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Jul 9, 2007 12:32 PM

Kitchen countertops that don't look like rocks? No stainless, please.


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    1. re: Densible

      But when concrete is installed, isn't it made to look like granite, etc?

      1. re: xnyorkr


        My concrete was stained a dark grey and then polished so it has a slight sheen-and very smooth surface-does not look like granite or anything else I can describe. I know it can be stamped to look like stone, etc. for driveways. Have not seen it that way as a countertop. I love mine-very durable solid surface. No seams/no grout. I hate grout-especially on a kitchen surface. Just my personal tic. The polish has worn off in some places and it has a pleasing mottled appearance.

        1. re: Densible

          do you have a picture? Really considering this product.

        2. re: xnyorkr

          I have to agree - Concrete countertops are stunning - incredibly tough, incredibly flexible and really attractive. Concrete allows a whole host of "looks" one of which is stone like (really this is terrazzo and not concrete) but the host of forms that the concrete can take are really nice. I saw a photo of a concrete counter that had a faucet on one end - with no sink - the counter was molded so the water would run down the length of the counter and spill into the sink on the other end - slightly raised work areas kept cutting boards and work areas from getting wet and a slightly raised and beveled edge along the coutner front kep the water from spilling to the floor. Tt was spectacular. Here is a nice gallery of some very nice - non-stone-looking concrete countertops.

        3. re: Densible

          When we redid our kitchen 2 years ago I considered concrete. It's a lovely surface BUT it's very expensive. Everything about it is custom and building the molds is very labor intensive. AND there's a significant risk of cracks developing and it can take 2 years for all the cracks to develop.

          That was enough to intimidate me despite how much I love the look.

          We ended up with soapstone that has, pretty much, a flat matte black look. It's lovely to touch and lovely to work on. It is soft and it does collect dings. I consider that the patina I'm looking forward to. What it doesn't have -- even when you get stone that has grain and veins -- is the glitzy Las Vegas look of other stone or manufactured stone.

        4. Plastic Laminate countertops are the best. No one will believe that because they're cheap.

          27 Replies
          1. re: deldredge

            Yes and inexpensive enough to replace when it is time to redecorate. Mine are hunter green and I love them. When we sell this place in about 5 years if the buyer doesn't like green they can easily and inexpensively be changed. I think the hunter is a neutral anyway. My kitchen does not scream 1980's the way some I have seen (I've seen a lot as a Realtor) that went with the trendiest and newest hot material at the time.

            1. re: Candy

              Thank you for being a voice of reason! What, are most of us lemmings? I don't understand why people mindlessly flock to granite; they must be blinded by the over polished, over hyped counter material. It's really a bad sign when 20-somethings shopping for a "starter" home expect custom cabinets and granite; they call anything less dated. The irony is that they become proud owners of a sterile, cookie cutter kitchen. Why is it not okay to use laminate on our counters, yet we Pergo our floors with abandon, and use plastic veneered cabinets? It's all the same concept. Now, if we could just make a counter slab size, heat/stain resistant, iPod to use as a counter top. :-) I'm just skeptical of the granite craze, and I didn't intend to offend anyone. I just wonder... will the granite and behemoth stainless appliances that are now de rigeur be shunned as a period piece much like the avocado kitchen of the 70's, or will they become classic?

              My point is...think a little, research it a lot, and go with what really speaks to you. There are plenty of warmer, natural materials besides rock like wood, especially "green" bamboo. Lithistone (totally redundant word) is a composite of cement and magnesium; it's very earthenware looking.
              Icestone is another renewable counter source; it's a composite of recycled glass and concrete. Unfortunately, everyone now wants the look of stone, so they design it to look like Corian. The web site is

              Best to you in your search!

              1. re: brooksie99

                I'm with you, Brooksie. I went to a "green" home remodeling store this weekend, and, funny thing -- almost all of the green stuff is **not** competitively priced. Icestone - $90-$150 sf installed, Paperstone, up to $250 sf installed (!) , recycled glass tiles $32.50/sq ft!!! I want something that looks tomorrow, but hey, I have budget limits. And for those prices, you do not get something that is the most durable, stain/scratch/heat resistent, low maintenance product on the market. It's just, well, green. I hope I'm not looking into these products too soon. Maybe next decade they will be better.

                1. re: xnyorkr

                  Yup - we've been looking at green materials for our new home, and all the solid surface countertops are super-pricey! Icestone, Richlite, Paperstone were all totally out of reach - and who knows how big a different that little bit of recycled glass they put in will really make?

                  We've decided to use Marmoleum - the same as we're using on the floors- because it looks interesting, is durable, comes in great colors, and is very affordable. We already have it as the surface of our dining table and get loads of compliments.

                  1. re: Raedia

                    I liked the Marmoleum I saw too. I didn't know you could use it for tabletops...what a great idea! Countertops? Maybe not.

