February 22, 2013 | by Valerie Blake
Counter intelligence
granite, kitchen, real estate, gay news, Washington Blade

(Photo courtesy of Blake)

Is anyone out there as sick of black granite as I am?

We first saw this trend nearly 10 years ago as a striking contrast – natural maple cabinets with Absolute Black or Black Galaxy countertops. Our kitchens were touted as “gourmet” just because they featured stainless steel appliances, maple or cherry cabinets and granite counters.  Now that this is the standard found in even entry-level condos, homeowners searching for the next trend in upscale surfaces are weighing their options.

Quartz is a very popular one, with brand names like Silestone, Cambria and Caesarstone leading the pack. In addition to the solids, pearl and stone-like surfaces we know, they are now available in matte finishes which can look spectacular against today’s glass tile backsplashes.  Easy to care for with no sealing required, they range in price from $60 to $150 per square foot, installed.

Marble counters and backsplashes are marking the return of white to today’s kitchens.  Paired with bright white or espresso finish cabinets, they present a clean, polished look when installed with stainless steel appliances. Since you’ll be paying top dollar at $125 to $250 per square foot, be prepared to invest some time in maintaining that look as marble tends to stain easily.

Recycled glass is still a relatively new addition to the list of environmentally friendly countertops. You can find products like Enviroglass and Ice Stone that have recycled bits of glass embedded in a resin that forms the countertop. With Vetrazzo, you can select your own mix of color additives. Thinkglass, Inc., a Canadian company, will help you create a work of art with bubbles and multi-colored swirls for both residential and commercial installation. Expect to pay $75 to $125 per square foot.

Concrete offers the opportunity to be very creative, not only with colors, but also with additives like marbles, shells, bits of glass and even fiber optics. You can also create any shape you wish during the formulation process. Although concrete is treated with a paste wax sealant, don’t set your bottle of red wine directly on the counter and do wipe up any spills immediately. $75 to $200 per square foot will get you a custom concrete countertop.

Haven’t hit upon your heart’s desire yet?  Here are some other alternatives.

Butcher block is making a comeback, especially as an accent on a country kitchen island.

Bamboo is the new butcher block. You can install a flat, vertical, or parquet end grain.

Remember Dupont Corian? Check out the new Corian loves Missoni designs with an Italian twist.

Soapstone is generally available in shades of blue, gray and black. It has a classic look and does not stain easily.

Stainless steel is also popular. Try using it atop more traditional cabinets for an eclectic look that doesn’t feel cold or sterile.

Paperstone is made of – you guessed it – paper.  It’s available in nine colors with designs that can even mimic leather.

Recycled aluminum counters from a company called Alkemi are reminiscent of the “threads” found in vintage Formica from the 1950s. The slabs come in several colors and in both classic (shiny) and honed finishes.

Gem Surfaces, located in Arizona, produces a variety of exquisite, high-end look with gemstones like agate, jasper, amethyst, jade, mother of pearl and more. But be forewarned: a little bit goes a long way.

Pyrolave, a French company, produces a glazed, volcanic lava stone that looks like glass but is far more durable.

And for the truly creative among us: Design your own. With clear resin and a form built to the size and shape of your new countertop, add texture with sea grass, dried flowers, coins, or small objets d’art. Whatever you choose, make it a one-of-a-kind piece that reflects your personality. For a price ranging from $50.00 to $125.00 per square foot you may well start the next trend in kitchen design.  After ten years of black granite, we certainly need one.

Valerie M. Blake is with Prudential PenFed Realty, an independently owned and operated broker member of BRER Affiliates, Inc. Reach her at 202-246-8602 or Valerie@DCHomeQuest.com. Prudential, the Prudential logo and the Rock symbol are registered service marks of Prudential Financial, Inc. and its related entities, registered in many jurisdictions worldwide.  Used under license with no other affiliation with Prudential. Equal Housing Opportunity.

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