Let’s face it: traditional granite countertops are out-dated. Kitchen designers guide us through the available countertops that are taking its place, from stunning quartz to personalized resin designs:
Standard granite countertops are quickly becoming obsolete. With innovations in technology and design, a push towards environmentally sound practices and the growing trend to customize a home with unique details, nontraditional countertops, from exotic stones to wholly non-granite options, are quickly permeating the market.
The concept has also birthed from the desire for more durable kitchen and bathroom surfaces – surfaces that are easy to clean, that don’t retain bacteria, that don’t require replacement or refinishing for years and of course, that still maintain an attractive, ageless appearance. While some newer concrete surfaces are now being developed with no VOC adhesives and can be personalized with touches like personal trinkets, rocks or shells, unconventional concrete and non-granite alternatives give designers and renovators an array of environmentally safe, endlessly customizable options.
Legacy Design Build Remodeling Vice President of Operations Stewart Truitt, C.R, explains that the reason for the demand on alternative counter surfaces and exotic granites is that granite countertops have permeated the market at this point and clients are looking for “something different” other than the basic granite options. He points out that many of the Scottsdale-based home remodeling contractor’s projects have recently involved alternative-type countertops in order to create a specific, finished look. Quartz is a common choice; brands used for the company’s projects include Silestone, Q Quartz, Caesar Stone and Hanstone, but “there is also a company,” he mentions, “called 3form that uses a resin glass to fabricate their product. Resin glass has little to no restrictions concerning size or shape as long as it is properly supported by a sub-deck. We are currently installing this product in a project at Hayden and Pinnacle Peak Road. It was specified by the Interior Designer, Amy Bubier from A.B. Design Elements.”
Legacy has also worked with Live Edge, a company that offers countertops fabricated out of wood, generally for decorative accent pieces or islands. The tree is sliced vertically to construct the countertop and then chiseled and treated for a unique, polished look. “We installed this at a project in the Boulders community,” says Truitt. “Typically, wood tops in a kitchen setting are used as islands or peninsula configurations. They are almost always a very dense hardwood (walnut is what we usually use) so that they are not prone to dents, dings and gouging. They are heavily sealed with a clear, water borne sealant.” He warns, “They can be used as a cutting surface but then you run the risk of food contamination and wear and tear on the top. It is more for an aesthetic look than an actual cutting surface. [In addition], they are typically three- to-five times more expensive than granite.”
Truitt mentions that Legacy has seen an increase in demand for exotic stones, which are a truly unique, resilient and luxurious option. “A geode slab called Aquarius and another slab called Blue Azul…are one-of-a-kind slabs that we placed in a project in Arrowhead Ranch. The geode piece was a 3-feet by 3-feet piece that was actually installed in a wall niche and back lit with LED lighting as a decorative art piece. The Blue Azul was used for bathroom vanity cabinets and is one of THE most exotic and expensive slabs on the market today. Cactus Stone and Tile is the only showroom that carries this stone in town.”
Classy Closets Chief Marketing Officer Bob LeSueur finds that quartz is less porous than granite, a factor that may drive its status as the most common option for a granite substitute countertop. “It is said to be so clean that ‘you could perform surgery on a quartz top.’ There is less of a chance for food, bacteria, or water to go inside the actual surface,” he says.
“A quartz countertop is regarded as a…durable material because it appears to be second to diamond when talking about hardness and scratch resistance,” LeSueur states. “For those who like a clean uniform look, quartz has a beautiful appearance and can be found in almost any color. We have four different quartz products in our showroom right now: Cambria, Silestone, Caeserstone and Zodiaq.” He sells Cambria the most: “Cambria has produced over 90 quartz colors and pattern samples that give the customer almost unlimited selection options…It is also a ‘green’ option. 100 percent of the water used in Cambria’s plant and fabrication facilities is recycled [and] Cambria is also primarily mined in North America, meaning lower transportation requirements. [In addition], granite needs to be sealed at least once a year – with quartz there is no sealing or refinishing.”
There is yet a lighter substitute to weighty stones and pricey wood. For those desiring a less substantial yet resilient countertop and for who are also still concerned about quality and design is local company Granicrete International’s solution, a surface fabricated with a Granicrete scratch cote, plaster, a one-of-a-kind design of choice and an epoxy resin.
“The product can go over any substrate,” says Design Finisher Marianne Cox of AZ Painting and Consulting, LLC. “It is non-porous so you can eat off of it. It’s light. It’s stain-proof; you can coat any design you want. It’s harder than granite and [if used outside] you can even use special epoxies to protect from ultraviolet rays.”
Cox, who states that the epoxy can cover any design – from photos, records, leaves, even a flat shrine – is the artist at AZ Painting and Consulting and has been fabricating these breathtakingly detailed, plaster-and-resin countertops for three years. Her front office features a glittery magenta desktop that looks like it belongs in a Parisian nightclub; there are frames and mirrors popping about her walls in bright, glossy patterns. Some twinkle with a mica mixture with which she’s been recently experimenting; other samples resemble petrified wood or a slab dug out of the Grand Canyon. The seam-free product has experienced a growth both in commercial and residential spaces; it’s popularity, Cox asserts, can also be attributed to its quick installation downtime. “You can do it in three days!” she emphasizes.
With all of these exciting, colorful and durable options available on the market, it’s obvious why traditional granite has fallen in popularity. Creating a beautiful kitchen or bathroom no longer needs to be a matter of durability versus appearance. Consult with a professional before any decision, but feel assured that today, almost any look can be achieved.