Cabinetry often garners the greatest ‘glamour’ status in a kitchen since it’s such a sizable element within the space. However, the 2022 Houzz online survey shows homeowners are placing greater importance on their countertops and are finding more room in their budgets to prioritize them.
While quartz and granite took top honors in popularity in the survey, they are far from the only options. Given the array of choices available, it’s relatively easy – as well as fun – to find just the right countertop surface that offers the best balance of aesthetics and function.
This month, KBDN highlights a collection of kitchen projects featuring a variety of surfacing materials that seamlessly perform and ‘wow’. ▪
Selah Ewert, senior interior designer
Norman Building & Design — Bend, OR
Brazilian Fossil quartzite (island)
Silestone White Zeus Extreme quartz (perimeter)
The slab of Brazilian Fossil quartzite had been sitting, not so quietly, in a local stone yard when Selah Ewert discovered its beauty, immediately recognizing that it would be the perfect focal point for the renovation of her clients’ contemporary kitchen.
“They wanted something that was striking…that would make the island a showpiece,” she says.
Having already selected a neutral quartz, Silestone’s White Zeus Extreme, for the perimeter, the designer had the flexibility to go bold for the island.
“This quartzite is such a unique piece,” she continues. “I’ve never seen a natural stone that has such dramatic geometric patterning.”
Given its distinctive design, Ewert further highlighted its drama with a waterfall edge detail on each end of the island.
“When my clients walk throughout adjacent areas of their home, the waterfall edge is directly facing them,” she explains.
The quartzite’s bold coloration and organic vibe also influenced other design selections made during the renovation, such as the inclusion of the Anigre wood cabinets, the backsplash and the fireplace surround in the adjacent den.
“Their previous cabinets were painted white,” she explains. “Initially we weren’t sure if we were going to replace them, but when we selected this slab, we knew we had to bring in some more natural elements to create a more cohesive design.”
Cameron Weaver, owner
Weaver Construction — Kent, WA
Soapstone (island, perimeter)
This home hadn’t been lived in for years, and its condition reflected that abandonment. Most potential buyers planned to tear it down and build a new modern residence in its place. Thankfully, the eventual homeowner chose to restore it and pay tribute to its original architect, Fred Bassetti, who is well-known in the Seattle area and Pacific Northwest for his residential and commercial design.
“It was a fun project to work on,” says Cameron Weaver. “Although the home was in disrepair, we were able to keep some original architecture, and we even reused some original fixtures and cabinets.”
Maintaining the home’s original Mid Century Modern design was important to the renovation and, as such, Weaver included a cedar tongue-and-groove ceiling throughout the home. In the kitchen, it helps to warm up an abundance of black and white elements. The former is represented in large part by the soapstone that is used as the countertop surface for the island and perimeter.
“I’ve used soapstone in other projects,” he says, “but this particular slab is entirely unique, with hints of blue, flecks of gold – which coordinate with the brushed gold fixtures and hardware – and bursts of light and dark ‘clouds’ that give it movement. I knew it was a special piece as soon as I saw it.”
Oiling the natural stone deepens its color so it more closely matches the window trim while contrasting more boldly with the white cabinetry and tile used as the backsplash beneath the window and as the island façade. Adding a waterfall edge detail on each end further showcases the stone’s natural beauty.
Barbi Stalburg Kasoff, owner
Stalburg Design — Birmingham, MI
Enigma Spyder quartz (island, perimeter)
Given this kitchen’s gray perimeter cabinetry and gray backsplash, Barbi Stalburg Kasoff acknowledges that its mood could have easily gone too minimalist and stark without the right countertop choice – i.e., the Enigma Spyder quartz – to bring it back to the ‘warm’ side.
“A gray countertop with blue undertones would have made the entire room look cool,” says the designer, who worked with Maison Birmingham for the cabinetry selections. “But this dark, earthy countertop – combined with the black pendant lights and custom green island cabinetry – makes it feel more homey and less sterile. There are several different types of black, but this countertop is more red-based with a warmer vibe that offsets the gray cabinets and lighter gray backsplash nicely.”
The warm, natural look of the countertop also helps make the kitchen feel family-friendly, she indicates, adding, “like a space that can easily hold up to cooking, entertaining and family art projects.”
