Countertop Under Wraps

Bart: What am I gonna do tonight??
Marge: You can help me change the shelf paper in the pantry.
Bart: I’ll have none of that!

 – The Simpsons

We’ve updated our thinking on the countertop options we previously posted, and revisited some old options:

  • Wood: Probably not…but maybe…but probably not.
  • Zinc: We decided against zinc. We love it in restaurants and in designer kitchens, but don’t think it would work for us. “I’m worried it would end up looking like a chip shop in there,” quoth the Kev.
  • Marble: I checked with some stone places, and it would seem our kitchen is conveniently a little too big for remnants. We’d have to buy a whole slab, which dwarfs my former estimate. The total cost would be north of $125 a square foot–A SQUARE FOOT–which made me (privately) snort with derision. Salvage marble doesn’t seem to be an option, so if we do marble, it would be as DIY mini-slabs.
  • Laminate: They are charging a lot for the fancier laminate these days. I priced out Wilsonart HD options (we liked a light abstract called Luna Frost), and with all our edges, it’s very nearly the cost of basic granite. Formica is similar. These counters can be homeowner-fabricated for less by buying the laminate sheets and edges, then bonding them to a substrate. Kevin’s even done that before, although it doesn’t sound fun. So laminate’s a maybe, but it’s pretty far back in the pack.
  • Quartz: We almost pulled the trigger on quartz a few years back. Believe it or not, there’s a semi-DIY option. Menard’s offers a product called Riverstone Quartz–you provide your measurements, and they fabricate your countertops, then you install them (or have someone install them). It’s the same deal as other quartz products–90-something percent quartz chunks in a resin matrix. It is, therefore, HEAVY. Originally, we decided it was a little too expensive for that much DIY muscle. When I checked last week, though, the price had improved, so it’s back on the table.

Obviously, we’re decision-impaired. We needed to do something to start eliminating quasi-options. In desperation, I did something faintly ridiculous: I swathed all the horizontal surfaces in contact paper.

Kitchen with original countertops:

doh kitchen north 2 before

Kitchen plastered in shelf paper:

doh kitchen north after

The wood countertop option is the only one that is not light-colored, so we picked up dark woodtone shelf paper to see how we felt about a darker worktop. It doesn’t bear close scrutiny, but at a glance, it gives an idea of what dark wood counters would be like in here (although we wouldn’t have the little backsplash).

Another before:

doh kitchen sink before

And papered:

doh kitchen sink after

After the initial novelty, we each found we weren’t fond of the overall effect. That was surprising, because we were both very pro-wood in theory. While I’m relieved it’s no longer purple, there’s just too much wood! The Kev thought that it might even make the space look smaller, possibly because of the color or the woodgrain pattern.

doh kitchen sink after closeup

While I felt really silly going through this bizarre exercise (and then blogging about it), the effort was worth it to “try out” a dark wood finish. If you are in a similar quandary, I strongly recommend contact paper as a way to give a new surface a dry-run. Obviously, it doesn’t really replicate wood, but for $8, we now have a much better sense of how the surface would look in practice. There’s something about standing in the room with an approximated surface that we would never have been able to get from PhotoShop.

And there are lots of shelf paper options if we decide we need another trial run (although I’m not doing this more than twice!). UPDATE: No more shelf paper–we made a countertop decision.

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