Hello, readers! Welcome back to the Stonehouse Countertops blog! We’re pleased you’ve chosen Stonehouse Countertops for everything you need to know about custom countertop materials. We provide comprehensive deep dives into various aspects of the design and installation process, as well as helpful tips for choosing the best material for your home. Our goal is to equip you with the information you need to commission the perfect countertops!
Our last article was the second part of this series and covered the design implications of marble and quartzite. Marble is a timeless, classic stone which has been used in sculpture and construction for thousands of years. Whether as a statement piece or a seamless addition to already bold space, the design implications are endless. Quartzite is often used as a marble “look-alike,” but can be utilized in ways marble cannot. Our last article expounds on the potentialities of quartzite in your space!
Today, we move on to the third and final part of our series, which will cover the design implications of soapstone and limestone. Both soapstone and limestone have unique, signature looks which are not easily replicated. We hope this article gives you the information you need to pair these countertops with complimentary cabinetry, floors, and backsplash!
Soapstone derives its name from its luxuriant, “soapy” texture. This texture comes from the high talc content present in soapstone. Talc is a clay mineral used to make talcum, which was once an ingredient in baby powder. The higher talc content in a slab of soapstone, the softer and more malleable the soapstone will be. Softer soapstones have been used to carve statues and jewelry for centuries. In modern times, soapstone with a lower talc content is preferred for interior purposes. Soapstone has gained massive popularity among designers for its unique attributes. Not only is soapstone resistant to heat and bacteria, it’s also nonporous, which means no sealing is required to protect against staining. Soapstone will not react to acids and, therefore, has been commonly used in labs and dark rooms. Its low maintenance and durability have even made this stone a favorite of Martha Stewart!
Soapstone, like marble, is a metamorphic rock. This means the stone began as another substance and underwent intense heat and pressure to become the slab on your countertop. Many soapstone slabs feature the characteristic veining of marble, but soapstone is generally cheaper than marble per square footage. Soapstone may appear one way when it is installed, but as time passes, your slab will darken. Like fine wine, soapstone improves with age. Most owners apply a thin layer of mineral oil to their slabs to ensure even darkening and expedite the process. The maintenance is minor—once a month for the first year and then annually—and much less compared to the regular sealing other types of stone require. Use a low-lint cotton rag to apply the oil and a clean cloth to absorb any excess.
Keep in mind the changes soapstone will undergo when you’re choosing the color of your stone and surrounding components of the space. Soapstone comes in a muted variety of colors, ranging from light-grey to deep black, with undertones of green and teal. Your countertops will not stay the same; instead, they will evolve and age. Some homeowners enjoy watching their soapstone counters mature and develop a patina, while others prefer their counters to keep their look for decades. As well, as they darken, this can affect the surrounding environment and the appearance of other design elements.
Soapstone imparts the classic beauty of marble, only with an antique touch. Elizabeth Mayhew has this to say about the stone: “As a designer and avid cook, I’m often asked what material I recommend for kitchen countertops. My answer: honed marble (statuary or Carrara are my favorites) or soapstone because I like their mellow look juxtaposed with my kitchen’s polished-nickel fixtures and semigloss-painted cabinets.” While soapstone has a limited pick of colors, due to its darkening, multiple colors can be achieved with a single slab and each will work well in a variety of settings.
Let’s start with the black soapstones. PA Soapstone begins as a faded black with white veins and matures into a richer version of itself. As the stone continuously darkens, the contrast between the white lines and the black base increases. This stone could be used for dramatic purposes, with a waterfall island, or used to off-set white cabinetry. Churchill Soapstone is slate-grey unoiled. Oiled, however, this stone becomes an alluring black. You will not want to pair the darker shades of soapstone with dark-brown cabinetry or light-brown floors. Too many dark elements can darken a space, no matter how much natural light is available.
Grey soapstones are perhaps the most versatile, as they can be paired with white, black, beige, and a host of bolder colors. Porto Alegre Soapstone, which hails from Brazil, is a dark-grey stone with blue undertones. With white, crackling veins, this glacier-like stone adds a dynamic flare to any space. Porto Alegre would look particularly stunning in bathrooms. For a more understated option, Barroca Soapstone is a true-grey with white veining. You can pair this stone with light brown floors, dark brown floors, and white, blue, and grey cabinetry.
Soapstone shines most spectacularly in its green form. Belvedere Soapstone is an example of this. Of a darker hue, this stone is quarried in Brazil and much harder than your average soapstone, thus making it more resistant to scratching and denting. It’s shining surface seems painted, as though Picasso went through a green period instead of blue. Another option is Fantasia Soapstone—a stone which begins grey and darkens into evergreen, with white veins which appear to have been cleaved. The environment surrounding these stones should emphasize their green undertones. You might use green accents and play with gold fixtures to make these countertops even more appealing.
Soapstone actually does not come in white! Every natural stone has its limitations. If you find a white “soapstone,” chances are this is marble masquerading. Which just goes to show how similar these two stones truly are!
Limestone is one of the most recognizable stones in the world. From the Parthenon in ancient Greece to the Pyramids in ancient Egypt, limestone is a sedimentary rock which has been used to construct some of the most iconic structures in existence. Limestone is also, from a science standpoint, an essential medium in which fossils have been safely preserved for millions of years. As a countertop material, limestone is a favorite for its large color selection as well as its ability to appear both rustic and upscale.
Limestone is most often found in lighter colors, such as white, cream, and beige. Jerusalem Gold and Ramon Gold are two similar beige options which will bring warmth to any space. These sandy stones will pair well with any tone of wood cabinets or flooring. Or, for a bit of flare, you could contrast these slabs with white or light-blue cabinets and dark floors. Limestone lends itself to a natural look. Therefore, you’ll want to lean more towards woods and neutrals than metallics and bold colors.
Italian Rose is a pink limestone from (you guessed it) Italy. It’s pebbled surface closely resembles a refined granite. Most red, pink, and brown limestones achieve their color through the presence of clay and iron oxide in the sediment.
Belgian Blue is a deep, foreboding option which can serve to ground a space and actually works well with dark cabinetry. Lighter specks and streaks give this stone visual depth, while navy undertones harken back to the sea. You should echo these undertones throughout the space, in kitchenware and appliances.
If you’re keeping things simple and all-white, Durango limestone is a light option which will work well. White limestones are a wonderful option for inside and outside alike, as light limestones reflect sunlight. Indoors, this makes for airy spaces, while outside, this makes for cooler patios and walkways!
Thank you for coming along on this series! Hopefully these articles have served their purpose and you feel equipped to style a kitchen or bathroom which compliments your countertop choice! As always, we’re happy to help! Equipped with information, you’re now able to make the choice best suited to you and your needs. At Stonehouse Countertops, we are willing and able to work with you to your specifications. We offer a wide range of different materials and always have someone on hand to answer your questions! Don’t hesitate to reach out for consultation or for help forming a plan. We want to ensure your vision becomes a reality! Check back into our blog for further iterations of this series with different stone materials! Until next time, thanks for reading!