I honestly don’t think any portion of a kitchen is quite so important as the countertop, both in how it looks and in how it works, although how it looks is a huge, huge part of the picture—along with a number of other attributes that we’ll get to in a moment. But the actual countertop itself is critical in so many ways because of the huge body of work that is done on it.
There is nothing quite so useful as a simple work surface, be it in a kitchen or a woodworking shop. Unlike some woodworkers, I have never used a traditional heavy maple workbench with a vise at one end, opting instead, for a number of work tables with locking casters that I move around the shop as needed. That sort of thing is not practical for a kitchen, of course, but I think it emphasizes all the more the importance of one’s countertops, both in their configuration, and in the material of which they’re made.
For the workshop I wanted something that would resist yellow wood glue, but a kitchen countertop has different requirements revolving around durability, practicality, and individuality. Unless you design and build it yourself, a new kitchen will cost anywhere from thirty to a hundred thousand dollars—and that’s just a modest outing! Get one of those kitchens we all drool over, and you may well end up paying half as much as you paid for your house. For that kind of money I most definitely want something with my own stamp on it, and that’s what makes countertops so much fun. Choose wisely, and the possibilities are endless.
Neolith is a product I saw at KBIS in February this year, so it’s been quite a while since I visited their booth, but what I saw there still resonates with me. Having written blogs for this site since 2008 and having visited I-have-no-idea-how-many exhibitions, booths, shows and you name it over those years I have surely seen considerably more than the average person. But for all that I have seen I really never tire of it because the next best idea is always around the corner, and I often find it, as I did when I was in Las Vegas this year.
The first thing I notice about a product like this, of course, is how it looks. Superficial as that may seem, in the end, it is undoubtedly the right approach because it really is where so much of the discussion begins when we get around to kitchen matters. We’re looking for considerably more than the merely practical, because a large part of the fun of a new kitchen is designing one that is beautiful. And that, as I said, is the first thing I noticed, the absolute sheer beauty of this material. The other thing that blew me away was how thick these countertops are because having something bigger than the inch-and-a-half that is the standard in this country is really quite dramatic.
Actually, we usually don’t have inch-and-a-half countertops either, but we almost always make them look as though they are. With granite and any number of other solid materials, we simply slice off an inch-and-a-half of the material and use it to build up the edge so it looks that thick. How thick it really is depends on the material used for the countertop itself, but it can range from not much thicker than a sheet of paper to the ubiquitous inch-and-a-half, but when it truly is that thick, no one builds up an edge.
Well, as it turns out, the reason Neolith is able to make these countertops so thick is because they are actually clad with a material that is considerably thinner than most countertop materials. What that means, though, is that one can employ a substrate and then cover it over with this material. It also makes it possible to achieve some rather dramatic effects, as we can see in the pictures that accompany this blog. But none of that really counts for much if the countertop itself doesn’t work well, so let’s get into that.
I have often said in these blogs that every countertop material that ever was has pluses and minuses, but one of the things I like about manmade materials for this purpose is that they often perform better. Properly sealed and cared for, wood does fine, but lots of people have problems with it because they don’t know enough to keep it up. Marble is a glorious looking material, but it’s easily stained, and so on through a long list of materials I could cite. Neolith, though, truly is a more durable surface than either of the ones I just mentioned, but it can be made to look just like them, which ends up being the best of both worlds. You have the look of marble, to state just one example, but not the liabilities of it because Neolith resists staining. More than that, it has a near-zero porosity, which makes the end product hygienic. And did I mention that it is also wear, scratch, and heat resistant?
I would be remiss if I did not mention the wide variety of their lines, because they have considerably more concepts than I can picture here. At the moment they have a Classtone product line, which mimics marble; a Timber product line, which looks like any number of woods, and a Fusion line, which “characterizes the appearance of natural stones, minerals and industrial materials with the added strength of sintered compact surfaces.”
Best of all, from where I sit, is the weight of the product. Neolith comes in a variety of thicknesses, including 3 mm (1/8”), 5 mm (3/16”) and 12 mm (1/2”). What that means, though, is that those who install it can easily do pretty much anything designers and end users want them to do. Put it on a countertop? Check. Make that countertop look very thick indeed? Check. Carry the countertop material on to a back splash, maybe even an entire back wall? Check and double check.
Weight makes a difference; don’t let anyone tell you it doesn’t. The easier it is to install, the more freedom you ultimately have when you’re working with the design itself. Look at the picture that tops this blog. They used that material on all surfaces, something you would never do with more pedestrian countertops. You can even use this material for sinks! The end result for any designer worthy of the name is a veritable gold mine. And suddenly, the sky’s the limit.
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