The countertop is the centrepiece of our kitchen. As it has evolved from a utilitarian place into the social hub of our domestic life, it must be attractive, easy to maintain and durable. It must also be able to wow friends and family while withstanding the heat, scratches and the wear and tear due to daily culinary theatrics.
The fact that we have been spending more time at home because of the pandemic has only added to its importance. Beyond being used for food prepping and some meals, it now doubles as a workplace, a Zoom “meeting room” and even a study for many of us as well.
In short, whatever the countertop is made of has become an investment. Natural stones – think marble, granite and soapstone – and tiles as well as laminates, and butcher blocks are some of the classics.
More recent decades, however, have seen the use of newer material choices such as concrete, engineered stones, solid surfaces and even stainless steel, which has made its way from commercial kitchens to home kitchens.
Meanwhile, brands all over the world have continued to improve their materials and develop new ones, too. In these pages, the latest and greatest from some of the most innovative. Plus we discover a sustainable biomaterial we hope to see used in kitchens in the near future.
CAESAR STONE NEW DARK COLLECTION
Two generations ago, people would shudder at the thought of a black-clad kitchen. Today, contemporary kitchen designers embrace black as a classic oﬀering both contrast and intimacy. Unveiled this September, Quartz surface specialist Caesarstone’s new Dark Collection 2020/21 oﬀers four shades of black: intense solid black (Piatto Black, bottom), darker takes on marble (Empira Black, below left) and travertine (Black Tempal, below right), and a rugged simulation of rusted metal (Oxidian, opposite) for those after an industrial aesthetic. Made of up to 90 per cent natural quartz, Caesarstone surfaces are impervious to stains, scratches, cracks, heat and cold. The collection also introduces a brand new surface finish called Natural with a slightly textured, fine-grain finish and a subtle sheen that emulates the look and feel of natural stone – but without the porosity and hassle of maintenance.
Caesarstone Singapore, #08-06, The Spire, 10 Bukit Batok Crescent, Tel: 6316-1938. www.caesarstone.sg
DEKTON LIQUID COLLECTION
Dekton, the ultra-compact surface range from Spanish brand Cosentino, caused a stir in the surface material industry when it was commercially launched in 2013. Made from a secret blend of quartz, porcelain and glass using a patented sintered particle technology, Dekton is virtually indestructible. Highly resistant to UV rays, scratches, heat, stains, abrasion and thermal shock, it is suitable for both indoor and outdoor applications. It is available in large format for a seamless look and several thicknesses, ranging from 30mm to 4mm, so you can apply the same product for both countertop and cabinet finishes. Dekton’s 2020 collection includes Dekton Liquid, which comprises a trio of colours designed by London-based pattern specialist Patternity. The three colours – Shell (top), Ember (above) and Sky – feature delicate swirling patterns inspired by the waves, cloud and magma.
Cosentino City Singapore, 34/35 Duxton Road, Tel: 6713-9543. www.cosentino.com/en-sg
HI-MACS BY LG HAUSYS
Hi-Macs is a solid surface material produced by LG Hausys that can be moulded into any shape. Made from acrylic, natural minerals and pigments, it is non-porous, smooth, visually seamless and easy to clean, making it ideal for custom sculptural countertops. Launched in 1967, Hi-Macs has undergone generations of improvements. The latest includes UltraThermoforming, a technology that expands its malleability by 30 per cent, and Intense Colour Technology, which creates vivid colours and patterns for today’s applications. Its newest launch, Aurora Colours, highlights nine colours inspired by the Northern Lights; two of them (Pavia and Aurora Cotton) are semi-translucent.
Hi-Macs by LG Hausys is available in Singapore at Luxx Newhouse Group and Stone Amperor. Find out more about Hi-Macs at www.himacs.eu.
Photo HI-MACS BY LG HAUSYS
IT MAY BE ONLY A MATTER OF TIME BEFORE THE BAMBOO COUNTERTOP MAKES ITS WAY TO THE ASIAN MARKET. AFTER ALL, THE RAW MATERIAL COMES FROM THIS SIDE OF THE WORLD.
While it is technically a grass rather than a hardwood tree, bamboo has emerged as the sustainable alternative to timber in recent years. This is also the case for countertop materials. Classic butcher block countertops – usually sturdy thick slabs made by glueing together straight cuts of wood – now have, well, a new counterpart. Canada-based company Teragren manufactures bamboo countertops using mature Moso bamboo, a species native to China and Taiwan. The range comprises three varieties: Parquet with a mosaic-like pattern (pictured), Traditional (vertical grain surface with strand core) and Strand (strand surface with vertical grain core). The Traditional bamboo countertop is said to be 25 per cent harder than maple wood while the Strand is a whopping 130 per cent harder. Teragren doesn’t have a plan to expand to Asia yet, but we feel that it may be only a matter of time before the bamboo countertop makes its way to the Asian market. After all, the material comes from this side of the world.
Find out more about Teragren at www.teragren.com
Glass slabs might not sound like the most practical material for a countertop, but glass is 100 per cent recyclable. Terrazzo has been making a comeback, imbuing our spaces with its nostalgia-inducing, confetti-like patterns. Marry the two and you have glass terrazzo, which is both on-trend and sustainable. American company Vetrazzo has been producing tiles, mosaics and countertop slabs using recycled glass since 1996. Its largest source of glass comes from neighbourhood curbside recycling programmes. Other resources include glass from car windows, stained glass, laboratory glass, reclaimed glass from building demolition, and other unusual sources such as broken traffic lights. Recycled glass makes up approximately 85 per cent of Vetrazzo’s products. It has distributors in South Korea and Australia, which can help customers in Singapore. While we do not generally have a commercial product that uses recycled glass yet, individual designers are taking initiatives to collect glass waste for their projects through community platforms like Zero Waste SG.
