Not loving my soapstone (yet?) and backsplash help please!

swan01July 7, 2013

Our kitchen remodel is almost done. I have oiled (2x) and waxed (3x) our soapstone (Alberene from Virginia) over the last 2 weeks and they don't seem to be holding the finish/patina like I had expected. Should I be more patient? Or maybe I need to just embrace the lighter gray finish? I love the matte finish and the feel of them, but not the color or blotchiness it takes on the day after waxing or oiling.

More importantly (since it is too late to do anything about the countertops), we can't decide on a backsplash concept. Floors are brazilian cherry so they have a few months until they will darken to their true color. The cabinets are almost an antique white (Brighton Cabinetry color called "Dover"). Any/all suggestions very welcome and appreciated!

Thanks in advance!

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I think your kitchen is beautiful! I don't have soapstone, so can't comment on the patina. However, we just got back from vacation, and we stayed at a friend's house for a couple of days--the kitchen has soapstone counters and it's beautiful.

Can you post a close up picture of the soapstone? You could go a lot of different directions with the backsplash. Do you have a style or color in your mind that you are drawn to? Do yo want to stay more traditional or transitional?

    Bookmark   July 7, 2013 at 6:50PM
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Both your kitchen and soapstone are beautiful! I can't imagine what you don't love about it. I have the same combination as you and have creamy crackle subway tile from Sonoma. I also like some green subway tiles I've seen with your combination of walls, cabinets, and countertops. I would let your soapstone be the star, and go very simple on your backsplash.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2013 at 7:19PM
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Holly- Kay

I was going to suggest crazed subway tile from Sonoma and saw sis beat me to the punch. I think your soapstone is just lovely!

    Bookmark   July 7, 2013 at 7:44PM
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Thanks for the speedy replies! We were leaning away from subway tiles because they seem everywhere these days. Maybe glass? Or glass subway tile? Something unusual, but pretty tame if that makes sense. (Can you tell how hard this seems to be for me?)

Here is a close up of the peninsula. There is less movement in the rest of the countertop. Thanks again!

    Bookmark   July 7, 2013 at 9:11PM
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We used a cobblestone glass tile in the 3x6 size. The manufacturer makes several different sizes though. It is Bellavita in the Turenne color.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2013 at 9:24PM
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I can totally understand your disappointment with the countertop appearance.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2013 at 9:26PM
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Beautiful kitchen! What kind of wax are you using on your soapstone?

Your kitchen made me think of Lucretzia's kitchen. I really like her backsplash.

Here is a link that might be useful: Lucretzia's finished kitchen

    Bookmark   July 7, 2013 at 10:37PM
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Here is the backsplash that I used in my kitchen with my soapstone. The space is small and I think the scale of the 2x4 tile is perfect. I really like the link for Lucretzia's kitchen too. It is very warm.

My kitchen marble tile:

This post was edited by enduring on Mon, Jul 8, 13 at 7:22

    Bookmark   July 7, 2013 at 11:04PM
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Let the soapstone settle down. I learned to avoid wax and use mineral oil. Now, after 3 years, I seldom oil and love the dark stone with jade marbling. The first 6-8 months I fussed over it too much--especially trying the mineral oil+beeswax finish. Mistake. Once I washed away the wax with detergent and started applying oil when the counters looks too grey, all was good.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2013 at 11:42PM
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I'm usually pretty adventurous with bs suggestions, and I'm always trying to get people to incorporate color into their schemes, but I think a classic marble bs would be lovely in your very traditional space. Instead of a mosaic or a subway tile, I would recommend long narrow planks. To give you an idea of what I'm thinking, this bs is from awindram's kitchen from the Ikeafans website, link below. It would be stunning with your stone. The second image is from the M. Tex website showing a slab marble bs with their soapstone. I don't love the installation, but it'll give you an idea of how the stones look together.

Here is a link that might be useful: awindram

    Bookmark   July 8, 2013 at 12:53AM
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What about a thin brick like this one from Fireclay?

Or green, as others have already suggested? It is very striking.

