How to Make Natural Stone Play a Starring Role in a Kitchen Design
Photos provided by Jan Neiges CMBKD; Photographed by: Virtuance.
Jan Neiges is a certified master kitchen and bath designer with the National Kitchen & Bath Association and principal of Colorado-based Jan Neiges CKD LLC. She has been helping her clients define and realize their visions for beautiful and functional high-use living spaces for over two decades. Neiges sees natural stone as a go-to material because “every piece is unique, especially if one selects the stones that have more colors, movements, and patterns.”
A client recently asked for a white-on-white-on-white kitchen but knew they needed some color in the space. Neiges encouraged her client to explore different natural stone showrooms to see if something might appeal to her and she fell in love with a white quartzite with gold veining for the island countertop.
“The island countertop is the pièce de résistance,” Neiges says. “It’s such a large island and because everything was somewhat sterile and flat in shape, except for the island which is curved, I suggested that we go with something very fluid for the light fixtures hanging over the island.”
Neiges suggested a gold-tone faucet for the island to help accentuate the gold in the quartzite. The result is a stunning white kitchen where the natural stone plays a starring role.
For Neiges, the act of discovery and finding out what is drawing the client to a particular piece of natural stone is part of the fun when working on a kitchen with a client.
Choosing Natural Stone for a Kitchen
Neiges often recommends clients visit showrooms with their designers because “there’s more to it than just pointing your finger and saying, ‘I like that’ when it comes to natural stone.”
Showrooms allow clients to see what’s available and possible. In the Denver area, Neiges recommends her clients visit one of the three major showrooms and prepares them in advance by telling them it’s like walking into Tiffany’s. It’s an exciting part of the process and one that opens up the possibilities of finding natural stone they might not have considered or seen before in other places or in magazine spreads.
Most natural stone showrooms have a template available to show the depth of a countertop dimension. “It could be five or six feet long and 26 inches wide and it could be made out of some kind of plastic or metal,” Neiges explains.
They then take the template and walk around with it, placing it in front of natural stone slab options so clients can see patterns, movement and how it might look next to other design elements they’ve selected such as the finish of a cabinet or paint color.
She’ll ask them questions to find out what they are seeing and what is standing out for them. Once they’ve found the stone they love, they’ll discuss any questions they might have about caring for the stone.
When someone wants natural stone, Neiges says, they’re usually looking for stone to be that “wow element” in their space. She tries to find the right natural stone based on how the family or homeowner will use it. “If this [stone] is really something that turns you on, and you really want to see it a lot, let’s find a vertical application for it,” suggests Neiges. Since vertical elements are the first things we see when we walk into a space, why not use natural stone there?
One homeowner wanted something spectacular for the wall behind their cooktop. They decided to make that area the focal point of the space—“Grand Central Station” of the kitchen. As a result, they were intentional with the rest of the kitchen design, choosing more subdued elements until they found the piece they were looking for.
The homeowner fell in love with Tempest Blue granite with a leathered finish from The Stone Collection, an “amazing granite with wild colors,” according to Neiges. They decided to use the stone both in the space above the cooktop and for the countertop itself. The busiest section of the slab was chosen for the area behind the cooktop because it would allow for easy cleanup (no grout) and would be fascinating to look at while they are cooking. They can now see and enjoy the beauty of the natural stone as soon as they walk into their kitchen.
When to Remodel vs. When to Refresh a Kitchen
Neiges works with many clients who are remodeling their entire kitchen. Her recommendation on whether to remodel or refresh a space by making minor changes differ based on a client’s short and long-term plans.
“If they’re going to live in their house for some time and they can’t stand their countertops and want to replace them with a natural stone and they know they’re likely going to remodel their kitchen at some point, I encourage them to wait to replace the countertop because it’s like putting lipstick on a pig,” she advises.
Part of the reason, she says, is because the stone will look gorgeous but the rest of the kitchen will look dated and when they go back to remodel the kitchen a few years later and the countertop may not fit the new cabinetry, the client will be upset because they’ll need to figure a work around and it won’t look the same.
“My attitude is to do your project from A to Z, don’t piecemeal it,” she recommends.
The only time she recommends replacing just the countertop or other minor spaces like a backsplash area is if the homeowner plans to sell within a year. Otherwise, “just save your money and wait,” she advises, and enjoy the process of finding things that will make your kitchen functional, enjoyable, and fun.