Find out more about Vetrazzo at www.vetrazzo.com.
Looking to improve your existing countertop? Applying an epoxy coating is a great way to do it. Local company Metallic Epoxy amps it up by oﬀering a treatment that is both functional and decorative. The Metallic Epoxy coating comprises clear epoxy and metallic mica powder, which create a glossy, swirling, pearlescent eﬀect when poured over an existing countertop. The epoxy coating renders a surface waterproof, stain-proof, heat-resistant (up to 200°C) and scratch- and impact-resistant. It is also easy to clean and seals up cracks, fissures and holes on the surface that would otherwise retain dirt and grime, and lead to mould. It is also highly customisable, making personalisation or one-of-a-kind designs easy to execute. Except for glass, the coating can be applied over most conventional countertop materials, including wood, solid surface, quartz surface, marble, and granite.
Metallic Epoxy, 18 Woodlands Sector 2, Woodlands Connection, Tel: 8788-6565. www.metallicepoxy.sg
Photo METALLIC EPOXY
Founded in 2009 in Singapore, KompacPlus oﬀers composite panels that are 6mm thick and made of layers of kraft paper and resin. They are waterproof and resistant to static, fingerprints and scratches, as well as heat and impact. They also have thermal healing property, thanks to a thermosetting resin. The KompacPlus range includes four collections: Plains (solid colours), Alta Plains (pastels), Woods (timber eﬀects) and Patterns, which features textural simulations such as concrete and rust. Each colour variant is custom-matched with the brand’s six signature finishes, which run from the ultra-matte to the shimmery with mica ﬂakes.
KompacPlus, #04-15 Harvest @ Woodlands, 280 Woodlands Industrial Park E5, Tel: 6262-5010. www.kompacplus.com
FENIX INTEGRATED SOLUTIONS
EDL, a home-grown company specialising in high-pressure laminates (HPL), is famous for its nanotech collection called Fenix NTM. Developed by Italian HPL manufacturer Arpa Industriale, the laminate is exceptionally opaque, soft to the touch and fingerprint-resistant. It also has a self-healing property. Superficial micro scratches on Fenix NTM surfaces can be eliminated with heat, which preserves the pristineness of the surface. In thin sheets for carpentry and 10mm thickness for worktops, the collection is available in 12 colours. EDL recently launched Fenix Integrated Solutions for kitchen worktops that come with matching sinks manufactured by Italian brand Elleci for that seamless minimalist look (top right). The brand has also expanded the Fenix NTM range with the introduction of a nanotech alloy variant called Fenix NTA (bottom right), which comprises three metallic colours with the same thermal healing property.
EDL Division, 43 Sungei Kadut Street 1, Tel: 6369-0990. www.edleuro.com
MYCELIUM: CO-CREATING WITH NATURE
Mycelium, the flamentous structure that forms the base of a mushroom, has emerged as one of the hottest new materials, with researches, exhibitions and design start-ups dedicated to it, well, mushrooming around the world. Mycelium can be used as an adhesive that binds materials together, much like resin or glue.
Mycotech Lab (MYCL), a start-up based in Bandung, Indonesia, aims to create a circular material production using mycelium and agricultural waste. So far, it has two commercial products: decorative panels called Biobo, which can be used for interiors and furniture finishes, and mushroom ‘leather’ called Mylea, which has been used for fashion accessories like watch straps and bags. It plans to create other mycelium-based products and expand its production scale. We chatted with Ronaldiaz Hartantyo, one of MYCL’s five co-founders.
HOW DID YOU GET INTO THE MUSHROOM BUSINESS?
The inspiration came from tempeh, which is basically fermented soya beans bound together by mycelium, creating this edible nutritious substance. We use the same principle with our mycelium-based products, but we’ve replaced the soya beans with fibres from industrial waste, creating durable and sustainable materials.
HOW IS MYCELIUM SUSTAINABLE?
We are co-creating with nature while reusing waste materials available locally. This process has significantly lowered carbon emissions. And the resulting materials are completely biodegradable.
YOU’VE CREATED DECORATIVE PANELS AND VEGAN LEATHER FROM MYCELIUM, AND WE’VE SEEN MYCELIUM-BASED MATERIALS USED AS PACKAGING AND IN CONSTRUCTION. WILL IT MAKE IT TO COUNTERTOPS ONE DAY?
Absolutely. We’ve tested mycelium on diﬀerent kinds of agricultural waste like sawdust and wood chips, as well as coconut and rice husks, and it has excellent strength and fire retardancy. We just need to add sealant because it is porous, and to expand our production scale to produce it commercially. In the future, this material can even be used to cast any shape just like concrete or solid surface.
WHAT’S THE WILDEST FUTURE WE CAN DREAM OF FOR THIS BIOMATERIAL WONDER?
Our ultimate dream is to decentralise production, so you can produce mycelium-based materials locally no matter where you are in the world. It doesn’t matter if the agricultural waste comes from diﬀerent plants; as long as its C/N (carbon to nitrogen) ratio is the same, the material performance will be the same. We have patented the C/N ratios of our products for this reason. One day, we hope to be able to have mycelium production facilities around the world close to where the agricultural waste is generated to create a genuinely circular economy.
Find out more about MYCL at www.mycl.bio.
Photos MYCOTECH LAB
Text ASIH JENIE