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Top 5 Best Counter Surfaces for Busy Kitchens

Do you ever notice how we age as time passes? We seem to grow less shiny, more brittle – maybe gaining a few cracks or replacement parts. This curious coincidence is true about our homes, too. Our clients are sometimes surprised to hear that we embrace aging. It’s true; we love patina. This includes wear marks and stains on the Kitchen countertops. I’ve collected my favorite countertop materials to share, and all of them have this in common; they wear well, and they look good when they have been useful and loved. Just like us.


Carrara Marble Kitchen Countertop

Patron saint of countertops, Carrara has adorned temples, statues, libraries and yes, countertops for ages. This pale grey and white, veined and dappled marble is quarried in the northernmost tip of modern-day Tuscany– and is worth the shipping charge. And if marble counters are in your budget, Carrara is less expensive than Calcatta, for example.

It’s a relatively soft marble, and as a countertop it can be carved with a slightly raised edge – or scored with drain board grooves. Red wine, marinara sauce, blueberries and even lemons can tarnish marble if left to sit overnight. Carrara can chip, too, yet the chips can be polished to smooth and the stains turn grey just like the veining. It can be highly polished and super-sealed or honed and left unsealed. We like it satin-honed and sealed.

Porcelain Tile

Porcelain Tile Kitchen Countertop

My own kitchen counters have been topped with porcelain tile for nearly 20 years. Porcelain is a ceramic material made by heating materials to temperatures between 1,200 and 1,400 °C (2,200 and 2,600 °F). The toughness of porcelain, and a high resistance to chemicals and thermal shock make it perfect for counters. Bring on the tea kettles and hot skillets. Bleach, lemons, red wine, hair dye, cherries, (and in my Kitchen, shoe polish) don’t stick around for the after-party on these counters. Manufactured in large sizes with crisp square edges, porcelain tile can be laid with small gaps and very little grout. And if grout darkens or gets stained, it can be bleached back to its original color. Porcelain tile counters can be edged with tile, or with stone, wood, copper, stainless steel – even glass!


Basalt Kitchen Counter

We often specify this “business suit” of countertops. Its classic, understated appearance is consistent with its strong, durable, easy-to-maintain personality. It is an extrusive, volcanic rock formed from the rapid cooling of lava exposed at or very near the Earth’s surface. Commonly very fine grained, basalt provides a very hard surface in a consistent color. It is more brittle than granite – so don’t we design small areas (behind the sink, for example) or large overhangs. It arrives black, grey or brown. Seal it with Miracle Sealants 511 Porous Plus and it will stay that way no matter what life (or your kids) may throw at it.

Black Absolute Granite (technically, its gabbro, not granite)

Black Absolute Granite Kitchen Counter

This is the “little black dress” of countertops. Goes everywhere – from Laundry to Powder Room. It’s hard and won’t stain. Lemons will etch it, but mineral oil will protect it. But beware of the patterns. Granite is an intrusive rock, which means that the magma was trapped deep in the Earth’s crust, and probably took a very long time to cool down. This results in a coarse-textured rock in which individual mineral grains are easily visible. And wow! Remember the wildly figured Juparana granites (think 1980 Kitchens)?  The pattern and color choices are many and varied, but we take ours black, satin-honed and sealed.

Butcher Block

Butcher Block Kitchen Counter

Walnut, teak or mahogany, maple or oak, butcher block counters are as classic as Carrara – but we specify them for different reasons. They stain and show wear and burn marks and water can cause them to split. But if the signs of aging concern you, they can be bleached, sanded and resealed many times. They are also one of the most effective antibacterial surfaces you can install in your Kitchen, due to the presence of naturally occurring anti-microbial substances in the wood grain. We use butcher block on islands and dry areas, and keep the edges away from the sink, usually surrounding the sink with stone. The warmth they bring an all-white Kitchen can’t be overestimated.