Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Let's Talk Counters

Hello, friends!  I was planing on sharing a few cozy fall additions in our family room, but we've had a couple gray days with more in the forecast, which, as you know, doesn't bode well for interior photos.  Instead I'm going to attempt to walk you through the decision making process for our kitchen counters.   Hopefully, it will help others out there in the same conundrum.  I had hoped to have our new counters installed when I wrote this so I could vouch for my decision, but they are taking longer than I expected.  Hopefully, next week.  I'm praying, next week. Because without counters I don't have plumbing and a kitchen without plumbing is not easy to live with for a long period of time. This marks my third week in case you are counting.  :)

Before I begin, a BIG Disclaimer: I'M NOT AN EXPERT ON THIS SUBJECT!  This is just a collection of information I used to help me make a decision.  I'm sure others have had different experiences with the same materials.

When we first decided to redo the kitchen I was interested in butcher block counters.  I thought they would be a cost effective option that added warmth and suited the farmhouse style of our home.  However, my main concern was wear and tear.  I especially worried about the wood around the sink and potential warping over time.  I am admittedly not the world's most meticulous housekeeper, making me shy away from things that require additional upkeep or maintenance.  I considered using a different material on the counter shared with the sink and limiting butcher block to my island.  I like this look a lot, but my kitchen is very small and having multiple counter surfaces felt too busy.  Butcher block - out.

Then came Holly's visit.  She suggested soapstone.  Not really suggested, I think her words were "and you'll be using soapstone for the counters, right?"  To which I replied, "of course!" Ha Ha.  I LOVE the look of soapstone.  Again, it seemed perfectly suited to the style of our home and it reminded me of kitchens in New England. Soapstone is a soft, non-porous, highly durable, stone.  Meaning it will scratch and potentially chip. I happen to find the scratches and little imperfections part of soapstone's charm.  I know that is a deterrent for others.  It is impossible to permanently stain, but it can show marks that will wear off over time. Soapstone is typically oiled with mineral oil when installed and periodically thereafter.  The oiling is not for protection, rather for aesthetics, to show off the veining and to speed oxidation {the darkening process}.   Soapstone starts off a lighter gray and then darkens to a charcoal, almost black color over time.  Certain soapstone is more black and others more green.  There is natural white veining that can range from prominent to more subtle.  All soapstone for counters is now quarried in Brazil.

A few variations...
Majestic Soapstone

Hazel Eyes Soapstone

Brenton Brook Soapstone

I fell in LOVE with a sample at a design center that was the perfect dark gray with very subtle veining.  Unfortunately, it came from a quarry that had closed a year earlier.  I was crushed.  I was sent a large sample of a potential substitute soapstone.  I lived with the sample for a week and just didn't love it the way I had the other.  I tend to prefer soapstone un-oiled, but found it showed every fingerprint and smudge.  We put drinks and food on it and all left marks.  Marks that easily washed up, but I didn't want to be constantly wiping the counters down.  When oiled the sample looked greener than I wanted and the veining too pronounced.  Here are some examples of oiled vs. unoiled...

{this sample is lighter than what I would have wanted, but you see the difference the oil makes} 

{this is exactly the look I had wanted}

Click here for a gallery of good examples of soapstone counters.

Even with those concerns it wasn't until we had our lighting installed that I decided soapstone just wasn't going to be the right choice for our space.  Our tiny kitchen really needs lighter surfaces to reflect and bounce light around the room.  Dark, matte counters would absorb light.  This is the challenge of pinterest and magazines, you ultimately have to take into account not just the style of your home, but the amount of light, the layout, etc.  What might look gorgeous in another space isn't always the best choice for your own.  Soapstone - Out. Sniff. Sniff.

So, two options shot down, what's a girl to do?!! I was confident that light was the route to go.  I think marble looks beautiful, but I worry too much about staining.  My boys sit at our kitchen island all the time and spill and draw and who knows what else, on that counter. I think of the pile of lemons I found that Andrew had sliced directly on our counters to make fresh squeezed lemonade last summer, that sat there for several hours before I discovered the mess and how I might have reacted if that mess had been atop marble.  It would have been ugly my friends!!   I know that with time, stains, even the etching from acidic foods on marble, all add to a pretty patina, but, in the meantime, I would zero in on them and potentially regret the decision.  Sooooo....the look of marble without the worry...my searching lead me to quartz.  Quartz requires no sealing, no maintenance, is non-staining, non-scratching and heat resistant.  However...it is not a perfect marble substitute.  If you've forever lusted over marble this won't cut it.  But, if you want to get close to the look without the worry this may be worth checking out.  My favorite in the store was the Cambria Torquay, but my favorite at home was the Silestone in Lagoon.  I also brought home the Silestone Lyca which has more noticeable "veining" but to me it looked more unnatural under my lights. Here are some examples in other kitchens...