Your soapstone is very pretty. I do not have soapstone, but have worked in many labs with it, and have read of so many on this board who just waited for the natural evening out process to occur. Perhaps you just need to be patient.

This post was edited by kitchendetective on Mon, Jul 8, 13 at 8:07

    Bookmark   July 8, 2013 at 8:03AM
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The other photo didn't show up.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2013 at 8:04AM
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I have soapstone from Alberene and have sealed mine with color enhancing sealant, it keeps them dark. I tried to leave the small slab that is in our laundry room unoiled or waxed after the initial waxing wore off but I did not like the uneven darkened areas so I sealed it too, same with our kids bath. I was reluctant to use a sealant at first but after my installer applied it to a couple of my stone samples I decided to try it on the counters and now, 4 years later, I am still glad that I sealed them. The picture that I included is what they look like now, it has probably been 3 years since the last time that I sealed them so they have probably lightened a little.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2013 at 9:09AM
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I'm thinking your counters are polished too much, with too high of a grit. They are too shiny. Soapstone shouldn't be shiny, even when oiled or waxed. I'm thinking that's the problem with the "splotchiness" that is resulting from waxing or oiling. The cure is to have them honed with a rougher grit. The oil or wax won't splotch like that then.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2013 at 9:34AM
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Can you tell me more about this sealant you used? I've had my counters in for a couple months and have not waxed or oiled them because I prefer the lighter look of the soap-stone to the darker that comes after oiling, and I really like the totally matte appearance without wax or oil. But, I also then need to clean up grease spots while waiting for the natural patina to appear. This can be a PIA.

So, if you could provide more details about this sealant and how it affects the appearance and functionality of the soapstone, I'd appreciate it. I believe you said that initially it made them dark, but now they are lighter. Does the color enhancer make them as dark at oiling or waxing? And, what is the name of this product?

    Bookmark   July 8, 2013 at 9:34AM
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Swan I think your soapstone is beautiful but a bit splotchy.
Where did you buy the soapstone? I just went to M.Teixeira last wed and looked at the alberene from Virginia, didn't look like yours. It was a bit green and not as striking veining. Does yours have a green tint?
I have nothing to add but am shopping for soapstone. Maybe strip the wax and just use oil?

    Bookmark   July 8, 2013 at 9:59AM
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I have used Miracle 511 and Tile Lab sealer and enhancer, both work about the same. The feel of the stone does not change nor does its matte appearance *any more than wax or oil* but it does make them dark and causes water to bead up. You will need to apply it twice but not in the same day as it needs to dry really well between applications. I believe that my counters were darker when it was first applied but not by much, my counters were never as black as Swan's. Sealants do not change the stone to make it more perfect or less like soapstone, I still have marks and scratches that come and go, I only ever sharpie out really big band marks as the rest just fade on their own.

*I would suggest trying sealant on a sample piece before you do your entire counter to make sure that you like it.*

My counters are finished to a very smooth finish, they are dead matte when unoiled/ sealed, and have a small bit of shine when finished. I have used oil, wax, sealant, and left my counters natural for a while to try out all of the possibilities and had no problems even with the smooth finish.

This post was edited by athomeinva on Mon, Jul 8, 13 at 11:53

    Bookmark   July 8, 2013 at 11:45AM
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Thanks for all the replies so far! The good news is that the last dry wax application seems to have done the trick and the countertops have really held the dark color for about the last week.

We are still pondering the backsplash. Here is a picture of a few choices. Prices range from $13 to $29/sf. Any other ideas or suggestions? Opinions? We are really leaning towards glass. Thanks again

    Bookmark   July 17, 2013 at 7:31PM
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Here is a closer picture in case it helps. The one on the right is our favorite right now. Thanks again!

    Bookmark   July 17, 2013 at 7:35PM
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Although they are not glass, I've always been partial to Heath, especially in a space that reads pretty traditional.

Things are turning out lovely. Of the two you show, I like the one on the right better. It combines EAM44's suggestion with the glass you seem to be seeking. The wall color reads green on my monitor, so a color with a green undertone will likely coordinate best.

