So how often has the opportune discovery of a new material for countertops contributed to your sense of spiritual well-being and personal contentment? Speaking as one for whom such encounters are a frequent vocational hazard and only an occasional largess, the answer is "often enough." I allude specifically to the palpable pleasures of Paperstone, EnviroGLAS, Corian Illumination Series, and Wud Design's Pb-R, each of which transforms a formerly mundane and/or unworkable material into a handsome, eco-wise, and functional surfacing agent.
Okite countertops. Manufactured by Okite.
The gratification with which I welcomed these discoveries has as much to do with the complications of the ubiquitous granite, a material that-though its classic appeal cannot be denied-is a porous stone and thus susceptible to staining (acid foods like wine and tomato sauce are notorious culprits), as with the new material's assets. Not to promote further aspersions on the much-revered variety of natural stone, but Italian-grown Okite-a natural surfacing material made of 93% quartz and 7% binders-is an auspicious alternative. The case for Okite begins with the qualities of quartz. Buried in the bowels of the earth, as is granite, yet comprised of decidedly different elements, quartz is not actually stone but a hardened crystalline mineral (the most common such mineral on the planet, it turns out). The difference is crucial because, unlike granite, quartz offers an impermeable surface membrane. The pragmatic off-shoot is NO SEALANT REQUIRED!, which, in addition to eliminating another laborious step in the installation process, is a God-send for chemo-phobes like yours truly. Another noteworthy factoid of the material's genesis is its propensity for absorbing earth-bound impurities, which results in stunning natural variations like amethyst, citrine, and rose.
Okite makes much of the product's resistance to stains, touting it as (contrary to poor granite) a virtually maintenance-free material. And above and beyond the natural gifts of amethyst, et al., Okite can be custom-colored to meet your wildest desires (see some samples in live technicolor here). There's also the new Collezione Vennati, whose intricate "veined" pattern of quartz surfacing might defy even experts to choose between it and natural marble. Oh, and it's also certified by the GreenGuard Environmental Institute as a "Low Emitting Product, safe for Children & Schools" (no VOCs).
Preliminary manufacture of the material produces giant slabs of the stuff (120" x 55") in thicknesses of ¾" or 1¼", but it's cut just like natural stone, so the installation process and costs are comparable. And applications? Okite suggests, in addition to kitchen countertops, its use for "bathroom vanity tops, writing desks, table tops, partition walls, shower walls, wall cladding, and endless possibilities for nearly all environments, including residential, commercial, hospitality and healthcare." Permutations abound, indeed, limited only by one's proverbial imagination (and a team of well-muscled masons, one would presume). Enviable for its durability and ease of maintenance, in addition to its impressive variety in appearance (it's an effective mimic for nearly all counter surfaces, from concrete to terrazzo), Okite is definitely a product you could live with-for years and years to come.