Brownstone Boys: Sorting Through Kitchen Counter Options

The gorgeous counters have been installed and covered while we finish the rest of the kitchen

Editor’s note: Welcome to the 44th installment of Brownstone Boys Reno, a reader renovation diary. We’re excited to publish their tale of buying and renovating a brownstone in Bed Stuy. See the first one here. They also blog at www.thebrownstoneboys.com.

The kitchen is the heart of the house, they say. For us (and many folks) our kitchen is a big feature of our renovation. We wanted it to be big and open. We even sacrificed a powder room to get it. We wanted something that would be seen as a major feature. We also wanted a big island with seating because no matter how large or small it ends up being where everyone hangs out. One of the most important features of a big and open kitchen are the counters and we wanted to get it right.

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Gorgeous Carrara marble counters from a previous renovation

There are a lot of options out there for kitchen counters. We have experience with a few of them and we’ve researched and spoken to professionals about many of them. Depending on your design aesthetic, the durability you need, and the price point you’re targeting there is something out there for you. But how do you sort it all out? Here are some of our thoughts on some of the most popular options out there.

Marble
Pros
We love a Carrara marble counter. From a purely aesthetic perspective it’s the best top for us. Every time we see a big slab of Carrara in a house, restaurant or cafe, we melt a little. One of us used it in a previous renovations and for looks it did not disappoint.

Cons
Marble can be susceptible to etching and staining. We wrote off the warnings we heard when we chose it last time, and we shouldn’t have. So many glasses that were left on it left etched rings and even the smallest drops of wine left stains. Lemon juice, tomato…I don’t think any liquid was safe. Maybe if we were harder on it or waited a few years it might have all evened out but we ended up selling the apartment after only two years and had to have the counter honed and sealed before we did…but it looks great!

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Our HanStone Quartz counters have been installed

Quartz
Pros
Quartz offers the beauty of a natural stone but since it’s engineered it is much more durable. It is resistant to staining, etching, heat and scratching. It’s available in a wide variety of colors. These days the quartz that is made to resemble a natural stone does a great job of it. Even the Carrara marble versions achieve a very close look to the real thing.

Cons
Although they are getting better and better most still have an artificial look. Marbling just isn’t the same as the real thing, although it’s developing a following of its own and the intention isn’t always to mimic the natural stuff. It’s also a little pricey, but with the increased durability- it can be worth it.

Concrete
Pros
Concrete counters can give an industrial look to your kitchen. They are edgy and have a crafted feel. They are versatile and can be created in any shape. They are durable and with the best of us can even develop a bit more character as they get older.

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We loved the quartz so much we decided to use it for the master bathroom vanity

Cons
Concrete needs to be sealed regularly, so some maintenance is required. As you can imagine, it’s also heavier than other options so additional support is sometimes needed. Also, because it is handcrafted, with a multi-step process, it can be a bit more expensive than other options.

Granite
Pros
Granite is a popular option. It comes in a wide variety of colors and patterns. It’s durable and stands up well to wear and tear.

Cons
Its popularity is a turn-off for a lot of people. For some it conjures up images of the suburbs. It also should be sealed regularly to resist staining, so it needs some maintenance.

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We are loving how the counters look with our grey cabinetry and farm sink

Stainless Steel
Pros
Stainless steel is an interesting option. It definitely creates a distinct look and has a commercial kitchen feel. It’s very durable and resists staining, scratching and heat wear.

Cons
It’s an expensive option. It also has the unfortunate side effect of creating a noisy kitchen. You’ve probably heard the sound as you dined in a candle-lit hushed restaurant and the kitchen door swings open, revealing the distinctive metallic clanging of pots and pans banging around on it!

There are others to check out too: Soapstone, butcher block, solid surface and some others are worth considering.

Our Decision
As much as we love it, after our last experience with marble we wanted something a bit more durable with a bit less maintenance. But we didn’t want to sacrifice the look. Plain white counters just didn’t have enough character. So we found an amazing quartz that reminds us of our favorite marble…. but we might actually like it better! We went with HanStone Quartz in the Montauk color. For us, the key to the right quartz is finding one that does a good job with the engineered marbling. The one we chose has the soft grey undertones of Carrara, but is still bright enough to contrast with our grey cabinets. Since it’s quartz it will be very durable so we aren’t running around grabbing our guests’ drinks as they place them on the counter.

Our counters were just installed and our jaws hit the floor. They exceeded our expectations by miles. Unfortunately they are covered now for the next few weeks while we are finishing up the project. It’s one more thing (a big one) that we’re so excited about putting to use in just a matter of weeks now.

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