Stunning quartzite on island and pure white Dekton on perimeter of client's countertops
fter renovating and building dozens of kitchens for clients over the past 2 decades, I kinda know a thing or two about countertop materials! I get asked what works best for the kitchen so often that I figured it’s a great topic to share with you. In this post, I’ve compiled my top 3 favorites…and it’s your lucky day! Because you’ll also get a bonus at the end of the list revealing my expert tips and advice about countertop thickness, finishes, overhangs, and edges….details that have to be planned out in advance which you may not know or think about. It’s these little details that enhance the overall design and look of your kitchen, so it’s important to consider them!
Natural Hard Stones such as Quartzite, Granite, and Hard Marbles
In my opinion, there is nothing more beautiful and elegant than natural stone. Although the man-made countertop companies do a fairly decent job of copying the natural look of some stones, they just can’t quite get it to look 100% real. Natural stone has such depth, movement, subtle unique variations, and in some stones, a gorgeous translucent quality. No two slabs of stone are the same and there are so many amazing stones to choose from. The supply is constantly changing so you never know what you will find when perusing the marble yards. I love hunting for that perfect slab for my designs…
Gorgeous Slab of Jet Mist Granite
I’m always surprised and in awe at what I find! When looking for a suitable stone for your kitchen countertop, it’s key to select a very hard one! Soft marbles like popular Carrara or Calacatta are all the rage these days, but they will not hold up as well because of their soft, porous quality. This makes them very susceptible to scratches and stains. Although they are very beautiful and match the gray/white color trends these days, I try to steer clients away from using them in the kitchen. There are so many gorgeous hard marbles like White Diamond, or a silver/gray Crystallis Quartzite that will look stunning and more unique, and are way more durable. Granite is always a great choice too! Although it seems that your typical peppered looking granites have currently gone out of style, there are some unique granites that look modern and sleek, like Jet Mist, which is SO gorgeous and dramatic! I just used it recently in a client’s kitchen and it came out stunning! So remember, the key to using a natural stone in your kitchen is to find a very hard one. Take the time to search for it by going to different marble yards and warehouses….discovering that perfect slab is half the fun!
First off, let’s clarify something many people are confused about.….Quartz materials are different than Quartzite. Quartz is a man made product produced in a factory and Quartzite is a natural stone dug out of the ground. Ok, now that we got that explanation out of the way, I must say that I do love using Quartz materials for countertops for both kitchens and bathrooms and I consistently use it in my designs. Quartz is strong and durable so that makes it a no brainer right away. The solid colors lend themselves perfectly to modern and transitional styles, which is definitely in style these days. Some of the patterns that mimic stone look beautiful and work well in any style room, and the non-designer probably couldn’t tell the difference. However, some of the quartz stone look a-likes are just too fake looking for my taste, with some even appearing to have a plastic-y quality to them. The Quartz colors I like and use the most are from Caesarstone and Quartz Master. I love Caesarstone’s solid whites and gray colors for a cool, sleek, modern look. Quartz Master has an amazing selection of natural stone patterns, espically Calacatta marble replicas that look really nice. They look amazing on kitchen islands with waterfall sides. I also love to use them on countertops and continuing up throughout the backsplashes with the pattern matching for a dramatic effect. Most of the top marble yards also sell Quartz products these days and you can often see some slabs of them when visiting. Since these are man made materials, if you’re working with an interior designer or architect, they can order samples of the colors for you as well. I have a lot of their samples already stocked in my office for client’s to view.
Quartz Master Countertop in recent client's kitchen
I designed this custom island with a gray Caeserstone countertop
I installed Dekton countertops in my kitchen on my three cabinet perimeters and absolutely love it! I wanted a hassle free, no maintenance material in a bright white, glossy finish for my modern kitchen. Dekton fit the bill perfectly. Because Dekton is made with a unique pressurized manufacturing process, it’s ultra compactness makes it virtually non-porous and incredibly hard. This means stains and bacteria won’t penetrate it. It also means it’s chemical resistant, heat resistant, scratch resistant, UV resistant as well as being resistant to ice and thawing. These amazing features make it the ultimate worry free countertop, for both indoors and outdoors! Yes, I can place my hot pans right on it’s surface and I don’t blink and eye when preparing red beets or spillage of red wine occurs. It does not require the application of a sealant like natural stone does either. Dekton comes in many great color options and textures resembling wood or stone that can work in a variety of different kitchen styles. All these amazing qualities makes Dekton a top 3 countertop favorite of mine!
