Design theory help: what does counter style do to space?

marg143August 10, 2014


For my small space, you all helped me to move toward light vs. dark counters. I have learned that dark defines/closes in a space, and light will keep it open. Thank you!

Are there other design guidelines to consider? For instance, I think someone here mentioned less pattern reads more contemporary. A stone salesperson yesterday said I should make a choice between highlighting the counter vs. highlighting the backsplash.

In my 12' x 7.5' no-natural-light kitchen that opens to same size DR, I'm putting in white shaker full overlay cabinets with wider rails/stiles. I don't have an overall defining vision but I do like fresh colors yet am not super bold. I want counter to be good for resale (ie not overly personalized) in event I may move in 5 years.

The space is essentially contemporary but not ultra modern and the small peninsula which will have larger section of stone borders the DR.

I think I could go: plainish whitish ceasarstone or silestone, with more color in the tile backspash; or, some sort of granite with more plain subway tile backsplash. How would each concept read? I'm not a design person - help appreciated! :-)

I'll attach some photos of some granites I've found. First one is Bianco Romano with my white (right next to the stone) and some colors (maybe used in towels /rug/something to accent).

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The stone salesperson recommended bianco cream as going well with fresh green accents... it's not quite as light as bianco romano ... I've eliminated this option.

This post was edited by marg143 on Tue, Aug 12, 14 at 9:36

    Bookmark   August 10, 2014 at 6:26PM
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I've eliminated this option...

This post was edited by marg143 on Tue, Aug 12, 14 at 9:34

    Bookmark   August 10, 2014 at 6:28PM
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Or here is a concept emphasizing tile... trying to think what that would look like, white uppers and lowers, with bright tile in between - or perhaps just a border of subway.. (ignore the granite counter underneath.. dark brown was suggested for wood/tile floor).

    Bookmark   August 10, 2014 at 6:33PM
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Or, not sure if I need to go whiter in the granite (vs. the other granites above).. (I don't intend the photo to be advertising, it is just the one I have - I can remove if it is out of bounds and I'll hold off on posting others with identifying info until I know.)

    Bookmark   August 10, 2014 at 6:37PM
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I would do the Caesarstone, personally. I think that granite is on its way out, trend-wise, and I think quartz will appeal to a wider variety of people and have a higher resale value.

But I don't like the look of granite, so my personal taste could be influencing my opinion. ;)

    Bookmark   August 10, 2014 at 6:38PM
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Thanks, GenB - one vote for not granite. Would appreciate others' thoughts too!

    Bookmark   August 10, 2014 at 8:10PM
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If you haven't seem WMA89's mini reveal take a look at it. He/she used Corian Sea Salt for their countertops with white cabinets and used a colored tile for the backsplash. Their kitchen is bigger but I think what they used would be great for your small kitchen.

Here is a link that might be useful: Corian sea salt

    Bookmark   August 10, 2014 at 8:17PM
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Badgergal, I did see it and I did like it! I wasn't thinking Corian, but I need to find a display so I can touch/see it in person. Not sure how it would affect resale but I like it in the photos! Also the tile works well, in part I think, because it coordinates with island and floor... I'm not sure if a more colorful tile would work well or not.

Thanks so much. Anyone else?

    Bookmark   August 10, 2014 at 8:39PM
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The salesperson is right in that generally you want your counter or your splash to be the hero, although wma brought a HUGE sense of balance to her/his kitchen.

When you walk into a kitchen you are naturally on plane to see a backsplash, first, so even bold granite "hides" a little in it's horizontal orientation. So it really depends on whether YOU like the bolder tile or the bolder granite.

But do yourself a favor and spend a couple hours browsing Houzz for "color splashes" or some such and see what vatches your eye and which ele,ents you are really drawn to.

