Countertop Inspiration

Countertops can help set the tone for an entire space…whether it’s modern/contemporary, traditional or somewhere in between. And when it comes to inspiration, material selection alone can provide nearly limitless opportunities with everything from natural stone, such as granite and marble, to solid surfaces to wood, glass and recycled materials changing up the look. Coupled with design elements such as waterfall edges, interesting angles, LED lighting, etc., no two countertops may ever look the same.

This month, Kitchen & Bath Design News spoke with several designers whose kitchen projects can serve as inspiration for your next project.


Designer: Troy Adams, principal, Troy Adams Design, Los Angeles, CA

Materials used: Caviar Pyrolave glazed lava stone (tabletop); Pebble Caesarstone (island and perimeter)

Desired look: Criteria for the high-rise condo in Hollywood was a black, white and gray theme: muted, soft materials in the gray tones with black and white for the more stark elements.

Challenges: Space was at a premium. The 5' square raised peninsula table – which is anchored to the island – serves as the dining table for the entire unit, saving valuable floor space and eliminating the need for a second eating area. It also serves as a centerpiece for the space, positioned between the living room and kitchen.

Achieving the look: “We wanted a jewel element, something with sparkle and character, with a bit of organic appeal,” he says. “The lava stone is perfect as this centerpiece. It is also very durable and easy to maintain, with a stain- and scratch-resistant surface that will maintain its glossy finish.

“Combining the lava stone with the Caesarstone allows the lava stone to stand out. I refer to it as a piece of jewelry. If you wear the same piece of jewelry on each finger and hand, nothing stands out. Adding the Caesarstone became a way to introduce another material, in a solid color, mixing it into the palette. It serves as a muted backdrop to make the lava stone pop for added drama.

“Adding a waterfall effect to the sides as well as the back of the island (as it faces the living room) gives it a geometric form. We wanted it to look like a block of Caesarstone to anchor the lava stone.”

Most creative aspect: Material selection, as well as the ability to get the lava stone as one piece in a slab, adds a creative element to the space, according to Adams. “The lava stone gives us the ability to design with a porcelain type of finish in a slab form,” he says.


Designer: Elina Katsioula-Beall, designer, DeWitt Designer Kitchens, Inc., Pasadena, CA

Materials used: 1-1/2" ThinkGlass accented with violet lighting (raised island); Lavender Mist granite (perimeter and island); butcher block (perimeter insets)

Desired look: Katsioula-Beall’s client came into a meeting wearing an amethyst ring, set in silver and surrounded by black onyx, exclaiming, “This is it! The color of my new kitchen!” That gemstone ring became the color palette, which consists of lavender, purple, black and graphite, as well as the inspiration for the glass countertop, which replicates her favorite gemstone.

Challenges: The space was a little too narrow to fit a wide island as well as full-depth cabinetry on both long walls, so Katsioula-Beall reduced the cabinetry depth on one side and introduced mid-high pantries with a mosaic mural above. These modifications allowed for a larger island, and facilitated the client’s request for easier-to-reach storage.

Achieving the look: A high-output RGB multi-color lighting strip, concealed behind a metal channel, is always set on a purple color. “It radiates through the glass counter to enrich the kitchen,” she explains.

Set on its own dimmer switch, the lights can be dimmed to the desired output. An additional remote-controlled, color-changer wheel device can adjust the purple hue from a lighter to a darker tone, giving the counter a distinctive look according to the mood. The full-color, rainbow spectrum is included, with a slight turn of the wheel to a desired setting.

Most creative aspect: The L-shaped, minimally raised separation between the prep area and the eating area is accented by two different materials: granite for the prep area and glass for the eating area. The glass counter is raised 1-1/2" to further define the separation and to feature a thin metal channel on its inner edge.


Designer: Jereme Smith, ALA, Design Insight, Prospect Heights, IL

Materials used: Palladian Gray (with a 15% increase in blue/green glass) Vetrazzo recycled glass (installed by Midwest Fabrication)

Desired look: A goal with the new layout was to stretch and link spaces within the home. “The counters helped in this regard as they wrapped the cabinetry and continued into other spaces, pulling one space into another,” says Smith. “We also improved the aesthetics and function of the home by overlapping and connecting rooms, such as the kitchen to the foyer and the eating area to the family room.”

Challenges: The original floor plan consisted of a tight layout of four medium to small rooms with many doors and/or encasements. One of Smith’s first moves was to eliminate these obstacles, as well as a central dividing wall that was replaced by a 10' beam, which in turn allowed for a generous island/breakfast bar.

