A quartz counter insurgency is swirling in the kitchen


Just as with natural stones such as granite and marble, no two slabs of Cambria’s Waterstone collection are alike. Buckingham is shown here. (Courtesy of Cambria-Waterstone-Buckingham)

When I look at a quartz countertop collection, I’m not usually thinking about the work of famous painters that I might have seen in an art museum or places that I have visited.

But these are exactly the connections I made when I saw very large, 5-by-10-foot slabs from Cambria’s Waterstone quartz collection displayed at February’s Kitchen and Bath Show (KBIS) in Las Vegas.

The swirling areas of color and texture reminded me of Winslow Homer’s roiling waves and J.M.W. Turner’s ethereal landscapes, as well as the Grand Canyon’s stunning beauty, which I saw firsthand last year.

Such associations were not the intent of the design team that created the Waterstone collection, said Summer Kath, Cambria’s senior director of business development. Its directive was to capture both the look of water moving over stone and the random variations found in nature, and most people who look at this collection may see only this.

But the fact that so many other connections can be made moves Cambria’s Waterstone collection to the top spot in my book — and it shows how much quartz countertops have changed since they first became widely available in the United States about 15 years ago.

Touted as a practical alternative to granite because they didn’t stain and or need periodic resealing, the first quartz countertops mimicked the look of the granites they were intended to replace. Some of them did this so effectively that even an expert could have been fooled.

As sales began to take off, the manufacturers started to differentiate themselves from their competition by enhancing Mother Nature with unusual textures and a color palette that included brilliant oranges, reds, blues and greens. But overall, the look still mimicked granite, and more recently other stones, including marble, in some way.

With its Waterstone collection, Cambria has taken mimicking nature to a new level and introduced the idea of scale and variation over a large area of a counter. Natural stone, including granite and marble, will have a color and texture that’s generally uniform, but there can be a significant variation from slab to slab because of the natural irregularities in the stone.

Similarly, no two Waterstone slabs are alike. The areas of color and texture markedly differ in placement and size from slab to slab, but “the overall spirit is the same,” Kath said.

The difference between this and Cambria’s earlier quartz countertops is clear when you compare sample sizes. With the earlier Cambria collections, a 3-by-3-inch square sample and a 2-by-6-foot counter-size slab look the same. With Waterstone, you need a much bigger 12-by-12-inch square sample to see the degree of variation you could expect in a counter.

In the D.C. area, Cambria’s Waterstone collection ranges from about $85 to $105 per square foot installed, while granite ranges from about $50 to $175 per square foot installed.

How many square feet of countertop would you need in your kitchen? Kitchens in the D.C. market average about 40 to 45 square feet.

Katherine Salant has an architecture degree from Harvard. A native Washingtonian, she grew up in Fairfax County and now lives in Ann Arbor, Mich. If you have questions or column ideas, she can be contacted at salanthousewatch@gmail.com or www.katherinesalant.com .

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