Stylin’ Surface Solutions

by Autumn McGarr

Equally desired for their statement-making style and hard-working functionality, today’s countertops take the kitchen to a whole new level. New technology allows for greater innovation in creating one-of-a-kind designs, fabricating eye-catching edges, creating full-countertop charging capabilities and more, while the nearly endless array of colors, textures and patterns allow for enhanced aesthetic appeal and greater personalization of the space.

With the mix and match trend remaining strong, designers have the chance to let their creativity shine with kitchens that address style, budget and functional needs through a variety of surfacing options.

KBDN highlights a collection of kitchen projects showcasing a wide variety of surfacing materials, employed to maximize function while adding plenty of ‘wow power’ to the space. ▪


Category: Sintered Stone


Photos: Alex Zarour, Virtually Here Studios

Lisa Bell, interior designer
Lisa Bell Design Group — La Habra, CA

Dekton Aura (island, perimeter)

As soon as Bell saw the concrete walls in this Bel Air kitchen, she knew exactly what other materials and elements should be included in the space. For one, the countertops had to be a modern version of a classic natural stone, thus the selection of Dekton’s Aura, which was designed specifically to emulate Calacatta and Carrara marble. Another ‘must have’ was gloss cabinetry.

“I like the idea of the whole blend of the matte finish of the countertop against the gloss cabinetry alongside the rough concrete block,” she says, noting an overall design theme of sleek, sexy and modern. “It’s a great juxtaposition. All the finishes needed to be extremes.”

Bell also wanted to give the island substance, so she added a thick mitered edge to the nearly 11’x5′ island “so it looked like we brought this huge chunk of natural stone up from the canyon and put it in the middle of this contemporary kitchen,” she explains.


Photos: Exceptional Frames

Gita Jacobson, owner
In the Deets — Lafayette, CA

Neolith Beton (sitting room bar hutch)

Calacatta Oro marble, honed (kitchen island, perimeter)

The materials Jacobson selected for this kitchen and sitting room needed to fulfill separate design qualities, yet work together.

For the kitchen, natural stone adds warmth and elevates the space. “We didn’t want a rustic farmhouse look,” she notes. “Instead, we wanted a material that looked right in the high-end home in which it is used. The Calacatta marble works because of its white and gold veining, the latter of which provides a nice warmth and matches the brass finishes used throughout the kitchen. The other benefit of marble is that, as it ages, it adds to the timeless, classic look they wanted.”

As a natural material, each piece is also unique, so four slabs were hand selected, then cut and laid out to showcase just the right amount of veining.

Conversely, for the sitting room, Jacobson’s clients wanted a more industrial look… “something a bit more masculine to accommodate the husband’s preferences,” she says, adding that the space also includes a fireplace that is faced with the same Neolith. “The Neolith works well because it looks like concrete, but is extremely durable, which is important since drinks are mixed here.”

Jacobson juxtaposed the ‘cold’ concrete look of the Neolith against blue cabinetry with a blue shiplap backsplash that exemplifies a farmhouse style.


Category: Granite, Marble


Photos: Jean Allsopp Photography

Jay Young, CKD, owner/principal designer
Toulmin Cabinetry & Design — Tuscaloosa, AL

Danby marble, honed (island, perimeter)

When Young designed his own kitchen, he knew from the start that the countertops would be marble.

“I just love marble,” he says, “especially Danby marble, which is quarried in Vermont. Marbles from the U.S. have a softer vein and feel with less distinction in terms of color variations when compared to an Italian or Carrara marble. They perform the same, and are susceptible to etching and staining, but I embrace those qualities, and to me, they add character that gives the stone a lived in and aged look…something like what you might find in an old café in New Orleans.”

Marble’s characteristics also fit well with the kitchen’s design theme, where Young wanted to create a ‘homey’ environment within a traditional white kitchen.

“With white kitchens, it’s important to find materials that provide texture and warmth so they don’t feel cold and sterile,” he says. “The marble accomplishes that while providing some interest that makes the space inviting.”

The designer finished the island’s edge with a 6cm custom profile designed for a timeless appeal. A subway tile backsplash, laid in a herringbone pattern, completes the space and provides added texture that blends well with the various shades of white used throughout the rest of the kitchen.


Photos: Andrea Rugg Photography

Kate Roos, principal
Kate Roos Design — Minneapolis, MN

Designed in collaboration with Terra Firma

River White granite, polished (island, perimeter)

Although Roos’ clients had originally considered quartz – which priced out a bit above budget – when the designer came across this slab of River White granite at her stone supplier, she knew it would be the perfect fit for the Mid-Century Modern, open-concept kitchen.

