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“Counters have gained importance as activities shift to the kitchen”.

It wasn’t all that long ago that kitchen counters were strictly utilitarian. Counters were a staging point for meals and that was about it. Materials were cheap and choices sparse.




Today, the $170 billion renovation market is undergoing a counter craze.
With kitchens the hub of daily life and entertaining, decor aficionados look for on luxuriant solid surface and stone countertops as their best foot forward in kitchen makeovers.

Where cabinets were once the starting point for overall kitchen design, many homeowners now plan around their countertop choice. And those choices have grown in number and variety. Laminates have been joined by stone, engineered materials and even wood to present more options than ever for consumers. What you choose should be based on budget, style of living and maintenance issues.

Solid surface materials are largely maintenance free and color palates have grown steadily to more than 150 color options, including derivatives of highly popular concrete surfaces. Damage to these solid surfaces can be sanded out and the resin coated surfaces won’t need sealing. And unlike stone, Ebnesajjad says solid surfaces have a 10-year transferable warranty.

At the other end of the spectrum are natural stones such as granite and marble. Consumer Reports magazine cited granite with the highest number of excellent ratings of any counter surface. But granite is not as readily repaired as its manufactured brethren and needs to be sealed at least twice a year. Marble has its share of adherents, too, but the surface is quite porous so the frequent use of sealants is a must.

Many time-strapped homeowners are keenly aware of the need for reduced maintenance. Ebnesajjad says “ease of maintenance and less cleaning are way up on the must-have list for homeowners.”

On the plus side of granite is natural veining that lends a unique look. According to the Marble Institute, a trade industry group that promotes natural stones, granites are, technically speaking, igneous rocks derived from molten magma. Granite takes color from feldspar, the predominate mineral. The stone has hues from black to pink to white, and even reds, which are becoming more available.
It’s advisable to see how granite samples look against the available light and other material colors in your kitchen. Granite vendors will gladly loan or rent samples to take home.

The Granite Institute says current prices are at the lowest ebb in the past 10 to 15 years, in part due to the growth in Asian imports and retail pressures from solid surfaces. Consumers in most markets can expect to pay from $45 to $75 per square foot, installed, for both products.

But, according to Ebnesajjad, the line between manufactured solid surfaces and stone is beginning to blur. Solid materials such as Zodiaq are more than 90 percent natural stone mixed with resins, and companies are creating a more natural “random type of look and texture,” says Ebnesajjad. Until recent manufacturing breakthroughs, solid surfaces were uniform in terms of pattern and texture.

Expect to see relaxed neutral tones as a counterbalance to color-saturated daily life where people are stimulated to the max and beyond. Ebnesajjad says “we are all so wired and we spend so much time in front of computer screens that we are looking for white space” where people can relax. The backdrop in kitchens, she says, “needs to be soothing, not stimulating.”