Here is a link that might be useful: Heath Web Site

This post was edited by gooster on Thu, Jul 18, 13 at 3:02

    Bookmark   July 18, 2013 at 2:57AM
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Of the ones you have posted I agree with your choice... the one on the right.

Lovely kitchen!

    Bookmark   July 18, 2013 at 7:57AM
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I am going to agree with the posters that suggested a creamy white crackle subway. I then would add my pop of color or personalization with a beautiful window treatment and colorful accessories. Good Luck.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2013 at 8:56AM
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One word--gorgeous!!!

    Bookmark   July 18, 2013 at 9:05AM
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You might try a ming green marble backsplash with the soapstone. You can get it in all sorts of shapes and sizes. This is a mosaic I used:

    Bookmark   July 18, 2013 at 10:56AM
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When talking backsplash concepts, no one asked you what decorative items will you display in your beautiful kitchen. Do you collect china, baskets, pottery, or change decor themes seasonally? Will you ever change your backsplash again, or will it be the same one as long as you own this home? What is your design inspiration for this room? (Artwork, soft furnishing fabrics, or collected items like :Portmerion China with green, blue splatterware, gorgeous pottery with colorful glazes, Fiesta Ware?)

The design world is offering new choices at the fastest pace ever. (Thanks to being able to share new designs immediately via the internet.) Will you regret installing something that is the "latest flash in the pan"? Mosaics in general fall into this category. The 60's one inch mosaic tiles, the 70's use of orange, gold and avocado, the 80's and 90's embossed tiles, then the introduction of the first water jet cut tiles that have led to the high end stone mosaics. Tile shape-square, diamond, subway running bond, pencil strips, each speak to an era. But the important thing to remember: this is your kitchen. Unless you built to flip it, you are the only one who has to love it. Keep in mind what really tickles you. What really excites you in the way of style? Stay on that path.

Your kitchen has a very traditional feel to it. Will the use of any glass tiles date it too quickly? Some current trends disappear sooner than others. It takes a good tilesetter to install certain mosaics. Some of the glass tiles on the market have a color layer behind the glass, rather that being "true color glass". It you are very picky these may not please you once installed. (The color layer shreds when cut on some I've installed for a friend).

I like the mosaic on the right, too. It seems rich, yet neutral.

I've had my soapstone counters for about 12 years. I didn't want the "shiny granite" look in my kitchen, The splotchy look will come and go, depending on how much oil or wax has washed off. It will take semi regular sealing or oiling to keep the consistent dark color. (Which I prefer, but not all do.) The counters are "very soft", and will get dinged up pretty good. I wanted an "old farm house" feel, and I got it. When the chips on the counter bother you, sand them a bit. I have used a nail file on the chips on the edges, which then make it easier for the oil to be absorbed there. (Continue sanding with finer grits to smooth as desired.) I don't mind the dings, I just don't want them to stand out as white against a predominantly black countertop.

Have fun as you continue. Remember, the only "right answer" is what pleases you for your lovely workspace.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2014 at 12:57PM
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I love the backsplash that that mpagmom shared, because it goes but it is different. Nothing against crackle subway, but it would make your kitchen a lot like everyone else's. A pretty and unique tile, maybe a mosaic from Artistic Tile, could add an amazing element to your kitchen.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2014 at 4:10PM
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I like EAM44's idea of the marble. The other pretty ideas would be too busy and less classic in my opinion.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2014 at 4:41PM
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Can't really offer any suggestions for backsplash since I'm looking for something to go with my soapstone.

@enduring - thanks for posting the herringbone style. That's what's in my rendition from KD. Although in an older traditional house with lots of subway tile, i wanted something a little different. It's nice to see a real life application.

I'm also now really liking the marble bs that EAM posted, but my soapstone has green undertones so that may not work.

I think your soapstone is beautiful. I'm glad your soapstone is 'settling down' for you. I've had the splotchy look the first and 2nd time I oiled for a day or so after oiling. I think each soapstone variety has it's own timetable for settling down/patinae. Mine is patina-ing too quickly - I at least wanted to see what it looked like when the plywood was actually replaced with a real window.

I'll be following this thread since I really don't want to remain in ABB.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2014 at 7:06PM
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