The next big purchase

Earlier this year, the pending big purchase in my future was a new car. With that behind me, it's time to set my sights on something new: kitchen counters.

This purchase is going to be almost completely driven by what is best for resale. My condo is not my forever home, so resale is often a factor in my decisions. My bathroom was done mostly for me, but I knew that by upgrading it, I'd push my unit above every other unit in the complex. Remember the before pictures?

The afters are much, much better, aren't they?

So the goal is to do the same amount of improvement to the kitchen, which used to look like this:

And currently looks like this:

Oops...taken before crown was added to the top of the cabinets

I haven't even started to price out the options, but I'm wondering what your gut reactions are to the different materials out there. If you were buying a condo, what you would think about granite? Quartz (Silestone/Caesarstone)? Solid surface (Corian)? Concrete?

As a design blogger, I'd love to install marble, but I've seen so many people worry about taking care of it that I don't want to scare anyone away by using it. Marble might be for my forever home. Not for the condo.


  1. Granite seems to be the preferred counter in new construction and home renovations these days. Quartz is a good second choice. I'm personally not wild about Corian, as it feels like plastic to me. While I really like concrete, I'm not sure that it's right for the look you have going.

  2. Granite does seem to be the "thing" nowadays. I prefer the lighter colored stuff to the darker stuff, personally.

    I had corian at my last apartment, and honestly I loved it. It was affordable for my landlord to put in, and still looked sleek and clean and contemporary. Just don't do pure white, if you do it. Stains more easily.

    Prob not the thing for your place, but if you're ever in Richmond and can go to Ellwood's Coffee (in Carytown), check out their counters. 100% recycled plastics and stuff, super cool looking. It's what I'd do in my forever home. Oh, and the coffee there is fab.

  3. I love the 'green' recycled glass countertops, but that may also be too specific a taste for resale. Granite seems to be the standard, and while it's gorgeous, sometimes I wonder if it will date our 2000s homes like the avocado and mustard appliances in the 70s. I mean, at some point those were trendy, right? ha - anyway, I doubt it's going to go out of style before you move on from the condo. . .

  4. I definitely say granite is where you're going to get the most bang for your buck. Depending on what level of granite you choose, it can be cheaper than Corian and waaaay cheaper than quartz or concrete. Anything manufactured by Dupont is going to cost a lot.

  5. My first choice is marble but I agree might not be a great choice for the condo.

    My second choice would be quartz

    Third would be granite

    I don't like corian at all to me it's just expensive laminate.

    A friend of mine offered to get corian counters for me at cost I declined I'd rather keep my old laminate until I can afford marble or quartz.

    While I like granite I see a lot of high end homes moving away from it and opting instead for more eco friendly products like quartz, I like quartz esp the white sparkly ones.

    As for concrete I like it but I wouldn't buy it, it's just not my taste and seems too much like a fad to me.

  6. I love what you've done with your kitchen. Granite is probably your best choice, though quartz or corian would be fine as well. Have you thought about color? I think black countertops would look best in your space. It's classic with the white cabinets and goes well with the appliances.

    And I assume you'll replace the sink with an undermount. If I were looking right now, I would be thrilled to find a large single bowl sink or a divided sink with one large and one small bowl, the disposal being in the large one. I find those styles so much more useful than the standard double bowl. (Why yes, I love to cook and have strong opinions about sinks!)

  7. Granite does seem to be the choice-du-jour, though I agree it's already starting to feel dated. If it's the best bang for the buck, I'd do it. Most house hunters are impressed by it and it can be more affordable than the other options.

  8. i don't know how soapstone does as kitchen counters, but i love it!
    i think granite is on it's way out.... :)

  9. Granite is the big deal right now and will probably always be a good choice. However, one selling point of Silestone is that it's naturally anti-microbial and it doesn't require sealing. A definite selling point as both granite and marble require periodic sealing. An undermount sink - either a single large sink or one wih a small and large side is a definite plus as is a high mount faucet. It's very frustrating for people to try to fill a large pot for pasta, etc. with the standard faucets.

  10. I'd go for quartz (light and sparkly) and upgrade the track lighting to recessed. If you do get a new sink, I'd go with a really deep undermount with a great faucet. Might check out the granite composite sinks - we love ours.