                    1. re: xnyorkr

                      I'm very interested in Marmoleum for our kitchen floor but never thought of it as a table or countertop surface. What is the finish like? Does it require occasional stripping and finishing like linoleum of old?

                      1. re: xena

                        As I understand it, Marmoleum is very easy-care, and may only require refinishing after decades of heavy use. As a table surface, I don't think that it would ever need to be re-done unless it was really abused. We've only had our dining table for a year, but it looks fantastic, and we do have some other Marmoleum-topped cabinets that look brand new after 10 years.

                        What's good about it as well is that if you do replace it years down the line, it's completely biodegradable!

                        1. re: Raedia

                          Thanks Raedia, this is what I was hoping to hear! Did you install it as a tabletop surface yourself or did you have it done? Very interesting application.

                          1. re: xena

                            The table was built by my boyfriend's woodworker father. He used a set of vintage legs, and then made the expandable top out of Marmoleum veneered on plywood, with ebonized walnut edging.

                            We're totally in love with it! Unfortunately our house it too small to keep it opened up all the time, but in our new house we want to expand it all the way.


                            1. re: Raedia

                              Wow, Raedia, fantastic! I love your table! I never would have thought of doing that but it really looks great.

                              1. re: xena

                                Thank you! If you go to Forbo's website, their photos of Marmoleum really don't do the product justice. We love it on our dining table, and are looking forward to using it on desks and floors, and the kitchen counters in our house. It has a unique look, too - definitely not cookie-cutter.

                                1. re: Raedia

                                  Is Marmoleum food-safe?
                                  On a table, that's not a problem because you're using plates but, on a countertop, you are likely to lay down raw meats and other food. Marlmoleum is made with linseed oil and some other things that you might not want in contact with food. I love the stuff but this could be a limitation.
                                  Check with the manufacturer to see if it is recommended for food preparation surfaces.

                                  1. re: MakingSense

                                    Thanks, that's a really good point. I understand there's a coating over the linseed oil surface that seals it, but I will definitely check with Forbo to make sure it's safe!

                        2. re: xena

                          Marmoleum is the brand name for a manufacturer of great linoleum. Terrific product that's been used for over 100 years. Won't look good in every style kitchen but when it's right, it's dynamite!!! The color is through and through so scratches and wear don't show much but cuts and gouges do collect dirt and it can look beat-up.
                          The new stuff comes in fantastic colors but then you have the problem of having your kitchen look dated if you pick something trendy, so pick a color you love and don't care if it ever go "out of style."

                          1. re: MakingSense

                            I think it can only be a style improvement here as our current kitchen style is, well, dreadful. It's definitely a problem room for me. I have had a hard time finding Marmoleum locally and am actually waiting to hear back from one store that is checking into it for me. I have been amazed that many stores aren't even aware of the product and insist on showing me vinyl while I try to explain that I really do mean linoleum. I have gotten 3 stores to at least look up Forbo online just for their own information but only one has offered to try to get it for me. Yikes. I'm not even sure we can afford it but there is the Click Marmoleum line that we could probably install ourselves so that might work out. Do you know of any Forbo competitors?
                            Thanks for the information, your post makes me want it even more.

                            1. re: xena

                              You may be looking for love in all the wrong places. Contact Marmoleum directly to see the closest dealer to you. It may be handled by special order through a contractor supply house, somewhere you might not even know about that doesn't ordinarily deal with homeowners. Perhaps you might have to drive an hour or so to a larger town. Maybe have it shipped. The company will probably send samples although you might have to pay a nominal charge.
                              I've had materials shipped before and gotten local contractors to install them so keep trying.
                              Linoleum lasts and lasts so it is a good value even though it appears expensive. It can look extremely classic or wild or trendy depending on how you use it. Great if anyone has allergies.

                      2. re: Raedia

                        When you use Marmoleum, does it look "classy?" The sample looked a little plastic-y to me. But I liked that it has a cork back and it seems **really** easy to install - just click the pieces together, no grout!

                        1. re: xnyorkr

                          We've just started assembling our Marmoleum counters, beginning with the bathroom vanities. It wasn't too tricky to work with, and I love the look. You definitely have to have some woodworking skills and equipment to do this kind of thing yourself, though. We cut it on the panel saw, or using a utility knife, attached it to the plywood cabinet frames with contact cement, and put maple edge banding around it to seal the raw edges. Marmoleum is food-safe as a countertop material, since there's a coating over the linseed surface (though I don't generally plan to slap raw meat straight onto the counter).

                          Here are some pics of the cabinetmaking process (Marmo shots towards the end):

                          1. re: Raedia

                            Raedia, how did the counters work out? I'd love to see final pics if there are any. I have a 1920s house with a built-in vanity - the countertops had been covered in super-cheap plastic laminate. I decided to re-cover them in marmoleum but we're wondering how to edge them. I thought I'd see what worked for you.