“They were looking for a countertop material that was a little bit modern,” says Roos. “This particular granite has a very linear pattern that lends itself nicely to that design style.”

Plus, its coloration – which showcases white and gray veins with cream and white tones – coordinates well with the off-black cabinetry with a touch of blue. “In the end, this granite was not only more affordable, but also more interesting than our initial choice,” she says.

Roos accented the island with waterfall edges to enhance the modern look, add interest, help define the space and give it a focal-point presence. Its substantial length offers plenty of work space, while its width allows for additional storage as well as ‘breathing room’ for the cooktop.

She repeated the granite on the kitchen’s perimeter, which mirrors the island’s length to give it a bit of a galley feel and add symmetry.


Category: Quartz


Photos: Marshall Evan Photography

Laura Watson, ASID/UDCP
The Cleary Company — Columbus, OH

Vicostone Borghini quartz, polished (island, perimeter)
Walnut (pantry/hutch)

There are several white countertop materials that might make aesthetic sense for a 100-plus-year-old home, says Watson. White granite is an option, and so is Carrara marble. But when you factor in price and functionality for this active family with three young boys and a dog, quartz was the logical material choice.

“My clients’ countertops needed to be durable,” she says. “They also wanted something that supported the architecture and era of their historic home while keeping the kitchen bright and airy. This Borghini quartz offers a vintage style with a Carrara marble look that is appropriate…it’s like the little black dress that never goes out of style!”

Watson utilized the quartz for the island as well as the perimeter and added a floating shelf above the range for frequently used cooking supplies.

To complement the quartz, Watson included a walnut top on the nearby pantry/hutch.

“My clients had some walnut slabs that had been stored in their attic garage for years,” she says. “They wanted to incorporate them into their kitchen somehow and this was the perfect place. They cleaned up beautifully and add wonderful depth to the space.”

Final touches include pantry doors that were repurposed from a built-in hutch that was original to the house. They also served as inspiration for the custom doors above the range.


Photo: Shanna Wolf Photography

Joyce Zuelke, CKD
Geneva Cabinet Company
Lake Geneva, WI

Cambria Ella quartz (island)

Material choices are often dependent on many different considerations. But in this kitchen, Zuelke had the added challenge of designing a new island to coordinate with the existing perimeter cabinetry and countertops, which didn’t need to be replaced given that the home was only five years old.

“The previous island was quite small and they wanted something larger with seating,” she says, noting that a breakfast table was also removed to create enough space.

Because the homeowners have three small children who would use the island as a workstation, they wanted a low-maintenance countertop material. As such, they chose Cambria’s Ella quartz, which features a relatively subtle marbled background. It is also available in extra-large sizes, thereby eliminating the need for any seams.

“They wanted something that wouldn’t clash with the busy granite on the perimeter,” Zuelke says, adding that it also coordinates with the island’s cherry cabinet base, which features a Bark stain and black glaze.

Because of the island’s size, the designer included a 6cm edge to set the island apart and give it a heavier, more substantial look.

Adding a trio of pendant lights and a ceiling treatment that echoes the colors of the island base helps complete the space.


Photo: Scott Amundson

Megan Dent, AKBD
Mingle — Plymouth, MN

Vicostone Calacatta (island)
Vicostone Super White (perimeter)

Many of the kitchens Dent currently designs feature quartz as their countertop, in part because of its ease of maintenance. While these clients appreciated that benefit, the aesthetics of Vicostone’s Calacatta and Super White quartz also played into the decision.

“This island is a showstopper,” she says. “Designed to replicate natural stone, it has a lot of great movement, which is what many people seem to be drawn to now.

“It also has quite a few colors, including gray and even a subtle tinge of green, that add warmth,” she continues. “That is important because, in this kitchen, there are a lot of windows. In the winter, it can be cold and gray outside, which creates a cooler palette inside, so it was important to add some warmth to what my clients see through those windows in the winter.”

Dent complemented the Calacatta-topped island with Super White for the kitchen’s perimeter. “A combination of two different designs, and even two different materials, has been a trend for quite some time now,” she says. “Typically, the perimeter is where someone might keep jars, mini appliances or even knife blocks, so it’s nice to keep that area neutral and simple. However, an island is where a lot of people gather, so it’s a great place for a really pretty design.”