  11. Personally I'm just kind of over granite - unless it's the less "sparkly" kind. Quartz is really beautiful - check out DuPont Zodiaq Quartz in Antique Pearl - my girlfriend did her counters in that and they're BEAUTIFUL (I'll send you a pic)...the color would look great in your space...and it was handpicked by Erika of Urban Grace, so you know it's good. :)

    We had white Corian in our kitchen in VA and I actually loved it. It's SO low-maintenance and looks really clean and modern...not sure about the other colors, but we could scrub out stains with counter bleach and they were good as new.

  12. I want to update my counters too, and am in the same boat. We're not in our forever home. I can't wait to read other people's suggestions, and then see what you do. I don't know the pricepoints at all. I'm probably still a year away from getting new countertops (unfortunately).

  13. I do design work for a couple of remodeling companies in the Richmond area. Everyone wants granite. (not my first choice) I'm seeing more clients choose quartz as well, especially if the client is looking for something more consistent rather than some big bold granite pattern. I find that a lot of people don't know or understand what quartz is though, so there's always that moment of explanation. Everyone is afraid of marble (I love marble) The idea of staining and maintenance freaks them out. Even clients who like that look won't commit to it. I agree with In the Tweeds that Corian could be a really nice option for you. But the general reaction when I mention it to clients is usually not good. I think they are missing out sometimes.
    If you are looking for resale in this market (I'm assuming that Charlottesville is as conservative as Richmond), I'm afraid granite will be the best and easiest selling feature for you. Again not my first choice but it seems to be what the people want. (sorry for the long comment!!)

  14. Why don't you take a look at the condo ads for your area to see what the realtors say? If they talk about kitchens with granite countertops, that tells you the local buyer values them.

    I have marble window sills throughout my place, and while I love the look, they do stain. Because of that, I would be very hesitant to put them into a kitchen - even though I love to bake.

    Good luck with whatever you decide to do. I'm sure it will look fabulous.

  15. Every time I watch a House Hunters or Property Virgins episode and the woman goes "Ooooooh granite counter tops, just what I wanted..." I just shake my head. Wouldn't you like to have something just a touch more unique? And as someone else pointed out, it seems like they're just on the verge of being dated, like the mustard colors from the 70's!

    Brian's old place had granite counters and I could never get them perfectly streak free. It annoyed me so much. Hahaha.

    Now we have wooden counters in our kitchen and while I don't love them, we get lots of compliments on them. We also have corian in our bathroom and I love it! One of my grandmothers also has corian and we also saw it at a house we stayed at in Chatham last year. Both kitchens looked great.

    For some reason I though corian was supposed to be a cheaper alternative to granite, but from the other comments I guess it's not?

    I'd definitely look into recycled materials. :)

  16. Hi Jeannine! I'm a 20-something Kitchen and Bath Designer here in Charlottesville, and I love reading your blog! We share the same tastes and what you've done with your apartment really has stepped it up, as I looked at the same complex when I first moved here!

    That being said, as a designer in your neighborhood, everyone is still going with granite for the most part, with quartz being a close second. While the look of the polished typical granite, there are options to make granite have a more updated look.

    Try looking into Absolute Black in a honed finish (it resembles soapstone, but without the maintenance of regular oiling). As with all natural stone, you will have to seal it, but it is as simple as wiping down your counter about once or twice a year. With your white cabinets, they would look beautiful! High contrast is always appealing. Absolute Black is also a lower-level granite so it won't cost you an arm and a leg!

    Another way to update granite is with the edge options. Most of the traditional homes we do have the ogee edge. For a more modern look (especially with your shaker cabinets), go for just a square, eased edge (and they are a standard edge, no upgrade fees!).

    The look I currently love is a thicker-than-average countertop. However, with your slide-in range, that may not be the best choice, as the countertop will come up higher than the sides of the range (makes for a pain in the you-know-what for cleaning).

    As for solid surfaces such as Corian, they are well on their way out. For some reason, they have discontinued most of their colors and we haven't received any word on replacements in the showroom. They actually are cheaper than granite, by about 30%. Corian does have a line called The Private Collection, which (even though I can't stand Corian) actually looks nice and doesn't have the same speckle-y 1994 look. It still doesn't have the luxurious feel of a natural stone or quartz, but it'll get your the look without the pricetag.

    One more thing: the recycled countertops mentioned in the above post are OUTRAGEOUSLY expensive! If money isn't an issue, you could check into ECO by Cosentino, or PaperStone (made of real paper!).

  17. Oh and I forgot my contact info!


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