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November 26, 2010 > Real Space for Real People

Real Space for Real People

Look at maintenance and design style when selecting kitchen counters

In my last column, I wrote about planning for your kitchen remodel. This week, we'll talk about kitchen countertop materials. There are numerous options available, and each has advantages and disadvantages. Your lifestyle, cooking style, design style, and of course your budget, all will come into play when deciding on countertop materials.

Granite continues to be very popular for kitchen counters. It is durable, practical, beautiful and luxurious. Since it is a natural stone, each slab is unique, and the patterns and colors can vary greatly from piece to piece. The randomness of granite patterns and colors is one of the most appealing features of this material. It is easy to clean with an appropriate granite cleaner, and you must seal granite periodically to protect it from stains and water absorption. Generally speaking, the darker the granite, the more dense and water resistant it is. Granite prices run in the range of $50 to $100 per square foot installed, depending on the uniqueness of the stone and what type of edging you select. There are dozens of granite choices out there, so take your time browsing, but here are a few of my favorites: For a contemporary look, consider Black Galaxy (gorgeous black with copper flecks) or Labrador Antigua (rich brown with hints of blue.) For a more traditional look, try Crema Bordeaux (elegant burgundy colorations) or Juparana Fantastico (beautiful mixture of cream, brown, gold and silver.)

Marble is less stain-resistant and more porous than granite. However, with proper care, it can last for many years and is a beautiful choice. Think about the marble sculptures in Europe that have lasted for centuries! If you love to bake, consider a baking station with a marble countertop. Marble is reputed to stay chilled longer, making it advantageous for bakers. Marble is priced similarly to granite and also comes in a wide variety of colors and patterns. The classic White Carrara marble works well in both contemporary and traditional interiors.

Engineered Stone
Engineered stone, like Caesarstone and Zodiaq, is a man-made product composed of quartz glass and colored pebbles. It is very durable, impervious to water and stains, and does not need to be sealed. For those who like more uniform and consistent colors and patterns, engineered stone is a good choice. It works well with contemporary designs. Engineered stone is as expensive as granite and marble, so the decision to purchase it would be more about the maintenance and aesthetics rather than price.

Vetrazzo is the brand name for a man-made, environmentally friendly product made from 85% recycled glass. It is unique and beautiful, and comes in many colors, from earthtones to vibrant blues and greens. It is similar in durability and stain-resistance to granite and marble, and should be sealed periodically. Vetrazzo is priced similarly to engineered and natural stone, so choose it because you love the look and the fact that it is considered a "green" product. It is best suited to contemporary design styles.

If you are on a tight budget, laminate countertops are the way to go. They come in a wide variety of colors and patterns (some mimic the look of granite quite well!) and you also have a choice of edge details like bullnose and beveled edges. Laminate can scratch and is not heat resistant, but it is stain and water resistant. With proper care, laminate counters can last many years and serve you very well.

There are other options available as well, such as concrete, stainless steel, wood and tile. Depending on the look you want in your kitchen, your budget, and your maintenance requirements, the perfect countertop material is out there waiting for you.

Anna Jacoby of Anna Jacoby Interiors is a local interior designer. Send your design questions to her at Call or fax her at (510) 490-0379 or visit

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