We recently wrote an article about choosing the most environmentally friendly countertops. That had us wondering about trends and what an expert would recommend. So we decided to ask our favorite countertop expert: Mara Penha at Onyx Marble & Granite. Onyx is a local family-owned business—we love that about them! And Mara is our go-to for countertops when we work with clients on kitchens and bathroom renovations. With more than eight years of experience, she really knows her slabs!
It may come as no surprise that black, white, and grey are still the most popular colors for countertops—a trend we’ve seen for the past few years. “People gravitate to the simple, clean look of stone with minimal/subtle veining,” explains Mara. “However, we are starting to see a shift as warmer colors, such as brown and gold, start to come back into favor.”
Tova Greenberg, steveworks co-owner and in-house design manager, is noticing that too. “We recently worked with a client who loved sage green. She chose green glass tiles for the backsplash and complimented them with a granite island in shades of brown and green.”
MATERIALS: QUARTZ COMES OUT ON TOP
Quartz is the clear favorite material homeowners are choosing for countertop material these days. Why? “Because it’s maintenance free and easy to take care of. Plus, it has the colors people are looking for—namely grey/black/white. “Quartz can mimic the look of marble, without the worry that it will etch or stain,” says Mara. Mara agrees that marble is a gorgeous choice, but she always makes sure homeowners know that it may show some wear and tear, so perhaps it’s not ideal in a high traffic area like a kitchen. Granite continues to be a great choice for homeowners although it often has more “movement and graining” than quartz.
One thing that we particularly like about quartz is that the color and pattern is consistent throughout the slab. Tova indicates that “this makes is easy to show clients a small sample and know that the color on the full slab is accurately represented. As a result, homeowners don’t necessarily need to go to the stone yard to see the full slab in person.”
Another excellent natural option is quartzite—which may confuse some homeowners because it’s different than quartz despite the similar name. Quartz is a manmade/engineered material comprised primarily of the natural quartz mineral mixed with pigments and resins and processed under high heat. Meanwhile, quartzite is a fully natural material that is mined and cut into slabs. When polished, it can have a stunning, glittery appearance and it comes in a wide range of colors. Mara explains to clients that quartzite resists staining and etching more than other natural stones, but it does need to be sealed occasionally, so it’s not completely maintenance free.
Another material that clients might consider is soapstone. Soapstone can scratch and stain although it is possible to buff some imperfections out and mineral oil can help hide scratches if they aren’t too deep. Some homeowners love the soft, warm feel of soapstone in kitchens and bathrooms; Mara also says this is a gorgeous material for fireplace surrounds.
THE FINISHING TOUCH
While material is the biggest selection homeowners need to make, there are still a few more items on the checklist. First is the finish of the stone. Polished, glossy stone continues to be the most popular—and for good reason. A polished surface, which is achieved by using diamond abrasives to create the mirror-like finish, is the easiest to clean and maintain.
For those who like a matte look, there are “honed” and “leathered” finishes available. Honed stone has a flat, matte surface which is gorgeous but shows more fingerprints than polished stone. A leathered surface is also matte but has more texture to it.
When it comes to countertop edges Mara says “clients are looking for simplicity rather than the elaborate carved edges.” A simple, rounded edge is what most homeowners prefer these days.
FULL HEIGHT BACKSPLASHES AND CHUNKY ISLANDS
Continuous backsplashes are a big trend these days. “Many clients are choosing a full height backsplash that extends from the countertop to the bottom of the upper cabinets. They love the clean lines this creates,” Mara says.
For those homeowners who are really looking to make a statement—particularly on an island—extra thick stone is a great option. Standard countertops are typically 1.25” thick. To create a chunkier looking stone, the slab is mitered at a 45-degree angle and the stone then continues over the edge to the desired height. The same technique is used to create a “waterfall” effect of continuing the slab all the way to the floor, which is another popular choice.
With so many options, the steveworks team is delighted to be able to work with Mara at Onyx Marble & Granite to guide homeowners to create their dream kitchens, bathrooms and even laundry rooms.