Over the years, countertops have evolved from simple surfaces to functional design elements with contemporary fittings, storage, sinks, and even designated seating areas. When working with a customer to design their perfect kitchen, there is a lot to consider when picking the right countertop to go with their new custom cabinetry. Countertops come in a wide variety of colours and patterns. On top of that, technological advancements provide customers with even more options than ever before. Designers are there to help guide customers through the process, ensuring that together we select the best countertop that best fits their space, budget, and personal design aesthetic.
Customers can get really excited over natural stone but not realize it requires more maintenance than manufactured options. For example, marble requires sealing and regular maintenance – and develops a gorgeous patina over time with use. But not everyone loves the patina process or look; it’s the Kitchen Designer’s job to guide the customer towards the best stone to suit their lifestyle, cooking habits, and aesthetic while keeping maintenance factors top of mind.
Granite, marble, quartzite, and soapstone countertops are classic, timeless, and lavish, so naturally, most of these stones are on the expensive side, which can be a significant factor for some. As these stones are natural, there are slight limitations to patterns and colour selections since you get what Mother Nature gives you.
Manufactured Stone Countertops
Engineered to perfection, quartz is one of the most durable countertop materials on the market today. These manufactured stone countertops are typically crafted in solid colours and come in a wide variety of patterns. They are stain and heat-resistant and require low maintenance, which is a huge bonus. These countertops are very simple and chic and evoke an ultra-contemporary look, perfect for modern kitchen designs. The downside? Because it’s a porous stone, it can easily stain, which is not ideal for customers who cook with a lot of highly pigmented foods or spices.
Most customers have never heard of porcelain countertops. Our kitchen display at the Interior Design Show in 2020 featured a new high-tech porcelain stone installed and sourced by Select Surfaces Corp. While quartz is stain and heat resistant, porcelain is heat and stain proof. This easy-to-clean stone is highly durable while embodying the beauty of natural stone, making it a better choice for those of like to make a mess in the kitchen. The downside? The stone’s pattern is only visible in the top layer, requiring a square mitered edge. Quartz might be a better choice for customers who want more edge profile options.
For budget-conscious customers, they may be considering engineered laminate countertops to cut corners. While laminate surfaces are affordable, we all know that they don’t react to heat well and are easily scratched. Plus, once the laminate countertop seal is scratched or damaged, it cannot be repaired or resealed. Our opinion? Try to convince them to invest in a natural or manufactured stone countertop that’s highly durable. Our motto has always been “Do it once, do it right!”
Wood countertops evoke an authentic, rustic look. They’re making quite the comeback among urban youth living in studio apartments and design enthusiasts looking to experiment. A butcher block top also provides a great work surface for prepping and chopping veggies on an island.
Wood countertops not only provide an old-world charm, but they age gracefully. These countertops are typically made of rock maple, walnut, white oak, and cherry and sealed with either a furniture-grade or food-safe finish for chopping all those tasty ingredients. They are relatively low maintenance, but users should be careful of heat and watermarks on furniture finish pieces. If you don’t already offer wood countertops, you might want to add them to your portfolio.
Now when it comes to wood countertops, there are often a lot of misconceptions and questions from customers. Can you cut on wood countertops? How are they cleaned? Are they easily susceptible to bacteria? Canadian Butcher Block Company is one of our absolute favourite businesses to work with for wood countertops. They answer a whole host of these questions on their website, meaning you can be prepared when customers come asking.
Rhonda Thornton is the Creative Director and co-founder of Bloomsbury Fine Cabinetry, along with partner Robert Thornton, Master Cabinet Maker. Bloomsbury is a Canadian-owned boutique-style cabinet shop that is dedicated to the English tradition of luxury handmade craftsmanship offering clients a truly bespoke experience. For over 20 years, Bloomsbury Fine Cabinetry has been recognized as one of the premier companies practicing the true art of Custom Kitchen Cabinetmaking.