Reviewing my own house…kitchen counters.

Over two years ago we finally moved in to this house we had been remodeling for about 9 months. The remodel was no picnic. In fact, making expensive design choices, babysitting contractors, shuffling back and forth to the house everyday to monitor progress with children + newborn in tow while also trying to carry on a normal life nearly did me in. On the flip side we did get a beautiful house in the end and we’re really enjoying living in it.

Hemming and hawing over design choices was tougher than I thought. I can design a space for someone else in no time flat but when it comes to making decisions for myself, that’s a whole different ballgame. I can totally appreciate the financial and emotional investment that goes in to it.

Now that it’s two years later I’m giving you an in-depth review on the choices we made. This week I’m going to break every aspect down in our kitchen.

First up counters.

If you remember I spent many sleepless nights reading reviews on different counter tops and conducted quite a few discussions on this blog about them. Now that I’ve actually lived with all my choices here’s what I like/don’t like and would do/not do over again…

One of the toughest decision was counters. I wanted something timeless and beautiful. We ended up going with Soapstone for the island and Calacatta Marble for the perimeter.

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Photo by: Michelle Rasmussen, Wondertime Photo

Soapstone is a non-porous material that has a high amount of talc making it soft but it’s also heat resistant. Some soapstones can look really chalky depending on the level of talc. People recommend oiling it often to bring out the richness but there is no rule. I think I have oiled it 3 times since we’ve had it. To be honest, I don’t feel like oiling makes that big of a lasting result and you just end up with oil everywhere.

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Photo by: Michelle Rasmussen, Wondertime Photo

One of the biggest selling points was that it was non-porous and heat resistant. The last thing I needed was a big purple stain from my kids painting on the counter. It’s lived up to that selling point. My kids give that counter a beating. Cranberry juice, markers and sloppy joe’s haven’t made one lasting mark.

Heat resistant…I don’t know. I never put hot pans directly on it without a trivet. Not going to test that theory. However, soapstone is typically used in labs for their counter top surfaces. It’s got to be pretty tough to come in to contact to the stuff that goes on in labs.

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When they say soapstone is soft, it’s no lie…it’s REALLY soft. It scratches quite easily. But the beauty about it is that a scratch can heal with a little oil or light sanding. I’ve never attempted sanding out a scratch because #1. I don’t dare take sand paper to stone no matter how fine of grit it is and #2…I just don’t have the time. I have noticed that if we just leave a scratch alone it’s gone within a week due to the amount of natural oils from hands, food, etc. that come in to contact with it.

Because it is so soft I have a butcher block that I leave on my counter permanently so there’s not temptation to cut directly on the counter. When I do move it to clean underneath you can see there’s an imprint where the counter doesn’t come in to contact with food or oil. It doesn’t bother me in the least. In fact, I’m pretty confident that it would go away if I used it normally and allowed it to come in to contact with normal wear and tear use.

Verdict: I have loved soapstone and would do it again in a heartbeat.

Next up…our perimeter honed Calacatta Marble counters…

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Photo by: Michelle Rasmussen, Wondertime Photo

I delight in the beauty of this white stone with gray veining. I hear angels sing when I look at it. I imagine the streets in heaven to be made of…not gold…Calacatta marble. It’s that good.

BUT…

And there’s a BIG “BUT”…

It scares the living daylights out of me.

I treat this stone like it’s got the plague.

I was told that Calacatta was high maintenance. I was warned it’s highly porous and stains easily. I was notified that it could scratch and etch.

I did it anyway.

And what have I learned after two years?
That it IS high maintenance, that it IS high porous and stains easily, that it DOES scratch and etch easily.

I once had a party and someone put down a yellow, greasy spoon on the counter. I found it an hour later and to this day I have a yellow, greasy stain on the counter.
No amount of wiping or buffing could get that clean. There is a formula called a poultice may be able to remove it but I haven’t got around to that step yet.
My point is, that Calacatta Marble has turned me in to a neurotic maniac.
Make a mess anywhere in my house, just don’t dare breath on my Calacatta counters.
Those counters have seriously made me need to see a therapist.

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This is a shot of that water stains right by the kitchen sink.

Seriously?

