By Sophie Overton
Kitchen countertops are changing. Moving away from high-maintenance granite and marble, more designers are turning to composite materials made of crushed stone bonded with resin. Whenever she has a client who does a lot of cooking and entertaining, Elyse Parkhurst, who with her business partner Caitlin Flynn, forms the design team at North Fork Design Co., recommends doing the kitchen islands and countertops in engineered stone. “Granite and other quarried stones look gorgeous but they can be difficult to maintain. We find that a lot of clients with families are looking for more durable options,” she says. “Marble, in particular, is very porous and can etch if it comes in contact with acidic foods like vinegar. And if you spill a glass of wine on it, it can be very hard to remove.” Happily, advances in engineered stone mean that manufacturers are coming closer to replicating the look of the real thing. Instead of buying from a big box store, Parkhurst recommends visiting a stoneyard where you can see the various slabs–each one is unique–and ordering a custom-fabricated piece. “We still pick out every slab we use and we encourage our clients to take part in the selection process,” she says. “Even people who aren’t design fiends can become excited about kitchen countertops once they start looking at materials.”
Here are North Fork Design Co.’s current favorites:
Neolith. One of the newest players in the manufactured stone game, Neolith is a heat-resistant compact ceramic surface. “It’s got the wow factor of marble with none of the maintenance issues. It doesn’t scratch or stain or corrode” says Parkhurst. “But because it’s such a new material, you really need to seek out a good fabricator who understands how to work with it.” Pricing varies but starts at $70 to $100, installed. neolithcountertops.com
Cambria Quartz. Essentially ground quartz with polyester resins, this marble and granite look-alike is nonporous. Recently, Parkhurst and Flynn designed a kitchen for a large home in Rockport, Massachusetts that employed the material in Talbot Gray to great advantage. “The clients loved to entertain and they had a huge kitchen with two dishwashers, a separate baking area, and an eleven-foot-long island so they really needed countertops that would hold up. To replicate the look of the quarried granite that is indigenous to the area, we suggested Cambria quartz, a pretty incredible product.” Starts at $75 to $80 per square foot, installed. cambriausa.com
Caesarstone. It’s been around for a while, yes, but Parkhurst and Flynn are excited about the 2016 colors. “There’s one called Statuario Maximus that looks like statue marble–broad grey veins against a white background. Another, Calacatta Nuvo, has that really classic, veined look of Calacatta marble. We’ve found that people in seaside towns or resort areas love white cabinets with clean countertops, and in that respect, Calacatta Nuvo fits the bill.” $2000 for a 10’ x 5’ slab. caesarstoneus.com
Caesarstone Raw Concrete. “It’s not for everybody, but for clients with ultra-modern homes, Caesarstone raw concrete is fantastic. Traditionally, concrete countertops have been a complicated business. For starters, they have to be poured on-site. Caesarstone has changed all that by combining the edgy look of concrete with the convenience of engineered quartz. We love it.” Pricing varies.