But if you are going to have a lot of the splashier accessories displayed you want a quieter backsplash. If your fabrics are not hanhing out in close proximity to your splash and most of your "stuff" is quieter, go with the bold splash.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2014 at 9:50PM
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Here's a link to Edb2n's recent reveal. In his original kitchen, he had a lack of adequate lighting & was prompted by GWer's to address the lighting issue, Along with the lighting, his choices of countertops, backsplash, fabrics, accessories, etc. really brightened up his kitchen. His reno is one of my favorites.
I agree with Greenhaven. Find some inspiration pictures you like. You can collect pictures in Houzz Idea Books.
Looking through my Idea Books, I was able to figure out what I was drawn to & develop a plan. Of course, my plan kept changing but, eventually, I got there.
Edit:added link

Here is a link that might be useful: Edb2n kitchen reveal

This post was edited by romy718 on Mon, Aug 11, 14 at 0:25

    Bookmark   August 10, 2014 at 10:27PM
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You've picked very fresh colours (tomato red and green and white) so I would definitely go with a fresh, white ceasarstone!

The beige counters are not fresh at all, so I guess I disagree with your salesperson :-) Hopefully others with chime in. Can beige be 'fresh'?

Also, for resale, my feeling is that you should not put in coloured tile.

Here is a fresh kitchen that uses your colours:

    Bookmark   August 10, 2014 at 11:42PM
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It depends on your area. I'm on the East Coast (large metropolitan area), and here and on the West Coast, the trend is "ABG" (all but granite). So, counter top material of choice is quartz, marble, soapstone but also the newer materials like Neolith, ecostone, Dektron, etc.

Or wood. (Think Scandinavian style, i.e. white and wood).

Same with backsplash: Larger format tiles or glass.

I think beige could be fresh if it reads like limestone.

Here is a link that might be useful: Scandinavian kitchens

    Bookmark   August 11, 2014 at 9:37AM
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Thank you all for your thoughts and I appreciate the helpful principles shared.

Others have concurred that color tile wouldn't be a good investment, so I am nixing that idea. No wonder so many Houzz photos are neutral! I would need to bring color in elsewhere.

Thank you also for the links and photos - love the color pops, but in reviewing, I and the space I think are not quite as scandinavian or modern as these (despite living in Twin Cities, MN!). Also, locally, at least in lower end suburbs, Realtors are counseling granite (or quartz OK too) for resale. Who knows how long that will last!

So with option of granite or quartz, and perhaps the two granites shown in the lead (and the first more accessible to me), what direction would this granite with white cabinets push design, even aside from color? Does it mean more natural theme, or more elegant or formal? Or can it still be considered mainly a neutral canvas? Again, the space is small, and also, there is a peninsula bordering the DR which will have a small overhang for stools. So the counter is somewhat affecting DR, and though I have a wood table now, it probably could stand to be updated (garage sale find!). So not sure what consideration to give the idea of whitish quartz touching DR. I want overall feel of place to be classic/contemporary.

I know Maria Killam has said that white, black, beige, and
wood are the options for counters with white cabinets. I guess the one granite above is closer to's there as the best granite find (calm, not overly gray, and within price range) after several weeks, not because I love beige. But my carpet is beige and walls are Stonehouse to go with carpet (could repaint)..

Here is a kitchen with neither - has color - but is going darker on counters than I was going to go and this forum was counseling light:

Thanks again for any thoughts!

    Bookmark   August 12, 2014 at 10:01AM
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I think the second one pushes it a little towards formal, while either the first or third stay closer to a neutral. The white cabinets will really jelp pull the second granite away from formal, though.

FWIW, I love that andino white and you could push it in any direction you want.

Have you found some inspiration pictures?

    Bookmark   August 12, 2014 at 11:30AM
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Thank you so much, greenhaven! I removed photos after initial post but based on the order you stated, I think the first is the one that is still there - with tangerine and green fabric?

What is it about andino white that allows 'any direction', vs. the bianco romano? Is it the cream/beige in bianco - and what direction wouldn't it allow? (The andino would be more complicated to get.)

I have so many questions! :-)

I have spent hours pinning over the months. I have inspiration of 'white cabinets' and of flat panel/shaker, but not too much more specific. I haven't found much color though the link embedded in my last post and reposted here had some -but with counters dark. That's what I found most recently.

