Move over formica. Modern countertop options for homebuilders and renovators

Modern countertops and vanity trends are calling more and more for stone or stonelike finishes and Taos homeowners are as equally trendy. Traditional stone products, such as marble, natural and man-made granite, slate and even concrete are the choice of many homeowners nowadays for their kitchens and baths.

There is so much to choose from, we looked at a few ways to simplify and narrow it all down.

With over 40 years working in Taos, Up Front Construction owner and general contractor Bob Orner knows a thing or two.

“It all depends on the price range – with laminate tops like Formica used most often, then tile, then stone or a man-made faux granite like Corian or CaesarStone,” Orner says. “If price is no object, we typically go with granite or sandstone. Another one is soapstone, which I think is very beautiful.”

Corian, quartz and granite also have a luxuriant look and feel, something very important for finishes you touch practically with every move you make in the kitchen or bath. Sandstone and limestone, however, are very different, but as highly desirable as quartz, Corian and granite, according to Brian and Bob Loveless at Loveless Stone & Tile in Taos.

“Sandstone countertops have traditionally been one of our primary products,” Brian says, noting that their work offers a wholly unique appearance compared to traditional stone products such as marble, granite or synthetic materials. Examples of their work can be seen throughout El Monte Sagrado Resort & Spa on Kit Carson Road, and the Blackstone Ranch off Lower Ranchitos Road.

“Sandstone tops can be made to complement or contrast living materials due to the unique grain and movement or create a sleek modern look,” Brian explains online. “Unless constrained by building requirements, all of our countertops are 1-1/2 inches to 3 inches thick when viewed from the edge; this thickness creates a sense of mass and solidity that thinly sliced mass-produced stone products can never achieve.”

Granite is currently the top choice for countertops once price has been dealt with. It comes in many shades: blacks, whites, beiges, corals and greens. It comes highly polished or a soft matte.

“Something to keep in mind with granite tops,” Orner says, “is whether it’s highly polished or honed, not so shiny. Here, with Southwestern style, my personal preference is for the honed or more natural-looking granite.”

High polishing also tends to darken the appearance of the stone, whereas the honing creates a soft matte finish. Granite costs depend on color, finish and availability.

Shipping can be expensive, sometimes prohibitively so, depending on where it’s coming from.

The look of a countertop is what first catches your eye. But more important is how you live and work in the space – maybe that white granite finish won’t hold up to kids making their lunches on it everyday, slapping mustard on the bread and elsewhere, in a hurry to catch the bus.

But you can still get that white finish with a number of different products that have a durable and exacting warranty like Loveless offers.

Most natural stones like marble, limestone and soapstone are softer and require sealing. But the Lovelesses guarantee that their stones are designed to be extremely durable, offering a surface that doesn’t stain the way most softer finishes would.

“Our material is warrantied for life against manufacturing defect,” Brian said about their stones. In business since the 1960s, the father and son duo say they have worked throughout the U.S., with movie stars and famous artists and designers, and have a large clientele in Aspen and Vail, Colorado.

Granite Concepts, also Taos stone and slab fabricators, carry ceramic and stone tile, stone cladding, fireplace surrounds and much more. Located just west of Salazar on St. Francis Lane, drop by their showroom to get an idea of what you are attracted to. They will help you figure out how you will be using your kitchens and baths and what kind of finishes you likely will need and, better yet, what you want to spend.

Taos offers a surprisingly sophisticated range of materials suitable for every homeowner’s countertop needs, from the most basic to the most exotic – an unusually enjoyable prospect overall.

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