High-End Kitchen Countertop Choices

Say goodbye to basic granite –– the most glamorous gourmet kitchens feature show-stopping countertops in exotic materials, bold hues and rich textures. Here are 10 looks we love.
By: Amanda Lecky

Photo By: Tim Lee ©Tim Lee Photography

Photo By: Jeremy Kohm; jeremykohm.com

Photo By: Michael Boatman ©Mike Boatman

Photo By: Michael J Lee

Photo By: Isaac Turner

Photo By: Paul Orenstein; paulorenstein.com

Photo By: Emma Cross; www.emmacross.com.au

Photo By: Chuck Heiney

Two Countertops Are Better Than One

In this sunshiny blue-and-white kitchen, a mix of materials helps break up the large expanse of the central island and to define its multiple functions. For the prep zone, designer Kathleen Walsh chose Vermont White Quartzite while watershed-finished walnut warms up the breakfast bar area.

Boomerang-Style Kitchen, New-Age Countertop

To give this warm, woodsy kitchen an energetic mid-century modern vibe, designer Magued Barsoum chose custom-colored cast concrete for the swoop of island countertop. Backsplash tiles in a similar turquoise tone create the perfect backdrop for a collection of richly hued ceramics.

Black + White = A Timeless Classic

Sometimes a remodel is less about updating the look of a space than it is about a return to architectural roots. Such was the case with the kitchen of an Arts & Crafts home that, until recently, had been subject to a completely out-of-character turn of post-modern design. Starting from scratch, designer Kirsten Marshall set about giving it a new-old look. "The kitchen is designed to feel as if it was a part of the original house," she says. Topping the island — a dual-function prep and dining area for a family of five — is Statuario Marble with a dramatic 3" mitered straight edge. The perimeter counters are Caesarstone's Raven quartz, with a 1/2" mitered straight edge.

Precious Stones

When a family of seven decided to update their kitchen, the homeowner's one requirement was that the new space feature Cosentino's Concetto surfacing, an innovative (and dramatic) material made from semi-precious stones. Designer Karen Kassen highlighted the eye-catching product by restricting it to a curving breakfast bar and using a pure-white quartz on the remaining surfaces.

Brazilian Blue Stone

In the course of adding a two-story addition to a landmarked Brooklyn townhouse, architect Ben Herzog, working in conjunction with interior designer Elizabeth Cooke-King, added a large, light-filled kitchen to the home. As a fitting focal point for this dramatic space, the design team chose beautiful Azul Macauba, a blue stone from Brazil, to top the Shaker-style white cabinets.

Concrete: Endlessly Customizable

It may be surprising to see a formerly industrial material in a high-end kitchen, but concrete is covering counters in some of the most costly kitchens around. The material's adaptability is a big part of its popularity. "Cast concrete is a truly handmade product that can be customized in a variety of ways and represents a design collaboration between the builder and the client," says designer Jayme Guokas. Here, rich surface variation and an integrated drainboard create the custom look.

Marble: An Edgy Choice

Kitchen designers often suggest marble, but clients are wary of the upkeep. "Marble can be a controversial choice," says designer Meredith Heron. "I assure my clients that Rome was, in fact, built out of marble — most of which is still standing today." But, she notes, the clients who choose to go with marble in their kitchens must be open to embracing the patina and character that will emerge with their stone over time. "Here, we used Nero Marquina, a black marble, because the homeowners were too nervous to put white marble on the island. Even this variety is very prone to water spots and acid etching, so if you have the slightest hint of OCD, I don't recommend it." To complement the classic stone, Heron specified a double ogee edge.

Natural Simplicity

Designed to emphasize the natural beauty of its vineyard setting, this kitchen shows its architects' dedication to using materials that are not only beautiful and durable, but that make a low ecological impact. The kitchen countertops are Red Ironbark timber with a clear sealant and waterfall edges. "We sourced this material, along with the wood flooring, from the demolition of an old bridge. It's Australia's densest timber — extremely durable and full of character," says the architect, Mihaly Slocombe.

A Contemporary Spin On Neutral

In this large kitchen, the equally large "aircraft carrier of an island" (as the builder describes it) features double sinks and polished Breccia Paradiso marble with a mitered 4" thickness. The bold marble stands out in part thanks to the simplicity of the rest of the materials in the space: cabinets with a dark, mocha stain, a painted glass backsplash and limestone flooring. Design by Tongue & Groove Custom Builder.

Form Meets Function

"This dramatic design takes its inspiration from the past but retains the best of the present," says architect Wayne Visbeen. To lend structure in the long space, he created a dual-level island, with cooking functions clustered on one level on the inside and a raised breakfast bar on the outside. Topping the dining bar with richly veined white marble not only differentiates the various uses of the space but creates a bold visual impact.

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