I recently had a conversation with a certified kitchen designer who said something interesting to me: She is no longer designing kitchens with one type of countertop material. Blasphemy!
For eons, kitchen design has been like a one-trick pony—countertops kitted out in one material, be it stone, or laminate, or solid surface or whatever. Those walls have come down and mixing and matching is now in—has been for a while actually. So, it’s not unusual to see a kitchen with a stainless steel countertop around the sink (for water resistance), marble for the baking station, and perhaps stone near the stove (for heat resistance).
“We’ve been seeing people go with combinations in the kitchen,” says Richard Brooks, owner of Brooks Custom, a Westchester County, N.Y.-based company that manufactures custom countertops and other kitchen products. “They’ll get a stainless steel island, with a built-in teak butcher block. Or if they have granite countertops already, they’ll choose to go with a cherry island top. There are so many great combinations with materials that are on opposite ends of the spectrum.”
But don’t be a philistine and mix any material you want, however. You still need to choose wisely. For my money, I like wood, which goes with just about anything you can imagine. Though a wood countertop is not a perfect option and may not be appropriate for many situations, it’s the most gorgeous material on the planet.
Wood countertops can be made from almost any specie, but the same considerations apply no matter what you choose.
Watch out for standing water—The Enemy!—and edges near the sink; be careful with vinegar, which can etch the finish, and wine, which could stain. If you cut on your top, it will develop nicks, scratches, and marks. If this bothers you, learn to live with it (or just don’t cut on your top).
The truth is, wood is relatively high maintenance, requiring regular attention and oiling (if you choose a food-grade top), but it’s totally worth the trouble.