Luxury Counters Are Tops

River White Granite countertops in this kitchen by Echelon Custom Homes amp up the luxe factor.

In today’s kitchens and baths, luxury is a “must.” And nothing says “luxury” quite like an eye-catching countertop. Countertops can be the centerpiece of any kitchen or bath, bringing together the cabinets, floor, walls, and backsplash. As one of the most prominent surfaces in either of these spaces, the countertop can set the feel for a kitchen or a bathroom. And since it’s a sense of luxury that’s trending throughout today’s homes, how do you use a countertop to create a luxurious look?

It’s true that high-quality, durable countertops have a positive effect on the value of your home. But the style of countertop you choose—everything from color, pattern, edge detailing, and more—can also amp up the luxe factor. Whether you’re working on a brand new kitchen or bath or a remodel, here are a few tips for getting the look of luxury with countertops.

Two for one. Break up a large kitchen island or countertop run by using distinctively different materials. For example, you can add a wooden butcher block or marble baking area aside from the standard prep zone.

Multi-layer. Or, instead of two different materials, try two different levels. Varying countertop height, whether it’s part of an island, peninsula, or breakfast bar area, helps to define a space. It’s a thoughtful detail that can make a big difference in both the kitchen and the bath.

Get in Sink. More and more, we’re seeing multiple sinks in the kitchen. Using two sinks in two separate prep zones offers convenience. And convenience is the ultimate in luxury.

Thin is in. For the past several years, North American countertops have been on the thick side. But the European trend towards slimmer countertops is quickly catching on. A 1cm countertop fits perfectly with the sleek, modern feel of European kitchens and can make a small kitchen feel larger since the countertop isn’t an imposing focal point.

Consider concrete. Although concrete was originally considered to be a low-end very “industrial” countertop material, it’s being used today to create amazing, totally custom designs. A truly handmade product, concrete can be configured in just about any way imaginable. With elements like integrated drain boards and the ability to add personalized particulate (think shells, stones, glass, bottle caps, leaves, and more) concrete offers an endless array of opportunity. Plus, working with concrete takes collaboration between you and the client. Since part of the “luxury” experience involves attention to detail, you can, quite literally, leave no stone unturned when it comes to giving the client exactly what they want.

Try basic black. While one might be inclined to think of black as a dramatic color, in reality—and especially when used as a countertop material—black is a timeless, classic shade. With its ability to sharply contrast with any other color around it, black does make a bold statement. But in today’s kitchens, that statement is elegant and luxurious. Black granite used in the kitchen or bath, can elevate the overall design style. You’ll find slabs that range from subtle to bold. Think of black countertops as a “little black dress” that fits in everywhere.

White is right. White is white hot in both the kitchen and the bath right now, both for cabinet finishes and countertops. Everyone knows that Italian white marble is the epitome of luxury. Classics like Carrara, Calacatta, and Statuario offer a look and style that stands the test of time. But marble can be a bit tricky. Some homeowners prefer the look of “always brand new” as opposed to “lived with.” Due to its composition, marble will develop a patina over time. One way to get the marble look with a little less maintenance is by using white granite instead. White granite offers the same timeless beauty, but it’s far less likely to break, chip, crack, scratch, or stain. With regular sealing and proper care, white granite will hold onto a glossy, polished finish for much longer than marble.

Manmade can mean luxury too. For decades, Mother Nature created the most commonly specified countertop material: granite. But in recent years, manmade quartz has managed to finally overtake granite as the most popular selection. Made from about 95% crushed quartz stone and 5% resin and pigment, quartz is exceptionally durable. It’s resistant to corrosion and chipping. It’s nonporous, won’t scratch or crack, and never requires sealing. Quartz comes in a wide array of colors, from subtle neutral tones to dramatic bright hues. It’s even available in patterns that very closely emulate the style and texture of natural stone.  But most of all, quartz materials can be fabricated in nearly any shape, size, or configuration imaginable. Although quartz slabs are mass-produced, each countertop must be individually fabricated to a design’s unique specification.

Remember, the key to creating a successful luxurious project is to find out what the word “luxury” really means to your customers. Does luxury mean simplicity? Ease of maintenance? Drama? Or something completely different? Whatever their definition of luxury may be, there’s a countertop surface that will fit the bill.