The Spyder colorway also contains flecks of gold, which coordinate with the gold-lined pendants suspended above the island.
“The gold adds one more layer, one more element,” says Kasoff. “When you mix several layers of materials, such as in this kitchen with the painted cabinetry, metal pendant lights, reclaimed wood shelves and beams and this earthy quartz, the space feels richer.
“Overall, we wanted to create a kitchen that emulates the vibe of the family…casual, yet sophisticated…a bit industrial, but clean and modern,” she continues. “And these countertops lend just the right touch with their depth and tonal variety, and enough boldness to play against the dark green cabinetry.”
Valerie Helgeson, owner/designer/general contractor
Design Directions — Oklahoma City, OK
Metro Quartz Unique Calacatta quartz (island, perimeter)
The previous kitchen in this 1920’s bungalow didn’t fit the home’s architecture or the residents’ needs, so when it came time for a renovation, Valerie Helgeson made sure to address both failures.
“The home needed updating,” she says. “But in doing so, we wanted to make sure to keep the spirit of the home alive.”
To start, she took down walls to create an open environment between the kitchen, dining room and living room, then filled them with new materials – including the marble-look Metro Quartz Unique Calacatta quartz countertops – that reflect a timeless design style.
“Marble has been used for centuries in kitchens,” she says, “and although it probably wasn’t originally used in this kitchen, it could have been, so the look fits the period.”
While the quartz with its subtle veining mimics its natural stone inspiration, choosing the engineered surface fulfilled her clients’ wishes for a durable and stain-resistant material. Helgeson also shaped the island with an arched edge to better accommodate seating – i.e., more elbow room for guests – and to eliminate sharp edges for young grandchildren moving throughout the space.
“This quartz really checked all the boxes,” she says, noting that it coordinates perfectly with other special elements such as the Dutch door, white oak accents, original brick vent stack and simple backsplash tile. “Choosing the right countertop is an important part of the overall look of the kitchen. It’s equally as important as the color choice of the cabinets, which in this case, is a custom green that adds warmth and, like the countertops, is true to the period of the home.”
Nar Bustamante, president/founder
Nar Design Group — Sacramento, CA
Cosentino Dekton Rem (island, perimeter)
Multiple oversized windows in this indoor kitchen allow an abundance of natural light to flow into the space, making it feel as if it’s actually outdoors. Coupled with their south and west orientations, Nar Bustamante knew he needed materials and finishes that would offer strong UV protection, such as what is provided by Cosentino’s Dekton ultracompact surface material that serves as the countertop for the island and perimeter.
“A massive amount of light comes into this kitchen,” he says. “It’s essentially an outdoor space…it has that quality of light…so we needed a material that wouldn’t discolor.”
Bustamante chose to use Rem, which features subtle veining that replicates inspirational Calacatta Lincoln.
“It has soft, subtle lines and an organic base,” he says. “It isn’t too brilliant of a white, which offers a tad bit of interest against the white cabinetry.”
Bustamante also appreciates the surface’s suede finish.
“It isn’t reflective, which I love,” he says. “There is a lot of glare coming in from the windows, which, with a brilliant finish, would have made the kitchen difficult to work in. The suede finish mellows out the light, including the light from the recessed cans.”
Bustamante maintained the material’s thin profile and accentuated its edge with a polished finish.
“We tend to do a lot of sculpting with countertops, oftentimes including waterfalls,” he says. “But in this kitchen, we kept a thin profile and polished the edge to give it a brilliance…like the cabinets. It creates a wonderful play on texture and sheen.”
Bustamante added Dekton products in several additional areas of the home, including in an adjacent wine bar, which features Kelya. Its leathered finish gives the space a loungey, moody feel, he indicates.
“And, given the material’s stain resistance, our clients don’t have to worry about stains from spills,” he says.
Reid Brawner, founder
Fit Architecture — Milton, GA
Neolith Calacatta Luxe sintered stone (island, perimeter)
With its striking striations of grays, blues, browns and golds, Neolith’s Calacatta Luxe sintered stone replicates some of the world’s most sought-after marbles, including its inspirational Calacatta Crema and Calacatta Oro. In fact, it’s the dramatic and dark veining that drew Reid Brawner and his wife, lifestyle blogger Shalice Noel, to use the material for their countertop surfaces when they renovated their own home.