                            Thanks for all of the wonderful info on marmoleum!

                            1. re: melissapdx

                              What a coincidence - we were working on installing the kitchen counters yesterday! After gluing down the surface, we put a solid maple edge on, and carefully sanded it down right to the surface of the marmoleum. We then painted a clear finish (PolyWhey, from Vermont Natural Coatings) over the maple, and just a hair over the edge of the Marmoleum, to seal the gap. The kitchen counter surface was a remnant of "Bleecker Street" red - about $160 for a 12' x 6' sheet.

                              Finished bathroom counter surface:
                              Kitchen counter & range (work in progress):

                2. re: deldredge

                  Laminate CAN be cheap but also heart-stoppingly expensive in custom applications. Some of the new stuff is incredible. A friend who is with a to-the-trade high-end custom kitchen company told me that designers are flocking back to it because they can achieve looks with it that they can't possibly do with granite and other natural stones. They're doing very few granite countertops any longer at the high end.

                  1. re: MakingSense

                    How high is high?

                    There has been a dramatic shift in the amount of general new construction that is taking place -- in the category of "expensive but still owned by people who have normal jobs" there is a fall off of maybe 2/3 or greater in the total activity.

                    The fall off in remodeling is not quite so bad, but it is still there.

                    In what a consider "really really expensive" renovations, of >$500,000 the change is probably an increase of work. But this is still a tiny fraction of the total number of projects.
                    That said while the size of the "flock" can be small, it can be influential WHEN it translates into things that MAKE SENSE, but when it doesn't fit with people's lifestyles it does not carry down to the masses.

                    There are some things that start out "high end" and quickly become mass market, but more often "the leading edge of fashion" goes out with the next trend.

                    Granite and other stone counter tops are still very much in demand.

                    1. re: renov8r

                      This is, as you say, "the leading edge of fashion" and a reaction to granite going mass market. When ordinary tract developments and condo projects touted SS appliances and granite, those who could afford it bolted. They shifted to other stones and materials just so they didn't have the off-the-rack version.
                      The glossy shelter 'zines for the past six months or so haven't had granite tops. All other materials. That is a "high end" and some of it will filter down as it always does but that is where trends START. We have to figure out which ones will last and which are the vanity materials that people used just because they could, because it was the "not granite." A few years ago all those "fashion forward" kitchens had granite countertops. Now that everyone has them, designers have gotten bored and moved on.
                      Granite is not going to fade because it is now very much a mass market item much like plastic laminate which remains popular. Consumers consider it a good value since the price is now competitive.

                      1. re: MakingSense

                        The reason I asked the question to begin with, because of "fashion." Country kitchens with the butcher-block countertop look are "so 1980s," and with shiney laminate deco cabinets are "so 90s." My thinking (and it's just my opinion) is that the Roman or Greek ruin/rock countertop will be "so early 2000s." As soon as all the stores start selling it (and believe me, so many tile and flooring stores -- they're filled end to end with terra cotta ruins looking tiles and granite counter tops), I think it's about to become "old fashioned."

                        Since I probably can only update my kitchen once, I want something that is at least going to look "so 2010s."

                        1. re: xnyorkr

                          I mostly agree with your thinking -- anything TOO "fashiony" will be trendy/dated. But in most cases things that are attractive, tasteful and FUNCTIONAL become timeless. There are a lot of stone countertops that I believe will fit in to the "timeless" category. There are also some butcher block countertops that will fit into that category. Sometimes, if I have a customer that is "on the fence" about certain options I will direct them not to the most current magazine & books with designer kitchens but to the bigger public libraries. Go look in the back issues and older edition design books. Flip through them and decide which designs "hold up over time" and which elements scream "Miami Vice"...

                          1. re: xnyorkr

                            Good design is timeless. People who have taste can spot good design and can fill their homes with good things that stand the test of time. They don't follow fads and the dictates of others.

                            Today, butcher block, laminate cabinets, lava rock, terra cotta, linoleum, turquoise and other colors, country style, hex tiles, and other materials which have been used forever and might seem dated if used in certain "tired, been-there, done-that" ways are being applied successfully in very personal interiors in new ways. The best way to use any of these materials is when they show who you are, not what the current trend is. You will never be "dated" so your kitchen won't be either. Julia Child's kitchen in the Smithsonian is hers and hers alone. It doesn't scream "1960," it says "Julia."

                            Design a good solid background canvas of quality materials and fill it with things you love. You can change the paint, the stuff on the walls and countertops as you change your life and style, but your kitchen will always be about you.

                    2. re: deldredge

                      We love our faux slate :)

                      Can't cut or put anything hot on it, otherwise no worries about stains (wine, vinegar, etc.). Porcelain is also great and we have that on our bar. Even our tile guy said porcelain is the way to go, and budget friendly too.

                      1. re: jmnewel

                        I looked at them and thought many of them were lovely.