Saturday, April 11, 2015

Stone Yard Adventures

When I look at photographs of finished kitchens, I just have to wonder what went on behind the scenes to create such beauty. Every renovation involves a few hiccups, and the ranchburger is no exception. Cabinets have been hung in the wrong places, the wrong subway tile for the master shower was ordered (and was set to be installed next week), and the kitchen experienced a marble mishap.
Kitchen via Houzz
Below, you can see the poor, little cabinet (one of two) was hung too close to the door. In the appliance cabinet, the microwave drawer was accidentally placed too high, out of reach, causing a bit of worry; and the Very Long Island, which I myself had planned, ended up in the wrong spot. These are small hiccups. The range wall cabinets will be re-hung, the island will moved--it was just temporarily placed there--and the appliance cabinet has already been fixed. I love simple solutions, don't you?

Back in the winter, I had selected marble slabs for the kitchen, but a few weeks ago, we ran into a dilemma. The honed side of one slab had etches and other marks. This meant that I'd have to use the polished sides, and I'd wanted honed. The other slab had a giant fissure running through it. In this type of marble, fissures along the large veins can cause the slab to break during fabrication. The slab would have to be cut around the fissures, and that meant we couldn't choose the prettiest part of the stone.
It was back to the drawing board. Back to the stone yards.

Historically, it had been easy to find counter top materials, and I assumed we'd find another marble in a few weeks. But the gods of marble had different plans for my kitchen.

Lisa, a fabulousNashville fabricator, has looked all over the U.S. for a marble slab that is at least 125 inches long--this size is required for this Very Long Island. Plus, I had certain requirements: I preferred honed marble. I came very close to selecting this lovely Danby slab, but the movement was extremely asymmetrical, bunched up in the lower left corner, and that wasn't the best look for the VLI (Very Long Island).

Lisa went on the hunt, looking high and low. We were still considering the fissured slabs (below, it's #3), but she also found polished slabs that were the right size. Polished wouldn't be the best choice for the kitchen.

First, we went to see the slabs of Calacatta "S." One slab, the prettiest (of course), had been reserved. I liked the movement, except for the black blobs. "They look like spiders," someone said. Or fighting tarantulas. Since these slabs did not have fissures, we could cut anywhere, and clever fabrication could find the best pattern for the island. However, these slabs are polished. (They can be sent away to be honed, but risk is involved if the result is not to my liking, or the slabs are damaged.) I'd almost made up my mind to deal with polished and buy lots and lots of wooden cutting boards. 

At the next stone yard, we looked at slabs of Calacatta Vagli. Again, they are polished. 

The pattern was a little hectic. And Lisa, who has a very good color sense, was afraid that the hues  were off for my kitchen. But, the slabs were very pretty, for sure.

At the next yard, I looked at slabs of Carrara. They were polished; but the price was right. In person, the slabs were super long, with beautiful, subtle movement, but they were very gray. The saleslady at the yard said that few slabs of white Carrara were coming in at this time. That's the thing about natural stone, apparently. It's not like you can order white or gray--Mother Nature is calling the shots. Gray would have probably worked in my kitchen, but when I looked closer, my heart sank. Like many marble slabs, these were peppered with black, smeary dots, rather like buckshot.  This slab had an enormous amount of buckshot.

We put holds on all of the slabs, and by the next morning, I'd decided to let them go, releasing them back into the wild. 

Meanwhile, I found some interesting slabs for Bandwidth's bathroom counter, the laundry room, and the pool house. I also found slabs that were outlandish, strange, and fanciful. 
But let's start with the slabs that I liked for the ranchburger.

As many of you know, in my former house, I used Sequoia quartzite on the kitchen counters. Sequoia is whiter (and has some blue-green) than its cousin, Brown Fantasy. Everyone loved the white, marble-like Sequoia in the Georgian's kitchen.

The saleslady said that Sequoia slabs are so popular, they are spoken for before they arrive at the yard. 

The yard had quite a few slabs of Brown Fantasy--some were polished, some were leathered--but they'd been severely damaged during transport. The slabs weren't long enough for my kitchen, and they were cracked. Still, an unbroken piece could have been used in Bandwidth's bathroom (his room has a very long counter that runs the length of the space--but it will have a cabinet between two sinks, so the slab can have seams). 

The leathered slabs were much whiter than the polished. 

