Tops Take on the Tasks

by Autumn McGarr

Today’s kitchen countertops are expected to perform multiple functions, providing durable surfaces that can seamlessly go from food prep to homework, entertaining to craft projects, and everything in between. Additionally, they are expected to look good while doing all these tasks.

Fortunately, these days designers have an array of countertop choices from which to choose to create functional and beautiful work spaces.

This month, KBDN showcases an array of countertop surfaces that take on the tasks. ▪


Photo: Chad Mellon

Andrew Patterson, founder/president
Patterson Custom Homes — Newport Beach, CA

Neolith Calacatta Gold (island); Neolith Pietra Di Luna (perimeter)

Timeless design isn’t always achieved via expected materials, such as in this kitchen where Patterson used sintered stone to capture the intended vibe.

“Our clients wanted a space that was clean, fresh and timeless,” indicates the builder, who worked with Brandon Architects (architect) and Trish Steele at Churchill Design (interior designer). “Trish also wanted an airy look in a kitchen that functioned as a usable, utilitarian space the family could enjoy, rather than simply being a showpiece.”

To accomplish those goals, the team topped the island with Neolith’s Calacatta Gold, which is reminiscent of classic marble, often considered a quintessential timeless material. However, given its manmade composition, the sintered stone is resilient and requires less maintenance, notes Patterson.

The 10′-long centerpiece of the kitchen was also sized so it could be covered by a single slab of the polished material, which was finished with a 2″ mitered edge.

“Initially, the island was drawn to be much larger and called for two slabs,” he says. “But the homeowner preferred that we use only one to prevent the need for an unsightly seam.”

For the perimeter, the design team juxtaposed the island with Neolith’s Pietra Di Luna in a Silk finish.

“The contrast between the perimeter and island provides depth and makes the space feel fresh,” Patterson adds.


Photo: Ryan Fung

Zuzanna Krykorka, principal
Studio Z Design — Toronto, Canada

Dekton Domoos ultra-compact surface material (island)Silestone White Zeus Extreme (perimeter)

Many of the historic architectural features of this mid-century home were restored during its renovation, where Krykorka blended the new with the old by using a clean, neutral and timeless palette of light oak wood, dark gray and white.

“The result is a modern, easy-living kitchen filled with natural light and beautiful details,” she says.

As part of the process, the designer specified Cosentino’s Dekton’s Domoos ultra-compact material for the island’s work surface, contrasting it with the company’s Silestone’s White Zeus Extreme natural quartz for the perimeter. Both materials were selected for their solid coloration.

“The homeowner does not like the look of veining in natural stone, so we knew the color would have to be monochromatic,” she says.

Krykorka also chose a 1.2 cm ultra-thin profile for a clean, contemporary feel.

“They wanted the large island to be the centerpiece of the kitchen for their growing family,” she explains. “So, instead of a thick counter material, which is more commonly used, we went with something different…the ultra-thin slab for a modern, slick look.”

To create the 14″ seating overhang, the designer supported the underside of the material with plywood, which she set back and painted in a matching hue to conceal its existence. To maintain the island’s singular color, she accented it with a sink and faucet in the same colorway.


Photo: Jean Bai/Konstrukt Photo

Alina Halloran, allied ASID
Alina Halloran Design — Woodside, CA

Neolith Pietra Di Luna (perimeter)
Calacatta Oro marble (island)

Moving the kitchen from the front of the house to the back gave Halloran’s clients the ability to more conveniently enjoy their landscaped backyard, pool and eating area, especially when they entertain family and friends.

“They often have groups of 20, 30 or even 40 people for holiday parties and other events,” says the designer, who worked in collaboration with BCS (builder). “They needed a plan that was not only comfortable for their family of four, but that could also cope with big events.”

To ensure easy entertaining with regard to countertop surfaces, Halloran suggested Neolith’s Pietra Di Luna in a Silk finish as the perimeter and buffet/serving island surfaces, which she finished with mitered edges to give them a traditional design vibe and to be consistent with the main island.

“Because of the type of entertaining she does, she needed something that was very durable,” she says. “The Neolith is resistant to heat and scratches, which is particularly important for the serving island, which is often loaded with food and drinks.”

Additionally, the sintered stone’s gray tone ties in with other materials used in the space, such as the custom ventilation hood and the Calacatta Oro marble that tops the focal-point island.

“She liked the idea of having a white kitchen, and she loves marble,” says Halloran, “so we kept the perimeter fairly neutral while offering a complementary contrast to the marble.”


Photos: Meagan Larsen

Amy Pearson, AKBD/lead designer
Adapt Design — Portland, OR

Steel Gray granite (perimeter/island)

Pearson’s clients love the country, and when they renovated their kitchen, they wanted to combine their rustic surroundings with their love for Craftsman-style details, which are distinctively showcased in the cabinetry details and door and window trims.

