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Jul 19

Chic Coutertops for the Granite-Averse

Posted by C. Mason Hearn in remodeling, kitchens, green, granite, design, countertops

I went shopping today with a client that was disinclined to use granite tops in her new kitchen.  As my readers may know, I am a huge fan of the diversity of design possibilities, as well as the fairly indestructible quality of granite countertops.  On the flip side, the designer in me loathes the wasted opportunity of plopping-down the same stuff as appears in nearly every other high-end kitchen in town.


So what are the great alternatives?  We looked at a number of very exciting possibilities:


Paperstone / Richlite:  This uncommon, “green” material is the product of recycled paper, resin binders, colorants, and tons of pressure.  The mottled-looking material comes in a broad array of colors (most of them darker), and are fabulously impervious to stains.  Reasonably resistant to heat - up to about 350 degrees – as well as cuts and scratches.  If you’ve ever used an Epicurian cutting board (a favorite in my kitchen), you’ve experienced Richlite.  Similar in cost to granite, it’s available here in Richmond at Eco Supply.  See my more-detailed report on these materials in our earlier weblog post –,com_myblog/show,Rock-paper-PAPERSTONE!.html/Itemid,28/

If you’re the kind of person that loves visitors to your home to admire the uniqueness of your stuff – “hey, what the heck is THIS??” – you should appreciate these products.


Suberra Cork:  thought I was well-informed, but this was a new one on me.  Some of the same qualities that make cork a good flooring material, are of benefit for work surfaces.  Another eco-friendly product, it is comprised of recycled waste from pre-consumer cork pulp(leftovers from wine cork fabrication, etc), compressed into 1 ¼” x 25” x 36” slabs.  It’s anti-microbial, naturally resistant to water and heat.  Unlike most countertops, it is forgiving and warm to the touch.  Easy to machine, join, and reasonably-priced compared to natural stone.  Again, distributed by the good folks at Eco Supply in Richmond.


Recycled Glass tops:  Sources include Icestone, EnviroGLAS and Vetrazzo for this earth-friendly material comprised of recycled glass aggregates cast into a cement composite or resin matrix.  Some of the samples we viewed are similar in appearance to quartz surfaces (relatively homogenous), while others sparkled with multi-colored and mirror aggregates.  These are said to be reasonably stain- and heat-resistant, although require some care, like most other surfaces, to keep them that way.  Our fabricator, Artistic Stone, indicated that these are tough to fabricate, as the edges tend to spall.  I would think that might be indicative of some continued concern over the life and use of the installed product.


Quartz Tops:  These are becoming more and more common as a stone top alternative, due to their accessibility, and excellent performance.  Perhaps slightly more costly than a mid-range granite product, brand names including Silestone, Caesarstone, and Cambria come in a variety of colors, although all of them are more homogenous in appearance than a typical granite or marble.  That’s a big “plus” for some homeowners, a drawback for others… depending on your design aesthetic.  It is the only thing which I think holds a candle to granite, in terms of durability and heat / stain resistance.  As super-high-gloss finishes seem to be heading out, these don’t have quite the mirror finish as some stones; a low-luster “leather” finish is also available.


Metal Tops:  Of course there’s the old standby stainless – the most remarkably cleanable of all tops.  A great designer can work with a fabricator to create a less-than-sterile look with these, typically custom-fabricated of heavy-gauge material.  On the less-usual side, think about copper, zinc, and even pewter.  Want something not-like-the-neighbors?  This might be it.  Concerned about silly things like scratching and reactivity?  Hmmm; maybe not… but it definitely has the Groove Factor in my book.  Go out on a limb!


Others:  Admittedly, you can make a countertop out of almost anything.  Depends on your aesthetic preferences, perfromance requirements and yes, your pocketbook!  Did you know there’s a French company that makes tops from glazed slabs of lava stone?  Reportedly, they’re in Bill Gates’ kitchen (tell you anything about price?).  We’ve done ceramic and porcelain tile tops, wood tops of every description, cast concrete, glass and resin tops (like your high school chem lab).  Natural materials include limestone, travertine, marble, onyx, slate and bluestone. 


Makes solid surfaces (like Corian) sound kind of boring, doesn’t it??  No reason to settle for a boring countertop!


A few weblinks for more info:

Eco Supply Co.

Artistic Stone Design:





Concrete Tops:


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Comments (7)Add Comment
written by Sasha, April 19, 2012
The company I work for,, sells recycled glass countertops made out of blue Skyy vodka bottles. cool stuff! I also love wood countertops, but those are hard to maintain
written by Anthony Spence, November 08, 2011
You must have enjoyed shopping with you client..

kitchen floor tiles
written by Automatic gearbox repairs, June 08, 2011
I want uniquely beautiful, durable and easy to maintain countertops– what's not to love about that?
written by Ryan, May 24, 2011
Never would have even guessed that they were doing countertops in cork. Awesome.
written by Cindy Plantation, March 21, 2011
You offered some really stimulating alternatives in this post. Thanks.
written by Roller Blinds, February 28, 2011
Keep writing such more posts.Thanks to the person who has written this.This is an up to date information provided in the blog. For a long time been looking for such posts.
written by Briana, January 25, 2011
I absolutely love recycled paper countertops. They are so much sturdier than people think. Here's my blog on home improvement:

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