[gdlr_image_link type=”image” image_url=”” link_url=”” alt=”” target=”_blank”]NASHVILLE. Sleek and smooth were once the desired look for any high-end kitchen. But today’s kitchens are also the backdrop of our family gatherings and provide a focal point that delivers something approaching soul to a home. Many times we find that our guests and family wind up in the kitchen no matter how inviting our other spaces may be. The demand for kitchens to provide texture and character to a home are exciting design opportunities.

“People are breaking away from the concept of matching,” says Danielle Dunn, a design specialist with Architectural Granite and Marble in Nashville. Her company is a supplier for stone slab and tile. Beyond granite, Danielle notes that her customers enjoy installing a variety of surfaces. Her company is a supplier for stone slab and tile and offers soapstone, limestone, antique fire brick, terra cotta, and a pebbled island style of stone. The beauty is in the mix, she says.

More and more, metals are the choice for architectural features beyond stove hoods, to include backsplashes and countertops. “People are adding metals to avoid a space feeling contrived, or monotonous, just to break up the texture,” says Jill Fedie, regional manager with Francois & Co. tile and stone. Countertops made from pewter, copper, brass, or zinc are becoming ways to add an element of glamour and functionality to a kitchen.

Hardwood floors are still preferred in kitchens because can flow so easily throughout the rest of the house, and are ideal for today’s open floor plans says Todd Tate with Jeffco Flooring. However, people are opting for hardwood to be finished with alternative stain finishes or with neutral colors such as a new offering named ‘of-the-moment grey.’ “There is also a new finish in our market called ‘Rubio monocoat,’ that allows the wood flooring to look much more natural.”

Unsure of how much texture or color is too much? Begin to collect photos you come across online or in magazines for inspiration and guidance. “A photo of the style or texture you ultimately want to achieve always helps us meet expectations,” says Dunn with Architectural Granite and Marble. “And never underestimate a little bit of gut instinct and creative thinking,” she adds. “You want a design project to be cohesive enough, so that everything is not competing for attention,” says Fedie with Francois and Co. “At some point we have to guide an indecisive customer to help them identify their favorite options and to work with these elements to make a kitchen blend its layers well,” she says. Generally, three or four elements are the maximum to work with, he advises. Beyond this mix, the project can become overwhelming.”

While various surface materials beyond granite or low-rent laminate require different approaches for care and maintenance beyond a spray and wipe, Jill Fedie adds that most routines are simple with a focus on being proactive. “Marble may etch slightly and show some wear, but you just have to be knowledgeable and slightly more cautious with it,” Dunn explains. A reputable supplier such as Architectural Granite and Marble can advise. “People love our marble and use this surface in their kitchen all the time. It’s beautiful. We advise them to use the honed side (vs. the heavily polished side) of the marble because it doesn’t show scratches as easily.”

Jill Fedie agrees marble can be a bit of a challenge, which is why pewter from Francois and Co. can be such a great option. “Since people are going to use their counters for everything from rolling out pizza dough to placing a hot pan on its surface, why not go with a metal?”  While any metal can scratch, designers say you want your countertop to age just a little bit designers note, and pewter comes in a culinary-grade type and is naturally a non-porous, antibacterial material.

Dunn’s company, Architectural Granite and Marble, also offers man-made materials that offer a textured look with fewer maintenance concerns. “We started carrying our own brand of processed quartz called ‘MetroQuartz’ which comes in 20 different colors.” MetroQuartz is fairly stain and scratch resistant and can be cleaned with typical countertop cleaner. Natural granite and marble require a stone cleaner.