Here's a polished slab. (Bandwidth, who seldom voices an opinion about household matters, didn't care for them.)

I wandered around the building and stopped by a gorgeous slab of Super White quartzite. Only two were available, and I put a hold on them immediately, thinking they could work in Bandy's bath or the laundry room--possibly the pool house kitchen.

Oh, if only this slab were longer!

Quartzite is harder than marble but softer than granite. It does require the cook to be a little careful.

The saleslady showed me another bundle of Super White--many slabs were available. They're a bit gray, but I absolutely loved them. Unfortunately, the slabs are too short for the kitchen island. But they would work elsewhere. Quartzite isn't as bulletproof as granite. You can't put hot pans on quartzite, and it can etch (a sealer will help prevent staining). But quartzite is much more user-friendly to the busy cook. And the price was a lot less than marble.

Lisa took me to the last stone yard. Here, everything had different names, and unfortunately I didn't take notes.

All of these marble slabs were honed but too short; in any event, they were reserved.

This slab of quartzite looked like a blue sky with poofy white clouds. It was striking in person.

A granite (?) slab with white, taupe, and blue movement.

The saleslady said that this slab was marble. Lisa and I thought the upper half looked like thunderclouds.

The saleslady said this slab was marble, not quartzite. If you stretched out the rings of Saturn, you would get this marble. It's striking and unique. But not the right size for my behemoth of an island.

Lisa placed one of my cabinet doors (painted BM Simply White) against the Calacatta Vagli, which was the Stone of Choice. But when I considered the finish (polished) and the cost, I had to let these slabs go.

Lisa sent photos of another Very Long marble slab. Here's a close-up. 

The veining is lovely, though it's hard to know if the background is as white as the photo above or if it's gray. It's also hard to know if the slab is peppered with "buckshot."
You'd think that all of these choices would make a girl's head spin.

But it's quite the opposite. A slab may be interesting, but you will know in a heartbeat if it's wrong for your kitchen. The more slabs you see, the better you are able to judge their virtues and shortcomings--and how a particular stone (or any type of surface) will fit your life. That's the most important thing. Will you love it in ten years? Will it cause rough strife with family members?  Was it worth the cost--and not just financial?

Since the Imp of Marble is clearly working mischief, I am considering alternatives. First, I am thinking about a solid surface counter top, like white Caesarstone, fabricated to seem very thick, and with an appealing edge. Talk about bulletproof!

I've always loved a certain KITCHEN by Michael Smith; however, I think it would be very difficult for me to pull off. I love how textures and tones were used so artfully. You can see a picture HERE.

My kitchen is different in critical ways. For one thing, my ceilings are 8', and I can't add a pot rack because it would block the view through the windows--and the view is a dominant feature in my kitchen. Also, the ranchburger's kitchen has very little exposed vertical wall space, and I probably won't be using a tile back splash. (I have a stainless backsplash that will fit my range.) 

I am also getting an estimate from my cabinet maker for a wooden counter-top. It would have pros and cons; but it would warm up my white kitchen. 
Traditional Kitchen by Saratoga Springs Design-Build Firms Witt Construction

In the past, I have walked into a stone yard and found my granite or marble immediately. This recent quest has taken me into unexplored territory. It would be easier, I suppose, if I just settled for polished slabs (but who wants to become the Marble Police, protecting the counters from sliced lemons or hot pans?). Also, I could look for shorter slabs, but a seam would be required (we discussed this, and on my terribly long island,a seam would be highly visible).

The quest for kitchen counter-tops will continue . . . for a little while longer. But not too long. If we can't find a slab for the island, well, that's the breaks. I wonder . . . maybe this is meant to be. Marble may not be the right choice for my kitchen.

And maybe it's time to think outside of the box.
Traditional Kitchen by Other Metro Interior Designers & Decorators Minnie Peters

There isn't a rule that says kitchen counters must be stone.

Traditional Kitchen by Other Metro Interior Designers & Decorators Minnie Peters

As always, thank you so much for taking time out of your day to visit with me.

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  1. WOW. so many selections - it would be hard to make a choice. They are all beautiful in there own way. But, you will now when you find the right counter tops. The wood ones you showed are very lovely also.
    Hope your feeling much better now and that the concussion has gone.
    Have a great weekend.

  2. I feel your pain, I truly do!! I know you will find the perfect slab, it is waiting for you somewhere out there. I had mine honed and I am so glad I did. It is a soft satin finish and you can't help but run your hand over the top of it.Good luck on your quest!!

