Countertops: The Granite Alternatives

With its bold veining, endless colors and durability, granite has been the star of kitchens for the past 10- 15 years. Though it does its job well and continues to look great for years to come, granite countertops have decreased in popularity with the rise of alternative options. From natural soapstone to high-tech laminate countertops, there are new materials available for every kitchen that strays away from the been-there-done-that granite option. Let’s take a peek at a few alternatives that still provide the durability, function and beauty we all love to see in a kitchen countertop.

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Quartzite

Quartzite is a natural stone produced when sandstone is pressure-cooked in the earth’s crust. The end result is a beautiful stone with a wide variety of streaks, patterns and rich colors. Some varieties, like Taj Mahal and Mother of Pearl, offer a similar look to traditional marble without as much maintenance and upkeep.

Quartzite can withstand heat, but not for an extended time, so make sure to use trivets for prolonged exposure. Though slightly more durable than granite, some quartzite does still require sealing once or twice a year for stain resistance so make sure to check with your stone fabricator on the details, as it varies by type. The beauty of quartzite is all its variations: vein-cut styles look more contemporary and sleek, while cross-cut styles have a more organic feel. Depending on the fabrication, expect your quartzite countertops to start from $80 per square foot and up.

Soapstone

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Used in laboratories due to its resistance to stains, bacteria and chemicals, there’s no wonder soapstone is becoming an increasingly popular choice for homeowners looking for a durable, natural countertop. Always a dark charcoal or almost black color, its non-porous, honed surface can both hide and repel dark stains while still remaining slightly soft to the touch. Soapstone is a great choice for those who love to cook and households with little sticky fingers, as it’s unaffected by heat and easy to wipe clean. Keep in mind that like any natural stone, soapstone can chip and scratch. It also darkens over time, but sanding can easily return it to a lighter shade. Starting at $80-100 per square foot, soapstone is a slightly more expensive choice over granite, but it comes with a lifetime of durability.

Quartz Composite

Also known as “engineered quartz,” quartz composite is a material comprised of crushed quartz and polymer binders that are tinted and compressed under high pressure. The end result is a surface that is non-porous and resistant to stains, scratches and heat. Even better, a simple wipe with warm water and soap is all you’ll need to worry about in regards to maintenance. Because it is a manufactured material, quartz composite is consistent with color and patterns. This durable countertop material does come at a price—around $90-110 per square foot installed.

Laminate

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High-pressure molded plastic countertops—who would have thought that these would be a durable and long-lasting alternative to granite? Laminate countertops are a blend of acrylic or polyester resins, powdered fillers and pigments. This unique mix allows for easy buffing of scratches and marks and its surface keeps stains away. The beauty of laminate countertops is their unique ability to be molded into unusual shapes and sizes, which works especially well in sleek, state-of-the-art contemporary kitchens. Because this material is plastic, it is sensitive to prolonged heat exposure, so make sure to use trivets and cutting boards to extend the longevity of the countertop. These high-tech countertops start at around $50 per square foot installed.

What granite alternatives have you used in your kitchen?

 

***Guest Blog by Kerrie Kelly. Interior designer Kerrie Kelly is an expert on countertop materials in the kitchen and writes about her knowledge for The Home Depot. If you are interested in researching many of the materials Kerrie discusses in her article, you can visit Home Depot’s countertops page online.

 

6 Ideas for Perfect Kitchen Design Pairings

By Kerrie Kelly, ASID

It’s easier than ever to design your ideal home—as long as you know what items and furniture pair best together and how to work them into what you already have. The kitchen is a space where we spend lots of time, but is sometimes ignored when it comes to the details of proper pairing, because we often buy our appliances, furniture and accessories at different times.

Get inspired for your kitchen revamp by taking a look at a few of our favorite styles: modern, traditional and craftsman. Read on for the perfect pairings of cabinetry, countertops and fixtures to achieve your dream kitchen.

MODERN KITCHEN DESIGN

 Sleek & Sinuous

Sleek Kitchen Design

Get This Look:

  • Choose flat panel doors for a clean, minimalistic cabinet design.
  • Brushed steel or silver cabinet hardware adds a glamorous touch to a contemporary kitchen style.
  • For countertops, opt for a shiny concrete surface or soapstone for an edgy impression.
  • A single-basin sink looks clean and contemporary when paired with light and bright surroundings.
  • Top off the look with organic elements like teak bar stools and assorted greenery.

