The Challenge of the Kitchen Counter

Why all the fuss over the countertop for something so fundamental in the kitchen?

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It is level. Its task is straightforward: to offer a spotless, level surface for preparing and presenting food. How hard could it really be to select the correct one? Turns out, fairly challenging.

To begin with, the cost: Your counter is either a huge or extremely substantial investment, depending on the material. And then there’s the presentation: The counter is a distinctive element that conveys personality in the modern kitchen, which is becoming the busier and more lively center of the house. Which kind of person is more daring—the shy minimalist who goes for pure white Corian, or the bolder one who chooses Arabescato marble with chaotic swirls?

What about upkeep? Some people will be more bothered by the tendency of certain materials to stain and scrape more readily than others.

According to Andrew Kotchen, a founding principal of Workshop/APD, a New York business that has built several kitchens for individual residences and condominium buildings, “the starting point is to understand how the space will really be used.” “We cater to both professional chefs and individuals who simply brew coffee in their kitchens,” he stated, pointing out that different people have rather varied expectations about the longevity of their worktops.

He stated, “We don’t choose a countertop in isolation” in regards to style. We consider the material’s relationship to the house’s overall design.

He said, adding to the complexity, that selecting the appropriate material is not the only issue. The way a countertop is constructed, including the seams, edge detail, and finish, may significantly change how a kitchen appears.

We sought advice from other designers and material suppliers, as well as from Mr. Kotchen, to streamline those choices and evaluate the available solutions.

Recognize Your Sources

A multitude of materials may be used to construct counters, and each has pros and cons. Right now, some of the most popular options are engineered stone like Caesarstone and Silestone, which are made of quartz and resin (often just called quartz), and natural marble.

The proprietor of ABC Stone in New York, which offers natural and engineered stone among other materials, Jonathan Tibett, claimed that “everyone loves marble, and the aesthetic of marble is what everyone’s chasing” with rival manufactured goods. “Marbles have a beautiful appearance, but they are not infallible.”

In particular, he claimed that “marble is calcium carbonate, and acids eat that calcium carbonate, which creates etching,” alluding to the chalky residue that foods like tomatoes and lemon juice leave behind over time. Additionally, marble is comparatively scratch-prone.

Engineered stone is more scratch-resistant and does not react with acids. For those who like the appearance of genuine stone, however, the trade-off is that, despite manufacturers’ best efforts, manufactured materials still don’t look as good.

According to Evan Nussbaum, a vice president of Stone Source, a nationwide material supplier with its headquarters located in New York that offers a variety of goods, including natural and manufactured stone, “there really isn’t better-looking material than the original that’s trying to be copied.”

Despite marble’s vulnerability to acid and abrasion, he said it’s still a good option. All buyers need to know is that it will eventually acquire a patina, which some may even find appealing.

“Natural stone will exhibit deterioration,” stated architect Gil Schafer of New York. However, he continued, “patina is the name of the game and right in sync with the spirit of the house” in many of his initiatives.

Another architect in New York, West Chin, compared the decision between engineered and natural stone to personal taste in jeans. “Like the flawless perfection of engineered stone, there are people who want their dark denim jeans to always look dark,” the speaker stated. “There are other materials that will show you’ve lived in the house and add character to the kitchen, if you like your jeans to wear and fade.”

Examine Natural Substitutes for Marble

If you adore marble’s appearance but are concerned about etching, you may want to check into alternative natural stone types, such as quartzite (which is not the same as quartz-based manufactured stone). Mr. Tibett stated that certain types are “resistant to acids and resistant to scratching,” but they also feature “patterning that is similar to marble.”

Mr. Nussbaum recommended looking at granite or soapstone if you desire a darker-colored natural stone. He also cautioned against choosing black marble for a kitchen counter. He said that because acid etching is light in color, it will be “way too visible” on black marble. Etching is not an issue when using soapstone and granite.

He said that because soapstone is softer than many other kinds of stone, it scratches quite readily. However, the benefit of its softness is that, for a fast fix, “you can buff it out with a Scotch-Brite pad.”

Examine Your Other Options

Robust, unbreakable artificial materials, such as massive porcelain slabs and sintered stone products like Lapitec, Neolith, and Dekton, are becoming more and more popular as alternatives to engineered stone composed of quartz.

Corian and other durable, solid-surface materials are still in demand and may be utilized to create a countertop that seems seamless.

Designers also always love wood and stainless steel, albeit both materials eventually tarnish.

Workshop/APD created a kitchen with stainless-steel counters for a chef’s home in Nantucket, Massachusetts, “because that was the only material he wanted to have,” according to Mr. Kotchen. “It’s incredibly hygienic and durable.”