Cambria Torquay


Quarzite in White Macubus Calacutta {info on quartzite vs quartz here}




{taken with my phone}
Silestone Lagoon, Cambria Torquay


The above is the look I'm hoping to achieve with my counters.  A soft light gray, with no visible veining from a distance, that looks marble-esque.  Stay tuned to see how it actually turns out!! 

25 comments :

  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post! I could echo what you've written almost word for word. We haven't remodeled our kitchen -- yet! But we're discussing it, and counters are the most difficult choice. I started with wood also, loving its warmth and softness. Plus, I think it's a period-appropriate choice for our 1922 bungalow. But, I too am concerned about wear and staining. I also love marble but will avoid it for the exact reasons you list. Recently we settled on quartz. I love the Cambria Torquay you show in several photos. I think this is a great way to go. I am not a fan of granite in older homes, but I think quartz has less pattern and looks more "period" in an old house. Thanks so much for your recap and the photos!!

    Claudia

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  2. Wow! You sure did your homework. I have granite and love it...it's a pretty cream, brown, black and gray. I wish I had It had a lot of depth to it. I am realizing how blessed I was to get my kitchen done so fast. My contractor just happens to be my best friend's husband and he is truly talented. He did a great job of coordinating all of the jobs around when my appliances were to be installed. He did all of the tear out the day he installed the custom cabinets that he built! I have been drooling over all of the samples you have shown...you have excellent taste!

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  3. I love the look of marble of course my husband wanted granite or soapstone. In the end we chose the granite because of the our four children and because I had the same concerns as you do. I really love the Silestone Lagoon it looks so close to the marble. I think what ever you go with it will look lovely.

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  4. You made a lovely choice. I believe the picture showing the Cambria, Caesarstone and Corian samples side by side comes from the Little House Blog (http://aubreyandlindsay.blogspot.com/). I hope you consider crediting properly.

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    1. Thanks, Kate. I will check. I got the image from a Flicker account. I wasn't sure how to credit the pic.

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  5. I love all of your choices for your new kitchen...it's going to be cozy, warm, inviting...everything a kitchen should be! Beautiful!
    I can't wait to see how it all turns out. :)

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  6. Marble is my favorite but I know its expensive and harder to keep up with. We put soapstone and granite and i really love the soapstone, the granite is ok, but I keep dreaming about changing it out to white marble since i love soapstone and white marble together, i like mixing matierals.

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    1. There are a lot of people who wouldn't trade their marble for anything. I think when properly sealed and cared for marble does just fine. I agree, it is incredibly beautiful! I too love soapstone and marble together! Good luck!

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  7. I love marble, but would have the same concerns as you. I'm a messy, messy, cook and I would be so upset if I stained white marble counters. All the options you posted of marble look-a-likes look great! Can't wait to see the end result.

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  8. Woo hoo! I can't wait to see it all together. You picked a great choice, Tessa. I wondered if the sample of soapstone they gave you had been sealed? Maybe that is why the fingerprints, etc. Regardless, I think you were right in choosing after your lighting was installed because that totally changes everything. Have a great week!

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    1. E- i didn't think they put sealer on soapstone. just mineral oil, right? but yes, my sample was un-oiled so that's why the prints and smudges showed, but I had planned to keep them un-oiled and now I know why that isn't recommended. ha! :) you are lucky, you found great slabs for ur kitchen. i think I was a couple years too late! -T

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  9. You will be very, very pleased with your quartz! I, too, was considering marble. I like to think that I would be happy with the natural wear and staining, but I knew in my heart that I would not. I think the quartz with the marble look is fabulous. In the end, we chose Silestone Stellar Snow (not a marble look). I saw it installed in a beautiful home with cabinetry similiar to mine and it was love at first sight! The maintenance is minimal and I could not be happier.

