Building Our Dream Home – Selecting Countertops

As promised in my Selecting Cabinets blog post, next up is Selecting Countertops! After all, our gorgeous cabinets would be nothing without something equally beautiful to sit on top of them!

I knew from the start that I wanted marble in the Kitchen…crisp, fresh, white marble.  I know, I know…marble is “challenging”, but I want what I want. With all of the options out there, let’s take a look at them.

Not what we selected, but isn’t this GORGEOUS?

*If you’re just joining us, this is another installment of a series documenting the building of our personal dream home.  So far we’ve tackled: Inspiration | Floorplan | Location | Breaking Ground | Roofing | Windows | Insulation | Sheetrock & Plaster  | Selecting Paint Selecting Flooring | Selecting Bathtubs | Selecting Lighting | Selecting Fans | Selecting Cabinets | Powder Room Reveal

Considering Materials

First up, let’s consider all of the different materials available. If you’ve recently undergone a bathroom or kitchen reno you will understand what I mean when I say the choice is VAST. There’s so many different options and even when you’ve decided on the material itself there are even more options to look through. The choices are typically between: granite, marble, solid surface (like Quartz or Quartzite)

Granite

Granite countertops are very common and generally very hard wearing. It’s very hard to make a scratch or dent in granite countertops and they basically last forever. From a cost point of view granite countertops are a good middle ground depending on the fabricator you use. Here, in Florida, they are EVERYWHERE and I know I wanted something different. I use Absolute Black granite a lot for clients and it’s my go to if using granite.

Marble

Gorgeous and hard to maintain…that’s marble. Marble is more expensive than granite countertops but the natural veining of the material really adds a “wow factor” to any space. You can’t fake it with a faux version, so don’t even try in my humble opinion. Marble countertops are less durable than granite so they can be scratched, etched and stained more easily than granite if it’s not sealed correctly. Acidic substances like red wine and oils can stain the material easily if the seal is worn off or done incorrectly. It’s not easy to live with, but it’s worth it…kind of like me!

Solid Surface

Solid surface countertops (Quartz and Quartzite) are still relatively new to the industry. They are made from bonding natural stone together with resin or acrylic. Quartz itself is one of the most durable materials on the planet so these countertops are fantastic for professional chefs and those with busy families. Often solid surface countertops come with an extremely long warranty (some products are lifetime warranties – always check before investing!) and that coupled with the durability of the material makes them very expensive!

I love you, but I can’t afford you

Making a Decision

I knew I wanted white marble in the Kitchen and then work everything else off of that. I know, marble is tricky…it stains, it etches, it scratches…but as I’ve said, I want what I want.

Considering 3 of our 5 kids have moved out, things are quieter and the need for a “hard as nails” countertop material isn’t as high of a priority as it was in the past. The open Kitchen of this home is the center where everyone will gather. I’d rather live with a little etching and get to have what I love each and every day. Granite and Quartz just won’t give me that and I’ll use them elsewhere in the home. The Kitchen calls for white marble.

Now it’s time to select them! Time for an 8 hour round trip drive to the stoneyard!

Stone Yard Visit

I cannot stress the importance of a stone yard visit enough! 4 hours  south to Naples to select? No problem! We also went north 2 hours to Jacksonville. All totally worth it!

Photos online are just not the same as seeing a slab in person at a stone yard. When you go to a stone yard you can choose the exact slab that will be put in your kitchen or bathroom, not to mention that it’s a fun trip out!

My daughter came with me to the stone yard, along with some samples from the house so we could have a look at multiple finishes side by side to make some decisions.

Following on from the decision on marble, I knew that if marble was the choice then it would have to be a Carrara or Calacatta marble but I needed to see them in person to check the tones of the veining details.

Here’s what we saw!

Pretty, but too swirly…
Too gray
Carrara…pretty but too gray
Nice to see 2 options side by side

Seeing this photo above from the trip really emphasises the importance again of going to see stone slabs at a yard – you just wouldn’t see the natural beauty of this slab from a photo online!!

Are you ready to see what we selected?!

The Chosen Slabs!

So with Carrara or Calacatta being the top two to look out for in the stone yard, unfortunately most of the Carrara slabs we saw looked far too gray and didn’t really work with the samples from the house. They were all beautiful slabs but I was looking for something with warmer tones to it.

We then came across this Calacatta Gold slab… And I instantly fell in love! It’s the perfect marble with all the veins and detailing that I was looking for, and the warmer tones of the veins is perfect for the house.

Calacatta Gold in the warehouse with the selections

And then I was able to choose the slabs for the kitchen… The biggest area we need stone for as we have the large island. I needed 4 slabs for the Kitchen and Master Bath and they had it. Perfect!

The slabs used for the kitchen

Kitchen Install

Once the slabs were chosen at the stone yard I booked the guys in to template the kitchen and bathrooms for the marble. This step in the process can seem quite slow but it’s crucial to getting the perfect fit!

I am so in love with our kitchen island now we have the amazing marble countertops!!

Some detail shots of the corner detailing to match the furniture style cabinets…

Bathroom Selections

For the bathrooms I kept the same Calacatta Gold marble for our Master. It’s an ideal way to save a little bit on the slab cost.  I then used a remnant of Carrara for my daughter’s bath. We mitered the edge to create  a thicker look.  All of them are relatively neutral and this marble works really well with these finishes that have been selected already.

Here’s an install photo from my daughter’s bathroom.

For 2 bathrooms I chose to use Quartz for the countertops…the pool bath and my son’s bathroom. The reason for this is  two fold….durability and color. The pool bath will be used heavily during the Summer, and my son is still relatively young so it’s better to go for a material with a great deal of durability! Plus quartz offers a solid white-white option, which is what I had in mind for both spaces. The Pool Bath will have some crazy wallpaper and I wanted a solid white to offset it.

Recap

My takeaways for selecting countertops are this:

-Research online to see what you like. Look closely at all of those pretty Pinterest boards you’ve made and I’ll bet there are some commonalities

-Be really realistic with yourself about what’s important to you. If etching and staining will drive you crazy, marble is not the choice for you. If having a natural material is important to you, quartz is not the choice for you. Accept the materials for what they are.

-Narrow down your options, get a quote and then visit some stoneyards. Yes, they are probably far. Yes, it will probably take up your Saturday. Yes, you will probably end up making a few trips. But it’s TOTALLY worth it, I promise.

I hope this post has given you an insight into the decision making process of deciding on the countertops for our dream home! I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

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