Water stains?

When it comes to stone nothing compares to the beauty of Calacatta marble in my book. But it comes at a price.

It pains me to say this but…um…I’m even having a hard time typing this…

the Calacatta may have been a mistake.

Gasp. Sigh. Tears.

I wanted that relationship to work so badly.

No, I’m not going to tear it out. I’ll just continue on gazing at it but never using it. I will keep the yellow caution tape up around it.

I love the look but next time I would probably consider doing a marble tiled back splash instead.

VERDICT: Would not do marble again in the kitchen.

What kind of counters do you have in your kitchen? Do you like them / don’t like them?

Don’t forget to enter our latest giveaway for a $250.00 gift card to Plush Rugs!!

Comments

  1. Lisa Conway says:

    My entire kitchen counters are soapstone. I’ve had them for 12 years. I love it and put burning hot skillets and pans directly on that awesome stone! Use a sanding block/sponge to smooth out any nicks and dents it’s ok!

  2. We’ve been thinking about soapstone! Glad to hear you’ve loved it so far. :) (sorry about the marble. it IS gorgeous.)

    • Thanks Julia, yes, have loved the soapstone. They aren’t totally maintenance free but I still love them none the less. How are you feeling? Anxiously awaiting news of the new baby!!

  3. love the follow-up reviews :) we used Caesarstone London gray for our kitchen reno recently. it was more than marble would have been price wise but I already have OCD cleaning tendencies and knew marble might send me over the edge. I knew we’d made the right choice when about a week after it was installed i noticed my youngest boy coloring in the kitchen. using. sharpies. of course it bled through the paper. onto the new countertops. I about died. I held my breath as I used a regular cleaning spray. it wiped right up. I wont use anything else for countertops in another kitchen of mine again.

  4. I hear you sister! I renovated my kitchen 1.5 years ago and salivated over putting calcutta gold marble countertops in it. I wanted them B-A-D. I read everything people had to say, heard about etching, staining etc and wanted to throw the advice out the window because I wanted that look. I would look at pictures in House Beautiful & Traditional Home of (kid-free) homes with them and think I could handle it. After months of deliberation I decided to let my master bathroom where I have a carrara marble top be the judge. Upon close inspection I saw etching, water spots & stains and on a counter that never has an ounce of food touch it. I chickened out.

    I do think I happened upon the next best thing to marble in the kitchen however. I chose Quartzite. A lot of people confuse Quatzite and Quartz – they are very different. The Quartzite I chose is harder than granite, does not stain, is neutral and shows similar veining to marble. Possibly your next best option. Here they are – http://instagram.com/p/kMeYvIE9M8/.

    • Good for you…your Quartzite is gorgeous! I almost pulled the trigger on that but couldn’t find any I loved that the suppliers around here had. If I ever remodel another house I’ll go in that direction instead. Thanks!

    • I love your Quartzite counter Rebecca! That hasn’t been an option I’ve ran across for our kitchen remodel yet, but I have not asked for it either. Is it terribly difficult to find? Also, how does it perform with scratches and heat? Thank you!

      • Hi Kate – You definitely have to ask around at a bunch of suppliers to find one that has quartzite but I found the really large suppliers do carry a few different styles of it. My Quartzite is commonly called Madre Perla and this style and La Dolce Vita and are one of the lightest and most subtle lines of Quartzite. I have not had one problem with heat or scratches and can comfortably say my Madre Perla stone can handle any wear. I highly recommend before you purchase any stone you test a sample piece! I ran a test on a sample piece of my stone before I bought it. Two days – ketchup, lemon, oil, red wine. Those didn’t even touch it. Good news when you have 3 kids.

      • Jane Irvine says:

        I did Quartizte in my center island at home. Just love it. But when it came to doing the beach house kitchen, and we were so OVERBUDGET, I couldn’t do it. So I chose Bianca Carrera marble. I just love the look! However, the wTer marks were driving me nuts. So I took Bon Ami and wet the surface, scrubbed with a green scrubbie (name ??), rinsed and dried. The water marks are gone. I am sure I will have to do this weekly but at least it looks better. But oh to have had Quartzite, honed!!!