Sophisticated & Simple

Sophisticated Style Kitchen Design

Get This Look:

  • One word: marble. Marble countertops instantly update any space and add a super chic element to the kitchen. We love the look of a sleek white and gray marbled countertop, or for something more contemporary, opt for a black marble.
  • A contemporary take on Shaker style cabinet doors is the perfect addition to a modern kitchen. The mitered doorframes and recessed center panel add dimension to an otherwise flat room.
  • Spice up your sink with an interesting faucet design, like a high-arc or gooseneck shape. Choose either a single or double basin rectangular sink and add design elements that complement the lighting or cabinet hardware.
  • Speaking of hardware, opt for a vertical pull-handle in bright nickel on the cabinets for ease of access with an elegant touch.

TRADITIONAL KITCHEN DESIGN

 Warm & Welcoming

Traditional Kitchen Design

Get This Look:

  • Look for raised panel cabinet doors with elaborate accent moldings.
  • Further enhance your classic design by opting for a warm finish or stain on your cabinets.
  • Consider dark metal hardware, such as pewter, for an elegant accent.
  • In a traditional kitchen, the sink is usually light and bright to offset the warmth of the space. Choose a bridge-style faucet and matching hardware in nickel or stainless steel for a simple and elegant silhouette.
  • Finish your classic design by installing a textural backsplash for added interest and dimension.

Clean & Classic

Clean & Classic Kitchen Design

Get This Look:

  • A durable, bright white finish on raised panel cabinet doors is the epitome of a tried-and-true traditional kitchen.
  • Opt for apron-front sinks and a clean white double-basin silhouette with an elegant faucet.
  • Architectural elements like legs on a sink-wall base draw the eye towards subtle sophisticated details associated with a classic kitchen setting.
  • Choose a light and bright countertop like white and gray marble for airiness.
  • Add an extra element of interest by extending the countertop into a unique backsplash.

CRAFTSMAN AND MISSION-STYLE KITCHEN DESIGN

Rustic & Refined

Rustic Kitchen Design

Get This Look:

  • Semi-elaborate door and drawer fronts are a characteristic of craftsman style. Choose a simple door with an intricate inlay to bump up the design factor.
  • Darker cabinet hardware looks best in a rustically styled kitchen. Opt for nickel or bronze hardware fixtures as a simple and straightforward complement to the elaborate door design.
  • Granite and soapstone are perfect countertop pairings for a craftsman kitchen. Dark, earthy colors are a go-to for this style.
  • Add a home-sweet-home touch with a few glass-front cabinet doors sprinkled throughout the space.

Crafty & Curated

Crafty & Curated Kitchen Design

Get This Look:

  • Honey-stained cabinetry is perfect for a craftsman kitchen. Pick your favorite detailed, raised-panels and pair them with patina cabinet hardware.
  • An ideal craftsman-styled kitchen is home to a natural stone countertop. Choose a clay-colored marble, granite or quartz to top off your space.
  • Don’t forget the details! Furniture-like legs added to a kitchen island or a customized wine rack can lend just the right amount of interest.
  • Bring the look full circle with streamlined appliances in brushed metal for a modest and muted look.

If your style is cool and contemporary, don’t be afraid to add classic elements to offset the crisp lines and distinct minimalism. Is traditional and tailored more your speed? Integrate abstract art or modern details for a twist on your classic style. If a curated craftsman look is what you’re used to, consider mixing in traditional decor for perfect design balance. What are your favorite kitchen style pairings?

 

**Kerrie Kelly  of Kerrie Kelly Design Labs is a talented interior designer who provides kitchen design advice for The Home Depot.  She gives useful tips on how to pair the different elements in your kitchen to give you the cohesive beautiful kitchen of your dreams.  To see a huge selection of the kitchen cabinets that Kerrie talks about in this article, visit The Home Depot.

Selecting a Countertop: Pros and Cons of 6 Popular Styles

With almost all of my clients, the toughest part of designing a kitchen is choosing the countertop. As manufacturing technology grows, so do the number of choices—each with its own set of pros and cons.

