Decisions, decisions. You’ve decided to renovate your kitchen. That’s the easy decision. Now comes the challenge as you face down a mind-boggling array of materials. Countertops can be especially difficult to choose given the range of choices on offer.
Thomas Tampold knows how confusing the search for the right kitchen counter can be. This architect regularly encounters homeowners in his showroom at Yorkville Design Centre in Toronto who want to get the choice right. “There’s always a search for the material that is the most aesthetically pleasing while offering a worry-free surface,” he says.
Worry-free, as in: don’t worry about chips and nicks from daily use or persistent food stains.
To that end, says Tampold, “porcelains are the latest generation of worry-free material. The measure of how good they are is that they’re used as exterior cladding.
Porcelain is extremely resistant to staining and discolouration. Toilets are made of porcelain as is oven-proof cookware. And the slabs are thinner than natural stone, so they’re easier to transport and install.”
Marble may have a bad rep for being porous (hence, prone to stains and pockmarks), but it should not be eschewed by anyone who loves it. “That piece of marble has been cut out of a mountain for you and you have a relationship with the material,” Tampold says. “We had a professional chef come into our showroom who said that she sands down imperfections in her marble countertop.”
Tampold confesses he has an attachment to marble. “I have a marble table top, left over from a collection of marble in the lobby of a building. It’s been in my family since my father, who was also an architect, got it during the 1960s. It has a stain on it made by a lemon wedge a long time ago, which has happy associations for me.”
Glass may not yet have been widely embraced as a countertop material, he adds, but it is beautiful, and some companies, such as Montreal’s ThinkGlass, are turning glass countertops into works of art.
Quartz – engineered stone made of crushed quartz combined with resins, pigments and polymers – continues to be a favourite material for kitchen counters. “I am using a white quartz by Caesarstone in my condo,” Tampold says. “The neutral white has staying power.”
Stainless steel has a commercial-industrial look that is much-loved by foodies and serious home cooks. “It’s surprisingly inexpensive, too,” he says. “And it contrasts well with other materials. Of course, you don’t cut on it. You need a cutting board.”
Formica, widely used a generation ago, is back and on-trend. “I like it with an exposed laminated edge, using Baltic plywood,” he says. “It creates a Scandinavian look.”
And the advantage of Corian, another manufactured surface, “is that it’s seamless and can be lit from behind. Moreover, it’s glued onsite and can be sanded down. I like the shapes you can make with it,” he says.
And there are always natural stones – granite and quartzite – for an organic look.
The best way to choose a kitchen counter material, Tampold says, is to visit a showroom “and touch and feel countertops. Go to suppliers of slabs and see what you feel an attachment to. If you’ve found something you already have an emotional attachment to, bring it to us.” Whether the goal is to have a surface that can withstand a lot of use or something that is warm and aesthetic, consumers have plenty from which to choose. •
Yorkville Design Centre
87 Avenue Rd., Box 358
Yorkville Village, Toronto