casually. I ask where in the kitchen they like to chop vegetables, trim meat, or mix drinks. I also want to know if they help children with homework in the kitchen, or bathe pets or babies, or fold laundry.
It’s also important to ask user-oriented questions. For instance, does anyone who uses the kitchen have reduced vision, a balance impairment, or a memory limitation?
Homes with seniors can benefit from an acrylic or acrylic-blend countertop such as Corian or Avonite. These surfaces feel softer when struck by someone with depth-perception or balance problems, and they are reparable if a shaking hand with a knife misses the cutting board or a memory-challenged user sets a hot pot down on the bare surface. These materials are also nonporous, which reduces the risk of food contamination, and they are maintenance-free.
Because of its durability, low maintenance, and stain resistance, I often specify engineered stone for families with active children. An acrylic material can fit the bill, too, given its reparability. Porcelain and ceramic-slab tops are also good family-friendly alternatives for their durability and minimal maintenance demands.
Create a cohesive style
Kitchens tend to fall into one of four primary styles: traditional, contemporary or modern, transitional, and eclectic. Transitional kitchens are my favorite, as they blend many of the classic elements of traditional kitchens, such as crown molding and decorative hardware, with the simpler aesthetic of modern kitchens, such as simple hardware and streamlined, nonfussy door styles.
The countertop you choose should fit the overall style of the space. For example, wood can be butcher block for a casual transitional kitchen’s food-prep area, or it can be elegant planks for a more formal buffet. Glass can be a slab for a contemporary cooking zone, or it can be a recycled blend for an eclectic focal-point bar. Metal options include zinc or copper for a traditional space, or stainless steel for a contemporary kitchen with next to no upkeep. Stone, such as marble, soapstone, or granite, is common for a traditional home whose owners don’t mind the extra care. Quartz can be a good choice for the working surfaces of just about any style of kitchen, given the wide ange of solids and patterns available. Finally, there’s concrete, which can be poured or installed as a slab.
You also need to choose the right color, finish, and pattern to work with your kitchen’s overall style and adjacent materials. I like to pull a dominant color from the floor for the countertop or go with a pattern or solid that will complement it. If everything’s a focal point, nothing’s a focal point.
Kitchens with high-gloss, solid-colored cabinets—white is popular—pair well with either low-sheen or textured tops. If the floor is glossy concrete or terrazzo, I opt for a top with some texture, such as a linen-look porcelain slab, to make the space feel less slick. If the floor is wood or bamboo, a solid-colored or lightly patterned quartz works well.
You have more choices than ever in today’s marketplace, including old favorites such as wood and stone, and newer materials such as engineered stone, porcelain and ceramic slab, and concrete. If you start your decision-making process from the standpoint of what works for how you live, whom you live with, and what you live in, rather than which online image you loved last week, your countertop choice is more likely to serve you well in the long run.
Jamie Gold, CKD, CAPS is a kitchen designer in San Diego. To read more click here.