  5. I also put marble on my kitchen counter perimiter and would NEVER use it again – same issues, etching, 2 major chips in 2 years, several stains from cans that I set on the counter for a few hours during cooking. Drives me batty looking at all of its imperfections. So sad b/c it is a big investment and I too thought I could make the relationship work! Glad to hear I’m not alone!

  6. I’m relieved to hear this about the Marble because I was faced with a similar choice when we did our house. We bought a house and remodeled it, but unlike you, we LIVED in it! We were lucky, we had an amazing crew and contractor. I wanted to do Marble, but I watched my friend put Marble in her kitchen and regret it. Her kids are grown, so she doesn’t have sticky hands, but she has been amazed at the stains.

    My contractor came across a steal on granite, and since I have had granite before, I knew it lived up to our rough and tumble lifestyle. I did it and have had no regrets. Some say Granite is passe, but considering I have kids in the house and a steady stream of houseguests, it totally works for me. And that is the biggest lesson I have learned about design and home renovation, you have to do what works for you. You can take a peek at my kitchen at
    http://qwendykay.blogspot.com/2010/08/bon-appetit.html

    • Your kitchen is AMAZING! Love it. I’m convinced my marble will be seen but never touched. Such a shame to have all that lovely counter space and be afraid to use it. Thanks for your comment!

  7. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post! I’m a breath away from having to pull the trigger on countertop options for our kitchen remodel. You pushed me over the edge on soapstone – I’m in. Soapstone will be on the island, now just need to decide on the perimeter countertops. I’m very intrigued by Rebecca’s comment about Quartzite, I’ll have to check that out. Thanks again!

  8. Sorry to be so OCD – it’s Calacatta marble NOT “Calcutta.”
    http://precisionstoneworks.com/news/calacata-calactaca-calcutta-or-calacatta-marble-which-is-it

    You can tell I’m a home decor nerd when that’s one of my biggest pet peeves!

  9. These follow-up posts are my favorite! I have to say, your counters ARE beautiful. I’ve been leaning toward the eco/glass countertops (the ones with a teeny tiny amount of mirror/BLING in them, haha) but after reading this, I realize I probably need to do some more research before emptying my wallet.

  10. susan h. says:

    We have granite and I love it. People put everything from their butts to scalding hot pans to grease and more and we have had no issues whatsoever. We have had it for 8 years with no issues!

  11. I have Silestone counter tops. Love, love, love them! I would go with that material again. It is nonporous, heat and scratch resistant, and easy to clean. Comes in lots of color choices too. I have had them for 12 years and they are still wonderful.

  12. We went with a light gray quartz. Have loved it. My only complaint is I think someone set a boiling hot tea kettle on the counter and there is the faintest etching. You wouldn’t notice it if you didn’t know it was there.

  13. I put the hottest pots and pans immediately on my soapstone and it doesn’t even heat up the stone. It stays cold if I move it. I’ve learned my soapstone also thaws anything really quickly.

  14. Michaela says:

    We put marble counters in our kitchen and we love them!! The only reason I love them though is because if a sealer called Porous Plus. Water beads right up and oil doesn’t sink in at all. We hadn’t sealed the counters right away and so we had a few stains at first that I tried to get out with a couple different poultices but it didn’t work :( thankfully the oil spots just kind if went away on their own. We do have a few etched spots from lemon juice and tomato sauce but zero discolorations and I can barely see the etched marks. Anyway, I would highly recommend this sealer to anyone contemplating not getting marble! It has been a life saver for us! We also have marble in our master bath shower and used the same sealer and we don’t have any issues there either.

    http://miraclesealants.com/s_porous_plus.html

  15. I had a similar longing for Carerra marble, but my husband owns a countertop shop. They make butcher block, laminate and solid surface tops. So I have solid surface perimeters (that scratch easily!) but accommodate the undermount farmhouse sink I wanted) and the island is laminate that looks like marble with vertical slabs on both ends. I got the look I wanted and it takes a beating from my four kids :)

  16. I’m wondering what kind of sealer you are using for your Marbel, I use meta creme next generation impregnating sealer it came highly recommended, I use it on my carrera and it’s amazing ! I have very little marking from water , a lemon juice etch even disappeared over time, I mean it’s still soft and gets damaged when glasses are dropped on it but I’d rather have real pretty marble than overly perfect faux counters!
    I’m shocked about the face frame issues I have always wanted that!!! Good info!

