Rethinking Countertops

The new, the cool and the must-have surfaces for your home.

You have to admit that when you walk into someone’s kitchen, the star of the show is usually the countertop. It pulls the whole room together. Enter the bath, and the countertop is like the accessory that completes the look. And if you have a home bar, well, there’s no better place to get creative with your choice of surface material than at this social gathering spot. 

Whether building or renovating, consumers have myriad choices. You can go au natural with gorgeous stone countertops, choose cleverly created engineered stone or install a totally man-made laminate product at a great price point.   

Darlene Spezzi-Mero, owner/CEO of Mystic Granite & Marble in Orlando, has been in the natural stone business for 19 years, selling to professionals and the public. With an experienced eye, she can easily pick out trends, and her 53,000-square-foot showroom has some of the latest materials, from sought-out granite to exotic stone and everything in between. Her slabs come from Brazil, Italy and other parts of the world. 

“Quartzite is the hottest material right now, especially in white and gray tones,” she says. It’s slightly translucent and doesn’t have the black stone found in granite, she explains. Because it’s harder and more resistant to stains than granite, quartzite is quickly becoming a favorite in kitchens. Her Perla Venata from Brazil, with its white and earthy tones, has a beautiful flowing pattern that lends itself to countertops. 

Look for cool tones. Whites and grays in different shades are trending, and they work extremely well in both kitchens and baths. Palissandro Onicaito, a marble with dramatic wavy gray veins on white, is a stunning piece that works well as a vanity as well as on bathroom walls. Blue is another cool tone that is popular despite the stone being more expensive. Spezzi-Mero admits she can’t keep the blues in stock. Her bestseller is the Blue Bahia, a granite from Brazil that resembles the flow and variations in color of a cerulean-hued river. 

Another trend to watch is the leather finish. “Homeowners are tired of the shiny surface,” she says, which explains the popularity of stone with a leathery matte-like finish. It’s something different we haven’t seen in a while. The finished stone even has the grainy feel of leather. Slabs with rich brown and black tones that swirl together, like the Sandalus quartzite from Brazil, give kitchen countertops a distinctly handsome, almost rustic look.  

When it comes to creating a drop-dead gorgeous bar, onyx is the “it” stone of the moment. You’ve seen it backlit in the hottest bars and lounges, but now it’s making its way into the home. With its translucent quality, onyx is easily enhanced by light, which helps to show off its natural bands of color and, of course, add drama to the room. Green, amber gold and even red tones are some of the shades to look for.

 A pricey, luxurious trend is the use of exotic or semiprecious stone. “It’s very high end and cost prohibitive for most home-owners,” Spezzi-Mero says. But for those who can afford it, she has slabs of mixed agate and tiger-eye gold. The stone is cut and artisans arrange the pieces to create a design similar to a work of art—a stone masterpiece. She also has gray mother of pearl, in which the iridescent inner layers of shells are arranged to form an exquisite slab. 

If you find yourself shopping at Mystic Granite & Marble, keep in mind that Spezzi-Mero has a half-slab program: Slabs are 60 square feet, so if you need 80 square feet, she will sell you two slabs and buy back the half you don’t use.  

Homeowners who prefer engineered stone known as quartz—ground-up quartz particles pressed together—for its durability (scratch-, stain- and heat-resistant) will find the latest colors echo that seen in stone: whites, grays and mixed tones that resemble the patterns found in granite. 

For those who want stylish countertops but don’t want to lay down big bucks, laminate that mimics the look of natural materials is the way to go. The Formica brand has created such designs as Sand Flow, with the granular pattern and color of the beach, and Lava Flow, with a fluid charcoal rock appearance. White stone is also a big trend in laminate with Carrara Bianco, a traditional, yet elegant marble pattern, and Argento Romano, a light gray-based neutral with taupe and beige accents that add character to the stone design. 

Categories: Decorating