While kitchen design still seems to favor clean and simple looks, countertops are one area where consumers are willing to make a splash. Far more than a place to perform practical tasks, these surfaces are increasingly being used as a focal point for the room. Unique materials, assorted textures and finishes, elaborate edge detailing, one-of-a kind stones and mixing surfaces can help define a particular style or theme, as well as enhance functionality.
The following kitchen projects just touch the surface of what’s being done by creative design professionals using everything from glass and granite to marble and wood.
Designer: Jill Dybdahl, Dybdahl’s Classic Kitchens, Middleton, WI
Materials used: ThinkGlass with circular glass inset (island); Verde Butterfly granite (perimeter)
Desired look: Since the kitchen can be seen from the foyer, the homeowner wanted a spectacular raised countertop
Challenges: Justification of the cost of the glass countertop
Achieving the look: “This kitchen is part of a whole-house remodel of a ranch home,” says Dybdahl. “The homeowners loved the location and the lot, but the home needed an update. We gutted everything except the bedrooms, and even moved the stairwell. As the project evolved and as we were moving walls and opening up spaces, we realized that as you come into the foyer you can look all the way across the hall, through the family room, beyond the new stairwell and into the kitchen. Because of that, I feel the client was driven to make the raised countertop spectacular.
“The ThinkGlass countertop is perfect in this application. The angled design allows family members to see who they’re dining with. And the circular mosaic inset is a piece of art that is functional as well as beautiful, set off by the Verde Butterfly granite and custom walnut cabinetry. Although my clients were hesitant at first to spend the money, every time I see them, they tell me they can’t believe they questioned using the glass. They say it’s their favorite part of the remodel.
“This glass countertop is not a trend. It’s a work of art that’s timeless. I’ve used it in a lot of settings where I’ve successfully mixed it with traditional as well as contemporary designs.”
Designer: Cheryl Hamilton-Gray, CKD, Hamilton-Gray Design, Carlsbad, CA
Materials used: Calypso Gold granite with chiseled edge (island); Calypso Gold granite with handmade tile edging (perimeter); Carrera marble; solid maple butcher block
Desired look: Hacienda-themed kitchen with rustic/Mexican overtones
Challenges: Maintaining authenticity of the project with a well-worn appeal; matching kitchen tasks to the most suitable surface materials
Achieving the look: “From the beginning, my client didn’t want a countertop with a sophisticated, complicated ogee reverse edge done by a machine,” says Hamilton-Gray. “Although she wanted a solid surface slab, and granite was a natural choice because it’s maintenance-free, she didn’t want a stone edge, so the perimeter countertops are edged with a contrasting, handmade, glazed tile. The island, which was thickened to about 2.25", features a chiseled edge to give it a rustic feel.
“Additional countertops include a solid maple, custom butcher block at one end of the island that looks like antique furniture. We sanded an area in the middle to simulate the appearance of an old butcher block with indentations from years of use. At the other end, we added a custom furniture piece, topped with marble. We lowered the level so she can roll dough on it. To keep it from looking too slick or too contemporary, we added a wood edge.
“This kitchen stands out in its uniqueness because it’s a theme kitchen, and these countertops enhance the design to suit that theme and the period.”
Designer (countertop): Michelle Goetzinger, Blume’s Solid Surface Products, Freeport, PA
Materials used: Verde Labrador granite with an antique finish (perimeter); Black Mosaic sedimentary stone with a polished finish (island)
Desired look: A unique island that would express the homeowner’s artistic personality while adding warmth to the room; focal-point piece; work of art
Challenges: Finding two different materials that would complement each other
Achieving the look: “Unique stones are coming more into play as homeowners desire a look that’s all their own,” says Goetzinger. “These homeowners wanted something that no one else has. This particular piece is unique because it is a sedimentary stone made up of a combination of many different types of stone, including quartz, mica, granite, etc. I have all six slabs from the bundle and none of them look the same.
“And although it is fully polished, because the piece contains a lot of basalt and calcite, it doesn’t shine as highly as some other stones we carry, such as Absolute Black. That was one factor that complemented the granite perimeter’s antique finish. Our customers, including this homeowner, seem to want materials that are more tactile rather than highly polished. Honed finishes just aren’t as sterile looking. Adding the antique finish to this Verde Labrador granite draws you in. You just want to touch it.
“Overall, people are moving away from cookie-cutter trends. They’re looking for something different. And they aren’t afraid to use color, to use different textures. This kitchen with these countertops is a perfect example.”
Designer: Ojini Arzoumanian, NKBA, Allied ASID, Principle Design & Construction, Irvine, CA
Materials used: Calcutta marble (island and perimeter); walnut with Durata permanent finish (peninsula island)
Desired look: Transitional theme with clean lines and traditional moulding; contrasting white cabinetry with dark flooring and peninsula countertop
Challenges: Ensuring a complementary match between the island cabinetry custom-built in California with the walnut countertop from Grothouse Lumber in Pennsylvania
Achieving the look: “This kitchen was a big project, with a layout completely different from the original floor plan,” says Arzoumanian.
“We used Calcutta marble on the island and perimeter, with a walnut top at the eating counter. While you don’t see marble countertops in every kitchen, it keeps a space light, fresh and inviting. I wanted to have the lightness of the marble without having too much contrast from the countertops to the cabinets.
“The walnut peninsula counter has more of a bar appeal, but it’s also an eating counter. My client likes the light cabinetry, but I wanted to tie in some warmth instead of having everything white, especially with the marble. They had some existing red grasscloth wallpaper in the dining area. And the brick on the stove hood, which is vintage brick imported from an old house in Spain, has some warmth in it, too. The dark walnut balances the space and harmonizes the colors so they all come together. It’s a key element for tying everything together.”