TRENDS: Kitchen Worktops
WHAT IS IT?: Formed from an igeneous rock in ancient ocean rifts, soapstone is a natural rock found in large deposits in Brazil, Finland and the US. Warm to the touch with a smooth surface, its talc mineral composite gives the feeling of a dry bar of soap (hence the name).
COLOURS: A limited palette of green, grey, blue-grey and black. Depending on the origins and colour, it could have calcium deposits from fossils or sporadic white veining. Soapstone can be oiled for a richer look and will naturally darken over time as exposed to oxygen.
SUITABILITY: Typically used in country style kitchens (especially in the New England region in the states), soapstone is equally suitable for sleek, architecturally minimalist, modern kitchens. Slightly less hard than granite, It is susceptible to scratching but most people find it’s part of the beauty as the stone ages and lends to the authenticity of the material. However, those marginal markings can be easily sanded out.
Soapstone is a timeless classic to enhance any kitchen. With a move away from the maintenance of natural stones such as granite and marble, soapstone is a sophisticated material that is sure to become in demand as kitchen trends start to veer toward earthier, slightly more nostalgic times. I think the trend for warmth and character reflects a cultural shift of people gravitating toward creating comfortable environments for themselves.
WHAT IS IT?: Well it’s wood! Constructed from pieces of hardwood laminated together with glue for strength and stability.
COLOURS: With a vast selection of species for different aesthetics the range is fairly large. From Birch to Iroko, Mahogany, and Mesquite to name a few. Also, there are numerous face grains to choose from.
SUITABILITY: Wood provides wonderful organic warmth to a kitchen. It helps to absorb noise and is forgiving on banging dishware. Most are also environmentally friendly. It does require maintenance such as regular oiling - if untreated, possible refinishing every five years. However, that is part of its beauty. Wood could last your lifetime in a home because it can be revived if damaged. Stains, gouges, scratches can be easily sorted out.
With the movement toward imperfect perfection and creating spaces that resonate because of feeling cossetted (the realness of Wabi-Sabi and coziness of Hygge), it’s only natural (no pun intended). Wood should make a comeback. I feel wood is being respected in an entirely new light. Gone are the connotations of being budget friendly with IKEA options or only suitable for rustic decor and kitchens. Wood is moving into a new era.
WHAT IS IT?: Ceramic (most affordable) is pressed clay with a glaze. The glaze is what protects from water and stains. Porcelain is made of clays and minerals, and has a durable surface - its also more expensive and difficult to install than ceramic. Zelliges is a handmade Moroccan enameled terracotta tile.
COLOURS: Infinite! And certain companies even make bespoke. The custom design possibilities are endless with different shapes, accent tiles and grouts that could all be used for a one-of-a-kind effect!
SUITABILITY: Durable and resistant to scratches and staining. If a tile cracks or chips, you only have to replace instead of refinishing in entirely. Not entirely ideal for flat baking surfaces.
De rigueur in kitchen design in the 1970’s and 80’s and commonplace out West in the US, (it’s not surprising to see many Californian homes with original tile countertops; due to plentiful Hacienda style homes). With homeowners becoming increasingly adventurous and looking to create their own unique environments (especially with Zelliges tile becoming increasingly universally adored and accepted as a rustic chic staple) I think we’ll start seeing more and more of this material in the years to come. It’s easy to install (DIY if you’re really handy) and maintain and a wonderful way to add ethnic influences or old world/retro charm.