The decision really comes down to how you live and work in your own kitchen. Let’s cut to the chase with our top six countertop choices—in order of my own preference.

Quartz: Also called engineered or manufactured stone, this is the surface I install in the most homes—and the reasons are simple. It’s available in so many patterns and colors, is very simple to clean, and is more resistant to heat, scratches and stains than almost any other surface. It requires no sealing or treating over time. Best of all, my clients are always surprised that it’s no more expensive than granite.

Photo Credit: Kerrie Kelly Design Studio

Photo Credit: Kerrie Kelly Design Studio

Dekton: This is the new super surface brought to you by modern technology. Its ultra-compact surface means it’s non-porous, and extremely resistant to heat and drastic changes in temperature—not to mention scratches, chips and stains. For durability, you can’t do better. Colors and patterns are catching up with other options on the market. You will pay a bit more per square foot, but you will not regret it.

Dekton Countertop

Natural Stone: Though this category includes marble, lime and soapstone, we’re really talking about granite here. Its natural beauty is simply undeniable, which makes it the other big favorite among my clients. As it has proven in nature since the beginning of time, it’s very durable and heat resistant. Because it’s porous, it just needs to be sealed when it’s installed (and will need some resealing over the years), but the effort there adds real stain resistance to the list of its benefits—not to mention real value to the home that will never go out of style.

Stainless: I often envy the simplicity of stainless steel when we install it. So clean and simple, its industrial-grade durability is completely antibacterial, and stain and heat resistant. Even scratches really blend in over time. Surprisingly, installation takes this one to the higher end of the cost scale, but it’s also very flexible in terms of design. It brings a cool edge to a more traditional kitchen and can even soften the edge of an ultra contemporary style.

Stainless Countertop

Wood: Wood is pretty straightforward in terms of pros and cons. It’s very budget friendly, and most of my clients who choose it do so knowing that its imperfections only add to its beauty, over time. Scratches and burns can even become part of the charm. However, if you treat it with oil a few times a year, it’s a very durable and practical choice, too. Remember, it’s available in many grains and stains, and you don’t necessarily need butcher block thickness to get the same great look.

Laminate: Laminate countertops can’t be beat if budget is the primary factor. Available in a wide array of colors and patterns, you can go with bold, bright, primary colors or choose a finish that replicates stone and wood. It’s made with a sheet of resin laid over particle board and is resistant, though not impervious to heat, stains and scratches. It is easy to clean and easy to repair.

What’s on your wish list for that new kitchen countertop?

** Kerrie Kelly is a guest blogger from The Home Depot.  Kerrie Kelly draws from her experience of consistently designing amazing kitchens to provide tips for The Home Depot and Kerrie Kelly Design Labs, to help you make the right kitchen choices.  To view a big selection of countertops that Kerrie talks about in this article, visit The Home Depot.

Kitchen Considerations: 5 Ways to Maximize an Open Floor Plan Kitchen

Open floor plans in kitchens are all the rage these days, and it’s easy to see why. They make entertaining much more pleasant and help to avoid claustrophobic kitchen clustering. Sure, guests still congregate in the kitchen, but now they’re not cut off from the rest of the action in the living or dining rooms.

After years of designing kitchens, I’ve realized that, for all the upsides of an open floor plan, one potential downside for those who love to throw a dinner party is that the visible evidence of your hard work and creativity may also include some smells and sounds that distract from the conversation.

We’ve got five great tips that will give your guests entertainment envy, and allow you to focus on the fun, with minimal distractions.

Clear the Decks!
Maximize the space you already have. That countertop knife holder? Replace it with a restaurant style magnetic strip mounted to the backsplash for the knives you use most. Countertop utensil holders? Install a kitchen rail system, also mounted to the backsplash, for your most popular utensils. Lazy Susans give great access and visibility and multiply by three or four times the items you can reasonably store at the back of your cabinets. Finally, slide-out shelves for your cabinets will not only make the prep and cooking so much more civilized, but you’ll feel like you’ve doubled your cabinets because it’s all so much easier to access.

