Natural materials a growing choice for kitchen countertops

by Erica Peterson

A trend among buyers of kitchen countertops is to bring the outside in through the use of natural stone and wood.

One popular pick is quartzite, a natural rock not to be confused with manmade quartz.

“Quartzite is a real hot product right now,” said James Justice, owner of Architectural Justice in Medina. “People want to go back to a real material. We can’t keep it in stock.”

New quarry operations are opening to keep up with the demand, he said.

The natural stone has a depth and beauty that can’t be matched with traditional quartz, an engineered material made of ground quartz and epoxy, Justice said.

“Quartzite is one of the most beautiful materials I have worked with,” he said.

It’s also resilient.

“It gives you the look of marble with the durability of granite,” Justice said.

And it goes perfectly with the transitional look that many homeowners want to achieve.

Another countertop trend is live-edge wooden slabs. Architectural Justice has a sawmill that creates them.

“We take large, ugly stumps that when you cut them open, they are fantastic,” Justice said, adding that maple and white oak are popular choices.

Marble is another beautiful choice, but some people are put off by the fact that it can get nicks or etches. That seems to be an American concern, he said.

“When I talk to suppliers in Italy, they laugh at us and say that because of our old Formica countertops, we’re used to it looking perfect,” Justice said. “It’s those natural imperfections that make marble beautiful.”

Homeowners looking for a more ultramodern or Tuscan design might like concrete countertops, he said.

But if durability is a concern, they might want to opt for quartz meant to mimic concrete, he said.

“Concrete has issues. It can stain and gets cracks easily,” he said. “You have to seal it, too, which means it can get really glossy.”

More people seem to be moving away from glossy finishes toward natural looks, Justice explained, saying honed granite is another popular choice. A honed finish gives the countertop a more matte or low-gloss look, rather than the high sheen of polished granite. Leathered granite is also popular, he said. That involves using a diamond-tipped brush across the surface, creating a textured, natural stone-looking finish