports that butcher block is also gaining in popularity, “Butcher block countertops are durable, rugged, and affordable. Homeowners love the beauty and warmth of natural wood in their homes. And butcher block countertops complement any style—traditional, farmhouse, French country, rustic, Mediterranean, modern, contemporary, and eclectic.”

Josh LaWarre of Willow Branch Partners agrees saying, “The most important features of countertop materials are looks and performance and they must compliment the homeowner’s sense of style.” Homeowners should also consider their service installer as an important component of the countertop choice.

While subtle patterns and color options draw many clients to quartz, LaWarre says there has recently been a move toward darker shades, high contrast, grays, blacks, and whites.

Reporting that quartz reflecting the look of marble is extremely popular is Maggie Van Eeden of Bison Countertops. She says, “We find that personal taste is the main driver behind homeowners’ selections. They spend a lot of time on social media seeking inspiration for their remodel or new home. Grays and whites are still very popular, and we work with designers to help customers get the look they want.”

While granite remains popular, Van Eeden says many of her company’s clients favor quartz that resembles marble which continues to find favor with a large number of homeowners. Van Eeden suggests that homeowners should consider the quality of material, turn-around time, and follow up service available from the countertop provider.

Jennifer Jones of Jennifer Jones Design, Inc., says she recently finished a bathroom redesign that incorporates a quartz countertop and under-mount sinks. “Quartz was not my choice when the material was first introduced. I just didn’t like the (faux) look of the marble and granite. However, in the last few years, the development of almost perfect realism has drawn my approval.”

Speaking of Chroma as a superior countertop material is Ken Schusterman of California Closets. “Produced from optical grade engineered resin, Chroma is a highly functional material that brings impact to an area when color is introduced. Its surface features a durable, renewable matte texture that can easily be refinished throughout its lifetime. Backlighting can be achieved with Chromas as well.

Fairly new to the market is sintered stone, a mineral blend that has been exposed to extremely high pressure and temperature giving the product outstanding physical and mechanical properties of compaction, resistance, and durability. Large man-made slab sizes lend the material to a number of uses. Melinda Jackson of Modern Surfaces says, “Sintered stone builds on the benefits of quartz, but remains a patent-protected process technology.”

Choosing a countertop material also involves selection of a sink in most cases, and in many cases that may be an integrated sink. Giving a modern finish to space, creating a continuous style from countertop to sink offers a smooth flow from work surface to clean up. While style is of the utmost importance, ease of use plays an important role. An integrated sink allows homeowners to no longer worry about dirty water or food bits getting stuck in the space between countertop and sink. Of course under-mount sinks of all types—stainless steel, vitreous china, or some other material—continue to remain popular. Farmhouse sinks, also available in a variety of materials, are often the leading element in countertop design.

Bohnne Jones of Decorating Den Interiors points out, “Popular plumbing fixtures include chrome, polished nickel, black, black and gold, and black and silver. Also, rose gold, copper, and oil rubbed bronze are popular ways to add dimension to the neutrality of the countertop.”

Smaller spaces such as powder rooms offer an excellent opportunity to add fun accents. Emily Yoakum of Jonathan Miller Architects says the selection of bathroom components is usually driven by look and function. “Most of my homeowners want a traditional look with contemporary styles so nickel, satin nickel, and bronze are still most popular. For a fun accent, some homeowners want brass in unique locations like powder rooms.”

As homeowners continue to seek looks that are out of the ordinary, they find themselves choosing countertops, plumbing fixtures, and sinks that create a cohesive look while still meeting the low-maintenance needs of most homeowners.

—Starshield Lortie

There are a number of sources for countertop materials including:

Bison Countertops Ashland City 615/ 792-8812

California Closets Kurt Schusterman 615/ 367-1030

Cambria Nashville 615/ 268-9741

Decorating Den Nashville 615/ 469-7334

Elite Installation Hendersonville 615/ 264-9370

Ellen|Sherwood Design Brentwood 615/ 376-6122

Focus Builders Nashville 615/ 517-5685

French’s Cabinet Gallery Franklin 615/ 371-8385

Hermitage Lighting Gallery Nashville 615/ 843-3310

Jonathan Miller Architects Knoxville 615/ 602-2435

Markraft Cabinets Nashville 615/ 360-2118

Modern Surfaces Raleigh, NC 919/ 348-6679

Prestige Marble & Granite Columbia 931/ 381-7294

ProCraft Cabinetry Nashville 615/ 528.-0399

Southeastern Salvage Nashville 615/ 244-1001

Willow Branch Partners Franklin 615/ 306-7520

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