Insider Solutions

Kitchen Design Begins with Countertops

We take counters for granted and don't realize the impact they have on us. Their colors, patterns and textures affect our feelings daily. Choosing the material is a decision based on style, function and cost, whereas the design decision is based on your preferences.

Taking this a step further, we coordinate our cabinets with our countertops. We might even match the walls and accessories with the color of the countertops. When I work with a client, we generally begin the design of the room by choosing the countertop. Your counters can be the most dramatic feature, as well as the choice that affects you the most.

For example, in the kitchen, you're constantly seeing the counter. You're surrounded by the mood-altering energy of the color and pattern. When choosing countertops, consider how they will be used and who will use them. Are there children at home? Do you want to use a cutting board? Do you want to put hot pots on the counters? Do uneven surfaces bother you?

Today you have a variety of choices:

  • Granite is the most expensive, one of the more durable and the most popular countertop choice today. Plus there are a multitude of colors to choose from.
  • Marble is beautiful but more porous, so it's more apt to stain than granite.
  • Corian and Avonite are man-made materials. They come in a variety of colors and are strong; however, you cannot cut on them.
  • Tile comes in many colors, is durable, and can take heat, but the grout is porous and is difficult to keep looking good. The surface may be more uneven. Vertically, hand-painted tiles can create beautiful and interesting designs on backsplashes.
  • Silestone, Ceasar stone and Avanza are also man-made materials using ground quartz and are more durable than granite.
  • Cement is smooth and heat resistant; however, it is porous, and can stain or crack as it cures.
  • Natural stone, which is honed until smooth, must be sealed. This creates a rustic and earthy look.
  • Stainless steel and/or stainless combined with copper are more sensitive to scratches, yet resistant to heat and stain. This look is often used in more contemporary-looking kitchens and can emphasize a theme with stainless appliances.
  • Laminates are less expensive and have the greatest amount of color and pattern choices. They are not resistant to heat or cutting.
  • Sold wooden is rich and elegant, and when sealed properly has a long life.

Once you've determined your material, you have to decide how the backsplash will look and how much of a backsplash you want. They can continue to the upper cabinets or they can be the standard 4 inches. You can use the same material as the countertop or introduce a new material such as tiles or mosaics. Combining materials creates your signature look.

Lighting changes the way your countertops look. When you have under-cabinet lighting, be it fluorescent or halogen, it will highlight the countertop material and emphasize the theme for the room. In the evening your counter tops could be the only glow in the room.

How do you make this difficult choice? Cost is a factor: Each material has a different price. Durability is your next consideration: How hard a surface do you need? And finally, consider what you want to look at every day.

Counters are there to serve you. And remember, rooms have no feelings, you do!

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