Nothing says “Old World” style like countertops and backsplashes made of natural stone and wood. That's why many apartment and condo developers are choosing manmade materials such as stainless steel, glass, and concrete, in addition to new styles of tile and laminate—they give their projects a more contemporary feel.
“Granite and similar stone materials may lend an air of elegance or ‘Old Worldliness' to countertops, [but] the manmade alternatives can be considered trendy or more stylish,” says Michael Ochstein, founder and owner of Price Realty, which owns and operates more than 4,000 units across the Dallas/Fort Worth market. “So many advances have been made recently that some of the materials and designs in manmade countertops truly are leading edge and considered more desirable than natural stone.”
At Loft 25, a 76-unit condominium conversion of a vintage 1918 commercial loft building in New York City, developer R.A.L. Companies & Affiliates selected monochromatic back-painted glass for all the kitchen surfaces, including countertops and backsplashes. “The reaction to the kitchens has been overwhelmingly positive,” says R.A.L.'s director of development, Vincent Cangelosi, who adds that the company has used stainless steel and ceramic and porcelain tiles in several of its high-end condominium and resort developments. “We typically choose manmade materials for their aesthetic value. The subtlety of tone and pattern possible with manmade materials makes them much more suited to creating streamlined contemporary environments.”
Countertops created from manmade materials often are more durable than natural stones such as slate, marble, and granite—they're usually invulnerable to heat, chipping, and scratching. And, most manmade materials are nonporous, which means that they're cleaner and safer for food preparation.
Ochstein lauds laminate countertops for their long-term durability and replacement cost. “The biggest benefit, especially when you have to do renovations on hundreds of units, is the cost factor,” he says.
And, while the glues, resins and, plastics used to manufacture some countertops can have as significant a long-term negative evironmental impact as using natural stone, many manmade materials are environmentally friendly, Ochstein says, and will become more so with time. In fact, many manmade materials are made from recycled materials and are certified by the GREENGUARD Environmental Institute.