What I Would Change About Your Kitchen Countertops — Heather Hungeling Design


Source: Heather Hungeling Design | Willow Lane Project


Granite is like the hardworking draft horse with unsightly proportions, stodgy legs, and a dull coat. He’s sturdy and tough, but he’s never going to pull the carriage to the ball. Still, one can appreciate the durability of granite. It’s extremely hard, difficult to stain or scratch, and can tolerate very high heat. It doesn’t ask for much in return…just a little penetrating sealer once in a while to prevent stains.

The problem with granite is almost entirely aesthetic. When I’ve had clients choose granite in the past, it was never because they loved granite.  They accepted it only because they wanted the durability they associate with this tough stone.  They’ll go to the slab yard and try to find something they can bear to live with…“well, this one’s not so bad,”…etc.

Granted, some types of granite are subtle and leagues better than the speckled nature we mostly associate with this stone.  However, unless you are looking to pair a very bold patterned counter with minimalist cabinetry (as often seen in contemporary kitchens), there are better options available to you now. Granite is harsh in appearance and detracts from any kind of delicate detailing or refinement that you will see in fine bench-made cabinetry.

If you are investing well in quality cabinetry for a traditional kitchen, I assure you that you will bring the caliber of your space down substantially if you pair it with granite.


At this point, you may be wondering what I could possibly have against engineered quartz. It certainly looks a lot better than granite, but still offers considerable durability (very stain resistant, very scratch resistant and no need to maintain with a sealer). Every kitchen designer and interior designer on HGTV seems to be plugging it for their projects. In fact, quartz has recently surpassed granite as the most popular countertop material in America. With a lot of manufacturers stepping into this market, there is a wide variety of choices to suit almost every color scheme. Notably, there are also a lot of marble look-a-like patterns offered by these manufacturers, making them a trendy alternative to the real stone.

Well, let me tell you why I haven’t jumped on the quartz bandwagon…

  • Quartz slabs have a distinct sheen to them, which makes them easy to spot. Also, while the technology behind making them into a marble look-a-like has improved, I still find the slabs to be very lifeless. There’s no poetic beauty to them. Every piece is identical, and the more popular patterns can be easily spotted in kitchen renovation pictures.


  • Historically, anything that’s artificially made (and trendy) will inevitably become very “dated.”

  • The technology is always improving, but that can leave you with the feeling of having “last year’s model” pretty quickly.

  • Quartz is heat resistant to low temperatures but will scorch if exposed to high temperatures, such as a hot skillet or a pan directly from the oven.

  • Quartz is not UV resistant so the colors will fade slightly over time, depending on the amount of sun exposure.  (They are not a good option for an outdoor area). 

Engineered Alternatives to Quartz & Granite

In fairness, most of my criticisms of quartz can be applied to other engineered surfaces as well. That’s why I almost always prefer to use natural stone. However, I will concede that an engineered surface may be an appropriate choice for you if you’re going for a more transitional or contemporary kitchen – as they certainly contribute to a clean, modern look. Also, if you’re opting for that style of kitchen, you’re probably already expecting that you will need to update more frequently so the shorter style lifespan of your countertops may not be an issue for you.

Another group of people that may benefit more from an engineered material are those that don’t like to see any movement or color variation in their countertops. My mother-in-law falls into this category. While her taste is traditional, she prefers for the counters to be as visually “quiet” as possible.

If you find yourself in a particular situation where you’re more drawn to an engineered surface, I still believe there are two options for you that are superior to the ever-popular quartz:


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