“It also marries the traditional essence of our home, while the monolithic forms of the waterfall island and floating shelves give a touch of modernity to the space,” says Noel, who, with the renovation of their home has found a passion for interior design.
The sintered stone’s polished finish promotes a sense of luxury while keeping it easy to wipe clean, an important consideration for their large, active family.
“The space also has natural light coming in from the eating area and keeping room so the reflective qualities of the polished finish allow for natural light to fill the space,” adds Brawner.
With a foundation of transitional modern, the husband/wife team kept the space light and airy, paying particular attention to the existing range hood. Its colorway ties into the background of the stone, while accents throughout the kitchen reference the stone’s veining.
“We minimized the hood’s appearance by painting the walls, trim and cabinetry white,” says Noel, noting the use of Benjamin Moore’s Simply White and White dove. “We also added gold accents with the sink faucet and door hardware, with antique mirror tiles behind the cooktop.”
Jessica Pleasants, project director
Okan Oncel, architect/AIA
POP Architecture — New York, NY
Stainless steel (island, bar)
Glassos crystallized glass (perimeter)
Located in the West End-Collegiate Historic District Extension in Manhattan, this apartment was in need of a complete renovation when Jessica Pleasants’ and Okan Oncel’s clients purchased it. Working in collaboration with Godwin Residential Construction (general contractor), the team made spatial changes that enhanced the living areas and selected finishes that spoke to the building’s heritage, such as herringbone oak flooring, black-and-white bathrooms and simple and elegant paneling, trim and moldings that are sprinkled throughout the residence.
In the kitchen, unlacquered brass plumbing fixtures and cabinetry hardware also offer a nod, as do the matching brass rivets that add warmth to the stainless steel countertops on the island as well as the bar in an ancillary part of the kitchen.
“Our client loved the idea of the stainless steel,” says Pleasants, who worked as project manager for this remodel. “She wanted materials that were durable and easy to clean, and that would look good with wear and tear. While stainless steel won’t tarnish or patina, it does have a ‘memory’ and she expects that it will get marked up with use.”
While the designers typically use a singular countertop material throughout a space, these clients wanted a mix of surfaces and selected Glassos crystallized glass for the perimeter and backsplash that flanks the range.
“Mixing materials adds a lot of depth and visual interest to the space,” adds Oncel. “It’s less static, and the kitchen feels as if elements have been added organically over time.”
The glass, like the stainless steel, is durable and easy to clean, indicates Pleasants. Plus, it offers an advantage of uniformity.
“It has a pure white property and it’s very consistent, without any veining,” says Pleasants. “Overall, the kitchen is very inviting, with a lot of depth and visual interest, with countertop surfaces that are consistent, without being distracting.”
Jenny Roush Newman, designer
West End Cabinet Company
Curava Savaii (island, perimeter)
Having grown weary of the white thermofoil cabinets in their previous kitchen, Jenny Roush Newman’s clients were eager to incorporate an updated color palette that would support a light, airy and inviting design theme for their renovated kitchen. To accommodate, the designer suggested a timeless light gray stain that now sheaths the quartersawn oak cabinetry throughout the space.
As a complement, she also proposed a coastal design theme to help guide additional material selections, including the Curava Savaii recycled glass countertops for the island and perimeter.
“I’m not sure it can get any more special in a coastal-inspired space than to use recycled glass with seashells,” she says.
Newman also indicates that the color palette in Savaii – which draws its name from Samoa’s largest island – helps to ‘soften’ the horizontal surfaces, while its natural color complements the Sherwin-Williams’ Fleur De Sel painted walls and Bedrosians Cloe White subway tile backsplash. Embedded flecks of golden seashells and clear glass also help conceal the realities of daily life.
“The installation of the glass went super smooth,” she indicates. “The only challenge the homeowners face is that crumbs, dust, drink rings, etc. get lost in the assortment of glass and shells. I can also speak to this ‘dilemma,’ since I have this same surface as my work desk and I have a hard time finding paper clips!”
