The island countertop has become the standard in kitchen design. It offers the homeowner flexibility and it’s a wise choice when trying to get the most out of available space. Deciding what material to use for the countertop can be a painstaking process, with endless options. In our shop, we’ve seen certain materials rise in popularity over the last year, and these will continue to trend in 2013. Here are a few suggestions for your next kitchen project.
We love working with stainless steel for a few reasons. It really fits the bill on all levels including easy maintenance, durability, and from the design perspective. It’s a wonderful modern material that’s incredibly heat and stain-resistant. Minor scratches can also be taken care of without professional maintenance using an abrasive cleaning pad. For cleanliness, it doesn’t matter what you’re cooking or preparing – It can pretty much always be wiped off afterwards. For kitchen design, stainless has the “cool” look of metal that can offset darker or warmer materials in the kitchen. They match any modern stainless appliances, and recently we’ve seen a surge in requests for butcher blocks built-in to stainless steel island countertops.
Copper is a unique material that seems to look better the more you beat it up and use it. If you are after a kitchen with warm country charm, copper is the material to choose. Some people call it a “living metal” because it really will change over time. This can either be a pro or con, depending on your expectations. If somebody isn’t crazy about the patina that develops on their island top, a simple solution of lemon juice and salt will instantly bring back the shiny finish they desire.
We also offer a patinated finish, where we can control the patina and give it that distressed look upon installation. One interesting fact about this metal, which many people are unaware of, is that copper is antimicrobial. Copper, and many of its alloys, is EPA-approved and it kills deadly bacterial like Staphylococcus aureus (Staph) on touch. I wouldn’t be surprised if this metal transitions from kitchen countertops to hospital rooms in the near-future.
It’s not uncommon for somebody to walk into our showroom looking for stainless steel, and leaving with a quote for zinc. This is one of the major metals of the decade. It’s similar to stainless, but has a beautiful blue-grey color that sets it apart.
It can fit in both modern and traditional design, and we get a lot of requests from clients who live in coastal regions. Zinc was originally used in seafood prep bars because it was believed to have bacterial-static properties. While it won’t patinate or react nearly as much as copper, it will develop a darker grey color over time. There has been some talk and articles lately about which material will take over stainless steel in the kitchen. If I had to put money on it, I’d choose zinc.
Wood has always been a classic for countertops. Specifically, walnut was the wood of choice in 2012, and we expect the same this year. Walnut offers a rich green/brown/chocolate color that would be hard to obtain in other wood species. It’s very durable, and will last beyond the life of a kitchen. We find that most designers and homeowners prefer our Premium Wide Plank style, which offers the cleanest rendition of planks, with a Marine Oil finish that protects it from water and stains.
Another popular choice is using walnut for end-grain butcher blocks. This type of countertop is just sealed and oiled, designed for chopping and food prep. What also makes walnut appealing is the price. It’s a mid-range wood, which won’t cost as much as some of the exotic species. Combining walnut with other materials like granite or stainless is very common when trying to add warmth to a kitchen.
We ship and install most of our countertops in the tri-state area, but we welcome any DIY’ers willing to install the top themselves. Before installation, it’s best to read up on the construction of the countertop. All our metal tops are bonded to an MDF backer, and they all have return edges so you don’t get any sharp ends along the outside of the countertop, and water intrusion isn’t an issue. We try to construct all our tops and finish them so they can be easily maintained at home with household supplies. Glass cleaner and scrubbing pads can pretty much take care of most of the maintenance for our countertops, unless it’s a butcher block, which requires oil to keep it looking great. We always tell designers and architects that it’s paramount to be educated in a material before using it in a project, and with a little know-how, you can have the kitchen of your dreams.