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10 Reasons To Let Go Of The Granite Obsession Already

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Ask house hunters to name their dream kitchen must-haves and you're likely to get a resounding "granite countertops" in response. In 2012, granite was used in about 75 percent of new kitchens, according to MSN. But with those numbers came speculation that the granite trend might be waning. And with good reason, given the many stylish alternatives that have gone largely overlooked.

We asked two kitchen pros -- Matthew Quinn, whose room at this year's Kips Bay Decorator Show House topped our favorites; and Mayan Metzler, owner of the German and Dutch Kitchen Centers in New York City, to walk us through some of the materials they've received requests for the most. For Metzler's clients, granite still comes out on top with its 6,000 to 7,000 different options; for Quinn, marble reigns supreme. Here are some other popular choices.

1. QUARTZ
quartz countertop
Manufactured under the brand names Silestone and Caesarstone, these counters "look like stone and feel like stone, but they're better because you don't have any maintenance and you don't need to seal it," Metzler says. "People usually choose granite over quartz because they want the natural characteristics of the stone to show, but quartz is more durable." Or, as Quinn puts it, Quartz products will be mostly indestructible and the best surface for worrisome or no-maintenance homeowners."
Price: $100-$150 per foot.

2. CERAMIC
"This is a bit of an up and coming trend, a new thing that came from Europe. It's similar in texture to porcelain tiles, but it comes in a slab. And, it's stronger and more heat-resistant than anything else," Metzler says.
Price: $150 and up, per foot.

3. SOLID SURFACE
corian countertop
"It's like a plastic; Corian is a big brand. This used to be very trendy when there weren't as many alternatives, but now they're fading out because [people have learned that] they're scratchable."
Price: $100-$150 per foot.

4. GLASS
"This is very cool, because you can get it in any color [since] it's back-painted. And, it's tempered, so it's safe and heat-resistant."
Price: Over $200 per foot.

5. CONCRETE
concrete countertop
"The reason people [might choose this material] is the look. But it's not very durable -- it cracks and it stains."
Price: $ 150 and up, per foot.

6. QUARTZITE
According to Quinn, quartzite is the hot new material making its way out of South America. Look for them under brand names like Ceilo, Taj Majal, Cristallo and Fusion. "Due to the amount of crystals in the content, quartzite can be slightly fragile, so great care has to be taken during the fabrication and installation process," Quinn says. "[But, it] is extremely durable once it is installed."
Price: $150 and up, per foot.

7. SOLID WOOD
wood countertop
"Wood isn't very durable in a cooking space, but people do it in eating areas because they want it to feel more warm (instead of the cold stone)."
Price: Over $200 per foot.

8. LAMINATE
"In Europe, 80 percent of the countertops are laminate, but it's about perception in the U.S. People associate it with formica, a low-end option. But there are some very nice ones, and it's durable."
Price: Under $100 per foot.

9. MARBLE
"Marble will undoubtedly be the most difficult to maintain," Quinn says. "I always ask the supplier or fabricator for a large piece or tile that the homeowner can experiment with for a week, before they commit to an entire kitchen of the marble." (Test out things like BBQ sauce, wine, soda, lemon, alcohol and oil, for instance.) "A honed finish on marble for the kitchen helps disguise some of the etching that occurs."
Price: $100 and up, per foot.

10. STAINLESS STEEL
stainless countertop
"It's expensive and scratches easily, though we do have a version that has a brushed finish. It doesn't scratch as much, and if it does, you can buff it out."
Price: Over $200 per foot.

PRO NOTES:
Manhattan kitchens generally range from 30 to 50-square feet, while suburban ones go from 50-square-feet on up, Metzler explains. Sure, the easiest way to compare materials is by comparing their per-square-foot cost, but Quinn argues that there are many variables that determine total cost. "Edge profile, material thickness and the sheen or texture of the stone will have an impact on the cost," he adds.

It's also tough to make a call on which countertop to choose based on which material will offer the best resale value down the road, which is one of the factors that's made granite so popular. "Some of these favorites require maintenance and are definitely color saturated, which could scare some future homeowners," says Quinn. Additionally, "Granite cost will continue to decline as demand gets lower. It is just the business of supply and demand. When companies like Home Depot offer granite tops at ridiculously low prices, a product becomes too accessible and common," he adds.

So when all else fails, just go with what you love.

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