To complement the design style, they chose Steel Gray granite countertop surfaces for the island as well as the perimeter.

“Its dark color provides contrast with the lighter cabinets and the backsplash and pulls out the gray/blue tones from the slate floor,” she notes.

To add to the rustic vibe, Pearson suggested a leathered finish for the natural stone surface.

“The gray granite material with the leathered finish really speaks to the rustic nature of their country home, as well as many of the rustic features they have throughout the rest of the home,” she says. “There aren’t a lot of shiny finishes used in Craftsman design, so foregoing the polished finish in favor of a leathered one really allows the natural material to coordinate well with the other Craftsman details we added in the cabinets and door/window trim.”

Pearson indicates that, while the finish isn’t necessarily common, that’s what makes it special.

“It isn’t a widely used finish for granite countertops, but I think it gives the kitchen an extra special detail,” she adds.


Photos: Edith Andersen, SEN Creative

Kelly Finley, owner/principal
Joy Street Design — Oakland, CA

Soapstone (island, perimeter)

Finley’s client loves patterned tile and chose to showcase custom Kibak tiles on multiple walls in her family’s renovated Craftsman kitchen.

“We started the project with the backsplash,” says the designer, adding that the decision to complement it with cabinetry in a light green hue followed shortly thereafter.

“Then, as we thought about the backsplash and how it plays with the cabinetry, we decided we wanted a dark stone for the countertops…thus the decision to use soapstone,” she continues.

As a natural stone, each slab offers its own unique characteristics and veining, and, in the case of the slabs used in this kitchen, a more unusual green coloration.

“We love how the undertones play with the rest of the materials, especially the green cabinetry,” she says. “We also love the veining. While I’m a quartz fan and use it in my designs, there’s something lovely about the veining in natural stone.”

To further emphasize its innate patterns and striations, Finley included a soapstone apron-front sink.

Finley’s clients chose to forgo the use of any oils, thereby allowing the stone to patina and age over time.

“They are perfectly comfortable with soapstone and how it lives,” she says. “They love that it changes as it ages. It makes the kitchen feel more lived in, rather than brand new.”


Photos: Sarah Shields Photography

Wendy Langston, owner/
principal designer
Everything Home — Carmel, IN

Cambria Skara Brae quartz (island, perimeter)

These clients do a lot of entertaining for colleagues and prospective clients, so the countertop surfaces in their kitchen needed to stand up to extreme use – thus the decision to choose quartz, specifically Cambria’s Skara Brae.

“We lean toward quartz as a workhorse in kitchens because it is so durable,” says Langston.

Since this kitchen is also open to public spaces, including the family room and adjacent eating area, the homeowners also wanted their countertops to be beautiful.

“The countertops serve as art,” she says, adding that repeating the quartz as the backsplash reinforces the aesthetic and is on-trend for creating a clean, seamless space with high impact. “The pattern mimics marble with a very elegant, refined look and grand veining that really catches the eye. The marble effect and white background also set off the white finishes in the rest of the room…without competing with them.”

Waterfall edges on the seating island further showcase the material’s dramatic veining pattern, while a mitered edge gives it ‘heft.’

“The island looks larger and more substantial,” she says, adding that creating a floor plan with two islands is useful for clients like these who love to entertain. The main island, which is closer to the appliances, can be used for preparing foods, while the second island can be used as a refreshments/serving area and seating for guests who can be close to and engage in conversation with the cook.


Photos: Emily Minton Redfield

Miranda Cullen, principal
Duet Design Group — Littleton, CO

Caesarstone Lagos Blue quartz
(island, butler’s pantry surfaces)
Colonial Gold granite (perimeter)

Designed with a rustic Ralph Lauren vibe to match the rest of the home, this kitchen offers a neutral overall palette with pops of very specific colors. These add character and interest, indicates Cullen, whose design firm selected the finishes, including Caesarstone’s Lagos Blue quartz that serves as the island top and the butler’s pantry work surfaces and the Colonial Gold granite around the kitchen’s perimeter.

“The simple sophistication of this kitchen is achieved by using countertop materials that are more subtle, allowing the accents of the space to have focal placement, such as the burnt umber pantry cabinets and the patterned backsplash tile in the butler’s pantry,” explains Cullen, who served as project lead, in collaboration with Chalet, a local architect and builder that designed the kitchen layout.

While the design firm originally specified a butcher block top for the island, the clients ultimately decided they needed a more resilient surface for the family, thus another plus for the quartz, she notes.

“We were still able to achieve a rich brown aesthetic with the quartz product, along with the durability requested from the clients,” she says.