  17. We did almost the reverse when we remodeled our kitchen a year ago…Calacatta on our peninsula and soapstone on our main counters. I’m with you – love my soapstone & think the Calacatta is beautiful, but I wish I’d looked at Bianco Macabas aka Luce de Luna Brazilian Quartzite or White River Granite or White Pearl Granite.

  18. i’ve been reading your kitchen reviews, and am nodding in agreement with many things. we have soapstone perimeter and stainless steel on the island, and i haven’t regretted either one. both are nearly indestructible, and the patina of use just makes them more lovely. white cabinets? i’m totally with you. lovely, but get dirty – and look dirty – quickly, and the paint chips too easily. we also have dark hardwood throughout the main floor, and yes … it is definitely a bit more maintenance in the kitchen, but it isn’t anything a quick sweep and a mop every week (or, more likely, once a month) can’t handle. all that to say i regret very few things in my kitchen. it still looks timeless, as does yours. your reviews have inspired me … i documented our entire build, and should do a review of my own for future generations. ;)

  19. I too loved the white/grey marbles. I was sooo afraid to use them in our kitchen though. We went with a honed Breccia Oniciata (so?). There are so many different colors and so much movement that pretty much everything that has stained or etche the counters has blended in. I think that is why I would do it again although I loved the Quartzite when I saw (too big a price tag for us though). I hope I will still feel the same after by little one gets a bit older. FYI I have some inexpensive white plastic trays from Target that I put out for guests to use or anything they might use like a coffee pot just in case there is an accident.

  20. I am with you on the Calacatta and other marbles. LOVE them!!! I actually did see a quartzite that looked very much like the grey veined marble. It was called Super White. The slabs they had had SO much grey. Despite what I read abut Quartzite. the fabricators told me that they still might have staining issues. So I spent HOURS going through their extensive collection of slabs. I wanted something with the movement and unique patterns of the marbles and I found Arctic White granite. It turned out that I LOVE them. And with my kids, I am not the stain Nazi or Monk – which I definitely would have been. Again, I have photos, but not sure where I could send them (I have no blog).

    I have a feeling though no one else would notice the etching, staining on your beloved marble but you. I know what you mean though – they become the proverbial Pea Under the Mattress!

  21. I know I’m late to this post but wanted to throw my two cents in. We did a massive remodel on our 1950′s rambler about a year ago. In the kitchen, we did a natural stain 2″ red oak only because we had original flooring in adjacent rooms. Although it wasn’t my first choice to go with a natural look, it doesn’t show anything and I love that. :) It’s really beautiful.

    We did full overlay shaker style cabinets in a dark-ish gray. I love them but wish the cabinets were a slightly lighter gray. We don’t get as much natural light in the room.

    We did a marble subway tile backsplash set in a herringbone pattern and I couldn’t be happier. On the counters, we debated forever about marble vs. super white quartzite. With 5 young kids, I couldn’t bring myself to do the marble and I’m so happy with the super white. I think I’d be a stress case with the marble but it is beyond gorgeous. I love the super white and the look is pretty similar. Anyway, those are my thoughts. I can send you a pic or two, if you’re interested. LOVE your blog! I referred to it often during our remodel.

  22. I, like many others, have spent countless hours researching on the internet and wavering back and forth. One day I’m ready to take the plunge, the next I’m realistic and practical and try to settle for one of my alternatives. It does seem like with the use of some good sealants (one mentioned here was porous plus) that many stains and etches can be avoided. Had you sealed yours prior? I was going to use marble on the island with the sink, but worried again after hearing your review and seeing your water stains.

    • We did have it sealed and we still have some issues. I’ll be honest, I’ve spilled red berry smoothie drops on it which sat there for several hours and been surprised it didn’t stain. Then something as simple as a greasy spoon stained it immediately. I really thought I would be in the camp that could look past the high maint aspect and just appreciate the beauty, but no such luck. Best of luck with your decision. I can’t wait to see what you decide on!