  3. Love the idea of a wood counter, it adds so much warmth to a kitchen.

  4. Phew, don't know how you're keeping your enthusiasm! Go with your instincts, don't fight them. I like quartz countertops for the myriad choices one has, but if your heart is set on marble, then look a little longer for the honed.
    Yes, you're so right about the mistakes in your cabinetry being minor fixes—phew again, but still ... .

    1. I'm surprised that a city the size of Nashville doesn't have more honed slabs--or someone local who works on them. Honed is almost like a rare, alien species. :-)

  5. Definitely a learning post for me. You have been well educated in this kitchen stuff!
    All the best and may all the details come together,

  6. They are beautiful! Starting to look the same, too many of them to look at!. Good luck.

  7. Oh wow, there are so many choices. I love the very last picture, it looks amazing. Can't wait to see what you do.

  8. Loved reading your post. We are in the process of building a stand alone condo and have been struggling with kitchen cabinets, flooring and countertops. (on a much smaller scale than yours) If I were you, I'd explore doing marble on your countertops and put in a beautiful wood surface on your island. Have seen this done often in magazines and think the wood tops are striking. Hope this opinion helps.

    1. Mitzi, yes, your opinion really did help. If I go with a wooden top for the island, then the size restriction (super big) would be eliminated. It would be easier to find a smaller, honed slab (I need 1 for the perimeter counters). I wish you happiness and luck with your kitchen!

  9. Oh my...there are so many worries trying to do the remodel dance! We had white Corian in our Georgian. That was THE thing then. Ha. Just go with what you like...or if that is elusive, find a plan B, which sounds like you are exploring. I know what ever you decide on will be beautiful! You have exquisite taste...and we will be ooohing and aaaahing the finished product. In my keep it simple we chose black pearl granite. It comes across as solid black. I wanted a white granite...but because of our timeline...I could not wait for it to arrive. It will work out.

  10. My head is spiining and it isn't my kitchen! I know YOUR piece is out there waiting to be found. Hope it is soon!!!!

  11. In the movie Something's Gotta Give the island is finished with soapstone. It looks beautiful with white cabinetry and as I understand it there are varying tones of it. Since the base cabinets are white on the island would having a dark countertop affect the brightness of the kitchen? Perhaps not too much? Just a thought 😊

  12. Wow, my head is spinning too! You have such beautiful taste that I know you will come up with the best solution. I would love to put marble in my kitchen but with 2 boys and a husband who splatters things everywhere, I would be too stressed out. It's bad enough I am taking a chance on white cabinets with this group of savages I live with! Can't wait to see your finished kitchen!

  13. Wow, there are way too many different slabs and colors. I hope you find the perfect one. The wood would look good, too.

  14. Loved reading this and I can relate. I agree with Pinky - my head is spinning. When I've had to face these situations, I step back and do something else, then attack it later. Sort of - when the right one comes along. Don't know if that will work for you. Sometimes it's not as easy as that. Good luck and I have the greatest confidence you'll make the right decision.

  15. This has been a very informative and extremely helpful post. I do so hope you find what your heart is telling you that your kitchen needs, and thank you so much for sharing this reno process with us. Wishing you the best of luck on your counter search.

  16. With no intention to insult those who have the Brown Fantasy as there is definitely a beauty in natural stone and everyone has there own preference; but comparing it to the others you have shown like Bandwith it wouldn't be my first choice as it reminds me of 'a layer of volcanic ash afloat on a stormy sea'. Like you and Lisa interpreted one slab as looking like thunderclouds, it is really amazing how we all see things differently!
    Wishing you the best on your hunt Michael and appreciating the education .... ☺. -Brenda-

    1. Brenda, you're so right. And we see things differently at different junctions of our lives. The grainite that I have in my current kitchen is loud, busy, wild, and chaotic. The rest of the kitchen is monotone, so once upon a time, I loved it. Now, almost a decade later, I am craving a peaceful decor. I'm hoping that soothing neutrals will get me through my 60s, into my 70s, the Lord willing, and I won't have to change the basic colors--just shake things up with accessories. On a different note, I'm getting ready to choose a paint color for the Man Cave, better known as the bowling alley, It's unbelievably long, divided by rugs into zones. The walls are 8' but the ceiling is open and beamed. After it's painted, it's got to stay that way forever.