Selecting a slab – be it for a countertop or a backsplash – can be daunting and frustrating. Kate Sterling, creative director of AKDO, provided useful insight into how designers can make this process easier.
1. Do Your Research
Before you begin, decide the maintenance level that best works for your client. Different materials have different needs, and it’s important to decide what the client would like out of the new countertop.
However, don’t always believe the rumors; if a client loves the look of marble but is scared away by stories of staining, remember that some of the world’s great buildings, like the Taj Mahal, are made of marble. Talk to the experts and do your research before discounting a look a client loves.
2. Plan It Out
Now that you’ve educated yourself, it’s time to make a plan. Natural stone slabs can dazzle you with their beauty, so before getting too carried away, take a few things into account:
• Focal Point of the Room: Do you want a stunning countertop, or an eye-catching, patterned backsplash? Pick your focal point first and design the rest of the room around it.
• Slab Size: Some stones can only be quarried in small blocks and are not suited to long countertops or kitchen islands. Get the plans for your room from the contractor and talk to your fabricator about adding seams to the countertop so you know what size slabs you need and how many.
• Natural Stone Slabs are Unique: Natural stone slabs are quarried from the earth, making each piece of stone one-of-a-kind. Be aware that some stones have naturally occurring specks or irregularities, and the veining and color can vary so it’s important to choose the exact slab that suits your client’s taste.
• Be Specific: Your fabricator will make a template to determine the exact size pieces to cut out of your slab. This can only be done once your cabinetry is in place, since walls are not all straight. A good idea is to use blue painter’s tape to indicate the places the slab will be cut, to make sure it includes your favorite parts of the slab. Remember, you can only cut a slab once.
3. Get Creative
This is the fun part! Your slab can be a statement piece in the kitchen – the most oft-used area of the home.
• The Slab as Art: Since many slabs have breathtaking, dramatic movement, they are perfect for making a statement. Slab backsplashes create a seamless, rich look and can act as very elegant and enduring “wallpaper.”
• Remember the Trim: You have to buy slabs whole, so make the most of them! Ask your fabricator to use the leftover pieces of slab not needed for your counters to create complementary trim details in the room. Long, thin pieces can be used to create saddles for door trims or shelves in a shower nook. You might even have enough to elegantly top an occasional table. Everything must be templated prior to cutting the slabs.
• Don’t Lose Your Edge: Your countertop edging is an important detail. More modern spaces will typically go with a simple straight edge, while more ornate profile details suit a traditionally designed space. Fabricators can make the slab edge appear thicker by stacking extra layers of slab along the edge of your countertop.
• Have Fun! Put aside the renovation stress and soak it all in. Some slab yards are more like galleries, with hundreds of works of art created by Mother Nature. Allow yourself to get lost in the natural beauty created by ancient layers of seashells, lava and crystal formations.