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Countertop Options Abound for Kitchens and Baths
By Barbara Canetti

Walk into any kitchen, and the first things that stand out are the countertops. The color, material and style of those work surfaces selected set the tone and style of the room.  

And there is so much to choose from. In fact, because of the wide range of options, homeowners are sometimes overwhelmed with all the different choices: Natural or man-made, light or dark or shiny or matte, as well as the bigger item — budget.

In the past few decades, granite was the No. 1 countertop choice. But designers have introduced to their clients other options that require less care and maintenance, while still providing scratch, stain and heat resistance.

Local contractors and designers have watched as granite as taken a back seat to the more durable quartz, a man-made product, or its similar natural product, quartzite, says Tara Brown, a designer with Lippold Custom Homes.

“We have definitely seen a decrease in the use of granite,” she says. “Clients are moving towards clean and sophisticated palettes. Quartzite or quartz provides a simple and neutral surface that is not only durable, but has the versatility to stand the test of time as trends evolve. In addition, quartz requires no maintenance. There are no special cleaners required. It never has to be sealed. It is stain and chip resistant.”

Brown says she favors “Mont Blanc” and “Sea Pearl” quartzite and “Nouveau Calacatta” quartz.

Randy Godeau, owner of Bay Area Kitchens, says engineered quartz is gaining in popularity because it can look so much like marble, including the veining and designs.

“Personally, I got tired of the granite. Through the speckles and colors, I was unable to see crumbs on the counters. The quartz is easier to clean, and I think it is more accessible,” Godeau says, adding he recently installed a new counter in his home, choosing the veined marble-look quartz. “Unless you look really close, you cannot tell it is not marble.”

Quartz is a bit more expensive than granite, and the veining adds more expense.

Natural stones come in different finishes from honed (matte, silky-smooth), polished (glossy, shiny) and textured. Brown says the leathered quartzite is very popular, with its textured surface showing pits and fissures of the stone, rather than the imperfections evident in the polished surfaces.

The leathered look appears to have more depth than the honed and because of the finish, it hides stains, smudges and fingerprints better. In addition, with the leather finish the natural pores of the rock are closed; therefore, stains are less apt to occur. The leathered finish requires less sealing than the polished or honed.

For a warmer look, homeowners are still choosing butcher block work stations, as well as the budget-friendly laminate, which now comes in oodles of colors and finishes.

“Certainly, laminate is the best value all the way around, and it will last for 40 years. But it is limited in terms of shapes and edges,” Godeau says.

In terms of the edges, Godeau notes the timeless favorite bullnose, a classic rounded edge, is now being replaced by the square edge (clean lines, 90-degree angle), ogee (concave arch that flows into a convex arch), the beveled edge (indentation) and the mitered edge (seamless edge between the top of the countertop and a second piece of stone to create a specialty edge).

And one of the latest new trends in kitchens and bathrooms is selecting integrated sinks on the countertops. These basins are made of the same materials as the counters.

“I think this provides a modern aesthetic and if done correctly, can look simply gorgeous,” says Brown.


Bay Area Kitchens

Bolfing Brothers Marble Inc.

Lippold Custom Homes

Pro Remodel by EDBA

Simply Solid Surface

Wilsonart Houston

Houston Web Design Company