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Friends Having Breakfast

Behind the Before & After | Countertops

Hard Choices

Picking countertops was not as fun as I had hoped. There are SO many to choose from. And the questions started with - do you want stone, a stone-like product or something that “looks” like stone? Apparently, you are supposed to begin with the kind of material you want, then get into color and design. But of course they are closely related.

I had decided early on that I really wanted my kitchen design to be classic. As much as I would love navy blue cabinets with brushed gold hardware, I didn’t want the kitchen to be instantly outdated the minute we turned the calendar to 2023. The first house I bought had a harvest gold kitchen and I promised myself I would never do trendy, in a kitchen.

We also knew we wanted the ceramic tile backsplash (more on that in the next chapter) to be the visual focus of the kitchen. The counter and backsplash needed to complement - not compete - with each other. That meant basic black, or white, for the countertops. But then people told me that darker countertops tend to reflect dust and show streaks…and I was left looking for a light neutral stone.

But a classic aesthetic needs to be paired with durability if you want the look to *actually* last. When spending all this money, longevity was definitely our goal. For us, this is a one and done project!

So for physical durability, we decided we wanted to go with quartz - which is a composite made of the natural stone quartzite, combined with resins and other stone. Yes, the look is somewhat trendy, when compared to granite or another natural stone. But because quartz is man-made, it is extra sturdy. And pretty stainproof. (The Hubs is a spiller - have I mentioned that?) So “indestructible” was the preference here.

Back in the spring, when I chose the (gorgeous) ceramic tile for my backsplash, I was lamenting to my kitchen designer that I really couldn’t find a quartz that I liked. Some have warm undertones and others cool. Some have crazy veining or look exactly like marble, and others have weird colors in them. But the sample pieces are tiny - maybe 3x3 squares. How can you judge anything from that?! Plus, most stores carry only a very small selection of what is actually available in the marketplace, so you have to go hunting all over.

Thankfully, my designer Cherie, at Metropolitan Cabinets, told me to come into the showroom, bring my ceramic backsplash tile with me, and we could go through the countertop samples together. We looked at multiple combinations - all alongside the cabinet color - to figure out what works best. Plus, she’s seen countless counters installed, so she was able to give me tips on what actually looks good in a life-size kitchen, and not a three-inch sample. I went home with lots to think about.

The Hubs and I finally decided on the Cambria brand for the quartz itself. Not for any reason other than we liked the pattern - we chose “Smithfield” - which is a warm white background with some very faint bluish-grey veins through it.

But afterwards I did some research and discovered that the Cambria brand is one of the better quality quartz options out there; I was happy to learn that the visual aesthetic I liked was paired with a strong reputation for quality materials. My general contractor shopped the price for the Cambria quartz, and it turned out that Metropolitan Cabinets had a competitive price, so we were able to use our cabinet vendor for the stone work as well.

Making the Cut - Installation

So after Metropolitan installed our cabinets in August, their stone department sent a guy out to draw a template for the countertops, which would then be custom cut to fit the cabinets. And of course I was, again, not home for this - due to some business travel. So I had to rely on the Hubs and the general contractor to handle things. (Supervising the stone guy did not really require this much manpower - but I was so anxious I was not there!) It turned out, we got lucky and all the pieces could be cut from one full slab of quartz, which means we kept the cost reasonable, and didn’t waste any quartz.

When I got home, the Hubs and I got to visit the stone warehouse. There, they took all the shapes from the template and “sketched” them out in masking tape on our slab of quartz, with notes about where each piece would fit - so we could actually see where the veining would be on each piece of cut countertop. The peninsula will be one long piece, so they used the best part of the slab for that area. And we were twice lucky - all of the areas in our kitchen will be one solid piece of the slab, not 2 or 3 pieces joined together, so we will not really have any seams on the countertops. It was very cool to see all this worked out on our slab of quartz, like a big, heavy puzzle.

We also had to decide on the edging, how we wanted corners to be smoothed, and how much overhang we wanted. I never in a million years thought we would have these many decisions to make on counters!

The counters take about 2 weeks to come in…so we are back to waiting. But the end is near!

I'm writing these Behind the Before & After posts about our kitchen renovation because I want to share our process - including any bumps along the way - so that homebuyers and homeowners can get a look at what really happens when you take on a major renovation. Clients ask me all the time, "Should I renovate?" And my answer is - usually - this, "Renovate for you, now, and how you want to live" so I'm following my own advice and inviting you to follow along.

Read more about our kitchen renovation here! And feel free to comment or contact me with any questions you have!!

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