Go from drab to fab with exciting new options from engineered stone to stainless steel.
No other project can transform the interior of a home quite like a kitchen renovation. Whether it is new construction or a remodel, the materials chosen in the kitchen can be the heart of the design for any home.
White beadboard cabinets with recycled glass countertops evoke a classic Cape cottage style, while cherry cabinets with dark granite countertops suggest something more traditional and timeless. Though cabinet selection is an important part of the project—since the style, material, and stain will likely drive the choice for other materials—the choice of a countertop is equally critical. Industry experts agree that the countertop along with the backsplash is a statement piece and can provide the wow factor in a kitchen design. Oftentimes, changing out just the countertop and backsplash can be enough to take a kitchen from drab to fab without enduring the inconvenience of a full kitchen remodel. From granite to glass, to engineered stone to stainless steel, the options in countertops for 2016 are nearly endless.
Granite is still topping the current list of choice for countertop materials. Granite’s elegance combined with its durability as well as the wide array of colors available continues to make it a popular choice among buyers and designers. Dean Sarrasin, owner of Kitchen Port, Inc., in Orleans has been installing granite countertops for 25 years and says that the natural stone is still a favorite for his customers.
“It has rich colors with a three-dimensional effect,” says Sarrasin. Though there are man-made materials that mimic natural stone, Sarrasin says the manufacturers “have not found a way to achieve the depth of colors in natural granite.” The drawback to this material—and it’s a slight one—is that it needs to be sealed once or twice a year, depending on the option chosen. And even that challenge, Sarrasin says, has become less important in recent years. “There are options available now that come with a ten-year sealer,” he says.
Countertop selection also involves a choice in finishes. From matte, to polished, to textured, Mark Bogosian of Longfellow Design Build in Falmouth says the finish can make all the difference in the overall design. Right now, he says, the leathered finish is extremely popular. “It’s textured, so it shows almost no dust and there are no moisture rings left from cold drinks.” Because this finish can withstand the wear and tear of everyday family use and requires very little daily maintenance, Bogosian says it is an outstanding choice. “It’s a great texture and it does not interfere with the functionality of the counter,” he says.
Nearly as popular is quartz. This engineered material is made of 93 percent quartz and 7 percent resin, making it one of the hardest materials on the market. “Quartz is a natural material and the third hardest stone out there. Resin is added to it, making it scratch and stain resistant. It’s easy to clean and maintenance-free,” says Richard McLaughlin, owner of Fresh Interiors in West Dennis.
In the past, manufacturers of engineered stone like quartz had difficulty achieving the color depth of natural granite, but that has changed in recent years. Today’s quartz products come in a variety of colors and styles that are nearly identical to beautiful natural stones such as granite or marble. “For a long time, people were searching for the beauty of a Carerra marble, but also wanted the durability of quartz. Manufacturers have found a way to deliver that product,” McLaughlin says.
Designer Ellen Smith of Mid-Cape Home Centers agrees. “Man-made products can fool you—especially the quartz,” says Smith. Designers and professionals warn not to expect an engineered product like quartz to be less expensive. “It can price out the same as a mid-range granite,” says Mark Lane of Falmouth’s Bayside Kitchen & Bath Center.
Though marble evokes its own beauty and elegance, most designers and industry experts caution against using this material in areas that receive heavy use. “It’s very soft and people are afraid of it staining,” Smith says. Oftentimes, homeowners will use this material—which needs to be sealed once or twice a year—on a kitchen island, rather than for a work surface.
Corian has maintained its popularity among designers and homeowners. Made of acrylic and available in a wide variety of colors with an array of accessories, the major advantage of this material over other materials is that it can be installed—counter, backsplash, and sink—completely seamlessly, offering a continuous and uninterrupted look.
Mark Ducharme of Coastal n Counters in Mashpee points out that the manufacturers are now making this product in a variety of styles and patterns, including faux granite and marble. “It’s a very practical and affordable option compared to the natural stones,” Ducharme says.
Some area countertop experts say nothing makes a design impact like recycled glass. A mixture of glass and seashells, Lane says this countertop material is “flying out the door.” Smith says the Curava brand is very popular—especially here on Cape Cod. “It comes in blue and green tones and because it is made with crushed sea shells, it is an ideal material to use in a beach home or any other house for that matter,” she says. In addition to being a beautiful statement piece in the kitchen, Smith says, clean up is easy. “Just wipe the counters down with a damp, soapy cloth.” In terms of saving money, the designer says the recycled material costs about the same as granite or quartz. “Recycled products always cost more money, but they are a feel-good material—and very attractive,” she says.
Since countertops need to be both beautiful and functional, careful consideration must be given to the material selected for a countertop. With the perimeter of the kitchen serving as the work area and the island often doing double-duty as a table or gathering spot for family and guests, industry experts say there is a trend toward mixing the materials, or styles of the countertops. Many homeowners are opting for materials that turn their countertops into beautiful work areas. Stainless steel is such a material. Since it is antibacterial, it is very functional without compromising on the beauty.
Wood is another durable material that is gaining in popularity for countertop choices. Available in a variety of wood species as well as finishes and stains, this option can be every bit as sophisticated and stylish as granite or quartz, while still being a viable work surface. “Wood is so versatile. Since it is antimicrobial, it is safe to cut and prepare foods on it. It can also be finished so that it looks like a piece of furniture,” says Lane.
Kitchen countertops are not the only statement pieces in a home—bathroom counters and vanities can create just as much of a statement. Industry experts agree that the bathroom countertop is a critical design element. “Since the bathroom tends to be smaller, the countertop and vanity are a big part of the presentation in the room,” says Fred Felder of Simons Bath Showroom of West Yarmouth, Plymouth, and New Bedford.
Similar to kitchen countertops, there is a trend toward using quartz in the bathroom. “Because marble and granite are considered porous and have to be sealed, we are seeing more people choose quartz for the counter in the bathroom as well as the kitchen,” Felder says. Corian is also finding a place in the bathroom and not just on the vanity. Because of its seamless appearance, this material is not only popular for bathroom countertops, but for tub surrounds as well. “We are doing a high volume of Corian in bathrooms—especially the shower area,” says Ducharme.
For a real show-stopper in the bathroom and a definite design statement, consider a hand-painted sink. Margaret Grey, owner of Chatham Pottery, recently re-introduced her line of porcelain vessel sinks. Fired to 2400 degrees, these hand-painted vessel and drop-in sinks will hold up to the wear and tear in a bathroom—showing only its beauty.
The options in countertops today for kitchens and bathrooms are endless, but certain materials, such as granite or quartz, will always be popular. Choosing the right materials, styles, and colors can be a bit challenging, but with the help of Cape Cod’s kitchen and bath professionals, the end result can be expanses of color, style, and functionality that will please homeowners for years to come.