Courtney Kizer, principal architect
Architectural Squared — Moab, UT
Custom walnut (island)
Caesarstone Ocean Foam quartz (island, perimeter)
There was a time during the design phase of this kitchen where a column near the island was needed for structural support. However, with the addition of a laminated beam that spans the length of the entire room, the design team was able to remove it, making it possible to emphasize the island and include the walnut accent that now wraps the corner.
“That decision was the ‘make’ moment for the space,” says Courtney Kizer, who worked in collaboration with Rosy Hanby, interior designer, Moonraker Collective. Other contributors to the project included Architectural Squared’s Laurielle Shannon (associate interior designer), Westside Woodworks (woodworker) and Dave Sadoff (contractor).
“Eliminating that column gave us the ability to include the beautiful custom-made walnut wrap,” she continues. “It adds a unique flair and highlights the central axis of the kitchen where the structural elements above and the family all come together.”
The inclusion of Caesarstone’s Ocean Foam quartz for the perimeter and main working surface within the island maintains a clean neutrality that accentuates the walnut, as well as a variety of wood elements, the custom-patterned backsplash and accent colors used throughout the space.
“Our clients wanted the warmth of wood, along with a splash of something playful,” says Kizer, adding that the former is represented by not only the island, but also the bespoke tambour countertop cabinet for appliances. The latter is represented by the island façade and the playful, multi-toned green backsplash. “The family spends a good deal of time on the Baja peninsula and they wanted to channel the design flavor of the region by combining bright walls and light wood tones with colorful accents.”
Michelle Krochmal, AIA, owner
Filament Architecture Studio — Brooklyn, NY
Wilsonart Blackbird laminate (perimeter)
Michelle Krochmal credits her client, a set designer, with an amazing sense of style and knowledge of what she wanted for her renovated kitchen.
“She absolutely loves vintage kitchens, especially those from the ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s,” she says.
Given that preference, laminate relatively quickly soared to the top of her countertop material choice list.
“It offers a vintage look that is authentic to the style she was looking for,” Krochmal explains, adding that it fits right in with her client’s enamel-topped dining table, green Jadeite dish collection (which reflects the colors of the backyard) and restored/rebuilt vintage stove. “The laminate is appropriate for her kitchen.”
Choosing a dark colorway, specifically Blackbird, grounds the kitchen and coordinates with the checkboard flooring. The high-pressure laminate’s premium Leno Weave finish, with random intersecting horizontal and vertical lines, adds depth and interest, and helps hide fingerprints and crumbs.
Krochmal also included a metal trim detail, fabricated by New York Metal.
“The metal edge, instead of a mitered edge with a laminate face, maintains the historic authenticity of the kitchen,” she explains. “Laminate may not be as popular as other countertop material choices, but it does offer a lot of opportunities to express a person’s individuality. I love supporting my clients and creating interesting and unique projects. And this kitchen called for an often-overlooked material that has historical significance to the space, and adds a bit of fun.”
Alberthe Buabeng, founder
Albie Knows — Tacoma, WA
Formica Bleached Concrete Everform solid surface (perimeters)
The countertop surfaces in Alberthe Buabeng’s own home are tasked with doing much more than just meal prep and other traditional kitchen functions.
“Because the kitchen is a galley layout, we pass through it often to get to the dining room, backyard and main hallway of the house,” she explains. “That means the kitchen is often where we also open packages, water herbs and have morning meetings before the mini wakes up. Having so much counter space, it’s also nice to be able to just sit on the counter and enjoy the view!”
With those job functions in mind, as she started researching materials for her own kitchen renovation, she wanted something that was durable, long lasting, low maintenance…and good looking. Ultimately, she opted for Formica’s Everform solid surface.
“We wanted a surface that could handle our everyday lifestyle,” Buabeng says. “Solid surface was an attractive option for us because of the [minimal] long-term maintenance. It offered the exact sweet spot we were looking for…a clean, luxe surface that could handle our family’s usage. With this material, we wouldn’t have to work too hard to keep our counters clean and intact.”
Choosing a neutral colorway, i.e., Bleached Concrete, also satisfies the design vibe she was seeking, which included a black and white design, accented with warm wood finishes.
“Key priorities were creating a design that matched our design ethos while still maintaining the innate charm of the space,” she says. “I wanted the aesthetic to be neutral and minimal, while still feeling luxe and cozy.”