Your Own Private Island
A kitchen island is a wonderful addition, if only for the storage it offers. Take it to the next level by installing a raised counter on the guest-facing side of the island that allows you to hide the evidence of your hard work when you sit down to dinner. The mess is still there, but it’s much easier to indulge in the time with friends and family without a pile of pots and pans staring back at you from the kitchen.

CHIC_MAY_4231_004_Kitchen

Behind the Barn Door
I love the look of barn doors installed in interior spaces. Installation doesn’t require major construction and you’re left with a contemporary and timeless conversation starter that will allow you close off the clutter with a quick slide. They also make a great architectural statement, whether or not you’re entertaining.

Barn Door Photo

Halfway to Hidden
Another great architectural compromise in an open floor plan is a half wall that runs between the living space and the kitchen space. You retain that open sight line, but like the raised island, have a simple way to declutter the look of the space. While not quite as simple as sliding barn doors, a half wall is a relatively affordable and manageable project.

Gear Up
One of best ways to make what happens in the kitchen stay in the kitchen is to level up with your appliances. Dishwashers so quiet that you need to check the running light to be sure they’re on are very common and affordable these days. A powerful range hood is another good investment to keep the smells of cooking fairly localized. Consider a model with a slightly bigger fan size to get the job done. Finally, for all that hard work you do in the kitchen, treat yourself with those quiet-close drawers you’ve always wanted.

What are your best tips for maintaining some boundaries with an open floor plan?

 

***Kerrie Kelly from Kerrie Kelly Design Labs is an interior designer who writes for The Home Depot about kitchen design. She loves to provide advice on a myriad of topics such as “how to make your kitchen feel more open.” To get some more inspiration and kitchen design ideas, visit homedepot.com.

 

6 Spots for a Second Kitchen Sink

As floor plans have opened up, kitchens have evolved into the main family and entertaining spaces in our homes. With that comes more traffic, and a greater need to use that space wisely.

A great way to make a high-use kitchen work a lot better is to add a second kitchen sink. The trick is finding the right spot, which depends on how your kitchen factors into your lifestyle. Check out our six suggestions for where to put that second kitchen sink, and see what will work for you.

Double Kitchen Sinks

    1. Island/Peninsula Prep Station:One of the main reasons for adding a second sink is the convenience of separate prep and cleaning spaces, so adding a sink on the island makes perfect sense. This gives you space to prep without having to fight with dirty dishes as they pile up while you prepare a meal for your family or guests. If you’re working with a peninsula, consider a sink that you can access from either side of the peninsula to help address traffic concerns in the kitchen. While we’re on the subject, it’s worth mentioning that pull-down faucets are the efficient—and stylish—choice for those who spend a lot of time in the kitchen.
    2. Work Station:If you’re working with a smaller space, or don’t have an island, consider a single bowl kitchen sink in a secondary work space. Make sure you’ve got a little counter space on either side and use this as your prep sink, keeping your main sink for washing and cleanup.
    3. Baking Station:Baking is a messy affair. Adding a sink at your baking station allows you to keep the mess in one area, rather than spreading it out all over the kitchen.
    4. Coffee Station:As our collective love of coffee grows, so does the amount of equipment and space needed to supply our habit. A second sink allows all things coffee-centric to happen in one place. It can also come in handy after dinner and dessert have been served, the kitchen is piled with dishes and you just need to get the coffee going.
    5. Party Station/Wet Bar:If you entertain a lot, you know better than anyone how people tend to gather in the kitchen. Rather than fight it, consider a wet bar station with a second sink. Keep it separate from the prep and cleaning stations and you can comfortably get the work done and get the party started without your guests getting in the way.

Entertainment Sink

  1. Pot-filling Station:We install a lot of pot-filling faucets on the backsplash behind the cooktop. They’re very handy, and keep you from having to carry—and spill—large pots of water for cooking. Why not install a second sink near the cooktop instead and simply make sure the faucets and fixtures will also accommodate your large pots?

Have any other ideas for clever uses for second sinks? We’d love to hear them!

***Kerrie Kelly is a member of the American Society of Interior Designers, and has won numerous awards for her home design creativity. Kerrie is the author of Home Decor: A Sunset Design Guide and writes about interior designs, including kitchens and kitchen sink design, for Home Depot. Home Depot’s selection of kitchen sinks can be found on the company’s website.

 

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