First you should know I’m not a cookie cutter type of gal. I don’t want my home to look like every other home on the block. Same colors, same tile floors, same countertops and even the same cabinets. No, not for me. I much prefer dynamic design and personality…my personality, not contractors choice! So I’m always on the hunt for materials and colors, new or old, that can be incorporated into a very personal design for myself as well as my clients. This brings me to the subject of countertops and the element that is perhaps the most cookie cutter of all? Granite.
Back in the fifties, laminate was the “trend” for kitchens. Fast forward 20 or so years and everybody I mean everybody has some kind of stone or tile in their kitchens. Almost as if it was the only choice on the planet. Admittedly these surfaces are pretty much low maintenance for kitchens, but If you take a look around Houzz or Pinterest even great designers are relying on the same dull, boring brown granite! Why? How about a little design change this millennium? Even more importantly why aren’t more designers specifying new and different materials? Perhaps it’s the clients that can’t think outside of the proverbial granite box? I’m not sure, but so begins the hunt for change!
One of the most obvious alternatives would be the wood countertop. Yes, I know that it would appear to be a maintenance nightmare but on second look that might not be the case. Depending on how you use your kitchen, wood could be a fantastic surface. Some people don’t mind a wood surface that looks (lovingly) used to prepare food. In fact, they love it! Think vintage French kitchen. After a little investigation I concluded that wood is actually very versatile if maintained properly. Wood creates a warm, cozy kitchen. One you want to stay in and hang out.
Several years back I designed a countertop for a client that was made from wood cleared from his own property. It was crafted and installed by his carpenter and it worked out beautifully. The client was a professional chef and this was definitely a chefs kitchen!
Second on my list is Pyrolave, a glazed lave stone. “Extracted from the Nugere crater at the heart of Auvergne’s volcanoes, Volvic lava, this consistent and dense stone has exceptional qualities created by time. The extremely resistant blocks are extracted by hand from open-air quarry. They are then cut into slabs, processed and glazed.”
I love the colors it comes in and looks like one large ceramic tile! No grout lines, just pure color!
The next alternative is concrete. Now concrete can also have a very cold hard feel to it if left its natural color but the color and context (as in everything) can make a huge difference and makes this #3 on my list of alternatives to granite. This is also a DIY project for the very brave. You don’t necessarily need a professional fabricator for this project but you will need a few friends. http://www.concretecountertopinstitute.com/ Concrete countertops can be highly customized with stones, glass, wood and other materials that can be imbedded into the surface. While the surface itself is quite durable, it is susceptible to staining from acidic foods so regular care and maintenance are required.
Next on the list is Caesarstone. I’ve used this product in many designs including our color bar in my own store. It’s very versatile and the color selection is large. This product is created through a manufacturing process that mixes approximately 95% ground natural quartz with 5% polymer resins. The result is a super-hard, low-maintenance, natural-looking countertop.
“Caesarstone quartz surfaces are the ultimate combination of nature and technology. Non-porous, scratch resistant and highly resistant to stains, Caesarstone retains its beauty without sealants or waxes and is almost maintenance-free. Ideal for any interior space, Caesarstone stone surfaces have four times the flexural strength and double the impact resistance of granite while impressively outperforming marble.” The also have a cool visualizer where you can try out all the colors! .
Recycled glass is one of my personal favorites. Besides being very versatile it gives the room an ethereal quality. The color and translucence of glass reminds one of a tropical island and crystal blue water. Glass comes in many forms and colors so it is a designers dream when a client is adventurous enough to choose glass for their project!
Ice Stone is made from three core ingredients: 100% recycled glass, portland cement, and pigment. This simple recipe makes IceStone® the world’s safest, most sustainable durable surface.