Photo: Ashley Ball Photography

Brandon O’Hanlon, owner
K&W Kitchens — Suisun City, CA

Corian Carbon Concrete solid surface (perimeters)

The Corian Carbon Concrete solid surface countertops used to top the perimeter cabinetry in this remodeled kitchen provide a lower-maintenance option compared to the real thing, indicates O’Hanlon.

“It gives the look of concrete without the maintenance,” he says.

Choosing to finish the countertops with an eased edge profile gives them a contemporary look, bringing them into 2020, while their matte finish reinforces the concrete resemblance.

“Corian [solid surface] is great to work with because it has the ability to be a lot of different things,” says the designer. “While we usually choose matte finishes, it can also be polished to a high gloss.

“We also like to use Corian because it allows us to do a part of the job we would otherwise have to outsource,” he continues. “That means we are able to customize a countertop to a client’s specifications for their dream kitchen.”

Aesthetically, these concrete-look-alike countertops were also key in fulfilling his clients’ desire for a modern, French country kitchen with rustic accents.

“We have quite a few different patterns and textures that all complement each other,” he says, “including the countertops. They pair nicely with the cabinets, decorative ventilation hood, floor and rustic barn door that hides the pantry.”


Photos: Jessica Kopecky

Sara Haumschild, WRID/ASID, owner
Inspired by Design — Wausau, WI

Formica Calacatta Marble laminate (perimeter, island/peninsula)

Haumschild’s clients wanted to update their kitchen with an industrial look that was also light and airy…without breaking the bank. As such, the decision to reface rather than replace cabinetry made sense. So did the decision to use Formica’s Calacatta Marble laminate, featured here in a SatinTouch finish, which offers a smooth, matte texture with a silky feel and sheen.

“Laminate is a great choice for them because they could get the end result they wanted without spending a lot of money,” she says, adding that she also often recommends the surfacing material to clients who want to update and refresh countertops relatively frequently because it offers flexibility and versatility due to its price point.

Designed to resemble natural stone, the laminate’s white background fulfills the ‘light and airy’ requirement and complements the white cabinets while the darker veining coordinates with the charcoal wall color used as an accent in the kitchen and as the predominant color in the adjacent dining room. It also works well with the gray grout that contrasts with the white subway tile used in the backsplash.

“This countertop really ties everything together while keeping the space light,” she says. “The veining is soft and elegant like marble. It’s tastefully done and has enough character to make a statement without being overkill.”


Photo: Garey Gomez Photography

Micaela Quinton, RID, IIDA
Copper Sky Renovations — Atlanta, GA

Copper (perimeter); Reclaimed wood (peninsula)

A penchant for purity influenced many of the material selections in this kitchen, where Quinton indicates that her architect client loves natural materials in their natural state.

“For example, he likes brick, unpainted, and natural stone,” she says. “He also likes a mix of materials.”

As such, it seemed appropriate to include copper and reclaimed wood as worktop surfaces. The former serves as the perimeter’s countertop where the untreated metal, fabricated by a local craftsman, will patina naturally with use.

“He likes that it will age over time…that he will see it wear,” she says. “He likes the character that it builds.”

The reclaimed wood that serves as the peninsula takes on special meaning since it was salvaged from his own home during the renovation.

“The ceiling used to be all one level,” she explains. “But during the remodel, we removed rafters in the living room so we could raise the ceiling.”

Those rafters, in turn, were repurposed by a local artisan into the kitchen peninsula, which seamlessly extends into the living room to serve as the bar top. In total, its horizontal surface spans 19′ before cascading vertically into a waterfall edge. To minimize the “patched” look, the wood was grain-matched and each strip is no more than two pieces.

“Like the copper, he wanted to see the wood with all of its character…including all of the original nail holes,” says Quinton.


Photo: Beth Singer

Valerie Dehnke, designer
Ellwood Interiors — Birmingham, MI

Meltdown Glass (bar top)
Belem quartzite (island, perimeter)

Between the walls of windows, lighting fixtures and even stair railing, glass makes multiple appearances throughout this home, including in the kitchen where a single piece of 2″-thick glass from Meltdown Glass floats above the island via custom metal brackets to serve as a raised bar top.

“It keeps the cadence,” says Dehnke, who along with Amanda Sinistaj, owner of the design firm, collaborated with VanBrouck & Associates for the project.

The glass also supports the clients’ desire for a modern design theme.

“The space is moody and organic with a masculine feel,” she adds.

While glass can be cold and sterile, Dehnke warmed it up with a Splash texture, featured on the countertop’s underside.

“As you look through the glass, it looks like water,” she says, adding that its smooth surface maintains functionality.

The designer also used the glass as a visual break from the Belem quartzite, which serves as the island and perimeter work surfaces.

“These countertops are a very light taupe with some movement from subtle veining,” she says. “We wanted them to be more subtle so the glass, as well as the stacked aluminum
ventilation hood and backsplash, could do the speaking.”

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