    Sheila, from west Michigan

    P.S. I love all the other elements you've chosen for your kitchen...looking forward to seeing it all put together:)

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  10. Tessa,you're right. They don't seal them. I have a friend who also has soapstone and they look totally different from mine. They look more like granite for some reason. I think you're right. I did luck out with ours. We love them. Sometimes I do wish for a lighter surface, but don't tell my hubby.

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  11. I recently went through the exact same progression, yet ended up going with a granite because I needed a gold undertone to go with maple cabinets. I know, no one is using granite anymore, but we were thinking about putting our house on the market and granite is still hot in my neighborhood. Now we've decided to stay and I wish I'd gone with the quartz. In order to compromise with the Mr., I don't have my true farmhouse kitchen, but I'm quite happy. It finally feels like home.

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    1. I'm sure it's gorgeous! Granite is still the most popular natural stone counter here too!

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  12. I recently went through the exact same progression, yet ended up going with a granite because I needed a gold undertone to go with maple cabinets. I know, no one is using granite anymore, but we were thinking about putting our house on the market and granite is still hot in my neighborhood. Now we've decided to stay and I wish I'd gone with the quartz. In order to compromise with the Mr., I don't have my true farmhouse kitchen, but I'm quite happy. It finally feels like home.

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  13. Hi Tessa, I love your home! We redid our beach house last year and chose Silestone and love it. We liked a concrete counter that had oyster shells in it. Chose the Blanco Maple for its tabby look and incredible durability. It turned out so much prettier than we imagined, and we don't worry an iota! I agree with your thinking. Our kitchen redo is coming, I love marble but have loved the quartz. So great to see your process. Your choices and inspiration photo are beautiful. Have a great weekend, Robin

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  14. Thought you might be interested in this information that Chris just put on her blog on the 19th. http://chriskauffman.blogspot.com/
    I am in the process of doing my kitchen renovation too. LOTS of choices to make! I love soapstone and marble. I have 5 kids and I have marble in 2 of my bathrooms. I love it! It is beautiful! I did get a small stain on the marble in my bathroom. I wish I had known about the product Chris talks about when I installed mine 7 years ago.
    I can't wait to see your final product! So, exciting, but no fun to live with out a sink. Kathy

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    1. thanks for the link Kathy! it's good that there are a lot of different opinions and preferences out there on counters, especially marble. it's true though what she said, many of the nay sayers have likely never even lived with marble. maybe one day when i no longer have messy little peeps around me i will get the courage to try it! :)

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  15. You have beautiful ideas here. I was wondering what you have found to be the least expensive option for achieving that particular look. My husband are awaiting approval for an 1805 colonial that is a short sale and we will have to start the kitchen from scratch, but I love the look of the white/grey counters. I'd appreciate any info on the costs you've found with these counter options. Thanks so much, Keely

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    1. The most inexpensive would be the Corian. But I have found pricing to vary greatly on the region of the country you are in too. Granite was the next in terms of pricing. The Silestone {quartz} and Caesarstone {quartz} were priced comparably to Carrara marble which made me crazy. The Cambria {quartz} were the most expensive countertops I considered, at about $130/sq ft. All the quartz options were in the $100-130/sq ft price range. Hope that helps! Good luck with your new house purchase!!!

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  16. This is great information and I hope everything goes well with your counters. My friend Kristen at Cottage Modern did a post recently on a project she just completed where they did Cambria Fieldstone on the perimeter cabinets and Calcutta Gold on the island.

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  17. Liked your take on things. Did you consider concrete as an option? I am the editor of a countertop website, www.CountertopResource.com, and I keep hearing more and more about it. I wondered what your take was on it. Thanks again for sharing your thought process.

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  18. I typed in a long response but it disappeard when I clicked Preview.

    Just wanted to say.....I was in same boat as you and ended up doing Silestone Lagoon. I love my new tops! I also wanted something light, bright and cheerful...especially after having dark granite for 10 years in my last house. I've been a kitchen designer since 1983 and this was going to be my last house (hopefully), so I did MY DREAM KITCHEN finally. Here's a picture of it on Houzz.

    http://www.houzz.com/projects/289534/Vintage-White-Kitchen---Dayton-Ohio

    Credits: Design my ME: Kelly Zamonski, The Kitchen Place, Xenia, OH

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