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What colour? What material? Does it need to match the cabinets? The West's best designers share everything you need to know to choose a kitchen countertop.
Sure, maybe picking a kitchen countertop material isn’t the most important decision of your life, but it’s certainly one you’ll have to live with every day—so if you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed about this particular portion of your current or future kitchen renovation, we feel you. That’s why we turned to the pros: our ace panel of designers from across Western Canada. Collectively, they’ve designed hundreds of kitchens and have gained some sage wisdom in the process. (Dare we call them “counter intuitive”?) Here’s how to pick a countertop material you’ll love for years to come, according to the interior designers who know best.
Don’t get us wrong: we love a colourful kitchen. But save your experiments for the paintable cabinetry, and stick to the classics for countertop stone. “When choosing big ticket items like counter top stone it’s important to go with something simple and neutral,” advises Jamie Hamilton, co-principal at Vancouver’s Oliver Simon Design. “You don’t want to have to change it for a long time.”
Countertops take a beating: this is the surface where you’ll prep your meals, mix your drinks and spill your coffee daily. If you want it to last, look for materials that can handle the rough-and-tumble impact of real life. “Durability is key when it comes to counter tops,” says Alykhan Velji, principal of Calgary’s Alykhan Velji Designs. He recommends granite, not only for its durability, but for its beauty. “Granite is becoming a lot more popular not only for its durability but because of the vast colour-ways and interesting patterns that it comes in,” he says.
Calgary interior designer Rochelle Cote, principal of Rochelle Cote Interior Design, is also a fan of quartz. “Countertops made of quartz are much more resistant to staining and are easier to care for than natural stone countertops such as marble or granite,” she says. If you’re craving marble, you can even find quartz with marble-imitating finishes on the market today.
Design lives in the details. While a slab counter can absolutely make a statement, don’t forget that the edge of the countertop is an opportunity to have a little fun. “Choose an unusual edge detail,” suggests Calgary interior designer Paul Lavoie. “The small differences make large things special.”
“An interesting edge profile can add a lot to the overall design and give it an expensive or high-end look,” agrees Tanja Hinder, founder and principal of Vancouver’s Marrimor Studio. It’s a trick that can aid modern and traditional designs alike.
Can’t decide on a countertop material? No problem. Designers frequently mix and match countertops, using one finish for the island and another for the perimeter counters. “We are doing a lot of two tone counter tops where we do a more neutral tone on the perimeter and something a bit more bold on the island. This makes for a great contrast and creates a visual focal point,” says Velji.
It probably goes without saying, but countertops don’t exist in a vacuum. The colour of your cabinetry will impact the final look. The question is: do you embrace contrast, or lean into a mono-tone vibe? “When choosing a colour for your countertops I’d recommend choosing a countertop that provides contrast with your cabinetry to break up the space, or going for a countertop in the same colour as your cabinetry for a sleek, monochromatic look,” suggests Cote.
“Knowing your tolerance for maintenance is important,” says Karen Attwell, creative director of Calgary’s Form Interiors. Research how to clean and care for your stone before you commit—if you’re not comfortable with a patina, for instance, marble probably isn’t for you. “Natural quartzite and granite are among the hardest and most durable stones, but they still required sealing and maintenance, and marble and soapstone are far more delicate and you need be comfortable with the patina they will develop over time,” says Atwell. “Sintered porcelains have come a long way in terms of mimicking natural stone and are often a great choice for easy maintenance.”
Now that you’re armed with all this designer wisdom, it’s time for the fun part: reading tons of kitchen design stories and getting inspired for your own kitchen makeover. Check out Western Living‘s kitchen design stories here.
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