One of my favorite parts of a kitchen or bathroom design is selecting countertop material. When I first began my career a decade ago, I chose granite countertops for all my client's kitchens and bathrooms. The selections we chose ranged from wild colors in their basement bar to more subtle creams in kitchens. A few years back, countertops started to trend toward a lighter tone with minimal movement. This proved difficult in the granite realm and then quartz entered the scene. Quartz products made a big boom in the industry and now I haven’t selected a granite for a client in years. The trend went from making a unique statement with countertop choices to cleaner white and marble looks that can only be achieved through a manmade surface. So, what are the pros and cons of marble, granite and quartz? Can you still do a natural stone without it looking dated? Let’s walk through a few of the main players in the countertop game and I’ll lay out the benefits to each and help you discover which fits best for your home.
I am still a big lover of granite. I love walking through rows and rows of huge granite slabs and marveling that these were cut like bread slices from the crust of the earth. These were in the earth! Granite has a few advantages to it’s makeup. Aside from it being natural, it’s durable. You can set a hot pan on granite and it will be fine for the most part. It’s solid rock so there aren’t resins that will melt or deteriorate. It’s unique and finite. There is not an endless supply of granite, especially the more unique colors or the whiter tones. If you go to a granite showroom and need 4 slabs for your kitchen but only 2 slabs are available, you may be out of luck and have to find a new product. Those two slabs may be the last from the quarry never to be dug out of the earth again.
Although uniqueness is a plus, it can also be a disadvantage. If the slab breaks en route to your project, it can be more difficult to replace because again, each piece is different. You won’t have the exact same speck or swoop in the right lower corner in another piece.
While granite is beautiful and unique, it’s inconsistent. From slab to slab, quarry to quarry there is a lot of variation in the stone. A "gran perla" quarried in India will look different than the same "gran perla" from South America. I still think granite has it's time and place but the design world seems to be taking a step away.
It’s desirable and beautiful. White quartz or a solid grey quartz countertop is extremely common in new or remodeled spaces. It is beautiful and it's consistent. You can point to an image on Pinterest and find that exact product for your home to recreate the look. Because it's consistent, if your slab chips in route to your home, there is another exact replica of that slab back at the manufacturer to send out to your home. Every slab looks the same or there are 2-3 pattern variations within a color line but for the most part, you know what you are getting. There are also thousands of colors and pattern options. There are many lines of quartz products ranging in style and price such as Silestone, Cambria, and Hanstone, to name a few. It is also very durable. Though you can’t set a hot pan on it because there are glues and resins in it, it still is extremely durable and investing in a hot pad is worth it to have that gorgeous look in your kitchen.
Let’s start with the obvious upside. It’s absolutely striking. Palaces are built with marble walls and floors. It’s timeless. It says elegan.
There are black and brown marbles but white is the most prevalent in kitchen and bath designs in recent years. Despite it's gorgeous white background and beautiful veining, marble is a softer material. It etches and gets marred easily. Do not leave lemon juice or marinara sauce on your marble countertop for too long or you won't be able to get truly get the stain out. Depending on your aesthetic, you may be happy with or accept a well worn countertop. Most people would say they don’t want blemishes or marks and therefore do not use marble. In this case they’d want a quartz look alike per the info above. I find real marble best to use in a bathroom and away from acidic products that can damage it. Just watch out for toothpaste!
A few outliers in the countertop world are cement and butcher block. I find butcher block incredibly charming but very hard to clean and easy to cut into on accident or stain. This is really the countertop to use if you truly want a lived in look. It certainly adds a depth of warmth and a new texture to the space, but it won’t hold up to heavy use.
Cement is very durable and moldable in the sense that you can pour any shape of countertop with it. However, cement is porous so while it’s a fun look it’s not very functional where liquids other than water may be found. It’s best in a powder bath or guest bath where there won’t be food and drink spilled on it.
Happy countertop hunting!!