Category: Solid Surface


Photos: Christi Nielsen

Faye Nielsen, Allied ASID/NKBA
The Nielsen Collection — Irving, TX

Porcelanosa KRION Crystal White (island, perimeter, bar)

Nielsen often turns to KRION solid surface products for her kitchen and bath projects, including this kitchen where 2cm-thick Crystal White is featured on the island and perimeter. The semi-circular bar at the edge of the kitchen features the same solid surface material, and although its curve is cut, it is seamless given its properties.

The designer cites a number of reasons why the material is the perfect fit for the space, starting with its white coloration.

“White is a great color for contemporary spaces,” she says. “Plus, I needed something to lighten up the wall of dark onyx cabinets. The white countertops bring the whole space up to another level.”

The inclusion of crystalline particles that offer a slight shimmer adds to the material’s appeal, as do its anti-bacterial, seamless and thermoformable qualities.

“There is a bit of glam in every room in the house,” she says, noting that it was renovated in its entirety. “There are also a lot of customized metal pieces throughout, and the backsplash in the kitchen is three-dimensional glass tile. The little sparkle in the countertop continues the theme of the house and gives the homeowner that little bit of bling she wanted.”


Photo: Jason Speth

Mario Romano, designer/digital fabricator
M.R. Walls — Santa Monica, CA

Dupont Corian Glacier White (island); Walnut (island bar top)

Romano routinely works with Corian for anything from a relatively expected surface material such as a countertop to the more unusual floor, wall, cabinet, stairs or more, for interiors and exteriors. “The material is incredibly expressive,” he says. “Its only limitations are a designer’s fluency.”

In this kitchen, the designer showcased the material in the nearly 18′-long countertop as well as the nearby stairs, choosing Glacier White for its timelessness.

“Because of Corian’s seamless properties, we were able to create the long, sleek and totally modern island with several sheets that we bonded together as one for a super flat, seamless surface that is incredibly easy to clean,” he says, adding that its properties also gave him the ability to integrate wireless phone charging capabilities so the homeowners can simply set their phone on the countertop when it needs to
be charged.

Its waterfall edge enhances aesthetics and adds a robustness to protect against damage from chairs, knees, etc., while its walnut bar top encourages informal dining. “People often gather in the kitchen, which has become the central hub of the home,” he says. “The bar top creates a more casual dining experience, bringing everyone together in one central place.”


Category: Glass, Wood, Metal


Photo: Eric Roth Photography

Chloë Rideout, lead interior designer
Cummings Architects — Ipswich, MA

Spruce planks, constructed on site
by Windhill Builders (island)
Absolute black granite, leathered (perimeter)

When it came to designing the renovated kitchen in this historic 1730s house, Rideout focused on creating a space that respected the age of the property while incorporating modern-day amenities. With additional direction provided from a desire to achieve a natural look, material selection focused on natural and rustic materials, such as the wood and granite countertops complemented with traditional textured plaster and a salvaged barn door that leads to the pantry.

Although the spruce planks for the island are new-growth wood, custom blending the gel stain created a color that works with the posts from the original timber frame construction, into which the island intersects.

“We didn’t want the color of the island to conflict with the color of the timbers,” she explains.

While spruce is more affordable than other woods such as white oak, it is a softer material, Rideout notes. As such, two coats of Waterlox were added after staining.

“It will still go through wear and tear over time,” she says. “But it will be protected for longer.”

As a complement to the wood, the leathered granite offers a ‘softer’ texture, compared to polished finishes. “The leathered texture without a sheen certainly gives the material a more natural feel,” she adds.


Photos: Bilotta Kitchens

Randy O’Kane, CKD/senior designer
Bilotta Kitchens — Mamaroneck, NY

Glassos Nano White glass (island, perimeter)
Spekva Prima heart ash (island table)

Texture was an overriding premise for this kitchen, where O’Kane included glass for the perimeter and island countertops and wood for the attached seating area, complemented with a limestone backsplash and textured wallpaper.

“It’s really a play on using different textures, combining shiny and smooth with rough,” she explains.

As the main work surface, glass offers additional benefits of being very easy to clean, which was an important consideration for the homeowner. The color and reflectivity of the glass also play a role in the design, offering a way to keep the space light and bright. “White is a fantastic color to use in a kitchen,” says O’Kane. “Everything you put on it stands out, so even a bowl of fruit or a vase of flowers becomes a focal point.”

The raised circular wood table, which sits atop a sculptural base, provides in-kitchen seating. “A lot of times people want to be able to sit in the kitchen when someone is cooking,” she says. Since this kitchen is narrow, the designer lengthened the island to accommodate a few stools and fill some footprint space that would have otherwise been wasted. “The table is a cool detail that offers aesthetic and functional purposes,” she concludes.

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