Bonus List: 4 Important Countertop Details to Consider
Countertop Finishes: Depending on the source and material, typically you can choose between honed (matte) or polished (shiny) countertop finishes. There are some other interesting finishes I’ve used such as leathered, which depending on the material you select, can be great looking. In my experience, honed and leathered finishes tend to wear better and show less scratches than polished finishes. Polished finishes lend a slightly more dressy and glamorous feel to the material. I determine the countertop finish based on the look, function, and style of the room design.
Countertop Thickness: Most countertop materials are milled and stocked in the standard thicknesses of ¾” or 1 ¼” which are fairly thin. These are the standard sizes you’ll see in the majority of homes. However, you are not limited to just these two options! I’ve designed many countertops with 2”, 3”, and even 6” thicknesses! The thicker tops add a unique, dramatic, and modern feel to the room design. If you want to illuminate your countertop, you’ll definitely want to build up the thickness to have room to install the lighting underneath and see the edges of your beautiful stone more. This is a great effect for bars or kitchen islands. Also, if you have a stunning, unique stone you want to show off, what better way to show it off then on the side edge you’ll see as you walk into the room? Keep in mind as you create a thicker countertop edge, the trade off will be losing some cabinet/drawer space underneath. Therefore, I recommend a maximum thickness for the kitchen countertop to be no more than 2 ½”. It’s fun to mix it up….for example I’ve made a 2” thick countertop on a client’s kitchen island but kept the perimeter at standard thickness of 1 ¼”. This combo always looks fabulous!
Countertop Edges: Back in the 90’s, the Ogee edge was all the rage. Some went all out and got a Double Ogee edge, which is a super fancy traditional design feature! This fancy edge detailing looks like a traditional crown molding. Nowadays the trend has been more modern and streamlined, so the edge I usually specify on my countertop designs today is a Straight edge. I personally really like the clean, simple lines of the Straight edge, some call it an Eased edge because although it’s straight, the corner is filed a bit so it’s not sharp. However, there are dozens of different countertop edge styles to choose from. You can usually see them all in person on real stone samples at your local marble yard or stone source. Take some time to consider your countertop’s edge detail based on the style of your kitchen. Your edging goes all around the perimeter of your countertops so it’s not as small a detail as you think.
Overhangs: Did you ever think about your countertop’s overhang? Probably not! It’s the part where the countertop edge extends past the front of your cabinets. I’m very specific about this important detail in my designs and feel it makes an important impact in a kitchen design. I almost always buck the longtime tradition of big overhangs…I actually hate them! I think they make a kitchen or bath look very outdated. I always specify either a very small overhang of about ¼” – ½” or more commonly, a flush countertop with NO overhang, (or as close to no overhang as possible). My marble installers hate me when I do this because it means they have to be very exact with their measurements with less wiggle room for error. Since walls are never 100% straight, it’s nearly impossible to get an exact flush countertop with the cabinets, but I can usually get extremely close. The contractors will grumble about this, claiming any spills will run off the countertop and directly down your cabinets. My reply is, yeah so what? The cabinets won’t be harmed and spills get wiped up! I tend to think they use this excuse just because it makes their job a little harder, but good installers who know what they’re doing can make a flush countertop easily. I know, I do it all the time and it looks fab!
I hope you learned a lot from this post and enjoyed reading it! I’d love to hear your thoughts and what your experiences are like with your kitchen countertops, so please leave your comments below and remember to sign up for my newsletter to get more of my favs & expert tips!
My flush, 3" Caesarstone countertop design — Très Chic!