  23. if you ever get to the point where it’s either change the calcatta or kill someone, look at white quartzite.
    it has the same colors as calcatta, and if you get the right slab(s), the veining is similar. thinner veins, but similar look.

    quartzite is as hard or harder than granite. you can set hot pans on it, you can cut tomatoes or lemons on it without a board and it won’t hurt the stone.

    source :: i work at a tile and granite distributor that sells both calcatta and quartzite. ^.^-b

    –yobo

    • Yobo, I know, I know…I’m hard headed. I considered quartzite when I was looking at options. Regretting it. But you pretty much nailed it…”change it or kill someone…” That sounds about right. :) Thanks for the laugh!

  24. I was searching for info on removing the lemon juice etching from a party I had to celebrate my new kitchen! found your post and this post about removing etching. Im going to give it a shot. I love my marble I wouldn’t trade it but I hate certain etching. Especially when someone else did it, LOL. The real milk paint company sells a fantastic Soap Stone and raw wood sealer I use on my antique pine top island. I haven’t yet used it on my marble. But i have a friend who swears by it for her soapstone. It soaks in and isn’t so oily. Good luck. It is a beautiful kitchen!

    Cut and pasted from Garden Web

    Marks from Marble

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    Posted by i_m_fletcher (My Page) on Sat, Jan 8, 11 at 10:38
    I’ve had my new marble counter tops for about three weeks now. As expected, I’ve created a few etch marks on the counter tops – primarily in the prep area between the sink and range top as well as a few really good ones next to the sink edge.
    Details:
    -Calacatta Ruggine (very similar to Calacatta Gold)
    -Brushed Surface (lightly polished with some texture)
    -Sealed by Fabricators
    -Etch marks created by lime juice and orange juice

    I was under the impression that once an etch mark is made (and it happens instantly) there’s nothing that can be done except get used to the new mark on the counter top. I’m ok with this in general and actually like the idea that my counter tops will develop a patina over time.

    That being said, those first few etch marks stick out like a sore thumb and are a little rough to accept. I set out to see if I could remove them. The good news is that I found a process / product that I feel is very effective at removing these etch marks. Details are in the photo illustrations below.

    Small Etch Mark Next to Sink:

    Same Etch Mark After Cleaning (proving it’s really an etch not dirt):

    Etch Removal In Process:

    Counter Top After Polishing (Took <1 Min) and Cleaning:

    Another Etch Mark:

    After Polishing:

    Here's a Shot of The Product I Used: MB STONE CARE MB11 Marble polishing powder.

    My question is, has anyone else used this stuff (or something similar)? Seems pretty easy and effective. Are there reasons that haven't occurred to me on why I shouldn't use this stuff? Is this common knowledge or an exciting development in the world of Marble counter top care here on Gardenweb?

    Follow-Up Postings:
    RE: Removing Etch Marks from Marble

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    Posted by i_m_fletcher (My Page) on Sat, Jan 8, 11 at 10:45
    By the way, I'm in now way pitching this product. I bought it online for about $29. There were a few websites with a similar product so I don't think this is the only game in town, just the one I tried out.
    RE: Removing Etch Marks from Marble

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    Posted by live_wire_oak (My Page) on Sat, Jan 8, 11 at 10:45
    Polishing works to remove etch marks by removing a thin layer of stone. Over time, repeatedly polishing the same area (like your prep area) can lead to the area actually having a depression or divot when compared with the rest of your flat countertop. It would take several years to show, but it is one consequence of repeated polishing on a relatively soft surface like a marble. Polishing of the entire countertop would be OK for an "annual cleanup" but shouldn't be done on an everyday basis to spot treat the normal wear and tear.

  25. Hi Michelle,
    I am in absolute LOVE with your kitchen!!!! I work for a stone slab company that specializes in both Soapstone and Marble in Seattle. So I wanted to ask if you’ve tried comet/bonami/bars keepers and a green scotch brite to remove stains/etching? It works, it really does! That is of course, if the stone is honed. If its polished, those abrasives will remove the shine. Try it and let me know!! Good luck :-)

    Cheris
    Crocodile Rocks

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