By Barbara Pronin, RISMedia Columnist
While granite and marble remain the most popular choices for kitchen countertops, young homemakers are opting for a surprising number of chic, new countertop choices.
“These trendy alternatives offer a clean, sleek, sometimes industrial look that suggests heavy duty cooking is going on here,” say designers at architectural firm Freshome.
The hottest countertop materials available today include:
Poured concrete – Stain resistant when sealed, they are relatively inexpensive and can be tinted to any color. Appearance improves with age, but while the concrete is heat-resistant, the sealer is not. It requires trivets under hot pots and cutting boards for chopping.
Butcher block – Elegant yet casual and environmentally friendly, butcher block requires monthly sealing and oiling to prevent drying or cracking. Its soft surfaces require cutting boards, but cleanup demands only mild dish detergent and a light cloth or sponge.
Reclaimed wood – Salvaged from older homes, reclaimed wood is attractive, sturdier than newer wood, and saves trees. It requires the same maintenance as butcher block.
Cork – Dense, sturdy and lightweight, cork is a sustainable option with sound-cutting properties. It is resistant to water and heat and has antibacterial properties.
Stainless steel – Elegant, sleek and classy looking, these counters are water, heat and germ resistant. Susceptible to dings and scratches, they show every fingerprint, but maintenance requires only washing and polishing.
Soapstone – A natural stone quarried like granite, soapstone is a softer surface that is sturdy but not impervious to dents and scratches, which may be sanded or oiled away. The color is naturally gray and darkens with age, offering a smooth, matte feel.
Recycled glass – Like reclaimed wood, this is a ‘greener’ choice, available in many beautiful colors and patterns. With a life expectancy of 50 years, it is easy to clean and care for. This option is a bit cheaper than granite.
Pewter – Offers a less clinical look than stainless steel, but is softer and susceptible to nicks and dents, although a hammered, antique look can mask damage. This muted, dark silvery color looks good in any kitchen.
Slate – A natural, fine-grained rock, slate is softer than granite but harder than marble. Resists bacteria and cleans with soap and water, but is not entirely heat-proof.
Quartz – An extremely scratch-resistant mineral, easy to care for and clean. Needs no sealing and has a long lifetime and more unique look than granite.