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When Is Granite the Right Choice?

Granite has gotten a bad rap, at least in my neck of the design industry.  For years, it was a top choice when it came to stone surfaces, and because everyone had to have it, I think it got undeserved reverence and distinction.  Homeowners expect that any house they look at buying would have stainless appliances and granite countertops as "standard", which I think is hilarious because nine times out of ten the granite installed to sell these homes is hideous, and the "stainless" appliances aren't even real stainless steel.  What was once a pricey upgrade has become too commonplace, and now the overkill, as well as the availability of inexpensive and unattractive types of granite has made it a lesser choice.

(the granite isn't the only problem with this bathroom, but it's definitely a contributing factor.  Yikes.)

I'm mostly sick of seeing granite, and no longer recommend it to clients who are doing new kitchens or baths.  However, all that negative stuff said, there is such beauty in natural materials, and I do believe that granite is still the right choice in certain applications.

The age and aesthetic of the home can (and often should) dictate many of the design decisions, especially when it comes to materials.  Since granite has gained most of its popularity since the mid-90's, it looks out of place to slap a heavily figured or speckled slab in a 20's or 30's era home.  That said, it can often be the right thing to add to a 90's era/early 2000's oak or cherry kitchen because these spaces were often built in the time period when granite was popular.  A perfect example of this is my parent's kitchen, where they recently replaced their builder-grade laminate with granite, and installed a backsplash where there previously had just been painted sheetrock.  Their kitchen is the classic early 2000's red oak, and naturally it has yellowed over time to a golden tone.

The space was an excellent candidate for granite, because my parents still love the oak, and keep their home in immaculate condition, so the kitchen looks like new.  I wish I could keep my house in the shape my mom keeps hers......maybe someday I'll uncover the "neat and organized" gene that's hiding deep within :)  Also, many types of granite have golden, caramel and butterscotch veining, which tie in with the tones in oak, coordinating the look and making it intentional.

The backsplash looks quite greenish in these photos, but in reality has a nice neutral golden tone that compliments the granite perfectly.  We found this beautiful glass/ceramic crackle tile, and did it full height in all areas with a liner bar running about five inches up.  This was intentional because we had to add a short side splash at the walls on either end of the countertops, and the liner caps off the unfinished top edge of the tile, continuing through for a seamless transition.

Granite can be the perfect choice when it compliments and adds to other visually textural elements in the rest of the room.  If done incorrectly this can look like chaos, but when executed properly, the patterning and interest in a granite surface can add richness and harmony.

The lighter tones and delicate veining seen here are a beautiful compliment to the stone hood surround and backsplash.  Additionally, they compliment the rich grain pattern in the wood cabinetry.

This exotic looking granite is perfect with the depth, color and texture of that copper sink.  It also is a complimentary element to the glazed and distressed cabinetry, and gives a jumping point for the color of the oil rubbed bronze fixtures and hardware.

With granite often used in more traditional applications, its easy to overlook its place in a more modern and streamlined interior:

I'm not 100% sure if that gorgeous wrapped island countertop is granite (it could be marble), but it adds the perfect amount of texture to contrast with the other sleeker elements in the space.  I also love how it references the wood countertops and flooring, using those elements as inspiration for the rich caramel color. 

I LOVE this kitchen, and if anyone knows who designed it and where I can see more images, please let me know!  There couldn't have been a more perfect choice than a heavily patterned granite for that full height backsplash.  It makes all of the other elements in the kitchen stand out even more, and brings such prominence and importance to that end of the kitchen.  What a great way to draw the eye into this amazing gathering space.

The patterning and veining found in many types of granite is so unique that I think its almost impossible to think that the next set of homeowners will have the same taste as yours.  If you are in your forever house, and want the finishes personalized to your taste, granite is a great choice.  If you are looking at resale anytime in the future, think of a heavily patterned granite the same as you'd think of a bold floral sofa--probably not going to suit the tastes of the next owners.  Consider a more neutral countertop option, because you can take that floral sofa with you, but the granite will be inherited by the next owners.

I've talked mostly about the heavily colored and patterned granite types, but beyond those there are a couple that are real stand outs when it comes to creating a more neutral scheme.

This kitchen is beautifully done, and it would have been easy to default to the ever-popular Carrara marble as a countertop choice.  Instead, they've used something similar to Kashmir White, and I think it adds quiet texture and interest--not to mention better stain resistance than marble.  Because the granite choice is so neutral and complimentary to the rest of the finishes it would likely appeal to a wide variety of homeowners.

Finally, I love the contrast that a honed black granite gives to white cabinets, and chose this material in my own kitchen.  The honed (matte) finish takes the edge off, and is easy to maintain.  Be warned about seeing every little crumb and spec of dust though......I've learned this firsthand!

So after pulling this post together, I'm much more calm and less hateful toward granite.  Seeing it done properly, and knowing that this beautiful natural material has its place opens up a world of possibility.  Maybe I'll use it in my next client project.  Or at least consider it :)


Holly Gruszka said...

Really well thought out points on this Kristen - I always appreciate these posts so much. That first photo is a bit scary - yikes. But you've given really great examples of how granite can be used really well in a kitchen. I would certainly do granite again in our next house. I really love the honed black granite and thank you for the warning on the crums. And your parents did a really nice job on their kitchen - it is so clean and looks brand new.

Anonymous said...

nice blog. Granite countertops really are the perfect natural stone for any kitchen or bathroom. They have gotten a bad rap by some, not really sure why. The photos you included were a nice touch too!

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Loretta Fontaine (EcoHappy Blog) said...

Kristen- I do love the black granites with just the most subtle flecks in them. Is you counter top Absolute Black or are there some variations in the color?

Looks gorgeous in the photos...


MAry Brown said...

Great post, but I think it would be a stronger post if you listed both advantages and disadvantages and show how the pros outweighs the cons.
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