Countertop Mashups Blend Style and Function

Light and dark countertop colors dance in harmony in this Old Greenwich, CT kitchen renovation by JWH Design & Cabinetry LLC.

Just as it is with cabinetry and wood finishes, there is no rule that says all of your kitchen countertop surfaces have to be exactly the same. The marrying of various countertop surfaces in one space is a very big design trend right now. But what homeowners may not realize is that there’s actually a lot of functionality behind this look.

Not only can mixing countertop finishes create a really beautiful aesthetic, it can also improve the function of the kitchen. For example, a blend of practical butcher block and lavish marble creates a kitchen with great visual appeal that’s also ideal for food prep and baking.

In other words, you don’t use all of the areas in the kitchen the same way, so there really isn’t any reason they need to look alike. Surfaces can be tailored to functions, such as heat-resistant top for the cooking zone and a warm wood for the eating area.
Also, using a different surface can help create a focal point or even a more casual “furniture” look. It can also help stretch a budget. If your client has their eye on an expensive slab of marble or stunning hardwood, for example, using it in a small area while installing a more affordable option in the rest of the room can be the perfect solution.

If you’re thinking of blending multiple countertop surfaces in a kitchen design, here are a few things today’s top designers say you should consider…

Be Practical

Don’t go for looks alone. Think about which surfaces would be most practical in which locations. Where are spills most likely to occur? For most, the hardest working areas in the kitchen are typically the cooktop and the sink. This is the spot to use a countertop material that will stand up to stains, spills, and water.

Wood, for example, is a terrific kitchen surface. It’s ideal for meal prep since you can chop and dice right on it. It pairs wonderfully with natural stone as well as composite materials. However, wood will scorch and stain. Plus, it will require oiling. So you may wish to keep the wood surface for a smaller prep area or for just an eating surface to minimize maintenance.

Another element to the concept of practicality is budget. You won’t have the option to include a kitchen full of marble for every project you work on. However, if your client loves the classic elegance of marble, incorporate it into the design. Just be sure to dedicate a sizable chunk of the surface to another material. It will save a bundle but still give your clients the timeless look they crave.

Follow Function

That white marble island isn’t just for show. It’s also perfect for rolling out pastry dough. Marble’s naturally cool surface will keep dough soft and prevent it from sticking as you work it. For bakers, including an area of marble is an excellent, and beautiful, choice.

Stainless steel and wood offer a practical yet beautiful countertop combination. Kitchen Renovation by Soorikian Architecture

Stainless steel is another great option. It goes with today’s popular “professional” style kitchen look, and it’s hygienic. Plus, it will withstand heat, water, and stains. It does scratch, however. So it’s not the best choice for an area that sees a ton of culinary action or on a breakfast bar that’s used multiple times a day. When paired with quartz, natural stone, or even wood, stainless steel really pops.

Blend and Balance

Contrast is good, but you don’t want mixed countertop materials to look unintentional. There needs to be a sense of balance. Avoid using more than two types of countertop materials and break up the material based on a focal point. Be mindful of transition. An island or a raised bar could feature one surface while perimeter cabinets feature another. You can also highlight a specific area of cabinets, making them stand out like a piece of furniture, by using a different countertop material.

Blending and balancing is especially important when you are mixing colors. Be sure that there is a visual connection between the elements or you risk looking like you shopped in the salvage yard. For example, if you choose a marble island with gray veining, pair it with gray or black granite along the perimeter. If the kitchen you are working with is neutral and light in color, pick a darker accent surface for the remaining countertops. Be mindful of tones and stay consistent.

What’s the Edge?

Edge treatments can play a large role in creating a well-blended mixed look, too. Don’t be afraid to incorporate more than one countertop edge profile into your design. A marble island with a waterfall edge is a great way to create a centerpiece that will contrast, yet blend, with the surrounding elements. The important thing is to use the right edge to frame your countertops.

There are so many kinds of beautiful countertop materials out there that choosing can feel pretty overwhelming. Help your clients focus on practicality, function, and balance while weighing in with some aesthetics. Whatever their style or taste might be, there’s room for more than one countertop material in the kitchen.