Achieving the look: “The uniqueness of the Vetrazzo glass is best seen in person,” Smith notes. “Throughout the day, the south and west facing windows allow amazing natural light to animate the counter. It sparkles and reflects differently all day…usually revealing a new glimmer at every visit!”

Most creative aspect: “The most innovative component of these countertops is the subtle angles, in conjunction with the vertical waterfall elements,” he notes. “The five-degree angle originated right away in the schematic sketches. It stemmed from the entry to make circulation as effortless as possible. It’s also seen with the island – and cabinetry – as it swells into the family room, then tapers back as a shallow counter. This technique doesn’t necessarily add space as its main goal. The idea is that it works as efficiently with the existing space as possible while aiding flow/functional storage. For instance, in lieu of a rectangular closet in the foyer, we have an altered trapezoid. This borrows the formerly unused triangle of space, for deeper storage, then recedes back toward the entry for front door traffic (coming and going). It was certainly a custom labor of love, but the clients are very happy with how the architecture fits them, and not the other way around.”


Designer: Kathryn O’Donovan, designer, Normandy Remodeling, Hinsdale, IL

Materials used: Calcutta Gold honed marble (island); end-grain Black Walnut (island); Mother of Pearl quartzite (perimeter)

Desired look: The kitchen was designed for two avid chefs who wanted to use the kitchen efficiently at the same time.

Challenges: The gentleman of the home is a culinarian who loves to cook Italian and French dishes, which include many sauces prepared on the cooktop. His ‘want’ list included a 60" professional range, easy-to-clean materials, a commercial kitchen look and Calcutta marble. The lady of the home, also an accomplished cook, focused on a pleasing and inviting aesthetic where she could entertain family and friends.

“The challenges I had were to incorporate the wish lists of both homeowners in a thoughtful and purposeful manner,” she says. “I set about marrying their wishes by creating zones defined by the variety of countertop materials.”

Achieving the look: O’Donovan created preparation, cooking, cleaning and entertaining zones, choosing countertop materials appropriate for each. While the homeowners initially desired all surfaces be Calcutta marble, the designer encouraged them to consider other materials in the cleaning, prep and cooking zones due to marble’s porousness.

“We decided on using Madre Perla quartzite in these zones, not just for the beauty of the stone, but also for its density, which minimizes concerns about porosity. With these properties in mind, the quartzite was also a perfect material for the backsplash behind the range.”

The island was designed as the entertaining zone, which would be the safest zone for the marble. Since the island end near the range is a high-traffic area for food preparation, O’Donovan opted for an end-grain walnut chopping block counter.

Most creative aspect: The designer carried the quartzite from the countertop onto the backsplash behind the range. “I didn’t want it to be a slab of stone applied to a wall,” she says. “I wanted to give it some pizazz, so I layered the stone and applied a ‘frame’ detail to emphasize the focal point.

“I also love the 3cm marble intersecting into the 5cm walnut top with a rabbited edge. One fits into the other like a glove.”


Designer: Mark Williams, Mark Williams Design Associates, Atlanta, GA

Materials used: Blanco City Silestone

Desired look: The homeowners wanted a calm, simple palette with minimal contrast. The Blanco City Silestone blends harmoniously with the walnut cabinets and chestnut brown limestone flooring to create a sophisticated space that offers a casual ‘entertain-in’ kitchen that doesn’t interrupt the dressy nature of the adjacent living/dining space.

The slim, 2cm thickness of the Silestone also exudes a European influence, which reiterates the simplicity of the design. “In the overall context of the renovation, it makes sense,” he says. “We didn’t want the kitchen to be too busy or overdone because we wanted it to visually integrate into the rest of the space.”

Challenges: The kitchen is part of a renovation of a 1970s high-rise tower. “Older buildings, especially older high-rises, always have challenges,” he notes. “The way people lived then is so different than the way people live now. The open kitchen concept was unheard of when this condo was built.”

Achieving the look: Williams knocked down a wall to make room for the island, which extends into the previous dining space (which was combined with the living area in the new layout). “The final layout was a ‘wildcard’ design that was completely different than the homeowners’ initial plans,” says Williams. “They liked this plan’s openness and the ability to entertain around the island.”

The large island – about 5'x9' – is substantial in terms of its presence in the space, he notes. “The island creates a nice place for everyone to gather. The antimicrobial aspects of the Silestone, along with its stain and scratch resistance, also help keep the kitchen clean,” he states.

Most creative aspect: Williams recessed the cooktop so its surface is completely flush with the surface of the countertop. “The island is essentially a large table that people gather around,” he says. “If the homeowners are having an event where they aren’t cooking dinner, that area becomes an extension of the tabletop. The controls are integrated into the glass surface and there are no control knobs.”