Going retro without going overboard: countertops

When I made the decision to create a retro kitchen (for now . . . the rest of the house may follow), I struggled with the knowledge that while I loved the retro look, a potential home buyer may not.  We’ve been in our house for ten years, but that certainly didn’t mean that if the perfect house came up for sale on an acreage somewhere near us that I wouldn’t drop everything to go buy it.

Unless, of course, the price tag had a lot of zeroes behind it.  Then I’d have to let out a big sigh and fall back in love with my 1953 ranch.

Although my husband and I love the location of our house, we know that someday we will either have to build onto this house or move, for we took over one of three bedrooms to expand our kitchen, and our two boys will not want to be roommates for too much longer.  So as I transform my kitchen into a retro paradise, I always try to see it also through a potential buyer’s eyes.  Is it too much?  Will they walk in and say, “This kitchen reminds me of my grandmother’s,” which would be a sort of compliment, or will they look around with wide, horror-filled eyes and say, “What in the hell were they thinking?”

I myself am hoping for the grandmother compliment.   I want my kitchen to be comfortable and familiar-looking — familiar  in that it brings a sort of homey comfort to people, not that it looks like everyone else’s kitchen, which is exactly what I wanted to avoid.  But how far do I go in trying to recreate the retro look?

My original inspiration for the kitchen was my cracked ice table.  I didn’t own one yet, but once I realized how much I enjoyed them, I couldn’t wait to plop one down in the dining room ASAP.  That decision was easy and safe, because the table obviously wouldn’t stay with the house.   But what about the countertops and flooring? Those were a wee bit more permanent, and I wanted to make decisions that would be smart in case of a future home sale.

The countertop comprised my first decision.  We had tiled countertops at that time, and it made the kitchen look dated in addition to being rather unsanitary. (Think of all the germs that could hide in all those nooks and crannies.  Ick!)  I originally felt drawn to the good ol’ retro formica such as these:

Or maybe I wanted to go all out and go with red cracked ice to match the table:

Too much?  That was the question.

The other problem to consider was the reality that the countertop is the busiest place in the kitchen, and formica looks great when it’s installed, but heavy use can render it scratched, dull and looking pretty worn after several years.  In addition, I had to remember that not everyone loved the retro look as I did, and I wanted them to walk into my kitchen and be impressed, not repulsed.  The mission, therefore, was to find a modern material that looked retro and was durable.

My uncle works in the marble and granite business, and I turned to him for advice.  He shared several pros and cons with me about both materials, and he ultimately ended up recommending Silestone.  Silestone has a few advantages over other materials, namely having to do with sealants.  Granite and marble countertops, while exquisitely beautiful, will require sealant “touch ups” over the years.  Silestone is a quartz product, and because quartz is naturally nonporous, it does not require a sealant.  Quartz is also naturally scratch resistant, and I can attest to the fact.  True, if I take a knife and purposely try to gouge my countertop, I probably will, but I have been rather rough with my countertop and it’s still as shiny as the day it was put it in two years ago.  The only thing that has an adverse reaction to my countertop is cold aluminum.  One day I put a homemade ice cream container on the countertop and scooped some ice cream out, and afterward there were these faint silver marks on my counter.  The marks DO fade, but they’re not immediately removable.  It’s a weird phenomenon, but I’ve easily remedied it by simply putting a towel under such things.  It’s not as if I have a lot of cold aluminum making its way across my countertop on a daily basis.

After much comparison, the quartz Silestone product seemed like the clear winner.  My two main concerns were durability and having a sanitary surface, and Silestone won on both counts.  Now — I had to choose a texture, and if you think that I didn’t have a plethora of choices in front of me, then you’d be very, very wrong.  Here’s the pallet:

<— My color!


I think it’s safe to say that there are enough colors and textures to appease even the pickiest consumer.  I decided to go with the Stellar Night color.  Once I saw a sample of it, I knew that was the one: it has a pitch black background with flecks of black and silver within it.  It has a retro look without being too dated, and that’s how I knew that it was perfect for me.  Here are pictures I took just after it was installed:

Of course, the pictures don’t do the actual material justice.  Find out where your nearest dealer is and go look at the samples in person.

It is possible to go retro without sacrificing durability and also without jeopardizing a future home sale.  Finding the right materials just takes a little research sometimes.

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  1. Uncle Atom’s avatar

    Nice choice. I lean toward the formica, but I think the boomerang is way over the top for me. I sure wish I could get formica with the little gold specs. Did you look into getting chrome trim applied to your silestone edges? To me that would be almost a perfect compromise, to get the wearability and the look together. Thanks for sharing this!

    Reply

    1. Jen’s avatar

      I thought about getting the metal edging, but it seems to be kind of hard to find. Plus, I think the countertop works well all by itself. The addition of the edging might be too much. If I had installed one of the retro formicas, though, I definitely would have gone for the edging. Perfect!

      Reply

    2. Willie’s avatar

      That was a nice choice it looks like the stars at night with that shine and the lights make it even better. I also like the granite countertops.

      Reply

    3. Cynthia vanderhorst’s avatar

      Do you provide samples?

      Reply

      1. Jen’s avatar

        I don’t sell anything. I’m simply showing you what I got for my kitchen.

        Reply

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