I guess at this point I want something that looks good in the space and won't have to be undone at a sale, and can accommodate happy colors as accents. :-)

Here is a link that might be useful: Better Homes Gardens

    Bookmark   August 13, 2014 at 12:17AM
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Okay, so what I think has just happened is that you have summarized exactly what you need in your last sentence, lol!

I am not a designer, so anything I say should be taken with a grain of salt. I personally like the andino because it appears, on my screen, cooler and the bianco romano warmer and andino would look better on white cabs. But there are lots and lots of granite colors to choose from!

So the accents and colors above are ones you have already chosen?
And is your mind set on a stone?

I know you said light colors because of your lack of natural light and per advice on your other thread, but a butcher blockcounter would look great on your white cabs and really set off your accent colors.

Otherwise a light to midtone granite or quartz or even laminate in the grey range. I'll poke around and see if I can find something to share.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2014 at 9:16AM
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Here is a kitchen with white cabs and very light counters but some gray for contrast and can be brightened up with any color accents. If you like the general look, color wise, find a granite that is similar.

But really, just about anything on the cooler range will do, pattern or not. But the bolder your pattern the more it will dominate a small space.

The key to keeping it casual and less formal is white cabs (already done) and the right fabrics and accessories.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2014 at 9:38AM
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Thanks again, greenhaven!

Yes, I think that is, ultimately, the summary - thanks for pointing it out!

I see what you mean about the colors working well, yet I have seen worn butcher block and don't want the maintenance.

I don't have things already in those colors - those are concepts but I do like fresh green for sure.

Thanks for the comment about bolder = more dominant, and I don't think I want the counter to dominate.

I have beige carpet (shown in first photo), and I've been shying away from grays as a dominant color, but the Andino does seem to have some creamy to it. Many granites with white seem to go too gray for me. I am half considering trying to pay for one more coat of paint on cabinets in a slightly warmer white.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2014 at 9:45PM
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Edited, because I don't know what I'm talking about, lol!

Maybe try posting in the design forum, you might find more insight there.

This post was edited by greenhaven on Wed, Aug 13, 14 at 22:59

    Bookmark   August 13, 2014 at 10:52PM
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Looking at your pics above, I don't think your cabinet white is too bright.
Maybe you need to keep looking at slabs. It doesn't seem you are excited about your two options. I bet there is a slab in the Twin Cities calling your name. FWIW, of the 2 stone samples, I like the Andino White. It would look great with a dark brown floor & white cabinets.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2014 at 11:27PM
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Thanks, Romy. The paint might be a little whiter than sample appears in the photo as my sample paint was a bit inaccurate, I think.

I don't have much time left to decide and my workdays are full, but you're right, I'm not super excited or in love... I find myself still glancing at Caesarstone nougat (a Maria K favorite) or the Silestone above, but friends say 'it's boring, you have more of a pallette with granite'. The Andino i'm not even sure is still available - that photo was from 3-4 weeks ago.

I've seen some stones I like better but they're too expensive (quartzite) or are history (no current slabs).

I didn't allow enough time for all this sorting through process!

    Bookmark   August 14, 2014 at 12:32AM
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But you could get away with a brighter tile if you use a "boring" counter, and if those fabrics and whatnot are not already chosen that tile you show will not be too busy with a quiet counter.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2014 at 8:07AM
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Yes! I have been resoundingly persuaded away from fun bright tile by my Realtor friends.. just use brighter accents. (One of my goals is not to have to redo for sale..) That tile in photo was a concept from a tile store person.

So I would have a neutral tile even if it's 1" square reflective/glass/matt mix as in the link, or something like that - still neutral in color.

So that won't be the reason to choose the quartz.

Attaching a different angle/lighting of the same first granite in case that seems different. Realtors like it but they're not GW! :-) I'm going to see actual slab in person today, that was a dusty remnant that was to be 'very much like' the new slab they would receive - came in yesterday. Again, the white, as painted, may be slightly whiter than sample.

Thank you for all the thoughts! :-)

Here is a link that might be useful: BHG

    Bookmark   August 14, 2014 at 8:45AM
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